Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Research Background
Improving students’ competence has long been a goal in education reform and development in China. The Outline of National Long-mid-term Education Reform and Development Plan for 2010-2020 was proposed by Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of China in 2010, which puts forward that education should emphasize the cultivation of student’s ability, including learning ability, innovative ability and practical ability. In 2014, Opinions of the State Council on Deepening the Reform of Examination and Enrollment System also states that the National College Entrance Examination should examine students’ ability to think independently, analyze and solve problems with their learnt knowledge. In this context, cultivating students’ English disciplinary competencies has also become one of the goals of educational reform. National English Curriculum Standard for General High School(2017 Edition, 2020 Revision), hereinafter referred to as Curriculum Standard(2017 Edition), highlights the specific contents of English subject core competencies and clarifies the collect values, essential characters and key competencies. For these reasons, it is reasonable and necessary to carry out studies from the perspective of competence. Just as Zhao and Wang mentioned, the research from this angle fits the trend of international education and evaluation, corresponds with national education policies and goals of foreign language curriculum. However, there are currently some challenges for English teachers in integrating English subject core competencies into classroom instruction. This is due to the fact that the Curriculum Standard(2017 Edition) has only been promoted for a few years. And many English teachers do not have a deep understanding of these concepts, let alone apply them effectively in their daily teaching.
1.2 Research Purposes and Significance
So far, a lot of research has been carried out on classroom activities of reading teaching in senior high school. However, there are few studies on classroom activities from the perspective of English disciplinary competence. The purpose of this study is twofold. One is to explore the features of classroom activities in English reading class by analyzing twenty-one reading class teaching videos. The other is to find out how different classroom activities function in developing students’ English disciplinary competencies. In this regard, some realistic bases for English teachers to design classroom activities in reading class can be provided.
The significance of this study can be divided into the following two aspects.
Theoretically, this research explores the features of classroom activities of reading class in senior high school and analyzes the relationship between classroom activities and the cultivation of students’ English disciplinary competencies. Thus, it enriches the study of classroom activities in reading instruction, offers a new perspective for English teachers to carry out professional observation on classroom activities and also provides some reference for future researchers.
Practically, this study gives some suggestions for English teachers. For one thing, through the analysis of the twenty-one reading class teaching videos, teachers can have a relatively comprehensive understanding of the features of classroom activities and their effectiveness in cultivating students’ English disciplinary competencies. For another, the analysis about the reading lessons can furnish teachers with teaching reflection in a new way, which is beneficial to the cultivation of students’ English disciplinary competencies.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Studies on Classroom Activities
2.1.1 Definition of Classroom Activities
Classroom activities have been receiving broad attention, which provides students with hands-on experience to practice their communication skills. According to Clark and Yinger , activities were the basic structural units of planning and action in the classroom. In other words, classroom activities were essential parts in classroom teaching, which directly affected the quality of teaching and learning. There are various definitions about classroom activities. Richards and Lockhart defined it as the activities that students tried to finish to achieve their learning goals. Similarly, Brown held that classroom activities were the things students do during the process of understanding, application and interaction with target language. Bachman and Palmerdefined classroom activities as activities in which individuals used language to accomplish goals in specific situations. Jiang and Li proposed that classroom activities were practical activities designed by teachers and practiced in the classroom with specific contents and forms in order to achieve the objectives. Classroom activities combined teachers’ teaching with students’ learning. Otherwise, Guo considered classroom activities as tasks designed by teachers to achieve particular teaching goals. For the better understanding of this popular but loosely defined term, Lee and Brown also explained some other synonymous words, such as task, procedure, practice, behavior and exercise. In their view, activities referred to a reasonably cohesive group of student behaviors that were restricted in duration, preceded by some instructor direction, and had a specific goal.
