Mendive. Journal on Education, april-june 2022; 20(2): 394-407
Translated from the original in Spanish
Tasks for English communicative competence development in Mining Engineering major students
Tareas para el desarrollo de la competencia comunicativa en inglés de estudiantes de Ingeniería de Minas
Tarefas para o desenvolvimento da competência comunicativa em inglês de estudantes de Engenharia de Minas
Mirtha Odalis Olivero Herrera1 http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8221-4410
Rafael Lodezma Tamayo Caballero1 http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7633-5005
Guillermo Acosta Coutín1 http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7737-6215
Georgina Elvira Aguilera Saborit1 http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9855-5236
1 University of Moa "Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez". Cuba. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received: November 1st, 2021.
Accepted: February 14th, 2022
Competent professional training is a social demand for Cuban higher education. It requires a good command of the English language at a basic level, A2 or higher, according to the Common European Framework for Languages, as graduation requirement. At present, there are certain limitations in the communicative competence development of mining engineering major students of the University of Moa, Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez, to meet this requirement. For this purpose, the objective of this paper is to present some communicative tasks to facilitate the communicative competence development of mining field students. Different methods were used from the theoretical level, such as: historical-logical, analysis-synthesis and induction-deduction; of the empirical level: documentary information analysis, survey, interview, and class observation; also, mathematical and statics methods. With tasks implementation, it contributes to the English language didactics and the teaching-learning process improvement, enabling profession-related oral and written communication.
Keywords: communicative competence; English language; communicative tasks.
La formación de profesionales competentes constituye una exigencia social para la educación superior cubana. Lo anterior demanda del dominio del idioma inglés, al nivel básico equivalente a un A2 o superior, según las normas del Marco Común Europeo de Referencia para las Lenguas, como requisito de graduación. En la actualidad, existen limitaciones en el desarrollo de la competencia comunicativa en los estudiantes de la carrera Ingeniería de Minas, de la Universidad de Moa "Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez", para alcanzar dicho requerimiento. En este sentido, el objetivo de este trabajo es presentar tareas para propiciar el desarrollo de la competencia comunicativa de los estudiantes del perfil minero. Se utilizaron diferentes métodos; del nivel teórico: el histórico y lógico, el análisis y síntesis e inducción y deducción; del nivel empírico: el análisis de información documental, la encuesta, la entrevista, la observación a clases; además de métodos matemáticos y estadísticos. Con la implementación de las tareas se contribuye a la Didáctica del idioma inglés y al perfeccionamiento del proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje, al favorecer la comunicación oral y escrita relacionada con la profesión.
Palabras clave: competencia comunicativa; idioma inglés; tareas comunicativas.
A formação de profissionais competentes é uma exigência social para o ensino superior cubano. O anterior exige domínio da língua inglesa, em nível básico equivalente a A2 ou superior, de acordo com os padrões do Quadro Europeu Comum de Referência para Línguas, como requisito de graduação. Atualmente, existem limitações no desenvolvimento da competência comunicativa nos alunos da carreira de Engenharia de Minas, da Universidade de Moa "Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez", para atender a essa exigência. Nesse sentido, o objetivo deste trabalho é apresentar tarefas para promover o desenvolvimento da competência comunicativa dos alunos do perfil mineiro. Diferentes métodos foram usados; do nível teórico: o histórico e lógico, a análise e síntese e indução e dedução; do nível empírico: a análise da informação documental, o levantamento, a entrevista, a observação das aulas; além de métodos matemáticos e estatísticos. Com a execução das tarefas, contribui para a Didática da Língua Inglesa e para a melhoria do processo ensino-aprendizagem, ao favorecer a comunicação oral e escrita relacionada com a profissão.
Palavras-chave: competência comunicativa; idioma inglês; tarefas comunicativas.
