Applying task - based instruction in teaching English grammar to the 10th graders at Nguyen Sy Sach high school

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY NGUYỄN THỊ LÊ HẰNG APPLYING TASK-BASED INSTRUCTION IN TEACHING ENGLISH GRAMMAR TO THE 10TH GRADERS AT NGUYEN SY SACH HIGH SCHOOL MASTER THESIS IN EDUCATION 0 NGHỆ AN - 2014 1 MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY NGUYỄN THỊ LÊ HẰNG APPLYING TASK-BASED INSTRUCTION IN TEACHING ENGLISH GRAMMAR TO THE 10TH GRADERS AT NGUYEN SY SACH HIGH SCHOOL Major: Teaching English to Speakerss of Other Languages (TESOL) Code: 60.14.01.11 MASTER THESIS IN EDUCATION Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. NGÔ ĐÌNH PHƯƠNG Nghệ An - 2014 1 STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP I hereby acknowledge that this study is mine. The data and findings discussed in the thesis are true, used with permission, and have not been published elsewhere. Author Nguyen Thi Le Hang i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am deeply grateful for many people who have helped me much to complete this M.A thesis. First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ngo Dinh Phuong, who has given me great deal of support and encouragement to do this research. Without his experienced and enthusiastic guidance, his valuable suggestions and comments, my thesis would not have been completed. All the MA lecturers who have been teaching K20 MA course in Vinh University, Nghe An, and the post-graduate staff for their legitimate contributions to the success of the course. Very special thanks are due to my colleagues, friends and students who took part in the experiment in contributing to the data collection presented in this study. Last but not least I am also deeply indebted for my family. Especially my mother, who helped me to look after my little son, and has been encouraging me during a time of three years learning this M.A course. Thanks to my husband, who has given me so much love, encouragement, and great supports during my studying time. ii ABSTRACT This study was conducted to seek the answers to the questions of what students' attitudes towards teaching grammar through task-based instruction (TBI) and is students' grammaticality better as measured by their test scores than it is taught in the traditional focus-on-forms methods. Moreover, the English language teaching in general and teaching grammar in particular according to the TBI leave much room to be desired. Especially, the use of TBI techniques in teaching grammar is still far from being satisfactory. In addition, this study also attempts to search for some motivating techniques to highly engage students at Nguyen Sy Sach (NSS) high school. This thesis is concerned about the frequency and purposes of using TBI in teaching grammar to the 10 th students at Nguyen Sy Sach high school as well as the problems arising from this and makes some suggestions as a view to help teachers reduce difficulties and make their lessons more effective. The suggestions come from the real need of both learners and teachers identified from the survey, which was carried out with 10 teachers at NSS high school. The questionnaire collected information to see if the teachers had the knowledge of TBI, which tasks and how often they applied in teaching grammar in the class, and for what purposes. Besides, the survey also concerned about possible difficulties the teachers had to face with during the teaching process. In order to justify the results obtained from the questionnaire, three class observations of three teachers were conducted. Furthermore, to know whether or not teach grammar to high school students through task-based instruction is more effective or not, this study was also carried out with the participation of 60 tenth graders who were non-randomly chosen from one Natural Science class and one Social Science class at NSS upper secondary school. In the totality of 60 students, 30 students who were from the 10 Natural Science Stream class took part in the experimental group and were taught by a new method, i.e. teaching grammar through communicative tasks. In contrast, 30 students who were from the 10 Social Science Stream class took part in the iii control group and were taught by a very traditional method. The pretest and posttest were designed and conducted on these students in order to test their grammaticality before and after experiment which took place for 3 months. Both pretest and posttest scores were used to measure the impact of the treatment. The present study shows that this approach can be applicable to the high school context, but its impact may not be greater than the traditional approach. It can be concluded that teaching grammar through communicative tasks may not be more effective to the development of students' grammatical competence than the traditional approach to teaching grammar. The students' positive attitudes towards this approach to teaching grammar encourage teachers try to apply this approach in their classrooms. However, it's up to the teacher to decide whether they would prefer to adapt the grammar in the textbook in order to teach it through communicative tasks or not. Factors to be considered in applying the task-based approach to teaching grammar include students' proficiency in English and the nature of the target grammatical item to be taught according to the syllabus. It is hoped that this study will be of use in enhancing teaching grammar to the 10th students Nguyen Sy Sach high school. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Pages STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP......................................................................... ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.................................................................................... ABSTRACT............................................................................................................ TABLE OF CONTENTS........................................................................................ LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS................................................................................ LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES....................................................................... CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION........................................................................... 1.1. Rational........................................................................................................... 1.2. Aims of the Study........................................................................................... 1.3. Scope of the Study.......................................................................................... 1.4. Research Questions......................................................................................... 1.5. The Organization of the Study........................................................................ CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND...................................................................................................... 2.1. Previous Studies Related to the Thesis............................................................ 