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Business English Assignment: Case Study of Joseph (part 1)  

2015-07-31 21:51:42|  分类: SYSU |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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商英的期中作业,关于一个典型中国高中生的英语学习的案例分析,4人合写(我经手至少八成),能看完的都是真爱。。。文太长,分两部分发

Student profile

Joseph is a 16-year-old high school student from Fujian Province in China, and his native languages are Chinese and Southern Fujian dialect. Most of his time, he only speaks Chinese for daily communication. He is particularly skillful in test-taking because he has commanded the regular pattern of a typical test. However, his ability of English listening and speaking is unsatisfactory, which he isn’t aware of initially. During over four years of English learning, although he attends English classes and finishes homework punctually, he rarely reads English novels, listens to English radios or communicates with others in English.

According to our observation, his outstanding performances in English quizzes and exams at school directly leads to his little motivation to enlarge his vocabulary or to improve his listening and speaking skills in junior and senior high schools. In addition, balancing his efforts that are devoted in six major subjects (Chinese, English, Math, Physics, Chemistry and Biology) has already been a stern challenge, leaving him little extra time to spare on enhancing communicative abilities.

However, a dramatic change in his attitude towards English learning occurred after his complete failure in a national English oratorical contest. Compared with students from littoral cites such as Shenzhen, Shanghai and Hong Kong, his relatively flawed pronunciation, intermittent speech and logical miss failed to impress the judges who stopped him at the preliminary contest. After undergoing such heavy blow in front of eminent fellows from all over China, Joseph became aware of the fierce competition in the society and the significance of enhancing his English all-round ability. He then determined to improve his English skills not only for obtaining a better grade in College Entrance Examination (also Gaokao), but also for acquiring a high-paid position in one of the best global enterprises.

Situation analysis

It has been reported that Chinese people are insanely interested in learning English. The English mania could be witnessed through various aspects: numerous English reference books could be found in nearly every book store, various English speaking or writing contests are held every year with thousands of teenage participants striving to bear the palm, and the famous English teacher Li Yang even invented so called “Crazy English” featuring yelling out words and sentences repeatedly until students have learnt it by heart. The underlying reason beneath these strange phenomena, however, is Gaokao.

As the largest and most influential examination in the world, Gaokao is, amazingly, far from merely an exam that measures the ability of students who desire to enter a college. It plays an extremely important and complicated role in China because of a widely spread belief: if you get good marks in Gaokao, you will enter a key university; if you enter a key university, you will find a good job; if you find a good job, you will live a happy life. This is particularly true for students from the countryside who have little access to the upper class. Since English is one of the six subjects that account for the final grade of Gaokao, learning English well (or getting high marks in English exam) becomes one of the prerequisites. In other words, for most senior high students in China, English is not in essence a tool to communicate with others, but a bridge towards better education resources and a potentially better-off life.

As for English teaching strategy, the most popular method in China might be The Grammar Translation Method (H. Douglas, 2000, p. 15). Students are fed with a large amount of knowledge every day, roting isolated word lists without English definitions as well as grammatical rules that are tedious and complex. Although it is understandable that the majority of English teacher in Chinese high school adopt this method for its little demand of effort and specialized skills of teachers, it couldn’t be ignored that The Grammar Translation Method hasn’t been justified or supported by professionals.

When it comes to English learning method, students invariably adopt inefficient methods which may occupy more time and gain less progress than expected. Sometimes, bad habits would become tremendous obstacles in English learning, such as subconsciously speaking out when reading texts or using Chinese characters to identify the pronunciation of words instead of correct phonetic symbols. Additionally, tedious textbooks, reference books with loads of exercises and weekly quizzes dominants students’ time spent on English after class, which restricts possible extensional studying from alternative resources such as English novels, movies or radios.

Needs analysis

Driven by the fierce competition with classmates and high expectations from his parents, Joseph is now not content with the current situation of his English ability in use, and hopes to improve his English in a comprehensive way, especially listening and speaking.

In terms of listening skills, Joseph expects himself to fully understand the content of Gaokao listening tests and get hold of the general meaning of news reported by VOA, ABC or BBC. When it comes to speaking, he hopes to be capable of chatting with native speakers and amply expresses his feelings and opinions with fewer grammatical or lexical mistakes. He also notes that since there are five reading passages in a typical English exam, it is crucial to accelerate his reading speed while guaranteeing the accuracy of his answers. Last but not the least, he targets at mastering the use of accurate words and phrases as well as complex sentences in writing, and avoiding simple grammatical errors like mistaken plurals or articles.

Curriculum Environment

Joseph studies in a science experimental class in his senior high school which is one of the local key middle schools, and his class schedule is shown below. From this class schedule, it could be found that there are only six English classes per week. In addition, the assessment and evaluation of students’ progress in other five major subjects are invariably homework and tests, which require a lot of preparations. It is understandable that his attention on English is distracted. Compared with other courses, English learning calls for continuous effort, yet it is particularly vulnerable when ignored by the school and its students. Most of Joseph’s classmates are not interested in English learning, and some of them even hold the point that English is useless and that learning English actually jeopardizes Chinese culture and spirit.