The contemporary world is characterized by the accelerated progress of science in socioeconomic development, the expansion of knowledge and scientific information, in addition to scientific, commercial and cultural exchange between different countries. In this sense, the English language is considered as an international language for communication, research and collaboration. This requires Higher Education new challenges in the comprehensive training of professionals.
The current trends in Higher Education, worldwide, towards the rise of academic and professional communication, require promoting the command of the English language from two directions: as an instrument that guarantees continuous training, constant self-improvement and updating, as well as for communication between specialists.
In correspondence with these requirements, the achievement of communicative competence in the English language of the students constitutes an aspiration for Cuban Higher Education. In accordance with Ministerial Resolution No. 165, the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education (2019) has carried out transformations that have led to changes in the direction of the comprehensive training process of professionals with respect to learning, teaching and English language assessment; therefore, its domain as one of the languages with the widest international diffusion becomes a strategic objective, particularly in light of the needs and projections of the country's development.
The resolution document mentioned above establishes the incorporation, temporarily in the curricular conception of the professional training process, of proficiency in the English language, at a basic level equivalent to A2, as a graduation requirement for students, according to the regulations of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In addition, it proposes the formation of groups by levels and a resizing in the implementation of the English Language Curriculum Strategy.
In this regard, in the Mining Engineering career at Moa University “Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez”, the conception of standardized evaluation is implemented to determine the mastery of language skills achieved. The foregoing requires that students demonstrate a development of communicative competence in the English language, in correspondence with the approved learning level.
Regardless of the benefits of said conception, in the training and performance of these students’ limitations are observed for the achievement of academic and professional communication, which satisfies the social and curricular demands that arise, due to the fact that the general approach of the content of the courses by levels has an insufficient link between the English language and the future profession.
Numerous authors have investigated the development of communicative competence, among which Ramírez & et al. (2016); Yanez & et al. (2019); Jackson (2020); in addition to Rodríguez and Medina (2020). The scientific contributions of these authors have been aimed at improving the teaching-learning process of the English language in different educational subsystems; Although the value of their contributions is highlighted, it is considered that the desired level has not been reached in the development of communicative competence, which satisfies the communicative needs of students for understanding, production and exchange as competent professionals in this foreign language.
These communicative needs are in correspondence with the professional problems that future mining engineers must solve and the modes of action in the academic and professional spheres, which require mastery and use of the English language as an essential requirement.
In this sense, in the 2019-2020 academic years, a factual diagnosis was made to 22 second-year students of the Mining Engineering career, through which it was possible to verify that the development of communicative competence has not yet been achieved, in a way that enables its use in professional practice, which allowed identifying the following problematic situation:
That is why the objective of this research is to present a proposal of tasks to promote the development of communicative competence of Mining Engineering students.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
This article is based on the dialectical-materialistic method and based on this, scientific research methods were used at the theoretical, empirical and mathematical-statistical levels.
Of the methods of the theoretical level, the following stand out:
Of the methods of the empirical level:
Of the mathematical and statistical methods, percentage analysis was used with emphasis.
The population is made up of 22 second-year students of the Mining Engineering career, from the University of Moa “Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez”, which represents 100% of the selected sample.
Diagnosis of the communicative competence in English language of the students of the Mining Engineering career
The professional model of the Mining Engineering career establishes that the student, once graduated, must possess professional and communicative skills that allow him to put at the service of humanity, and in particular of Cuban society, the development of science and technology linked to the career, with economic rationality, adequate use of human and material resources, minimizing the consumption of nature, the deterioration of the environment and preserving the ethical principles of its society.
The modes of action of the mining professional are related to carrying out research, for which the students use the scientific-technical information of the specialty written in English or through exchange with foreign specialists who communicate in this language, to carry out research work course, diploma, reports, scientific articles and summaries. In this sense, the English language constitutes a work tool in the solution of professional problems.
In order to verify the current state of the development of the communicative competence of the students of the Mining Engineering career, normative and methodological documents were consulted that justify the empirical evidence of the problem raised.
