Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Research Background
Standards points out that curriculum content and teaching method that are compatiblewith English subject key competencies must be constructed. English subject keycompetencies include language competence, cultural awareness, thinking quality andlearning ability. At present, English subject key competencies are enjoying more and moreattention in the high school English teaching. In order to carry out English subject keycompetencies, Standards puts forward the view of English learning activities. The conceptof English learning activities proposed by Standards clarifies that the basic form of Englishlearning is “activity”, that is, learners learn and accumulate language knowledge and canuse knowledge to understand and express through a series of interrelated and logicalactivities such as learning comprehension, application practice, and innovative transfer.
Based on the observation in internship, it is found that the overall level of Englishsubject key competencies of high school students is relatively low. At present, Englishinstructional designs are mainly based on vocabulary explanation and grammar teaching,with limited and one-sided interpretation of the cultural connotation and textual purportbehind the language. Moreover, current teaching research from the perspective of activitiesis limited to the perspective of isolated skills, and it is still a view without “overallteaching”. Professor Zhong Qiquan (2018) claims that the basic education in our countrieslacks the concept of “key competencies”, “subject competencies” and “unit design”. In thelong run, students’ knowledge points will become more fragmentary, lacking in depth andsystem.
1.2 Research Purpose and Significance
There are three purposes in this research: The first purpose is to investigate the currentsituation of the overall activity design of a unit from the perspective of activities in highschool English teaching, and to investigate the current situation of high school students’English subject key competencies; the second purpose is to verify whether the overallactivity of a unit can promote high school students’ English subject key competencies ornot; and the third purpose is to find what kind of overall activity of a unit needs to bedesigned to promote high school students’ English subject key competencies.
The research has certain significance, both theoretically and practically. In terms oftheory, the research attempts to build the relationship between activity-based Englishlearning and the realization of concepts of “unit” and “activity” in the overall activitydesign of a unit. Previous research on this area mainly concerns the application ofactivity-based English learning in certain class in high schools, like English speaking,writing, etc., rather than in a complete “unit”, and an in-depth analysis is needed in thisarea. Therefore, this research attempts to enrich theoretical research in this field.
In terms of practice, the research has practical significance both for teachers andstudents. For teachers, through this research, it is hoped that they can better understand theconcept of unit and the activity view in Standards. They would get a new way,activity-based overall activity of a unit, to mobilize students’ learning enthusiasm andpromote their teaching ability. It would provide guidelines for high school English teacherswith ideas for activities from the perspective of activities for a unit, and in this way, it ishoped to solve some of the existing problems in the current instructional English teaching,enhance the professional level of high school English teachers and improve classroomactivity efficiency. Meanwhile, it is expected that the current research may shed some lighton the reflection practice for both novice teachers and experienced teachers so as to timelyadjust their teaching methods in classroom activities. For students, through the activityfrom the perspective of unit and activities, it is hoped that their English subject keycompetencies, i.e., language ability, cultural awareness, learning ability and thinkingquality are able to be promoted effectively.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
Activity theory and the overall activity of a unit are the key concepts in thisdissertation, and relevant explanations about these key concepts will be given in thissection.
2.1.1 Activity Theory
The word “activity” is originated from Rousseau (1978), who points out that “payingattention to children’s activities” in his book. Since then, Dewey (1902) has broadened theapplication field of “activity” by combining activities with philosophical and psychologicalresearch, and proposed some activity-related teaching concepts such as learning by doing,student-centered teaching and activity experimental courses. At this time, activity exists asa simple concept.
Activity theory is a psychological theory system created by the former Soviet Unionscholar Leontief (Yu Lu, 2011). Its core idea is that people’s internal thinking activities aretransformed from external practical activities, and the two have the same structure.Therefore, the study of external practical activities can indirectly realize the study ofpsychology. Under this influence, Engstrom and other scholars made a new interpretationof the activity theory, and developed the second-generation activity theory and thethird-generation activity theory (ibid). They believe that individual activities should beintegrated into society and point out the social nature and objectivity of activities.
