An Evaluation of the book Target Pet for the first year non-English majors at Vinh University from the perspective of teachers and students

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY Pham Thi Luong Giang AN EVALUATION OF THE BOOK “TARGET PET” FOR THE 1ST YEAR NON-ENGLISH MAJORS AT VINH UNIVESITY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF TEACHERS AND STUDENTS Major: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) Code: 60 14 01 11 MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION Supervisor: Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, MA. i Vinh, 2014 STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP I certify my authorship of the M. A thesis submitted today entitled:“ An evaluation of the book Target Pet for 1st year non-English majors at Vinh university” in terms of the statement of requirement for the thesis and the field study reports in TESOL program has been performed and interpreted solely by myself, except where otherwise acknowledged and that this minor or any part of the same had not been submitted for any other form for the fulfillment of any other degrees or qualifications. Vinh, August 27, 2014 Author’s signature Pham Thi Luong Giang ii ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to evaluate the suitability of the book “Target Pet” to the non-English majors’ needs, level and learning goals and the requirements of the course in relation to aims, content, and methodology from the perspective of students and teachers at Vinh university. To achieve the above purpose, qualitative and quantitative research methods in forms of questionnaires, materials analysis are used. In this sequence, the material in use is analyzed basing on the criteria suggested by Hutchinson and Waters’ (1987) with an aim to determine how the material realizes the course requirements. A survey on the teachers' and students’ opinions about the extent to which the material meets the requirements of the course in terms of the aims, content and methodology is conducted. Research results have revealed some strengths and weaknesses of the material which allows the author to conclude that to some extent the book has not fulfilled the course aims, content and methodology in improving listening and speaking skills. Based on the findings, the study offers recommendations on material adaptation such as addition, deletion, and replacement that should be made to remedy the weaknesses of the material so that the students can benefit more from it in future courses. iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Many people have helped me complete this thesis. First, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, for her patient guidance, helpful suggestions, encouragement and constructive supervision in the course of writing this research. Without her help, this work would have been impossible. My thanks also come to Dr. Tran Ba Tien, the FLD’s Dean, who gave me the chance and the time to come to the end of this study. I also would like to acknowledge my gratitude to Ms. Tran Thi Phuong Thao, who has been helpful and supportive to me during the completion of my thesis. I would like to take this opportunity to express my thankfulness to all of my English colleagues and students at Vinh University for their great help and kind cooperation in completing the questionnaires for the thesis. Finally, my special appreciation goes out to all the teachers who taught me during the two-year course. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP............................................................................i ABSTRACT..............................................................................................................ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.......................................................................................iii TABLE OF CONTENTS.........................................................................................iv LIST OF FIGURES.................................................................................................vii LIST OF TABLES.................................................................................................viii LIST OF TABLES.................................................................................................viii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION..........................................................................1 1.1. RATIONALE OF THE STUDY.....................................................................1 1.2. AIMS OF THE STUDY..................................................................................2 1.3. RESEARCH QUESTIONS.............................................................................2 1.4. SCOPE OF THE STUDY...............................................................................3 1.5. ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY..............................................................3 CHAPTER 2: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW..................................................................................................................5 2.1. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND................................................................5 2.1.1. What are language- learning materials?....................................................5 2.1.2. Types of Materials....................................................................................6 2.1.2.1. In-house materials...............................................................................7 2.1.2.2. Commercial materials.........................................................................7 2.1.3. Roles of teaching materials.....................................................................12 2.1.4. Materials evaluation................................................................................15 2.1.4.1. Definitions of Materials Evaluation..................................................15 2.1.4.2. Types of Materials Evaluation..........................................................16 2.1.4.3. Purposes of Materials Evaluation.....................................................18 2.1.4.4. Materials Evaluators.........................................................................19 2.1.4.5. Models for Materials Evaluation......................................................20 2.1.4.6. Criteria for Materials Evaluation......................................................23 v 2.1.5. Materials