English Assignment on : English language teaching

English Assignment on : English language teaching

Part I Introduction:

Assignment Expert AustraliaEnglish language teaching has been developing in Hong Kong in recent years. It has gradually changed from the teacher-centred to student-centred classroom. (Littlewood, 2008) Task-Based Learning (TBL) approach of English teaching is an important product of this education innovation. When English teachers face some problems in teaching, they always search for good approaches that could develop a difference in their classroom. Based on Ruso’s research the problems in classrooms are generally caused by students’ lack of motivation. Due to this reason, tasks have been highly recommended in English teaching (Will, 1996; Littlewood, 2008).

Assignment Writing Tutor AustraliaFrom students’ perspective, the reality shows that the traditional approach seems to be ineffective to help the students with low English proficiency in Hong Kong. These students get used to the way that teachers always use, such as memorizing vocabulary and rules, but they did not have any motivation by learning in this way. They need to have an innovation of the learning approaches, in order to help them with their learning difficulties and change their fall behind circumstance of English learning. Whether TBL could help them solve this problem is worth to be examined.

Part II Literature review:

  • Notion of TBL

TBL has increasingly won popularity in recent years and has been recommended as an advanced teaching approach of teaching English as a second language. In Hong Kong, it has been introduced as part of the Target-Oriented Curriculum (TOC). Tasks, with their emphasis on pupils actively participating in their own learning and constructing knowledge, lie at the core of the shift from teacher-centred activities and established views of curricular knowledge (Clark& Scarino, 1993).

l  Definition of tasks

Many famous experts such as Prabhu (1989) and Willis (1996) have given the definitions of tasks that have been shown in the following paragraphs:

Prabhu is the first person in the history of developing TBL and contributed to raise awareness of defining tasks as “an activity which required learners to arrive at an outcome from given information through some process of thought, and which allowed teachers to control and regulate that process” (Prabhu, 1987, p.24).

Willis is also an expert who has contribution to the development of TBL in the English teaching classroom. His explained that “ tasks are always activities where the target language is used by the learner for a communicative purpose(goal) in order to achieve an outcome” (Willis, 1996,p.23) She holds the view that “ the aim of tasks is to create a real purpose for language use and to provide a natural context for language study” (Willis, 1996, p.1).

Based on the literature review of both the features and advantages of TBL and also the needs of the students with low English proficiency, the research questions have been designed as following.

Research questions

  1. How effective is TBL for learning English for the students with low English proficiency in Hong Kong?
  2. To what extent does TBL motivate the students with low English proficiency in English learning?

Part III Methodology:

Assignment Help Australia1.      Participants

The participants in this research were a Primary two class of twenty seven students in a local primary school. The school has divided students into different classes according to their academic results. I taught three classes in the practice. Comparatively, this class was the one with the worst academic performance, since they always got the lowest average marks of exams. 21 students in the class could hardly achieve average score in English exams and the other 6 students were about average. Due to their poor academic performance, they were chosen as representatives of the students with low English proficiency and the participants of this study.

  1. 2.      Research methods

-          Instruments

(a)   Pre-test and Post-test

A set of Pre-test and Post-test of each unit were given to students to examine how much they have learnt from teaching respectively by traditional approach and TBL.

Both pre-test and post-test included four parts i.e. listening, reading, writing and speaking. The same topic-related vocabulary, sentences structures or grammar items of two units were tested before and after the learning of each unit by putting them into different context.

        

(b)   Interview

The individual interviews were conducted with fifteen students after finishing the teaching of two units. These students were chosen based on their previous academic results. They were all in the list of the last twenty of the rank of their test scores.

Additionally, the results of the pre-test and post-test of the two units and their original English teacher’s comments on their common performance in English lessons were also taken into account. According to the teacher’s words, all of these are the most troublesome students in the classroom and performed poorly in both exams and also class activities. With the guiding questions (see Appendix5), students could have something to rely on and also had the room to share their own ideas.

Duration

The whole study lasted for four weeks. Two units were taught from two approaches and the date was collected during the whole process teaching to ensure the internal validity of the study.