 

Table 1. Joseph’s Class Schedule

 

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

7:50-8:30

Math

English

Physics

Math

Chinese

 

 

 

Tests

 

 

 

Rest

8:40-9:20

Chinese

Chemistry

Math

Chinese

Physics

9:30-10:10

Physics

Politics

P.E

Physics

Chemistry

10:35-11:15

Chemistry

Chinese

Chemistry

English

Math

11:25-12:05

English

Physics

English

English

Math

14:15-14:55

History

Math

Chinese

Art

Biology

15:05-15:45

Biology

Math

Chinese

Geology

English

16:00-16:40

Individual Study

Individual Study

Individual Study

Individual Study

Individual Study

Individual Study

16:50-17:30

18:15-20:15

When it comes to his English teacher, Susan, it is equally important to acknowledge her teaching approaches that are highly likely to affect his English learning. Susan is a good-tempered young teacher who graduated from a normal university. Generally, she is patient and of good responsibility, but her teaching strategies are yet to be improved. According to Joseph’s remark, Susan speaks Chinese most of the time, making it difficult for students to improve listening skills to a large extent. Her lessons usually fail to attract his attention or fully engage students into class activities. Worse still, her explanations of exercises are ambiguous and not convincing enough for students to accept. As for discussion, students usually work individually both in class and after class, which results in few discussions between them.

After class, roting the conventional use of grammar and phrases is emphasized, while incorporating phrases into writing and speaking is omitted. Regular English quizzes are held once a week, but the examination items often resemble previous ones without frequent updating. Susan spares much time on correcting test papers and introducing practical techniques for gaining higher marks in exams rather than enhance students’ abilities.

In general, it is apparent that the teaching method used in Joseph’s class largely resembles The Grammar Translation Method, where the teacher mainly focuses on teaching test-taking skills rather than helping students to master the language and apply it to daily life. Although grammar practices are stressed, students still find it hard to understand and write complex sentences when reading and writing essays for the lack of applying grammar into use. Worse still, the lack of communication and oral practices between classmates contributes to his poor performance in speaking. To sum up, the assessment practices are limited and it is scarcely possible for him to improve his oral English and being adequately involved in classes due to the poor curriculum environment with a Chinese-speaking teacher and no native speakers.

After careful investigation of Joseph’s English learning goals and the curriculum environment he is involved in, conclusion can be drawn that although he has studied English for several years, it would be considerably hard for him to achieve his goals if he and his teacher persist on current learning and teaching strategies. Therefore, multiple measures should be taken to enhance his capability of using English properly.

English language teaching and learning principles

Although the Grammar Translation Method mentioned above has dominated the English classes in Joseph’s school, it could hardly be considered as a successful method in an ESL (English as a second language) class. First, merely devouring endless words and grammatical rules does little good to the acquirement of necessary communicative skills. Second, the teacher seldom encourages students to express their opinions or personal feelings, which has a detrimental impact on the formation of critical thinking. Without unique thoughts, students are only capable of conveying simple and pale views borrowed from elsewhere in their articles.

Joseph and his classmates invariably lack some of the cognitive and socioaffective strategies (H. Douglas, 2000, p. 126) listed below, and a revolution in teaching principle should be conducted accordingly in order to overcome their shortcomings.

1.       Deduction. Through deduction, the grammatical and lexical rules could be successfully applied to use on learner’s initiative. This is Joseph’s exact weak point since he can do grammar multiple choices in quizzes well but cannot write complicated sentences himself using a wide range of grammar. To tackle this problem, it is suggested that sentence-making exercises should be introduced after presenting certain rules in order to deepen his understandings and correct possible misunderstandings.

2.       Recombination. It requires excellent command of grammar and vocabulary. To recombine means to rearrange or reassemble the elements in one or several sentences into new structured one(s) without changing the essential meaning. Joseph finds it hard to use various sentence patterns because he hasn’t built up connections between the knowledge he has learnt. This problem could be dealt with by practicing syntactic transfer, which could provide alternative approach to convey a certain meaning.

3.       Auditory Representation. It means the ability of remembering and imitating a sound. Joseph mentions that he has difficulties in pronounce words and sentences after hearing them only, so relevant exercises should be assigned by the teacher to enhance Joseph’s ability to input and output auditory information correctly and promptly.

4.       Keyword. A keyword serves well if students manage to associate it with other words and thus assemble an integrated word group. It can accelerate the process of memorizing new words and is particularly helpful when revising. Since Joseph usually fails to recall a group of words related to a certain topic, it is necessary to help him with the establishment of linkage among loads of words and phrases through rewriting sentences using synonym.

5.       Cooperation. There is no doubt that cooperating with classmates (and in the future, workmates) is regarded as one of the most crucial communicative abilities. However, the previous teaching method seems to have neglected its importance. To improve students’ oral English, the teacher should spare a fixed period of time that dedicates to dialogue practices and group discussion. Also, group assignments such as proofreading compositions of other mates or debating against each other are really worth trying.

To sum up, it might be a challenge for the teacher to shift her teaching principles and approaches that she has already got accustom to, but the potential improvement in language learning skills and communicative abilities appears to be really enticing. In general, her mission is to encourage Joseph to be active in classes and gradually command the strategies that fit himself most.

Resources

Conventionally, the materials used in Joseph’s classes consist of several textbooks, dozens of English reference workbooks and Gaokao examination papers and simulation papers. However, these limited sources restrict the range of knowledge, making it an arduous process to revise the same key points and finish similar exercises repeatedly.

Therefore, it is recommended to introduce alternative resources including English newspapers, radios and video clips into English classes, because it is presented by native speakers and has much fewer mistakes than inferior reference book written by some unqualified Chinese. In addition, various types of English dictionary may be of great help to both students and the teacher. For example, an English-English dictionary will give precise definition of words, and A Dictionary of Current English Usage elaborated by a Chinese professor has adopted detailed definitions and usage of the most common words with plenty of example sentences. Also, a dictionary of synonyms or phrasal verbs can assist users to distinguish a group of synonyms and phrases.

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