• Cross–cultural communication in Thai EFL university classrooms: a case study

      Kuesoongnern, Satip (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2018-07)
      In the past few decades there has been increased communication among people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Greater internationalisation of education has contributed to academic interest in cross–cultural communication. Thailand is considered an‟English as a Foreign Language‟ (EFL) country in which English is mandatory curriculum subject at primary, secondary, college and university levels. Thai education policy has aimed at improving Thai students‟ English proficiency by hiring more native English speakers to teach at schools and universities. Moreover, having had native English lecturers teaching in Thai universities provides opportunities for Thai students to communicate across cultures. From a social–cultural perspective, this study investigated how native English lecturers and Thai students apply cross–cultural communication strategies within real interactional contexts in the Thai EFL classroom. This research aims to improve communication between native English lecturers, Thai lecturers and non–native English students or Thai students through the use of effective cross–cultural communication strategies in the Thai EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom. This study used a mixed–qualitative–methods design (Mason, 2006) which was composed of interviews, classroom observations and video recordings of classroom teachings. This methodology was chosen in order to allow the researcher an integrated and clearer understanding of what was happening in the Thai EFL classroom. The case study approach was used to investigate one small department within one university (Denscombe, 2010) to allow the researcher to explore in–depth exchanges arising from teacher–student communication phenomena (Yin, 2009). Using socio–cultural theory developed by Engeström and different themes that emerged from various taxononomies as frameworks, the findings from this research revealed that native English lecturers, Thai lecturers, and Thai students employed various cross–cultural communication strategies including communication strategies derived from Tarone‟s (1977; 1983), Willems‟(1997), and Dӧrnyei and Scott‟s (1995a, 1995b) taxonomy of communication strategies. Additionally, simple pedagogical strategies applied by the lecturers played significant roles in enabling Thai students to maintain the conversations as well as boosting confidence in English speaking while having less fear of interacting with the lecturer in the Thai EFL classroom. Furthermore, the findings suggest that both native English and Thai lecturers have to be aware of and sensitive to Thai students‟ cultural aspects, their nature and behaviours expressed in the Thai EFL classroom in order to encourage these students to respond or speak up. Besides, the application of CCC(s), CS(s) and pedagogical strategies are perceived as necessary tools for the Thai EFL teachers and students. As a result of this research, an original taxonomy of effective communication strategies is proposed to be used by both teachers and students in cross–cultural EFL classroom contexts.
    • Establishing the validity of reading-into-writing test tasks for the UK academic context

      Chan, Sathena Hiu Chong (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2013-11)
      The present study aimed to establish a test development and validation framework of reading-into-writing tests to improve the accountability of using the integrated task type to assess test takers' ability in Academic English. This study applied Weir's (2005) socio-cognitive framework to collect three components of test validity: context validity, cognitive validity and criterion-related validity of two common types of reading-into-writing test tasks (essay task with multiple verbal inputs and essay task with multiple verbal and non-verbal inputs). Through literature review and a series of pilot, a set of contextual and cognitive parameters that are useful to explicitly describe the features of the target academic writing tasks and the cognitive processes required to complete these tasks successfully was defined at the pilot phase of this study. A mixed-method approach was used in the main study to establish the context, cognitive and criterion-related validity of the reading-into-writing test tasks. First of all, for context validity, expert judgement and automated textual analysis were applied to examine the degree of correspondence of the contextual features (overall task setting and input text features) of the reading-into-writing test tasks to those of the target academic writing tasks. For cognitive validity, a cognitive process questionnaire was developed to assist participants to report the processes they employed on the two reading-into-writing test tasks and two real-life academic tasks. A total of 443 questionnaires from 219 participants were collected. The analysis of the cognitive validity included three stands: 1) the cognitive processes involved in real-life academic writing, 2) the extent to which these processes are elicited by the reading-into-writing test tasks, and 3) the underlying structure of the processes elicited by the reading-into-writing test tasks. A range of descriptive, inferential and factor analyses were performed on the questionnaire data. The participants' scores on these real-life academic and reading-into-writing test tasks were collected for correlational analyses to investigate the criterion-related validity of the test tasks. The findings of the study support the context, cognitive and criterion-related validity of the integrated reading-into-writing task type. In terms of context validity, the two reading-into-writing tasks largely resembled the overall task setting, the input text features and the linguistic complexity of the input texts of the real-life tasks in a number of important ways. Regarding cognitive validity, the results revealed 11 cognitive processes involved in 5 phases of real-life academic writing as well as the extent to which these processes were elicited by the test tasks. Both reading-into-writing test tasks were able to elicit from high-achieving and low-achieving participants most of these cognitive processes to a similar extent as the participants employed the processes on the real-life tasks. The medium-achieving participants tended to employ these processes more on the real-life tasks than on the test tasks. The results of explanatory factor analysis showed that both test tasks were largely able to elicit from the participants the same underlying cognitive processes as the real-life tasks did. Lastly, for criterion-related validity, the correlations between the two reading-into-writing test scores and academic performance reported in this study are apparently better than most previously reported figures in the literature. To the best of the researcher's knowledge, this study is the first study to validate two types of reading-into-writing test tasks in terms of three validity components. The results of the study proved with empirical evidence that reading-into-writing tests can successfully operationalise the appropriate contextual features of academic writing tasks and the cognitive processes required in real-life academic writing under test conditions, and the reading-into-writing test scores demonstrated a promising correlation to the target academic performance. The results have important implications for university admissions officers and other stakeholders; in particular they demonstrate that the integrated reading-into-writing task type is a valid option when considering language teaching and testing for academic purposes. The study also puts forward a test framework with explicit contextual and cognitive parameters for language teachers, test developers and future researchers who intend to develop valid reading-into-writing test tasks for assessing academic writing ability and to conduct validity studies in such integrated task type.
    • The impact of pre-task planning on speaking test performance for English-medium university study