Unit

ClassUnit 5

(2 weeks)Unit 6

(2 weeks)Class ATask-based learningText-book based learning

-          Data collection procedures

Step 1.  Obtaining permission from the participants

Step 2. Having the Pre-test before using traditional teaching approach to teach unit four

Step 3. Teaching the unit four with the traditional English approach (See Appendix 2)

Step 4. Having the post-test after finishing the teaching of unit four.

Step 5. Having the pre-test before using TBL to teach unit five.

Step 6. Using TBL to teach unit five (See Appendix 3)

   Step 7. Having the post- test after finishing using TBL to teach unit five.

 

Step 8. Interviewed students about their views towards two different teaching approaches.

Part IV Findings & Data Analysis:

Þ    Analysis of Pre-test and Post-test results.

The results were analyzed from four steps.  First of all, the pre-test and post-test were marked. Average mark of each unit of the whole class and the average of each part of each unit were counted. The calculation should follow the formula:

(Post-Test Score – Pre-Test Score)/ Total Score *100% = The Improved Accuracy Rate

After two sets of results came out, the improved accuracy rate of the overall result and also of listening, reading, writing and speaking parts of the two units were compared, in order to see whether TBL could help the low English proficiency learners have better academic performance than the traditional English teaching approach.

 

Þ    Analysis of semi-structured interviews:

The analysis of the interviewed notes consisted of three parts. Firstly, all the statements were read and the answers of each interview were classified. Then, the main feelings that students had expressed towards TBL and also the traditional teaching approach were identified. At last, the main ideas that students had hold towards TBL were generated.

 

 

 

 

Result

  1. 1.      Data collected through pre-test and post-test

Table 1 below presents the average increased accuracy rate of two units. The table shows the overall result of teaching with traditional approach improved more than the result from using TBL to teach, which were 41.32% and 36.46% respectively. The gap between the two rates was 4.86%. This result revealed that, after experiencing two different approaches, students learnt a little more effectively by learning with the traditional approach.

Table 1- The improved rate from pre-test to post-test

 

Traditional English teaching approach LISTENING READING WRITING SPEAKING OVERALL
39.51% 41.98% 33.70% 30.56% 41.32%
Task- based learning approach LISTENING READING WRITING SPEAKING OVERALL
44.20% 49.14% 34.26% 23.33% 36.46%

According to Table 1, it is obvious that in listening and reading parts, the accuracy score had improved more in results of TBL approach. To be more specific, TBL improved rate won 5% in the listening part and about 8% in the reading part. Even for the writing test, there was a slight advantage of the increased rate of TBL. In comparison, the traditional approach helped students more in their speaking part, so that it was about 7% higher than TBL. Considering the reasons, it is mainly because Chinese was used unavoidable during the discussion. Although TBL provided a communicative environment for students, it was difficult for the teacher to force the kids to use English all the time with such a big class size, especially when students have freedom to discuss with their peers.

The biggest gap in that table was 7.23. However, there are three exceptions which showed distinct differences from the rates of unit 4 to unit 5. Student A and B had much higher improved accuracy rate of TBL, while student C improved much more after being taught with the traditional teaching approach.

Two students improved much more after learning through TBL. In table 2, student A had only gained 7.14% scores after finish learning through the traditional way. In contrast, he had got 40.00% more correctly in the post-test after learning through TBL. Student B’s overall improved accuracy rate was less distinct than student A’s but it was still 8% higher than the average one. According to Table 3, although student B got 27.14% higher comparing to the first pre-test, the rate still got 13% lower than the increased rate after learning through TBL.

Table 2- Student A’s improved rate from pre-test to post-test of two units

Traditional English teaching approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
13.33% 0% 0% 2% 6.02%
Task- based learning approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
46.67% 46.32% 35.00% 35..00% 40.00%

      

 

 

 

 

Table 3- Student B’s improved rate from pre-test to post-test of two units

Traditional English teaching approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
20.00% 26.67% 20.00% 30.00% 27.14%
Task- based learning approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
46.67% 46.32% 35.00% 35.00% 40.00%

In contrast, as Table 4 presented, comparing to the improved rate of learning through the traditional approach, student C had improved much less after learning through TBL. He had got 31.43% improved rate in the unit four learning through the traditional approach, but he only got 11.43% improved rate for TBL. It means he improved 20% more by learning through the traditional approach.