adaptation................................................................................25 2.2. LITERATURE REVIEW..............................................................................27 2.2.1. In the world.............................................................................................27 2.2.2. In Vietnam..............................................................................................29 2.3. SUMMARY..................................................................................................30 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY.................................................31 3.1. AN OVERVIEW OF CURRENT ENGLISH TEACHING AND LEARNING AT VINH UNIVERSITY.....................................................................................31 3.2. RESEARCH DESIGN..................................................................................34 3.3. PARTICIPANTS...........................................................................................34 3.3.1. Teachers..................................................................................................34 3.3.2.Students...................................................................................................35 3.4. DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENTS.....................................................36 3.4.1 Questionnaires.........................................................................................36 3.4.2 Materials and syllabus analysis................................................................38 3.4.3. Tests........................................................................................................38 3.5. DATA COLLECTION ANALYSIS.............................................................38 3.6. RESEARCH PROCEDURES.......................................................................38 3.7. SUMMARY..................................................................................................39 CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION..................................................40 4.1. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS................................................................40 4.1.1. Aims of the Course syllabus and “Target Pet”........................................40 4.1.1.1 Aims of the course syllabus...............................................................40 4.1.1.2 Aims of “Target Pet”.........................................................................41 4.1.1.3. Comments on the material evaluation in term of aims.....................45 4.1.2. Content of the course syllabus and the book “Target Pet”......................45 4.1.2.1 Content requirement of the course.....................................................45 4.1.2.2 Content of the book “Target Pet”.......................................................46 4.1.2.3 Comments on material evaluation in term of content........................52 vi 4.1.3 Methodology Requirements of the Course and “Target Pet”...................53 4.1.3.1 Methodology Requirements of the Course........................................53 4.1.3.2 Methodology Requirements of “Target Pet”......................................54 4.1.3.3 Comments on material evaluation in terms of methodology..............56 4.1.4 Survey results analysis.............................................................................56 4.1.4.1. Analysis of 1st year non-English majors’ needs and English learning goals at Vinh University................................................................................56 4.1.4.2. The suitability of the book “Target Pet” to the students’ needs and the English course aims at Vinh University.........................................................60 4.1.4.2. The suitability of “Target Pet” to the content requirements of the course and students’ needs at Vinh University..............................................62 4.1.4.3. Teachers’ and students’opinions the Suitability of the Material to Methodology Requirements of the Course....................................................69 4.2. ANALYSIS OF TEST RESULTS................................................................71 4.3. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MATERIAL IMPROVEMENT..................72 4.3.1. Addition..................................................................................................72 4.3.2. Deletion..................................................................................................73 4.3.3. Replacement...........................................................................................73 4.4. SUMMARY..................................................................................................74 CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION.............................................................................75 5.1 A SUMMARY OF FINDINGS......................................................................75 5.2. IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS........................................................76 5.3. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY................................................................77 5.4. SUGGESTION FOR FURTHER STUDY....................................................78 REFERENCES......................................................................................................79 APPENDICES..........................................................................................................I vii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Materials Evaluation Model of McDonough and Shaw (1993: 75)..........21 Figure 2: Materials Evaluation Process (Hutchinson and Waters 1987: 98)...........22 Figure 4.1: Students’ interested topics in English learning......................................57 Figure 4.2: Language Point and Skill Importance Ranking.....................................57 Figure 4.3: Students perceived Language Strengths and Weaknesses (By Percent of Respondents)...........................................................................................................58 Figure 4.4: Language Points and Skills vs. Class-Time Distribution.......................59 Figure 4.5: Preferred Type of Interaction..............................................................59 viii LIST OF TABLES Table 3.1: Distribution of Time and Units in 2 Semesters.......................................33 Table 3.2:Teachers’ Background