The analysis of documentary information revealed that, although the Face2Face Starter and Face2Face Elementary textbooks constitute the basic bibliography for learning the English language in the Mining Engineering career, difficulties were evident in the relationship of the content with the communicative needs of the students in connection with the profession.
On the other hand, the revised lesson plans demonstrated the use of methodological procedures of the communicative approach; interaction between the protagonists in the communicative process is promoted, the development of language skills is encouraged. However, emphasis is placed on listening comprehension and the presence of oral and written activities is insufficient to achieve academic and professional communication with fluency and precision in ideas.
For the application of the survey, the following indicators were taken into consideration: interest in the English courses by levels offered by the Department of Languages, correspondence of the content of the Face2Face series with the communicative needs that occur in the Cuban context and in the exercise of the profession, integrated development of language skills, use of communicative tasks and adequate command of the English language to obtain specialized information.
From the survey analysis applied to the 22 second-year students, 20 (90.9%) showed interest in the English courses by levels offered by the Department of Languages, although all expressed that there is no correspondence between the content of the Face2Face series with the communicative need’s realities of the Cuban socio-professional context and in the exercise of the profession.
Only seven students (31.8%) were satisfied with the way communication skills are developed for learning the English language, since emphasis is placed on listening comprehension. The activities designed to promote the development of reading comprehension, written expression, oral expression and interaction are not structured in a coherent, logical manner and do not stimulate leading participation; they are mostly playback and repetition exercises. Five students (22.7%) showed an adequate command of the English language to obtain information that requires the use of original sources written in this foreign language, as a result of the development of science and technology.
An interview was also conducted with the four English language teachers who teach in the Mining Engineering career. 100% of the interviewees reported that the level of command of the English language of the students is insufficient, there is no adequate integration of communication skills that promotes their learning and emphasis is placed on listening comprehension, which limits the development of the communicative competence in the socio-professional mining context.
Three (75%) of these teachers stated that students make inaccurate pronunciations in the English language, lack fluency, reflected in long pauses, incoherence in ideas, intonation, rhythm and accent, in addition to insufficient command of lexical and grammatical structures. Three (75%) teachers do not satisfy the fundamental theoretical and methodological considerations in the development of tasks that promote communicative competence and promote developer learning.
From the analysis of the results of the insufficiencies referred to, it can be seen that they are mainly due to an incoherent specification of the teaching and learning of the English language in the professional context, since at present there is no specific space to promote its development to the desired levels. Hence the need to develop tasks as an alternative aimed, mainly, at promoting consistent treatment of communicative competence in this scenario.
The situation described above leads to the need to focus on the development of communicative competence in the English language in connection with the work activity of students. In this way, the ideas expressed by various researchers on the teaching-learning of English in this field are used.
The teaching-learning of English for Specific Purposes is conceived with the aim of being used for particular communicative purposes. Hence, English for Occupational Purposes, as a branch of this science, focuses on the language of occupational performance in a community that, according to Trace & et al. (2015), is characterized by being a homogeneous community that shares language and culture.
According to Stevens, cited in Trace & et al. (2015) and Navarro & et al. (2021), teaching for specific purposes is designed to respond to the specific needs of students; by its content, it relates to particular disciplines, occupations, and activities and focuses on a language that corresponds to those activities in syntax, lexicon, discourse, and semantics.
So, the teacher faces the challenge of how to combine the characteristics of teaching with specific purposes with the communicative approach of the courses by levels of language learning. The conception of the approach based on tasks closely linked to the profession, inserted in the teaching-learning process, is shown as a viable solution to this problem.
About task-based teaching, authors such as Howatt (1984), Nunan (1989), cited in Aguilera & et al. (2021), Brown (1994), Willis (2007), Perera & et al. (2019) and Aguilera & et al. (2021), have made important contributions to the teaching of foreign languages.