      O’Grady, Stefan (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2018-01)
      This study investigated the impact of different lengths of pre-task planning time on performance in a test of second language speaking ability for university admission. The research was conducted in a university in Turkey where the increasing popularity of English-medium instruction has heightened the need for valid assessment of prospective students’ English language ability. In the study, 47 Turkish speaking learners of English aged between 18 and 22, sat a test of English language speaking ability. The participants were divided into two groups according to their language proficiency estimated through a paper-based English placement test (an A1+/A2 level and B1 level group, Council of Europe, 2001). They each completed four monologue tasks: two picture-based narrative tasks and two description tasks. In a balanced design, each test taker was allowed a different length of planning time before responding to each of the four tasks. The four planning conditions were 30 seconds, one minute, five minutes, and ten minutes. The effect of variation in pre-task planning time was analysed using a set of measures of complexity, accuracy and fluency identified through the literature review and refined through piloting. In addition, 16 trained raters awarded scores to the test takers using an analytic rating scale and a context specific, binary choice rating scale designed specifically for the study. The results of the rater scores were analysed using multi-faceted Rasch measurement. The impact of pre-task planning on test scores was found to be influenced by four variables: the method of assessment, the task type that test takers completed, the length of planning time provided, and the test takers’ levels of proficiency in the second language. Firstly, contrary to common accounts in the literature, pre-task planning did not have an impact on the complexity, accuracy, and fluency of the spoken output. Rather, planning for longer periods of time increased the number of idea units test takers produced (an indication of the propositional completeness and complexity of the task content), and led to marginal increases in test scores. The increases in scores were larger on the picture-based narrative tasks than the two description tasks. The results also revealed a relationship between proficiency and pre-task planning whereby statistical significance was only reached for the increases in the scores of the lowest (CEFR ‘A’) level test takers. Regarding the amount of planning time, the five-minute planning condition led to the largest overall increases in scores. The research findings offer contributions to the study of pre-task planning and will be of particular interest to institutions seeking to assess the speaking ability of prospective students in English-medium educational environments.
    • Learning to teach English in Hong Kong: effects of the changeover in sovereignty

