• The Impact of input task characteristics on performance on an integrated listening-Into-writing EAP assessment

      Westbrook, Carolyn (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2019-10)
      Over the last fifty years, as the number of students studying in English-speaking countries or studying through the medium of English has grown exponentially, so has the market for testing the language skills of these students to ensure that they have the language and skills necessary for tertiary study in English. While traditional tests of academic English have been skills-based, more and more integrated tests are being designed to measure English for Academic Purposes (EAP) both for university entrance purposes and for in-sessional English courses due to the increased authenticity (Bachman and Palmer, 1996, p. 23) and interactiveness (p. 25) that such tests can offer. Furthermore, as more and more teaching moves to a ‘flipped’ or blended model and computerbased testing increases, there is a need to ascertain how to best provide input for both testing and teaching. Traditionally, listening comprehension has been audio-only and tests have consequently used audio only input. However, the broader range of possibilities offered by technological developments means that offering video-based input as an alternative to audio only is now perfectly feasible. This raises the question of how to ‘test for best’ (Weir, 2005, p. 54). A number of studies have investigated audio versus video or multimedia listening comprehension tests. Similarly, much research has been done into reading-into-writing or listening and reading-into-writing, yet very little has been done on integrated listening-into-writing. This study aimed to address that gap in the research by investigating the impact of audio versus video input on performance on an integrated EAP listening-into-writing test. In the study, participants were exposed to a lecture which was divided in half and presented in both audio and video formats in a counterbalanced measures design. The quantitative findings of this study revealed that there was a significant difference in scores between the audio first group, which was exposed to the audio input in the first half of the lecture, and the video first group, which was exposed to the audio input in the second half of the lecture, while there was only a small, non-significant difference between the two groups when exposed to the video input. A follow-up textual analysis broadly supported these findings. In line with findings from Cumming et al. (2005a), the quantitative analyses suggest that higher level learners tended to paraphrase more of the input while the lower-intermediate and intermediate learners generated both paraphrased and verbatim reproductions of the input. The very low levels learners appeared unable to make very much use of the input yet students from both groups reproduced large numbers of word-level matches from the PowerPoint slides when they had access to the video input. While there was no clear preference for one or other of the input formats, around 40 per cent of students expressed a preference for video while around 20 per cent said that they preferred audio only as the video was distracting. This supports the findings of Chen, Wang and Xu. (2014, p. 57). The research has highlighted several areas for future research but also has important implications for the construct of academic listening-into-writing.
    • Understanding change in Chinese undergraduate students’ language learning motivation : during the transition to UK higher education

      Zhang, Qian (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2008-10)
      This thesis investigates changes in Chinese undergraduate students’ language learning motivation during the transition from their home cultural setting to the host cultural setting, while studying on a China-UK 2+1 collaborative programme at the University of Bedfordshire. Since the 1990s, there has been growing attention to research on L2 motivation in classroom or other educational settings. To bridge the gap between general and L2 motivational theories, a number of theoretical frameworks have been developed. The most comprehensive of these is Dörnyei’s (1994a) three-level motivational framework. However, there is as yet little empirical evidence to verify this. The study employed mixed methods. Firstly, in order to identify whether these students’ language learning motivation changed over time, a two stage questionnaire survey was carried out with 158 students. Questionnaires were first administered in October shortly after students arrived in the UK to begin their courses and again in May when they were close to completing their degrees. Factor analysis was used to verify the structure of the questionnaire. Paired t-tests were used to evaluate whether significant changes had occurred in each of the motivational dimensions addressed. Secondly, in-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted with 14 of the questionnaire respondents. The interviews explored motivational change in more open-ended fashion and in greater depth. Students’ comments were transcribed, translated and categorised on the basis of Dörnyei’s (1994a) framework. The conclusions, triangulated by both the key findings and the interview results, indicate that Chinese students have strong instrumental orientations and that their language learning motivation changes significantly at the Learner Level and Language Learning Situation Level of the framework. Some patterns underlying these changes were also discovered. The research findings additionally served to support the applicability of the Dörnyei (1994a) framework. Based on the empirical research findings, some practical recommendations are offered respectively for Chinese students and academic staff. These include: 1) The university should provide more information, or relevant training, about the British academic system and culture. 2) Academic staff need to understand Chinese students more fully and might adjust their teaching style to accommodate them. 3) There is a need for the university to redesign the academic English module to help students efficiently cope with their studies in the UK.