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Teaching Interaction Management Directly:
Helping Learners with Part 3 of the
CAE Speaking Exam
by Greg Gobel
- 3

Basturkmen agrees about teaching interaction skills explicitly and raising our learners’ awareness of them. She warns, ‘By focusing on practice alone, the learner can remain tied to a limited awareness, and a potentially fossilized repertoire of interactive strategies and language use.’ (41) She also proposes a discoursal, text-based approach ‘to raise more advanced learners’ awareness’ (42) of these and to build ‘pedagogic tasks around the observation of texts, guiding learners in observing interaction to help them to recognize how interlocutors structure turns and exchanges, and what strategies and language and turn-taking mechanisms they use in specific contexts.’ (43) She suggests implementation by:

  • ‘studying transcribed turns to identify common patterns…
  • ‘using a recording (audio/video) …
  • ‘transcribing small segments from a recording of naturally occurring talk
  • ‘matching items from a list of communication strategies to a transcript
  • ‘role-playing and recording a cued situation, then comparing it to a recording/transcript of a similar situation in real life using naturally occurring speech
  • ‘identifying…and discussing instances involving linguistic phenomena…on transcripts
  • ‘collecting samples… from outside the classroom of linguistic phenomena, such as how speakers make topic changes…The class then collate and discuss.’ (44)

Clennel proposes a procedure of learners collecting, transcribing, and comparing naturally occurring spoken language. (45) Although this is proposed for pragmatic awareness, we could adapt it for interaction management awareness. Learners could compare similiarities and differences between native speakers and themselves; or, in ESL contexts, they could record naturally occurring speech. The advantage to using Clennell’s approach is that ‘every individual [takes] responsibility for investigating their own communication difficulties.’(46)

Curious about how popular coursebooks deal with teaching skills for managing interaction, I selected three CAE preparation coursesbooks ( Advanced Gold, Focus on CAE, and Fast Track to CAE) and looked at sections meant to prepare learners for Part 3. I assessed according to the ten skills Bygate suggests for interaction management and considered whether a text-based approach is used. The results (47) were disappointing:

  • relevant pages focus almost solely on practice,
  • when attempting to incorporate some interaction management, they focus only on linguistic realizations for developing a topic or extending into a new topic (usually agreeing, disagreeing, expressing opinion, etc.)
  • only Advanced Gold makes attempts at a text-based approach, but only three out of the eight times it focuses on Part 3.


For me, this presents two major implications. First, CAE preparation coursebooks could focus on teaching interaction skills, rather than assuming learners already are aware and use these. By including more analysis of recordings of learners doing Part 3 and of natural language with tasks focusing on management, they would better help prepare learners to interact and thus better accomplish Part 3, in addition to creating beneficial backwash for real-world conversation. Second, until then, teachers preparing learners for the CAE could pay particular attention to whether their learners have and use these skills early in a course.

I believe that integrating direct teaching of interaction management skills can add balance to courses that already have conversation practice. If learners are more aware of how to manage interaction, they will likely be more confident conversationalists and, in turn, participate more actively. Although this paper focuses on advanced learners, we should also more thoroughly intergrate these skills into lower level classes to help learners to control conversation in the early stages of language learning.

41. Basturkmen, 2001: 7-8
42. bid: 10
43. bid: 10
44. bid: 11
45. Clennell, 1999: 83
46. bid: 89
47. see Appendix A for coursebook analysis results


CAE Handbook. Cambridge University Press.
1996. Exploring Language. Learning Media Limited
Basturkmen, Helen. 2001. Descriptions of spoken language for higher level learners: the example of questioning. ELT Journal, Volume 55/1, January 2001
Bygate, Martin. 1987. Speaking. Oxford University Press.
Clennell, Charles. 1999. Promoting pragmatic awareness and spoken discourse with EAP classes. ELT Journal, Volume 53/2, April 1999. Oxford University Press.
Cook, Guy. 1989. Discourse. Oxford University Press.
Dörnyei, Zoltán and Sarah Thurrell. 1992. Conversations and Dialogues in action. Prentice Hall.
Dörnyei, Zoltán and Sarah Thurrell. 1994. Teaching conversation skills intensively: course content and rationale. ELT Journal, Volume 48/1, January 1994. Oxford University Press.
Geddes, Marion, Gill Sturtridge, and Sheila Been. 1991. Advanced Conversation. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Jenner, Bryan and Barbara Bradford. ‘Intonation through listening.’ MET, Volume 10/4.
Littlewood, William. 1981. Communicative Language Teaching: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, Michael. 1991. Discourse Analysis for Teachers. Cambridge University Press.
Nolasco, Rob and Lois Arthur. 1987. Conversation. Oxford University Press.
Richards, Jack C. 1990. The Language Teaching Matrix. Cambridge University Press.
Rost, Michael. 1990. Listening in Language Learning. Longman Group UK Ltd.
Sayers, Peter. 2005. An intensive approach to building conversation skills. ELT Journal, Volume 59/1, January 2005. Oxford University Press.
Thornbury, Scott. 1997. About Language. Cambridge University Press.
Underhill, Adrian. 1994. Sound Foundations. Macmillan Heinemann English Language Teaching.
White, Goodith. 1998. Listening. Oxford University Press.

Also referenced

Coulthard, M. 1977. An Introduction to Discourse Analysis. Longman.

Coursebooks used for analysis

Acklam, Richard and Sally Burgess. 2001. Advanced Gold Coursebook. Pearson Education.
Aspinall, Tricia and Annette Capel. 1996. Advanced Masterclass CAE. Oxford University Press.
O’Connell, Sue. 1999. Focus On Advanced English: C.A.E., Revised and Updated. Addison Wesley Longman Limited.
Stanton, Alan and Susan Morris. 1999. Fast Track to C.A.E. Coursebook. Pearson Education Limited.


Greg Gobel lives in Madrid both teaching at Chester School of English and as a freelance teacher trainer. He has been an English language teacher since 1997 and a teacher training since 2000. After more than 7 years in Prague, he moved to Madrid in autumn, 2004. You can contact Greg at


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