      Urmston, Alan (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2003-07)
      Teachers undergo changes in their beliefs, knowledge and practices on an individual level as they learn how to teach. If society undergoes significant change, as Hong Kong did during the transition from British to Chinese rule in 1997, then social groups within society such as teachers are likely to react to change in different and complex ways. The purpose of this investigation is to exam.ine the changes experienced by teachers of English in Hong Kong, with a focus on teachers who received their teacher preparation at one Hong Kong institution during the final years leading up to the transition. The educational, linguistic, social and political context of Hong Kong is first described through a study of the research literature and a number of theories and models of change are presented through which the findings of the investigation are analysed. The main sources of data for the investigation consist of questionnaire responses, interview transcriptions and lesson observation reports of trainee English teachers during and after graduation from a BA course in TESL at a Hong Kong university. The main conclusions of the investigation are: (i) Educational issues and particularly those affecting ELT became more high-profile and politicised in the lead up to and after the changeover. (ii) English teachers in Hong Kong experience conflict between their desired approaches and the realities and constraints of the Hong Kong teaching context. These constraints provide a common justification for lack of innovative behaviour and make it possible for teachers to put off being innovative in the classroom indefinitely. (iii) At the same time, English teachers in Hong Kong are becoming more empowered within the educational system in reaction to challenges to their competency and as they have realised that they can affect educational policy through individual and collective action. The findings suggest that colonial discourses as documented by Pennycook (1998) of English language teaching still persist in Hong Kong, as they have been shown to do in other post-colonial societies, and Hong Kong is undergoing a post-handover period of change as it struggles to synthesise the educational legacies of the colonial period with new initiatives adopted to address Hong Kong's changing educational and social needs. The results of the research are developed into an original model of the factors impacting English language education in Hong Kong. The generic model is then elaborated in two versions, one of which applies before the changeover and the other after it.
    • Problems of English teaching in Sri Lanka: how they affect teaching efficacy

      Aloysius, Mahan (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015-07)
      Concerned to comprehend the teaching efficacy of English teachers in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, this thesis investigated contentions by principals, retired teachers and resource personnel that Sri Lankan teachers’ lack of teaching effectiveness (teaching behaviours that influence student learning) accounted for students’ low English attainment; and counter claims by English teachers that their teaching efficacy (beliefs in their abilities to affect student learning) was undermined by classroom and other-related problems. This mixed-method research comprised two stages. In a preliminary study, 298 students and twenty-four teachers from twelve secondary schools participated in a survey designed to understand challenges encountered in the teaching and learning of English. With a similar purpose, thirty-four English lessons involving 320 students and ten teachers were observed. Interviews concerning the aspects underpinning effective English teaching were conducted with five principals, three English resource personnel and three retired teachers. In the main study, sixty-two teachers from thirty-five secondary schools were surveyed and twenty interviewed to identify factors which affected the teaching efficacy of English teachers. Participating schools were categorized vis-à-vis their students’ performance: low-performing and high-performing. Findings support English teachers’ views concerning their teaching efficacy. Teacher perception revealed associations between the lack of teaching efficacy of English teachers in low and high-performing schools, and teacher background/parental duties/self-development, classroom problems and inadequate educational resources. No explicit evidence was found that students’ poor English attainment in low-performing schools was due to their teachers’ lack of teaching effectiveness. Observations showed that students were deprived of external resources which assisted students in high-performing schools to become proficient in English. New insights about Jaffna teachers’ efficacy indicate the need for a more context-specific English language curriculum in Sri Lanka, informed by teachers’ knowledge of their students’ English learning needs at a local level if teaching efficacy and English attainment are to be enhanced.
    • The role of vocabulary learning strategies in lexical progression in an ESL context