Table 4- Student C’ improved rate from pre-test to post-test of two units

Traditional English teaching approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
20.00% 6.67% 15.00% 15.00% 31.43%
Task- based learning approach Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall

5.00%

3.00%

10.00%

15.00%

11.43%

 

The finding of the data collected from the pre-tests and post- tests indicated that the traditional approach could help students more with their exams, but TBL had better effect on receptive skills, reading and listening obviously and had slight advantage with writing.

2. Data collected through interviews

Sample AssignmentApart from the data collected from the two sets of pre-test and post-test, semi-structured interviews were hold to find out students’ views towards TBL. Six structured questions had been asked and also some related queries had been raised in each interview in order to make sure they had given their real feedback to me and to know their feelings and ideas better.

The six questions (See Appendix 6) could be categorized into three aspects, which were

  1. General idea towards English learning (Question 1 and 2)
  2. Students’ views towards the experience of learning through TBL and the traditional approach (Question 3 and 4)
  3. Students’ preference for TBL or traditional approach (Question 5 to 6)

According to the Table 5, eight students answered that they did not enjoy English learning. For the other seven students, two of them held a neutral view towards this question that they did not really like English very much, but they could not say they did not enjoy English learning completely. The left five students said that they enjoyed. However, two of these five told me their answers with hesitation and they did not say it spontaneously. Five of the students who did not show their dislike of English learning were because they had to learn English in order to pass exams and to avoid been punished or blamed by their parents or teachers.

Table 5- students’ views towards English learning

Students’ view towards English learning. Like Neutral Dislike
The number of students 5 2 8

From table 6 below, it is obvious that the activities of TBL were more interesting to students. Since every student could choose three activities they liked the most, there were 37 ‘likes’ were showed to the activities of TBL while there were only 7 ‘likes’ were given activities of the traditional teaching approach.

The most 3 popular activities were all under the column of TBL, which were drawing the picture of their family, collect information about students themselves and their family members by interview, and making a portfolio about students and their family.

Table 6- The result of the activities that students like best 

Activities of unit 4

(the traditional language teaching approach)The number of students like  Activities of unit 5

(TBL)The number of students like 

  1. Using flash cards to learn the new vocabulary

1

  1. Story telling

 

4

  1. Reading aloud the text book page by page.

2

  1. Using video to learn the story and vocabulary

3

  1. Reading aloud the new vocabulary for many times.

2

  1. Miming- guessing different jobs

2

 

 

  1. learning the grammar from learning focus

0

  1. Drawing- the picture of your family

8

 

 

  1. Doing the reading comprehension on textbook.

0

  1. Games

1

  1. Doing grammar exercises

0

  1. Collecting information about yourself and your family members by interview

8

  1. Writing an ending of the comic

0

  1. Sharing- your family

5

  1. Copying the new vocabulary

1

  1. Making a portfolio about yourself and your family

6

  1. Dictation

 

  1. Filling in the blanks in comic

 

 

 

According to table 7, the number of students who chose the activities under the column of the traditional teaching approach raised from 7 in the table 6 to 15 in table 7. Therefore, comparing to the number of students liked the activities of TBL, there were less students thought the activities of TBL could help them learn more.

Table7- The activities that can help students learn more.