Information.........................................................35 Table 3.3: Students’ Background Information.........................................................36 Table 4.1: The vocabulary list of unit 1 (Target Pet, p. 122)...................................42 Table 4.2: The content requirements of the course..................................................45 Table 4.3: The methodology requirements of the course.........................................53 Table 4.1: Subjects’ Perception on the suitability of “Target Pet” to the aims of the course and students’ needs......................................................................................60 Table 4.2: Subjects’ Perception on the suitability of “Target Pet” to the content requirements of the course and students’ need in terms of macro skills and language type.......................................................................................................................... 63 Table 4.3: Subjects’ Perception on the suitability of “Target Pet” to the content requirements of the course and students’ need in terms of micro skills and language type............................64 Table 4.4: Subjects’ Perception on the suitability of “Target Pet” to the content requirements of the course and students’ need in terms of topics, text types and organization and sequence of content......................................................................67 Table 4.5: Subjects’ Perception on the suitability the organization and sequence of content in “Target Pet”............................................................................................69 Table 4.6: Teachers’ and students’opinions the Suitability of the Material to Methodology Requirements of the Course..............................................................70 ix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. RATIONALE OF THE STUDY Course books have a great effect on the process of language teaching and learning as suitable materials can stimulate effective teaching and learning. Thus, to have a successful language- teaching program, it is essential to have good course books, especially in Vietnamese setting. English has been taught at Vinh University for a long time, and English course books for non-English majored students have been changed from time to time to be appropriate for the training objectives as well as the students’ needs. Although many textbooks are available on the market, it is really difficult to choose the materials that meet the needs of non-English major students whose English proficiency is comparatively varied. In 2008 Vietnam issued Government Decision 1400, the goal of which is: “To renovate thoroughly the tasks of teaching and learning foreign languages within the national educational system". Ministry of Education and Training's National Foreign Language 2020 Project, or Project 2020 for short, was created in 2010 to implement this national renovation. Among the objectives of the project is establishing regional foreign language centers as a major strategy to address teacher development and language teaching quality throughout the country. Under Project 2020, Vietnam expects to enable a majority of students to use a foreign language, especially English, confidently in their study, daily communication, and work by 2020. According to this project, non-English majored students when graduating from Vinh university are projected to achieve the thirdhighest level of English referring to the Vietnamese Language Proficiency Framework (6 levels compatible with the Common European Framework). Because 1 of these reasons, the teachers of English at Vinh University have decided to use the textbook “Target Pet” for the first year non- English majors in the credit-based system. To my best knowledge there has been no research on the course book to examine how well the materials being in use match the students’ needs and the course requirements in terms of aims, content and methodology. Therefore, I conduct this study entitled “An evaluation of the book “Target Pet” for the 1st year nonEnglish majors at Vinh University from the perspective of teachers and students” with the ambition that it will not only help improve the material’s quality but also enhance the learning efficiency as well as stimulate students’ interest in language learning. 1.2. AIMS OF THE STUDY The aims of the study are as follow: + to assess the suitability of the course book to the level and the needs of the students and the requirements of the course in relation to aims, content, and methodology from the perspective of students and teachers. + to evaluate the effectiveness of the course book in helping the students achieve the goals and objectives from the perspective of students and teachers. + to suggest the material adaptations in responding to the course requirements and students’ needs. 1.3. RESEARCH QUESTIONS In order to meet the aims of the study, the following research questions are generated: 2 1. How far does the book “Target Pet” match the 1st year non - English majors’ level, needs and the course requirements in relation to aims, content, and methodology at Vinh university? 2. What adaptations should be made to the book “Target Pet” to make it more effective in response to the course requirements and the non - English majors’ needs? 1.4. SCOPE OF THE STUDY The study is based on Hutchinson and Waters’ (1987) criteria for evaluating the book “Target Pet” in use for the first year non-English majors at Vinh University with focus on the three following criteria: aims of the material, content of the material, and methodology 1.5. ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY The thesis consists of the following parts: Chapter 1. Introduction This part provides the rationale, the aims, the scope, research questions and organiztion of the thesis. Chapter 2: Literature Review and Theoretical Background Theoretical background related to the topic and surveys of articles, books and other resources relevant to the study topic will be presented. This part also provides description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work quoted. Chapter 3. Methodology This part presents the detailed procedure of the study: the methodology, population selection, data collection and analysis. Chapter 4. Findings and Discussions 3 The part discusses the findings of the study; points out the strengths and weaknesses of the book “Target Pet”, and offers the recommendations for the material supplements and adaptations. Chapter 5. Conclusion The conclusion provides a summary of all the major parts being presented in the study, the conclusions drawn out and suggestions for further research. 