The focus of this article is on the evaluation of junior high school students' understanding of coherence in written and spoken English discourse. The development of students' understanding and development of coherence in English is one way of fulfilling the general goals of the 2012 revised course of study for junior high schools. In the research reported in this article, a diagnostic test was created to evaluate students' discourse competence, and was given to a group of junior high school students.
In April 2012, junior high school education in Japan began to be conducted based on the revised course of study produced by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In the section on ‘general policies regarding curriculum formulation,' teachers are expected to foster in students ‘a zest for life' through educational activities. In particular, teachers should be committed to enhancing their instruction to foster students' ability ‘to think', ‘to make decisions', ‘to express themselves', and also other abilities that are necessary to solve problems by using acquired knowledge and skills. English teachers should think about fostering learners' language skills to think logically and express their ideas and feelings effectively in the target language.
In this article, the background of the education reform in Japan and recommendations for better practices in English classrooms are summarized. In keeping with the general policies stated in the revised course of study, students should understand and be aware of coherence in English passages and conversations. A diagnostic test for evaluating learners' discourse competence in English, especially in relation to coherence, was developed and given to 198 junior high school students. The results of the survey indicated that the students' discourse competence had not been sufficiently cultivated. To remedy this, students should be made more aware of coherence in discourse through classroom instruction, and given more opportunities to develop their logical thinking and to express their ideas coherently in class.