Report on Academic
Specialist Visit to Turkey: November 1-25, 1998
A. Smith, Shenandoah University
About the Specialist
Dr. Harold A. Smith is Professor of English
as a Second Language (ESL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other
Languages (TESOL), and Chair of the Department of TESOL at Shenandoah
University, Winchester, Virginia, USA. He has been a teacher and teacher
educator for many years in many countries. He is an internationally
recognized authority on language program design and evaluation; communicative
language teaching, especially using the Focal Skills Approach; and
language teacher education.
A native of Louisiana, but raised in
Tennessee, Dr. Smith earned degrees from Delta State University (B.M.E.
in Music Education), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.
in History and Theology), Arizona State University (M.Ed. in Higher
and Adult Education-TESL) and Mississippi State University, (Ed.D.
in Higher Educational Leadership). His earlier academic positions
have been at a wide variety of institutions in the USA and abroad,
including Arizona State University, Mississippi State University,
Georgetown University, George Washington University, The American
University and Notre Dame College in Japan. He has also taught in
elementary, secondary and adult programs in a number of states as
well as Panama, Israel, and China. And he established a refugee resettlement
agency that served persons from Cambodia (Kampuchia), Laos and Vietnam
Areas of Specialization
Dr. Smith has published and lectured
extensively around the world on various issues related to language
program design and evaluation, communicative language teaching, and
language teacher education.
Dr. Harold Smith visited Turkey from
November 1-25, 1998 to present a series of lectures, observations,
seminars and workshops at Cukurova University (Adana) and Bilkent
University (Ankara), to teacher educators and students preparing to
become English language teachers in Turkish schools and universities.
The purpose of Dr. Smith's visit was
to expose Turkish English language teachers and teacher educators
to the theory and practice of communicative language teaching, particularly
the Focal Skills approach. Focal Skills has been used in several institutions
in the United States and other countries to develop functional communicative
skills with superior efficiency, from beginning to advanced competency
levels. It does so by focusing incrementally and progressively on
listening, reading, writing and speaking in activities designed to
emphasize comprehensible, and increasingly fluent, communication on
content materials rather than discussions or drills of language structure
Conference presentations included a plenary
speech ("Communicative language teaching, program design and evaluation")
and a workshop ("The Focal Skills approach to teaching foreign or
second languages") for combined audiences of about 400, consisting
of ELT students and faculty, and public and private school teachers
from the area. Other speakers came from Turkey, Jordan and United
Kingdom. Several participants wished more such conferences were available.
But, many public school teachers lamented problems they had getting
professional development time off from their schools.
Most teachers, at all levels observed,
followed commercially prepared texts and exercises rather strictly,
but students and staff responded enthusiastically to the demonstrations
and discussions of communicative language teaching, and especially
to Focal Skills approach.
Discussions of possible applications
of Focal Skills to primary and secondary education in Turkey occurred
during most class discussions and some private discussions with ELT
faculty and administrators. Visits were possible to two k-12 schools,
one private and one public. Although no formal discussions took place
to plan trials of Focal Skills, several faculty and ELT students pointed
out potential benefits to Turkish students and schools--such as using
more effective communicative methodologies--that Focal Skills offers.
Actual implementation will need more thought and discussion.
If measured by quantity and quality of
interactions, and by consciousness-raising that occurred for the Turkish
educators and for myself, this program was successful. I became more
familiar with Turkish educational institutions, students and teachers,
and the conditions within which they live and work. They became more
familiar with options for communicative language teaching, particularly
the Focal Skills approach. They also became aware that USIA staff
and American educators are interested in them, professionally and
Several things can be done to build on
this foundation. Relatively low-cost options include sponsoring additional
English Language Specialist grants, in-country workshops and conferences,
working with the ministry of education and public school administrators
to facilitate teacher access to professional development opportunities,
and providing travel grants for Turkish teachers to attend programs
in the region and in the USA. Communication and visits between Turkish
and American educators can be encouraged, especially involving primary
and secondary school educators.
A start has been made. I hope we will
build on it so measurable, permanent benefits will result for Turkish
education and Turkish-U.S. relations.
Shenandoah University TESOL Program
International Center for Focal Skills,
Washington Area Teachers of English to
Speakers of Other Languages (WATESOL)
Smith, Harold. New ways of studying fluency
in English. Internet TESL Journal, vol.V, No. 2, February 1999.
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