4 CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW The purpose of this chapter is to provide an extensive review of the literature as it relates to the overall perspectives of language teaching and learning materials evaluation. Firstly, the theoretical foundations for evaluating language teaching and learning materials are discussed, including definition of materials in language teaching and learning, the types of materials in general English courses. Next, definition of materials evaluation, the role of materials in language teaching, types and purposes of materials evaluation, materials evaluators, models and criteria for materials evaluation, and the concept of materials adaption are provided. Presented in the last part of the chapter is literature review in the world and in Vietnam. 2.1. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND 2.1.1. What are language- learning materials? A textbook is considered to be one of the major tools for a foreign language teaching. As textbooks are varied in purposes, it becomes difficult to make accurate generalization about them. As a result, language practitioners have come up with their own definition and description of it. According to Tomlinson (2001:66) language- learning materials are defined as “anything which is used by teachers or learners to facilitate the learning of a language. In other words, they can be anything which is deliberately used to increase the learners’ knowledge and/ or experience of the language”. He supposed keeping this pragmatic concept of materials in mind can help materials developers to utilize as many sources of input as possible and, even more importantly, can help teachers to realize that they are also materials developers and that they are ultimately responsible for the materials that “can be instructional in that they provide exposure to the language in use, they can be elicitative in that they stimulate language use, or they can be exploratory in that they facilitate discoveries about language use” (Tomlinson 2001:66) 5 Ur (1996), used the term “course book” to refer to a textbook of which the teacher and usually, each student has a copy, and which is in principle to be followed systematically as the basis for a language course. Similarly, Hutchinson and Torres (1994) also consider textbooks as providers of input into classroom lessons in the forms of texts, activities, explanations and so on. In the same way, Sheldon (1987) defines “textbook” as a published book whose explicit aim is to assist foreigner learners of English in improving their linguistic knowledge and/or communicative ability. The above mentioned definitions characterize textbooks as a constant companion of a learner, provider of classroom input, and a generative device for educational interaction. On the other hand, Grant (1987) categories textbooks as traditional textbooks and communicative textbooks. The traditional textbook tries to get students to learn the language as a system. The main emphasis is the forms or patterns of the language whereas the communicative textbook emphasizes the communicative functions of the language. Though there are different stances on the definition of textbooks, it seems that there is no strong position that disregards them from teaching process. Textbooks are considered to be the most important ingredients available in a foreign language classroom. Similarly, in the Vietnamese context, textbooks play a crucial role in a providing a base of materials for both teachers and students. Most teachers follow at least one textbook as their main source of guidance in the process of language teaching. Much of language teaching that occurs through the country could not take place without the extensive use of textbooks. 2.1.2. Types of Materials According to Harrison (2002) who is a teacher, teacher trainer and writer of a number of EFL courses e.g. Better Writing, English Please, and New Headway Academic Skills, Level 1 (Oxford University Press), teaching materials come in all 6 shapes and sizes depending on the situation and the intended audience. However, we can identify two main types: + In-house/ Teacher - produced materials + Commercial materials 2.1.2.1. In-house materials They are materials written for and produced by an institution. They are extensive and usually cover a module or perhaps an entire course. For example, an English department may decide that their current course book does not give students adequate writing practice at the right level, so they decide to design a writing module to go alongside the published course. 2.1.2.2. Commercial materials There is a certain amount of controversy associated with the use of commercial materials, particularly course-books. One of the major concerns is that any given course-book will be incapable of catering the diversity of needs, which exists in most language classrooms. Commercial materials (textbooks) are largely produced in various levels, and available in the market. They can be for general English and English for specific purposes. When selecting commercial materials, it is important to match the materials with the goals and objectives of the program, and to ensure that they are consistent with one's beliefs about the nature of language and learning, as well as with learners' attitudes, beliefs and preferences. Sheldon in Nunan (1991:209) provides an extensive checklist of questions, which can aid in the selection of commercial materials. He proposes that materials should be evaluated according to criteria such as their rationale, accessibility, layout and ease of use. A somewhat more accessible list of evaluative questions is provided by Breen and Candlin (1987:14-23). Their checklist invites the teacher to adopt a critical stance toward the materials' aims, appropriateness and utility. 