      Jafari, Nuzhat (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2017)
      This study explores vocabulary learning strategies (VLSs) behind the lexical progression in adult learners assessed by productive vocabulary tests. Previous research has provided some insights into this issue (Ahmad, 1989; Gu and Johnson, 1996; Wu, 2005). Such research, however, tended to focus on individual or a small number of strategies, and very few studies looked at a group of VLSs as a whole (e.g. Schmitt, 1997) particularly in the Pakistani tertiary ESL context. This large-scale, longitudinal study was therefore designed to fill this gap, by examining the impact of some curricular and extra-curricular VLSs on vocabulary gain assessed by two types of a productive vocabulary test. The two types of test (i.e. general and course-related vocabulary tests) were administered twice to 578 Pakistani tertiary students who were learning English as a second language with a one-year gap in between to assess the learners’ vocabulary progress. They also responded to the VLS questionnaire to report on the VLS they adopted, and 120 of them also took part in four weeks’ structured vocabulary learning diary reports (N=120 x 4 weeks) as well as interviews to elaborate on their VLSs use. Wilcoxon Signed Ranks tests identified the learners’ significant vocabulary gain between the pre-and post-tests. A series of multiple regression analyses showed extra-curricular, self-initiatives and selective-attention strategies significantly predicted general vocabulary progress, whereas the curricular, dictionary for comprehension, association and imagery and selective-attention strategies turned out to be best positive predictors of course-related vocabulary progress. Structured weekly diary reports and interview data indicated complex nature of VLSs use, such as the use of certain VLSs in particular contexts and two or more strategies in combination. Students who progressed in both general and course-related vocabulary seemed to use a variety of strategies in combination, and their balanced and integrated approach appeared to be the most efficient in general and course-related vocabulary progression. i turned out to be best positive predictors of course-related vocabulary progress. Structured weekly diary reports and interview data indicated complex nature of VLSs use, such as the use of certain VLSs in particular contexts and two or more strategies in combination. Students who progressed in both general and course- related vocabulary seemed to use a variety of strategies in combination, and their balanced and integrated approach appeared to be the most efficient in general and course-related vocabulary progression.
    • Validating a set of Japanese EFL proficiency tests: demonstrating locally designed tests meet international standards

      Dunlea, Jamie (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015-12)
      This study applied the latest developments in language testing validation theory to derive a core body of evidence that can contribute to the validation of a large-scale, high-stakes English as a Foreign Language (EFL) testing program in Japan. The testing program consists of a set of seven level-specific tests targeting different levels of proficiency. This core aspect of the program was selected as the main focus of this study. The socio-cognitive model of language test development and validation provided a coherent framework for the collection, analysis and interpretation of evidence. Three research questions targeted core elements of a validity argument identified in the literature on the socio-cognitive model. RQ 1 investigated the criterial contextual and cognitive features of tasks at different levels of proficiency, Expert judgment and automated analysis tools were used to analyze a large bank of items administered in operational tests across multiple years. RQ 2 addressed empirical item difficulty across the seven levels of proficiency. An innovative approach to vertical scaling was used to place previously administered items from all levels onto a single Rasch-based difficulty scale. RQ 3 used multiple standard-setting methods to investigate whether the seven levels could be meaningfully related to an external proficiency framework. In addition, the study identified three subsidiary goals: firstly, toevaluate the efficacy of applying international standards of best practice to a local context: secondly, to critically evaluate the model of validation; and thirdly, to generate insights directly applicable to operational quality assurance. The study provides evidence across all three research questions to support the claim that the seven levels in the program are distinct. At the same time, the results provide insights into how to strengthen explicit task specification to improve consistency across levels. This study is the largest application of the socio-cognitive model in terms of the amount of operational data analyzed, and thus makes a significant contribution to the ongoing study of validity theory in the context of language testing. While the study demonstrates the efficacy of the socio-cognitive model selected to drive the research design, it also provides recommendations for further refining the model, with implications for the theory and practice of language testing validation.
    • Vocabulary size and reading comprehension in elementary level Emirati learners of English