Activities of unit 4

(the traditional language teaching approach)The number of students chooseActivities of unit 5

(TBL)The number of students choose

  1. Using flash cards to learn the new vocabulary

1

  1. Story telling

 

2

  1. Reading aloud the text book page by page.

4

  1. Using video to learn the story and vocabulary

4

  1. Reading aloud the new vocabulary for many times.

4

  1. Miming- guessing different jobs

2

  1. learning the grammar from learning focus

3

  1. Drawing- the picture of your family

8

  1. Doing the reading comprehension on textbook.

0

  1. Games

1

  1. Doing grammar exercises

0

  1. Collect information about yourself and your family members by interview

6

  1. Write an ending of the comic

0

  1. Sharing- your family

2

  1. Copying the new vocabulary

2

  1. Make a portfolio about yourself and your family

5

  1. Dictation

0

  1. Fill in the blanks in comic

1

 

Considering the above two aspects, 9 students showed their preference of TBL, 4 students said both were fine to them and the other 2 preferred the traditional approach, we can find from the table 10.

Table 10- students’ preference for TBL or the traditional approach

Students’ preference for two approaches Having preference for TBL Neutral view Having preference for the traditional approach
The number of students 9 4 2

Three important things were found after all these data were collected. Firstly, the students who disliked English at very beginning did not choose any of the activities from the table under the traditional teaching approach as the activities they like the most or the activities they thought could help them more with their English learning. Secondly, the 2 students who hold a neutral view towards English learning also chose their favourite activities all from the TBL but both of them chose 1 activity from the traditional approach which they thought were helpful with their English learning. Thirdly, the students who liked the English learning originally, all seven votes of the favourite activities under the column under the traditional approach were from these 5 students. However, since each of them could choose at most 3 activities from the table, they gave all other votes to the activities of TBL. Nevertheless, they still thought the traditional approach could help them learn more, so they contributed 13 votes to the traditional approach as the most help learning activities.

The reasons that students in the first group preferred the learning experience of TBL were various. Four common ideas had been generated from their answers. Firstly, varies types of activities such as videos, miming, drawing or making portfolios were attractive and interesting, so that their attention could be attracted in the English lessons. Secondly, they loved making their own product, the family portfolio. Since it is the work that every student could have a unique product which was totally different from others, they could have a sense of achievement by showing it to the others, such as teachers, parents or other classmates. Thirdly, sharing things about themselves could easily get students involved. They had no longer think that English lessons were none of their business and what the teacher taught them had nothing to do with themselves. Fourthly, although English was still difficult, with the help of multi-media and also authentic examples, it seemed to be easier for them to understand. Even if they did not understand, they were willing to know what happened, so they would ask their classmates for help and learning came along with peer assistance.

Student A and B, whom were found as the special cases from the data collected from pre-test and post-test, belonged to the first group. They explained why they got such significant improvement after learning with TBL. Student A said,

“I don’t like English before. I don’t like teachers asking us to read the same thing for many times. Normal English lessons are too boring. However, unit five seemed to be very interesting. The way that teacher taught us was new to me. I like watching videos, drawing pictures, and listening to others to talk about themselves. I know what happened in unit 5, but I don’t know what had been taught in unit 4 at all, so I got better marks of the test of unit 5. I think it is the reason.”

Student B gave similar reasons.

“I think talking with my friends is more interesting than listening to teacher’s words. The teacher always says, listen and read after me. It is too boring. The way teacher speaks makes me sleepy. Many other things are more attractive than her speech. However, for unit 5, the teacher seemed to be different. She stopped talking all the time and gave many opportunities for us to talk and we can talk about ourselves. I like teacher telling story, even I don’t understand, I can watch the video or look at the funny picture to guess. It is much better than reading aloud one story again and again.”

Student C was from this group, so why he got much significant improvement after being taught with the traditional approach could be explained.

“I don’t think reading aloud and copying the new vocabulary for many times are boring. Actually, I need these practices, otherwise, how can I know how to read and spell. If I cannot spell the words, I will not get good marks in dictation and exams.

I thought unit 5 was interesting. However, after each lesson, I still did not how to do the exercises on the workbook and the grammar book. I don’t know what have been taught in those lessons. I did have a clear mind of the grammar used in that unit and the teacher did not give us time to practice the new vocabulary. I don’t get used to this way of teaching. ”

In summary, to answer the research questions, in general there was not a significant improvement in general by using TBL to teach and learn. However, it is obvious that it is an effective way to help low English proficiency students to improve their receptive skills, listening and reading. Even for the productive skill, writing, it helps. The results of speaking test was affected by problem of implementation, which was the class size and the Chinese used in the discussions. Therefore, the data of the speaking could not be reliable.