Task-based teaching constitutes what Howatt (1984) has called a communicative approach. The reason is that its objective is not only to teach communication as an object (as in the case of the notional-functional approach), but to get students to participate in authentic acts of communication in the classroom and use the language they are studying as a tool.
Willis (2007) pointed out that, within the framework of task-based learning, tasks and texts are combined to provide students with rich exposure to the language and also opportunities to use it on their own.
According to Perera & et al. (2019), this is considered a language learning technique, which is based on the development of activities that contextualize the student in real life situations, in which they would use the English language.
The aforementioned aspects are considered for the elaboration of communicative tasks related to the mining profile, based on the integration of the four language skills. These also respond to the needs, interests and potential of students in solving professional problems.
The consideration of the communicative task with a professional approach requires taking into account that the policy for the improvement of the English language, of the Ministry of Higher Education (2019), establishes the mastery of this language at a basic level equivalent to an A2, although with tendency to evolve to the intermediate equivalent to a B1. In this sense, it is required that the level of complexity of the tasks be in correspondence with the standards of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages at this level of learning.
In relation to the communicative task, the authors of this work ascribe to what was proposed by Nunan (2011), cited in Aguilera & et al. (2021), by identifying it as a part of class work, which involves learners in the understanding, manipulation, production and interaction in the language that is being learned, while focusing attention mainly on meaning and not on the language shape. The task must have a sense of complexity, being able to stand on its own as a communicative act.
This research agrees with Aguilera & et al. (2021), expressing that communicative tasks have a communicative objective, in addition to constituting a material way of incorporating reality into the class where interaction, collaboration and group dynamics become relevant, based on the role of the students oriented towards the search and exploration of knowledge, through a system of tasks that stimulate intellectual development and cognitive independence.
These tasks constitute a natural way of incorporating reality and consolidate the communicative orientation in the teaching of the English language. In addition, they require students to understand, negotiate and express meanings in order to achieve a communicative goal.
The aforementioned author took into consideration three phases for the development of the tasks:
The understanding and production of these elements and of the vocabulary constitute important aspects for the appropriation of a developer learning. This requires a level of reasoning that allows the conscious and reflective use of resources, in order to achieve academic and professional communication of students in the mining socio-professional context, for the rational exploitation of the mineral resources of the rock mass.
Hetero-evaluation, self-evaluation, co-evaluation and evaluation are applied as the evaluative modalities that constitute a process that allows constant feedback and control of contextualized communicative tasks for the mining profile.
In this sense, the role of contextualized communicative tasks is considered as an alternative to promote the development of communicative competence. These respond to listening comprehension, reading comprehension, written expression, oral expression and interaction. For its elaboration, two videos were selected that appear on the site https://www.youtube.comwatchv=eQYLuM-bfTE.mp4, entitled "Mining and Surface mining", in addition to the readings "Mining and Open-pit mining”, in Geological resources https://courses.lumenlearning.com/cuny-lehman-geo/chapter/reading-effects-of-mining/, which are of interest to students of the mining profile, due to the validity of the content they deal with and the affordability.
The objective of these tasks is to promote the development of communicative competence through the integration of communicative skills in the English language.
Communicative task 1
Activity 1. Objective: to develop listening skills.
Procedure: The professor projects Mining video Section 1 to the students and then they have to arrange the sentences in the order they are mentioned.
Watch Mining video Section 1. Put these sentences in the order which are mentioned in the video. There are four sentences which are not mentioned.
Vehicle Efficiency and roads stability.
Mineral extraction as the main mining activity.
Track vehicles and drilling equipment.
Methods used for machines (mine) development.
The kind of technology developed at mine sites .
Dust abatement technology .
The time people have been practicing mining .
The use of mining resulting materials in electronic products .
Activity 2. Objective: to develop reading skills.
Procedure: The professor gives the students a text about mining and then they have to choose the correct letter, AD.
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, or reef, which forms the mineralized package (pocket) of economic interest to the miner.
Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, dimension stone, rock salt, potash, gravel, and clay. Mining is required to obtain any material that cannot be grown through agricultural processes, or created artificially in a laboratory or factory. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource such as petroleum, natural gas, or even water.
Mining of stone and metal has been done since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final land reclamation after the mine is closed.
The nature of mining processes creates a potential negative impact on the environment both during the mining operations and for years after the mine is closed. This impact has led most of the world's nations to adopt regulations designed to moderate the negative effects of mining operations. Safety has long been a concern as well, and modern practices have improved safety in mines significantly.
The text has four sections. Which section contains the following information? Write the correct letter, AD. You may use any letter more than once.
1____ adverse influence of mining processes on the environment.
2____ Places that contain materials obtained through mining.
3____Current mining procedures.
4____ Materials which humans need to extract from ores.
5____ Evolution of mining magnitude.
6____ Definition of mining.
7____ Actions to reduce mining environmental impact.
Activity 3. Objective: to develop writing skills.
Procedure: The professor gives a part of a letter to the students that he received from a Mining Engineering student who lives in Pinar del Río province. Then, they have to answer the letter starting from the questions given. Write your letter at least 100 words.
Here is part of a letter you received from a friend who is studying Mining Engineering and lives in Pinar del Río province. Read it carefully, and then, write a letter at least 100 words, answering your classmate´s questions telling all you know about surface mining.
Activity 4. Objective: to develop oral skills.
Procedure: This activity was previously assigned, so that students had plenty of time to organize the information they need. The professor, together with the class, assigns the roles of the specialist and the participants. They should use the necessary communicative functions required by the oral discussion of this topic.
Working groups. You are the Head of the Mining Department. Organize an interview with Mining Engineering major students. The interview will be about rocks. Be aware that the participants will ask you some questions. Offer them suitable information about the topic.
Communicative Task 2
Activity 1. Objective: To develop listening skills.
Procedure: The professor projects Surface mining video Section 1 to the students, and in a multiple-choice exercise, they have to choose the appropriate letter that suits each statement.
Watch Surface mining video Section 1, and in a multiple-choice exercise, choose the appropriate letter that suits each statement.
1. One of the main results obtained by surface mining is:
A__ Ore storage.
B__ Pray process.
C__ Ore recovery.
2. WA Surface Mining is a company from:
A__ The western part of Australia.
B__ The eastern part of Australia.
C__ The southern part of Australia.
3. The mining equipment produced by this company is operated by:
B__ An exceptionally qualified staff.
C__ A robot.
4. WA Surface Mining is a company:
A__ More expensive and more unrestrained.
B__ More precise and more expensive.
C__ More exact, more measured and more affordable.
5. The video is about:
A__ Surface mining operations.
B__ Surface mining technology.
C__ Surface mining costs.
Activity 2. Objective: to develop reading skills.
Procedure: The professor gives a text to the students about Surface mining and then they have to choose the correct letter.
Now deep into the surface mining practices through the text Surface mining. Read carefully the entire text and then choose the appropriate letters AC.
1. According to the information in the text, open-pit mining is
A ____ an extraction technique.
B____ an innovative technology.
C ____ a blasting method.
2. According to the information in the text, open pit mining is applied when
A ____ minerals are far from the surface.
B ____ minerals aren't far from the surface.
C ____ minerals are relatively near the surface.
3. According to the information in the text, generally mines are active until
A ____ mines get exhausted or the mineral lowers its value in the market.
B ____ mining becomes lucrative or the mineral reaches its top value.
C ____ mining is unprofitable or the mineral runs out.
4. According to the information in the text, sometimes, when an ore is completely exploited, mines become
A ____ a lake.
B ____ a dump deposit.
C ____ a cultivation field.
5. According to the information in the text, if rainy weather prevails in the area where an exhausted mine is located
A ____ it becomes a landfill.
B____ it becomes an uneconomic activity.
C____ it becomes a lake.