2.2 Studies on English Disciplinary Competence
2.2.1 Definition of English Disciplinary Competence
Lin held that disciplinary competence was a typical psychological character that could successfully solve or complete discipline tasks. Specifically speaking, there were three implications of disciplinary competence, the special ability of students learning a subject, the intellectual activity of students learning a subject and its related intellectual and ability components, and individual differences in students’ learning abilities, learning strategies and learning methods for learning a subject. Later, other scholars also gave their opinion on this term. For instance, Zhang and Zheng defined disciplinary competence as the psychological characteristics of a student’s personality to solve specific disciplinary questions by mobilizing existing knowledge. The above definitions displayed the common features of disciplinary competence relating to psychological character and subject matters. As for the English disciplinary competence, Liu and Xue defined it as an ability to build on general competencies with significant English specificity, which could also be called English language proficiency. English disciplinary competence was stable psychological trait that enabled students to learn and to solve problems in English learning, which was unobservable. Thus, specific indicators needed to be developed. More recently, Wang and Hu proposed that English disciplinary competence was stable and comprehensive ability utilized by learners to solve problems in English learning, which covered observable, detectable and intervenable key competence elements. Therefore, the present study adopted this definition for its measurable features.
Chapter 3 Research Design ...................................... 27
3.1 Research Questions ................................................ 27
3.2 Research Materials ....................................... 27
3.3 Research Methods ................................. 29
Chapter 4 Results and Discussion .................................. 36
4.1 Features of Classroom Activities Implemented by Senior High English Teachers ................................ 36
4.1.1 Types of Classroom Activities .......................... 36
4.1.2 Time Allocation of Classroom Activities ..................... 41
Chapter 5 Conclusion ............................................. 60
5.1 Major Findings ........................................ 60
5.2 Pedagogical Implications ............................ 61
5.3 Limitations and Suggestions for Further Studies ....................... 62
Chapter 4 Results and Discussion
4.1 Features of Classroom Activities Implemented by Senior High English Teachers
This part presents the features of classroom activities implemented by senior high English teachers, including activity type, time allocation and interactive modes.
4.1.1 Types of Classroom Activities
According to activity-based approach to English learning, there were three first-level activities: comprehension, application and innovation. For each first-level, three second-level activities were included. In this study, all the classroom activities implemented by the twenty-one teachers were categorized into three first-level and nine second-level activities based on activity-based approach to English learning. This classification was consistent with the English disciplinary competence framework constructed by professor Wang. In this regard, the distribution of types of classroom activities could reflect the English disciplinary competence elements. The results and discussions were as follows:
As can be seen from Table 4-1, the twenty-one senior high school English teachers implemented one hundred and thirty classroom activities altogether. Among these activities, there were 66 activities of CA, taking up 50.78%, 34 activities of AA, 26.15% and 30 activities of IA, 23.07%. Compared with the similar studies conducted by Hu, the proportion kept the similar level on a whole. However, the proportion of IA in the present study was much higher than that in their studies.
Chapter 5 Conclusion
5.1 Major Findings
This study aimed to explore two questions of classroom activities from the English disciplinary competence perspective. The first research question focused on the features of classroom activities implemented by senior high school English teachers, including activity type, time allocation and interactive modes of the classroom activities. The second question evaluated the effectiveness of classroom activities in cultivating students’ English disciplinary competencies. By analyzing the transcriptions of twenty-one teaching videos of senior high school English teachers, the major findings are listed as follows.
First, teachers tended to better manage activities targeting at cultivating students’ lower cognitive level than those at higher level. The research statistics showed that the activities of CA were designed by all the teachers which took up 50.39% while the activities of AA and IA were less than one-third respectively. Since the lessons given by the teachers belonged to the first period, it was reasonable for them to design more activities in comprehension level which promoted students’ fundamental reading comprehension. However, far more attention were paid to CA2 and only five teachers designed CA3. As for the activities of AA, less than half of the teachers covered AA1 and AA3. Just as some researchers mentioned, the application activity served as the bridge which connected the comprehension and the innovation. The lack of it would greatly impede students’ language output in the post-reading stage. Moreover, only five teachers paid attention to IA2 and even two teachers did not design any activities of IA.
Generally speaking, the time distribution of three first-level activities presented the same trend with the type of activity. In other words, the time spent on activities of CA was more than that of activities of AA and IA. In terms of the interactive modes of classroom activities, most teachers tended to adopt T-SS interactive mode and T-S interactive mode. However, the students preferred Ss-Ss interactive mode, which promoted peering learning and cooperative learning.