7 Furthermore, Littlejohn and Windeatt (1991:209) in Nunan suggest that commercial materials can be evaluated from six different perspectives: (a) the general or subject knowledge contained in the materials, (b) views on the nature and acquisition of knowledge, (c) views on the nature of language learning, (d) role relations implicit in materials, (e) opportunities for the development of cognitive abilities, and (f) the values and attitudes inherent in the materials. Commercial materials, such as the Headway series, Cutting Edge, Business Objectives, etc, are produced through mainline educational publishers with one or more authors. Sometimes, authors approach publishers for ideas for textbooks, or sometimes publishers decide there is a need for a certain type of course and recruit authors and others to develop the course. Published courses may also develop from in-house materials. The use of commercial textbooks in teaching has both advantages and disadvantages, depending on how they are used and the contexts for their use. Among the principal advantages are: - They provide structure and a syllabus for a program. Without textbooks a program may have no central core and learners may not receive a syllabus that has been systematically planned and developed. - They help standardize instruction. The use of a textbook in a program can ensure that the students in different classes receive similar content and therefore can be tested in the same way. - They maintain quality. If a well developed textbook is used students are exposed to materials that have been tried and tested, that are based on sound learning principles, and that are paced appropriately. - They provide a variety of learning resources. Textbooks are often accompanied by workbooks, CDs and cassettes, videos, CD ROMs, and comprehensive teaching guides, providing a rich and varied resource for teachers and learners. 8 - They are efficient. They save teachers' time, enabling teachers to devote time to teaching rather than material's production. - They can provide effective language models and input. Textbooks can provide support for teachers whose first language is not English and who may not be able to generate accurate language input on their own. - They can train teachers. If teachers have limited teaching experience, a textbook together with the teacher's manual can serve as a medium of initial teacher training. - They are visually appealing. Commercial textbooks usually have high standards of design and production and hence are appealing to learners and teachers. However there are also potential negative effects of the use of textbooks. For example: - They may contain inauthentic language. Textbooks sometimes present inauthentic language since texts, dialogs and other aspects of content tend to be specially written to incorporate teaching points and are often not representative of real language use. - They may distort content. Textbooks often present an idealized view of the world or fail to represent real issues. In order to make textbooks acceptable in many different contexts, controversial topics are avoided and instead, an idealized white middle-class view of the world is portrayed as the norm. - They may not reflect students' needs. Since textbooks are often written for global markets they often do not reflect the interests and needs of students and hence may require adaptation. - They can deskill teachers. If teachers use textbooks as the primary source of their teaching leaving the textbook and teacher's manual to make the major instructional decisions for them the teacher's role can become reduced to that of a technician whose primarily function is to present materials prepared by others. 9 - They are expensive. Commercial textbooks may represent a financial burden for students in many parts of the world. Both the benefits and limitations of the use of textbooks need to be considered, and if the textbooks being used in a program are judged to have some negative consequences, remedial action should be taken, e.g. by adapting or supplementing books or by providing appropriate guidance and support for teachers in how to use them appropriately. Cunningsworth (1995) proposes four criteria for evaluating textbooks particularly course books: - They should correspond to learners’ needs. They should match the aims and objectives of language learning program. - They should reflect the uses (present of future) which learners will make of the language. Textbooks should be chosen to enable students to use language effectively for their own purposes. - They should take account of students’ need as learners should facilitate their learning processes, without dogmatically imposing a rigid method. -They should have a clear role as a support for learning. Like teachers, they mediate between the target language and the learners. They feel that it is very difficult for them to teach systematically without textbooks. Indeed, textbooks play a crucial role in providing a base of materials for both teachers and students. O’Neill (1982) points out that most teachers are inclined to follow texts methodology, vocabulary and sequence to letter. There are indeed a number of advantages of using a textbook. Ur (1996) provides a summary of criteria in favor of using a coursebook as follows: 10 - Framework: a textbook provides a clear framework for teachers and learners to know where they are going and what is coming next, and build up a sense of structure and progress. - Syllabus: in many places, the course book serves as a syllabus. If the syllabus is followed systematically, a carefully planned and balanced selection of language content will be made. - Ready- made texts and tasks: the course book provides texts and learning tasks, which are likely to be of an appropriate level for most of the class. This of course saves time for the teacher who would otherwise have to prepare his or her own. - Economy: a book is the cheapest way of providing learning material for each learner; alternatives, such as kits, set of photocopied papers or computer software, are likely to be more expensive relative to the amount of material provided. - Convenience: A book is a convenient package. It is bound, so its components stick together and stay in order. Moreover, it is light and small enough to carry around easily. It is also of a certain shape/ size that is easily packed and stacked. In addition, it does not depend for its use on hardware or a supply of electricity. - Guidance: For teachers who are inexperienced or occasionally unsure of their knowledge of the language, the course book can provide useful guidance and support. - Autonomy: The learners can use the course book to learn new material, review and monitor progress with some degree of autonomy. A learner without a course book is more teacher- dependent. However, not everything in the textbook is wonderful (Hammer, 1991). Though the textbooks are well planned, they can be inappropriate for teachers and students. The counter-arguments for using textbooks are also listed by Ur (1996) as follows: 11
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