Part V Implications:

In this part, I will discuss the implications of the findings demonstrated above in terms of the result of pre-tests and post-test and also the interviews.

From the analysis of the pre-test and post-test result, we could find that the total average improved rate was not as distinct as I expected. However, when look at the results separately from four aspects, there was an evident advantage in receptive skills, listening and reading, of the improved rate of learning through TBL. Since the TBL focused on meaning instead of forms, when students have learnt English through TBL, they are more likely to understand it instead of memorize it. Additionally, TBL provided a rich commutative learning environment for students that they could have large exposure to English and English had been used in a meaningful way that make students have deep memory of it.

Students with low English proficiency need the practice from the traditional English approach to solid the foundation of English learning. Especially, these students need to have explicit way to introduce new words and grammar items. Words and sentences are the basic elements for communication. Without clear understanding of them, students could not express their meaning correctly. For example, we could not expect the less capable student can say a word after they have been exposed to this word few times in the English classes and acquire it spontaneous without teacher’s clear introduction.

Another problem of implementing TBL to teach low English proficiency students that I found in this study is the large work load of developing tasks and preparing the teaching materials without sufficient time and enough supports. For this study, I spent more than 2 weeks to only plan the lessons and preparing the teaching materials. Even some of the target learning objectives which included in textbook had been sacrificed in the lesson plans in order to cater students’ English level. Therefore, although TBL is frequently promoted as an effective teaching approach, without successful implementations, it could not help the learners to improve.

From the analysis of the interviews:

It could be generated from students’ answers that nearly all of them like being taught by TBL. Since interests are one of the best motivations for students, to think long-term about learning, TBL has a significant impact on motivating low English proficiency speakers to learn English better.

As we could identify the advantages of implementing different approaches, it could be possible to used mixed approach in order to help the students with low English proficiency better.  To be more specific, teachers can use the traditional approach to solid their vocabulary learning and explicit the grammar rules in order to prepare students for a meaningful and interesting English learning and applying context which are carried by implementing TBL. Therefore, both interests and academic result could be balanced.

Part VI Limitations and improvements:

In this part, after the reflection of the whole research, the limitations of the study will be discussed and some suggestion will be given. There are three main limitations of the study are considered, in terms of the problems of its short- term research period, young participants and also the small-scale research.

Since theoretically that TBL has long term effects on students’ English learning, this 4 weeks study is not enough to examine whether TBL is a more effective approach from the results of the two sets of exams of two units. Therefore, the study could be improved by extending the time of the data collection.

Secondly, the participants for this research were very young learner who had just learning English for two years. Although comparing to the other primary two students, they had already been left behind, they could not represent all the students who are older than them but also with low English proficiency. The students who are at different ages will have different cognitive levels. Therefore, the simple task like the one I used might fail to attract their interests and the tasks they like they need to have some more complex and authentic tasks which require more English. Therefore, it will be better to collect data from the students at different ages.

Thirdly, the scale of the research could be wider. This is a small-scale research that has collected data from one class. Although they are typical in the kind of low English proficiency students, it will be more reliable to study more this type of students.

Conclusion 

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In conclusion, this classroom research is focused on the effectiveness of using TBL to teach students with low English proficiency learn English better in Hong Kong. The quantitative method, two set of pre-test and post-test, and also the qualitative method, semi-structured interview, were adopted in order to collect reliable data of this research. The final results indicate that TBL is generally effective for the low English proficiency students and motivate them to learn English. Due to the positive results of TBL, teacher should not hesitate to implement TBL in real classroom teaching. Although teacher and students face the reality of exams, teacher could integrate the traditional approach with TBL, in order to build up their English knowledge solidly and also catering students’ needs of interests. Therefore, mixed approach of the traditional approach and also TBL are suggested after the whole study and both motivation and academic performances can be considered and balanced at the same time.

 

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