2.2. The Importance of Grammar in Language Teaching and Learning................. 2.2.1. Definitions of grammar............................................................................ 2.2.2. Role of grammar in English language teaching and learning................... 2.2.3. The importance of teaching grammar....................................................... 2.2.4. Approaches to grammar instruction........................................................ 2.2.4.1. Deductive and Inductive approaches............................................... 2.2.4.2. Different approaches to grammar teaching..................................... 2.3. A Brief Review of Task-based Language Learning...................................... 2.4. Tasks............................................................................................................. 2.4.1. Defining tasks......................................................................................... 2.4.2. Characteristics of Tasks.......................................................................... 2.4.3. Classifying task...................................................................................... v 2.5. Task-based language teaching....................................................................... 2.5.1. What is TBLT?....................................................................................... 2.5.2. Definition of task.................................................................................... 2.5.3. Principles of the TBLT approach........................................................... 2.5.4. The basic characteristics of TBLT.......................................................... 2.5.5. A framework for task-based learning..................................................... 2.5.6. Studies on TBLT.................................................................................... 2.6. Task-based grammar teaching....................................................................... 2.6.1. Why task-based grammar teaching......................................................... 2.6.2. Steps in Task-based grammar teaching.................................................. 2.6.2.1. Pre-task............................................................................................ 2.6.2.2. Task................................................................................................. 2.6.2.3. Post-task.......................................................................................... 2.6.3. Characteristics of the Task-based Grammar Class................................. 2.6.4. Studies on Task-based grammar teaching.............................................. 2.7. Summary....................................................................................................... CHAPTER 3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY....................... 3.1. Overview of the current situation of teaching and learning English at Nguyen Sy Sach High School (NSSHS).............................................................. 3.1.1. The school context................................................................................. 3.1.2. The new textbook English 10 (the standard textbook) and its Language Focus section................................................................................... 3.1.3. Design of the study................................................................................. 3.2. Methodology................................................................................................. 3.2.1. Participants............................................................................................. 3.2.1.1. Teachers.......................................................................................... 3.2.1.2. Learners........................................................................................... 3.2.2. Data collection instruments.................................................................... 3.2.2.1. Survey questionnaire....................................................................... vi 3.2.2.2. Classroom observation.................................................................... 3.2.2.3. Interview.......................................................................................... 3.2.2.4. Data collection procedure............................................................... 3.2.2.5. Data analysis procedure.................................................................. 3.3. Conclusion.................................................................................................... CHAPTER 4. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION................................................... 4.1. Findings........................................................................................................ 4.1.1 Results from the three first research questions........................................ 4.1.2. Results from classroom observations..................................................... 4.2 Findings of the study...................................................................................... 4.2.1. Difficulties from the teachers................................................................. 4.2.1.1. Teachers’ misconceptions about TBI............................................... 4.2.1.2. Deficiency in speaking English........................................................ 4.2.2. Difficulties from the learners.................................................................. 4.2.3. Difficulties from the education systems................................................. 4.2.3.1. Class size......................................................................................... 4.2.3.2. Poor teaching condition................................................................... 4.2.3.3. The testing system............................................................................ 4.3. Procedures of Task as well as findings and discussion aimed at the two last questions........................................................................................................ 4.3.1. The tasks................................................................................................ 4.3.1.1. Pre-task. (Warm up) Introduction to topic and tasks....................... 4.3.1.2. Task................................................................................................. 4.3.1.3. Post task........................................................................................... 4.3.2. Findings.................................................................................................. 4.3.2.1. Comparison of the pretest and posttest scores, the gain values between the two groups................................................................................ 4.3.2.2. Subjects' attitudes towards the new teaching method - teaching grammar through tasks................................................................................. vii 4.3.3. Discussion.............................................................................................. 4.3.3.1. The impact of TBLT on grammar acquisition.................................. 