Activity 3. Objective: to develop writing skills.
Procedure: The professor tells the students to write a report starting from a given situation.
You participated in an academic exchange with experts on mining in Pinar del Río. There you took a field tour (the video) and a seminar (the reading) where you learned information about surface mining. Write a report about that experience, following these hints:
- When did you go there?
-Who did you go with?
-Where did you stay?
- How did you travel around?
- What did you do?
- What did you see?
-What do you know now about surface mining?
-Did you get a new vision about your major and the environment?
- Did you have a good time?
Activity 4. Objective: to develop oral skills.
Procedure: This activity was previously assigned, so that students had enough time to organize their ideas they need to talk about surface mining. They should use the necessary communicative functions required by the oral discussion of this topic.
Working groups. Take turns to tell each other about what you have learned during the academic exchange in Pinar del Río. Try to talk for at least one minute. Which was the most interesting topic you found out about surface mining?
The results obtained in the present work, with the application of the methods referred to above, show the need to deepen the integrated treatment of linguistic skills to promote the development of communicative competence of second-year students of the Mining Engineering career, from the University of Moa “Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez”, from the establishment of English language proficiency as a graduation requirement.
According to Acosta (2020), the integration of linguistic skills in the language classroom requires the development of a series of activities or tasks that use any combination of the skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, in a continuous and related sequence. This author also expressed that, by exposing students to these skills in an integrated manner, fluidity in the development of the learning program is possible, because the tasks are interrelated and are carried out in different contexts and ways where they can be reconsider the previously taught language.
In this regard, the authors of this research agree with Nunan (1991), cited in Navarro & et al. (2021), because it suggests that the task can be conceptualized in terms of the curricular objectives that are intended to be fulfilled, the availability of the information that constitutes the starting point for its realization and the activities and procedures that the student undertakes to complete it. This author also takes into account the role of the students and the teacher in sync with the context and the conditions in which the task is performed.
In correspondence with the aforementioned, the achievement of communicative competence requires the integrated treatment of language skills. However, the current tasks do not favor their development to the desired levels and favor the existence of a linguistic gap in the teaching-learning process, due to the insufficient link between the English language and the students' future profession. In this sense, communicative tasks are proposed as an alternative to provide consistent treatment in the mining socio-professional context and, in turn, facilitate self-management of learning.
In Ministerial Resolution No.165, of the Ministry of Higher Education (2019), the self-management of learning English conceives students as protagonists and actors in the training process and is aimed at understanding the value of this foreign language, being motivated to study this language and systematize the practice and its use in a conscious, intentional and systematic way, as a way to promote cognitive independence and autonomous learning.
From what has been said, the proposed communicative tasks are elaborated through the efficient combination of face-to-face activities and autonomous learning actions, for which the teacher must promote the protagonist participation of the students and the cooperative work, where the self-management of language learning English raises as an aspiration to show communicative competence that is manifested in the academic and professional context, in correspondence with the demands of the Professional Model.
In summary, the communicative tasks related to the mining profile, elaborated on the basis of the theoretical and methodological references that will allow its implementation, effectiveness and efficiency, will promote the development of communicative competence in the socio-professional context of the students of the Mining Engineering career, from the University of Moa “Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez”, based on the integrated treatment of language skills.
In this way, the proposed communicative tasks constitute a way to promote the desired level of command of the English language, which satisfies the current academic and social demands for the understanding, production and exchange of these students, as competent professionals. With its implementation, it contributes to the Didactics of the English language and to the improvement of the teaching-learning process, by promoting the development of communicative competence.
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Conflict of interest:
Authors declare not to have any conflicts of interest.
The authors have participated in the writing of the work and analysis of the documents.
This work is under a licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial 4.0 Internacional
Copyright (c) Mirtha Odalis Olivero Herrera, Rafael Lodezma Tamayo Caballero, Guillermo Acosta Coutín, Georgina Elvira Aguilera Saborit