Enhancing students’ speaking skills in an ESL classroom through debate: an action research

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Jane Rarieya

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Abdalla Mohamed


AKU-East Africa


Debate is a strategy which when used in teaching and learning, facilitates a better command of the English language by equipping learners with speaking skills in the very context they learn and live. Further, debates simplify the teacher‟s teaching task by engaging the class in active learning through group participation.

This study set to explore how debate could be used to enhance the speaking skills of ESL learners in a rural public primary school. The study adopted an action research design. Multiple methods were used to collect data from purposely selected samples that consisted of 2 teachers of English and 60 learners of Grade 6 class.

The methods comprised interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation and document analysis. Key findings from the study show that the way debate is used in the study school is as a topic because it is a dictate from the national syllabus and therefore teacher participants taught it theoretically. However, once debate was used as a learning strategy in the classroom, learners‟ speaking skills improved in the areas of fluency and accuracy in English language. In addition, learners manifested a logical flow of ideas, improved in their use of tenses as well as used appropriate debating language. Further, their confidence levels were enhanced. They demonstrated a willingness to talk in debates, made relevant arguments and enhanced their levels of managing their emotions. The study also established challenges that a teacher is likely to encounter in using debate to enhance learners; speaking skills. These include limited knowledge, time management, aggressive competitions, hatred and unruly behaviour of students, especially those who experience bias treatments from debate officials or teachers. Recommendations and implications arising out of the study are also presented.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library