4.3.3.2. Students' attitudes towards teaching grammar through tasks.......... 4.4. Summary....................................................................................................... CHAPTER 5. RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS....................... 5.1. Some recommendations................................................................................ 5.2. Limitations of the study................................................................................ 5.3. Conclusion.................................................................................................... REFERENCES...................................................................................................... APPENDIX viii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS 10 NSC 10 Natural Science class 10 SSC 10 Social Science class EFL English as Foreign Language ELT English language Teaching ESL English as Second Language FLTL Foreign Language Teaching and Learning M Mean No Number NSS High School Nguyen Sy Sach High School NSSUSS Nguyen Sy Sach Upper Secondary School SD Standard Deviation SPSS Statistic Package for Social Science TBI Task-based Instruction TBLT Task-based Language Teaching TBT Task-based Teaching TGTCT Teaching Grammar through Communicative Tasks ix LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES Pages Tables: Table 2.1. The framework for task-based learning.............................................. Table 4.1. Types of tasks used in classrooms...................................................... Table 4.2. The frequency of TBI used in the classroom...................................... Table 4.3. The purposes of TB approaches used in classroom............................. Table 4.4. The teachers’ difficulties when applying TB approaches in teaching grammar............................................................................... Table 4.5. Descriptive statistics for the pretest and post-test of the experimental and control groups. (Max score = 40)............................ Table 4.6. Subjects' attitudes toward teaching grammar through communicative tasks. (N = 30).................................................................................... Figures: Figure 2.1. A framework for analyzing communicative tasks............................... Figure 4.1. The difference in gain values obtained by both groups after the experiment.......................................................................................... x CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale In the process of globalization, English has played an increasingly important role in various fields, such as: science, business, education, cross-cultural communication and especially, method to communicate verbally with the outside world and to access technology. Being aware of the new era of high technology and communication, the economy open-door policy was pursued by the government of Vietnam. It has made a demand for studying English increase faster and faster. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam offered English as a core subject in the curriculum of almost all of schools, colleges, universities and took English do examinational subject in the high school graduation exam, and the input of departments in all areas at universities. In addition to the growing demand for learning English, there has been an innovation in English teaching and learning methods everywhere in Vietnam. For a long time, language teaching in Vietnam was strongly influenced by the structuralism tradition. Emphasis was placed on mastery of language structures. Students have been taught how to form correct utterances and to understand the structures of the language without any consideration of language use. However, regarding the psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic research, language teaching has moved from the traditional to a more communicative approach. In this current approach, language is considered as a form of social behavior. The objective of language teaching is teaching learners to communicate fluently, appropriately and spontaneously in the cultural context of the target language as well as, to help students get a good communication when they have opportunities to use English in a cross-cultural environment. Accompanied by the research about the National Curriculums of school education system in Vietnam, it was recognized students at high school have to learn English, which aims at improving skills more and more as possible, some 1 grammar points were studied almost in Primary and Lower Secondary. In Upper Secondary, they are requested to learn English grammar only to review, so this is easy to make students bored and English periods become monotonous. Recognizing the educational trend and the special need for language learning of students, teachers and administrators at Nguyen Sy Sach high school also hold extra-curricular of English, English clubs, the group discussion, and evaluation of annual teaching experiences to find the teaching methods increasingly improved and more efficient. However, language teaching in students has many difficulties. Many students neglected and do not like this subject. During the process of teaching and studying this subject, both teachers and students at Nguyen Sy Sach high school do not feel satisfied with teaching English grammar implied in the course books of Nguyen Sy Sach high school's the 10th graders. Additionally, many students are too shy to speak in class whereas most of the grammar lessons are carried out in traditional methods. In each lesson, the teacher presents new grammar verbally, and then students do, turn by turn, exercises in workbooks. Moreover, in teaching practice, there exist some limitations in conducting Presentation - Practice - Production (P-P-P) grammar lessons. Touching this pedagogical context, this study emphasizes on the investigation into the application of task-based approach to teaching English grammar at Nguyen Sy Sach high school. The task-based approach might come as an effective teaching method for the language teachers at Nguyen Sy Sach high school. A research into the TBI will help them to interpret and have a thorough understanding of the task-based approach, its theories and characteristics, hence providing an effective application to teaching grammar at Nguyen Sy Sach high school pedagogical context. From these opinions, we love to choose the following topic: "Applying Task-based instruction in teaching English Grammar to the 10th graders in classes at Nguyen Sy Sach high school ". With the attempt to find some possible solutions for the problems, the researcher hopes the research can partly help teachers and students to be more aware of increasing real communication in the class. As using 2 the new teaching approach, task-based approach, teachers may improve students’ communicative competence through using tasks in the grammar classroom. 