      Kinsella, Laurence (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2018-09)
      The overall aim of this mixed methods study based on a sequential explanatory design was to provide new knowledge and understanding regarding vocabulary learning and reading comprehension among elementary level Emirati learners of English. The low vocabulary sizes and poor reading performances of these learners are well documented (Davidson, Atkinson & Spring, 2011; O’Sullivan, 2009). It is also widely accepted that students with low vocabulary size are will not read efficiently (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010; Nation, 2006; Schmitt, Jiang & Grabe, 2011). However, there is still considerable debate on how best low level students might quickly develop their vocabulary and how any increase in vocabulary size impacts on reading comprehension skills (Schmitt, 2010b). Further, much of the research carried out in this area has been in the context of cross sectional studies in experimental conditions rather than in classrooms (Nation & Webb, 2011). The present study aimed to address these gaps through a longitudinal classroom based study on the effect of word cards on receptive vocabulary size development. The quantitative experimental element of the design included an intervention using word cards with the experimental groups. The control groups followed the institutions prescribed vocabulary course which did not include the use of word cards. Additionally, this researcher found no studies seeking the views of Arab learners on the usefulness of word cards. This gap in the literature was addressed through soliciting the students’ perceptions during focus group interviews and a survey questionnaire. The three specific objectives were to:(1) Investigate how decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, contributed to a gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary iv level Emirati learners of English; (2) Investigate how vocabulary size is correlated with reading comprehension scores among elementary level Emirati learners of English, and (3): Explore the perceptions of elementary level Emirati learners of English regarding the teaching and learning of vocabulary and its relationship to reading comprehension. The philosophical stance of the researcher was vindicated, because the mixed methods research design, underpinned by constructive realism or pragmatism, provided quantitative data that was enriched and corroborated by qualitative data. Despite its limitations, the main conclusions were that (a) decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, contributed a more rapid gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary level Emirati learners of English than a similar teaching programme lacking this element; (b) the size of the receptive vocabulary appeared to correlate with reading comprehension scores. This correlation was especially strong in the case of the Preliminary English Test (PET); and (c) the participants in the experimental group perceived that word cards and translation was a very effective approach to learning vocabulary. The practical implications were that decontextualised vocabulary study, using word cards and translation, could potentially be introduced into curriculum, in order to contribute to a gain in receptive vocabulary for elementary level Emirati learners of English. The findings of this study underline the importance of improving vocabulary size in the case of elementary learners and that the learners are likely to engage better with strategies they believe in.
    • Writer-reader interaction: writer’s stance in English L1 and L2

      Darwish, Hosam (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2019-07)
      Stance refers to the ways academics annotate their texts to comment on the possible accuracy or creditability of a claim, the extent they want to commit themselves to it, or the attitude they want to convey to an entity, a proposition or the reader. Stance concerns writer-oriented features of interaction which can be presented by four interpersonal categories. These categories are boosters, e.g. ‘clearly’, hedges, e.g. ‘may’, self-mentions, e.g. ‘I’ and attitude markers, e.g. ‘interesting’. A big number of corpus-based studies have been conducted to analyse stance markers in both L1 and L2 writer’s transcripts from the view that texts are independent of specific contexts and outside the personal experiences of authors and audience. This view does not go along with the idea that texts are instances of interaction between the writer and their audience. Therefore, the current study sought to fill this gap in research by adopting a more subjective view through stressing the actions and perceptions of the text writers to better understand them. The aim of this study is to have a more complete picture of the writer-reader interaction by investigating the three elements of interaction: The text, the text writers and the audience. Adopting Hyland’s (2005b) Model of Interaction, a corpus of 80 discussion chapters written by both MA postgraduate Egyptian students (English L2) at Egyptian universities and their British student peers (English L1) at UK universities, were searched both electronically using the Text Inspector tool and manually by two raters to identify more than 200 stance markers in students’ academic scripts. Moreover, the study explored the perceptions of twenty of the text writers’ (both Egyptian and British) about the functions of certain stance markers and the factors that could affect their understanding and use of these linguistic features. Characteristics of successful stance-taking were suggested after interviewing four expert writers. The quantitative results found no statistically significant differences in the total number of stance markers, boosters and self-mentions used by students in the two writer groups, but the L1 corpus contained statistically significant more hedges and attitude markers than the L2 one. Furthermore, the L1 texts included noticeably more types of stance markers than the L2 scripts. vi The discourse-based interviews conducted indicated that both L1 and L2 writers were aware of the functions of stance markers. However, some of the interviewees (both L1 and L2) had narrow or even faulty conceptions of certain stance markers, e.g. possibility versus probability devices and other attitude markers, e.g. ‘important’ and ‘significant’. These features of academic discourse had not been made more conspicuous to them, and this could have affected their employment of these linguistic features. The findings revealed that in addition to the lingua-cultural aspect, writer’s personal linguistic preferences, supervisor’s and other lecturers’ feedback, previous education and instruction, and the writer’s self-confidence were key factors that have played a considerable role in students’ lexical decision-making. For instance, L2 students might have used fewer types of stance markers than L1 students due to their lack of confidence and their reluctance to use certain types of devices that they did not master or practised enough. The study, also, suggested that the higher density of stance markers is not absolutely an indication of a better ability in writing or a feature of a well-written academic text. The epistemological stance of the study and the contextual factors do play a significant role in the quantity and type of the stance markers used.