Paradigm shift in teaching communication skills course in a Tanzanian university: an assessment and lessons for other universities

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Science Publishing Group


Communication Skills Courses (henceforth CSCs) are offered in many universities and other higher learning institutions in Tanzania. The CSCs were designed to enable students cope with their university studies. Besides CSCs, remedial English courses became an additional component because the language proficiency of undergraduate students was often found to be too low at the time of joining the university In the University under study, English remedial courses started to be offered in tandem with CSCs to all first year undergraduate students. However, over the years, since the introduction of the course, examiners have been concerned that the two tier CSCs arrangement has had little impact in improving English language proficiency and academic literacy among students. Accordingly, the Language Department at the University under reference took many measures redress the situation. These efforts amounted to a paradigm shift in the teaching of CSCs at the University. It is over two full academic years since the adoption of the new approach. The current study therefore aimed at assessing the implementation of the new approach. Specifically, the study wanted to find out how successfully the new approach has been in meeting the objectives of the changing trends in the teaching of English towards more communicative approaches in what is referred to here as paradigm shift. The data for this study were collected at one of the universities in Tanzania in the 2016/2017 academic year following a qualitative evaluation of the participants’ perceptions, involvement, achievement, classroom observation, and documentary review. The study followed a communicative framework by Jacobs and Farrell, to assess the implementation of these elements in the new approach. The findings indicated few successes of the new approach especially in the area of curriculum integration where the concept of spiral and non-linear arrangement of topics proved effective in students learning. However, there were many challenges in the implementation of the new approach in the context of University under study and Tanzania generally, and revolved around large sizes, learner cantered, reading habits and critical thinking skills. The paper recommends that universities should invest in self-learning resource centres as additional avenues for learning outside classroom, encourage reading culture, and build capacity in handling large classes. Others include collaborating with pre- university institutions especially secondary schools in working out common mechanism of addressing the problem through exchange of experience and best practices.


International Journal of Language and Linguistics 2018; 6(5): 173-185


Academic Communication, Remedial English, Study Skills, Communicative Framework, Higher Learning Institutions, University Studies