1.2. Aims of the Study With the above-presented rationales, the specific aims and objectives of the study are the followings: Firstly, the study carries out an investigation into the reality of the teachers’ application of TBI in teaching grammar thanks to experimenting teaching grammar through communicative tasks for grade 10 students and testing its result. Secondly, through the investigation the research will find out the difficulties the teachers encounter with their application of TBI in teaching grammar. Thirdly, the study will be to aim at experimenting teaching grammar through TBI for grade 10 students and test its result and investigating the experimental students' attitudes towards teaching grammar through communicative task at NSS high school. Lastly, the study will provide practical recommendations for the possibility of TBI in order to narrow the gap between teaching styles and learning styles, thereby increasing the students’ motivation in grammar learning as well as heightening the effectiveness of English language teaching. 1.3. Scope of the Study This research focuses on investigating how NSS language teachers exploit TBL in teaching English grammar in their classes. Due to the limitation of time, the author only fulfilled the study among ten teachers and sixty the 10 th graders at NSS high school. 1.4. Research Questions In order to serve therefore said aims, the research attempts to answer the following questions: 1. What is the application of TBI in teaching English grammar the 10 th graders at NSS high school? 2. How are TBI employed in terms of frequency and purposes? 3 3. What are the difficulties in applying TBI to teaching English grammar at NSS high school? 4. What are the students' attitudes towards teaching grammar through TBI after experimental period? 5. What are the suggestions recommended by teachers to applying TBI in teaching grammar to the 10th graders at NSS high school? 1.5. The Organization of the Study The study will consist of five chapters as follows: Chapter 1 - Introduction This part will introduce the problem leading to the study such as rationale, the aims of the study, the scope of the study, the research questions and organization of the study. Chapter 2 - Literature Review and Theoretical Background Theoretical background related to the topic and surveys of articles, books and other resources relevant to a particular the study topic will be presented. This part will also provide description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work quoted and present the previous studies related to the thesis and some concepts as theoretical basis for the study. Chapter 3 - Research Design and Methodology This part describes the research design, instruments for data collection, data collection, data analysis, reliability and validity, and research procedures, which gives details of the research method and describes how the hypothesis of the thesis is interpreted and explained. Chapter 4 - Findings and Discussions The part presents the results and discussions developed after the linguistics figures are analyzed. Chapter 5 - Conclusion and Implications Main issues and contents of the study will be summarized based on the results of the study. The implication of the study and the recommendation for further research will be presented. Following the chapters are the references and appendices. 4 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND The theoretical background of the study will be fully developed later in the thesis. The following is an overview of grammar, grammar teaching, tasks, the taskbased view of language teaching and learning, characteristics of the task-based grammar class to teach English grammar. 2.1. Previous Studies Related to the Thesis During the past decade, it can have been addressed the necessity of being able to communicate effectively in English as students mastery is directly associated with future educational opportunities, career and income. In National English Curriculum Standard in Vietnam, one of most essential changes is the implementation of student-centered, task-based language teaching. However, the task-based approach has been a controversy of many method experts. Firstly, in the discussion of getting learners to acquire English through tasks, it was initiated in India by Prabhu in the 1980s. Prabhu noticed that his students could learn language just as easily with a non-linguistic problem as when they were concentrating on linguistic questions. Assessment primarily based on task outcome (in other words the appropriate completion of real world tasks) rather than on accuracy of prescribed language forms. This makes TBLL especially popular for developing target language fluency and student confidence. As such, TBLL can be considered a branch of Communicative Language Teaching. The next view mentioned by Harmer about TBL is that, “Many methodologists have concentrated not so much on the nature of language input, but on the learning tasks that students are involved in.” He argued that there seemed to have been an argument that pure rote learning or de-contextualized practice is giving way to language learning that is required as a result of richer experiences in life. However, historically reviewed, TBL appears to have gained its currency since the 1996 publication of Willis’s “A Framework for Task-based Learning” 5 (Longman), in which she defined how tasks can be used as the central focus in a supportive methodological framework. In this book, she outlined a mode for TBL in which she referred to three stages: the pre-task, the task-cycle, and the language focus. Another view of Skehan (1998) is that students was learned in task-based instructions are given tasks to complete in the classroom and he asserted that transacting tasks in this way will make naturalistic acquisition. He explained that the task-based approach is more favorable than any other approaches because it focuses very much on meaning, not on form. The more important thing is that Jeon and Hahn (2006) addressed their study to the EFL teachers’ perceptions of task-based language teaching in a Korean secondary school context. They appreciated the emphasis on learners’ communicative abilities with task-based teaching and learning in terms of designing communicative tasks to promote learners’ actual language use. Tseng (2006) indicated the differences between task-based instruction and traditional teacher-led, whole class instruction at two primary school classrooms in terms of four-skill performances of the students. Also the factors that influenced the implementation of TBL at primary school were discussed. In Vietnam, according to the study of Nguyen Nu Ngoc Tram (2011), she claims that there are numerous English M.A theses concerning Vietnamese learning and teaching with TBL. Duong Thi Le Thuy (2004) made an investigation into task-based approach, which was used in the field of ESP, for the current English course book for construction engineering. Additionally, Vo Phuc Anh Vu (2009) presented the application of task-based language teaching and learning to teaching English speaking skills in upper secondary schools in order to find out how TBL can fit into traditional English speaking classes to promote the students’ communicative competence. Besides, Ta Thi Ly (2013) also has a thesis about a research on how to apply task-based approach to teach grammar for 10 th graders in Dien Chau 3 high school. 6
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