Activity theory emphasizes the role of activity as a bridge in the internalization ofknowledge and skills. Activities constitute the basis for the occurrence and development ofpsychology, especially human consciousness. In Standards, activity view a kind of strategy of learning. It mentions that “teachers should design English learning activities withcomprehensive, relevant and practical characteristics, so that students can acquire, interpretand judge the meaning of the discourse through a series of progressive activities thatintegrate language, culture, and thinking, and the progress is from learning andunderstanding to application and practice and to migration and innovation.”
2.2 Relevant Research
Activity Theory is the one of important research basis of this research, the origins anddevelopment of the theory, the characteristic of activity, the framework of teaching designfrom the perspective of activities and the value of activity view will be presented here.
2.2.1 Research on Activity Theory
18.104.22.168 The Origins and Development of Activity Theory
After the “activity” was put forward, in the 1920s, scholars began to conducttheoretical research on the activity. After scholars and experts continue to supplement andimprove the concept of “activity”, former Soviet psychologists Vygotsky and Leontieflaunch the first-generation research on “activity theory” (Ren Zhou, 2019). Although theresearch of activities is still in the field of psychology, the focus at this time has shiftedfrom the form to the expansion of its connotation. Vygotsky proposes most of the coreideas and basic principles of activity theory, such as the concept of activity, the concept of intermediary, the theory of motivation, the unit analysis method, and the theory of tools(Yu Lu, 2011; Yu Lu and Xiong Weirui, 2013).
On the basis of Vygotsky’s research on activity, Leontief (1982) systematizes therelated concepts and principles of activity, which can be seen as the formal proposal of theactivity theory. His main research lies in putting forward the basic characteristics ofactivities such as sociality and objectivity, dividing the activities into external practiceactivities and internal thinking activities, and summarizing the structural levels of externalpractice activities and internal thinking activities.
Chapter 3 Research Method......................................... 20
3.2 Research Questions...................................21
Chapter 4 Analysis and Discussion............................. 26
4.1 Uncertainties in the Overall Activity Design of a Unit and Implementation..............26
4.2 Lower Achievement of Students’ English Subject Key Competencies...................... 33
Chapter 5 Conclusion..........................................63
5.1 Summary of Major Findings...................................63
5.2 Pedagogical Implications...............................................64
Chapter 4 Analysis and Discussion
4.1 Uncertainties in the Overall Activity Design of a Unit andImplementation
The current situation of the overall activity of a unit is the basis to analyze theproblems and the reform direction of the overall activity of a unit. This research uses aquestionnaire as mentioned before to make a survey on the current situation the overallactivity design of a unit of high school English from the perspective of activities. Thefollowing is the result of the questionnaire.
Chapter 5 Conclusion
5.1 Summary of Major Findings
In order to improve the preciseness and scientificity of the paper, this research notonly designs a systematic study and investigation, but also analyzes and explains thecollected sample data with the latest data analysis software, it provides rigorous datasupport for teaching design and becomes a strong evidence of the core theme of thisresearch.
For the first question on the current situation of the overall activity design of a unitfrom the perspective of activities in high school English teaching, based on thequestionnaire for teachers, it can be found that teachers are negative about the overallactivity of a unit, and they think that it cannot help to develop students’ competencies andimprove their exam scores. Also, they lack methodological guidance, teaching resourcesand other relevant information.
For the second question on the current situation of high school students’ Englishsubject key competencies, based on the assessment criteria of English subject attainment, itcan be found that high school students are slack in English learning and lack of motivationand interest. Interest in the subject of English needs to be further developed. Based on thesurvey data, the realization degree of language competencies, thinking ability, culturalawareness and learning ability of high school students is not high. Generally speaking, theEnglish subject ability of high school students is relatively low.
For the third question on the types of overall activity of a unit to be designed topromote students’ English subject key competencies, this research conducted a teachingexperiment, using the overall activity of a unit from the perspective of activities to helpstudents integrate the knowledge of the whole unit and realize the gradual internalizationof knowledge theory based on the existing knowledge and relying on the discoursebackground. The overall activity of a unit in the research is a kind of innovative activitybased on the unit theme and the secondary development of textbook. After understandingand applying the content of the unit in the previous classes, a supplement is given byoverall activity of a unit, which integrate the content students have learned with new content based on the unit theme. In this way, this research realized the teaching idea fusionand the innovation, and this is also one of the main contributions to research in this field.