Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Issues in the appropriation of English nonverbal behaviour by Japanese high school students
    Ainalis, Sophia ( 2004)
    Studies of nonverbal communication for some decades have shown a fundamental relationship between verbal and nonverbal aspects of language. Hence, communication has come to be understood as the use of a multidimensional system of integrated verbal and nonverbal behaviour. In Japan, the study of English at high school has traditionally focused on the development of students' reading and writing skills and neglected the teaching of spoken English communication. Thus, the English education system in Japan is seen to have avoided the threat to cultural identity that can result from exposure to cultural traditions and the complex system of values and norms that exist in English as in any language. It is within this context of English education in Japan that this study has explored the issues relating to the teaching and learning of spoken English by implementing a syllabus focusing primarily on common nonverbal behaviours used by native speakers of English. A program of instruction in English nonverbal behaviour was designed and implemented in one Third Year senior high school class (equivalent to Year 12 in Australia) in a school in Kyoto, Japan. The study sought to investigate the progress that could be made by these Japanese high school students in spoken English proficiency at the conclusion of the program; and to explore the strategies that facilitated progress and factors that impeded progress. The research method chosen was a case study in teaching practice and a predominantly qualitative approach was taken in the methods of data collection. A pre- and post-test was also used. The data analysis revealed that after the program, all students improved in spoken English proficiency through their acquisition of English nonverbal behaviours, particularly in the use of English gestures. Difficulties for the learners included social and emotional challenges related to adopting nonverbal elements that contrast with the values and norms attached to their L1; limitations of the classroom context; and physical obstacles in 'acquiring' foreign language elements. One unexpected outcome of the study was the development of trust among students and between the teacher and students during the program. A significant finding was that students transferred the new L2 behaviours learned in unscripted interactions in the classroom. Key factors that facilitated learner progress were teaching strategies that incorporated metacognitive instruction with physical modelling; high student motivation resulting from the learners' cognitive understanding of the genuine need for the new behaviours in effective communication; and active learning techniques.