Luận văn A study on some major factors affecting English learning of grade 6 ethnic minority students of a mountainous secondary school to help them learn better

To some extent, using survey questionnaire allows the researcher to collect the data needed in “quantitative form”. Besides, the researcher finds it easy to analyse and report the collected data because all informants answer the same questions. The questionnaire consists of 20 questions which belong to 7 parts. At first, the learning results of grade 6 ethnic minority students will be found in part one (question 1). Part two (question 2) aims at exploring students’ personality characteristics. Next, the social contexts will be made clear in part three (questions 3-8). In part four, by answering four questions from question 9 to 12, the students can express their motivation and attitude towards English. The students learning strategies and styles will be shown in part five (questions 13- 15). Then, students’ subjective reflection to their teachers’ teaching strategies is described in part six (questions 16-18). The final part of the questionnaire is made to find out the students’ comments on their English textbook, which can help the researcher give some suggestions later.

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kept rigidly under the teachers’ control are more likely to lead to dissatisfaction and alienation and do not facilitate personal, social and academic growth; the best result are likely to occur when there is a combination of warmth and accomplishments and reasonably clear, orderly and well structure milieu. School facilities We all know that clean, quiet, safe, comfortable and healthy environments are important components of successful teaching and learning. But which facility attributes affect academic outcome the most and in what manner and degree? Schneider, M. (November, 2002) suggests six categories (indoor air quality, ventilation, thermal comfort; lighting; acoustics; building age and quality; school size and class size) that have effects on English teaching and learning in particular and all other subjects in general. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is widespread and its effects are too important to ignore. Temperature and humidity affect IAQ in many ways, perhaps most significantly because their levels can promote or inhibit the presence of bacterial and mold. It has been found that students will perform mental tasks best in rooms kept at moderate humidity levels (40-70%) and moderate temperature in the range of 68-740F ( Harner1974, Anderson and Lundqvist 1979) (qtd. in Schneider, M. 2002). In addition, schools need especially good ventilation because children breathe a greater volume of air in proportion to their body weight than adults do. The purpose of ventilating classrooms and school buildings, at minimum, is to remove or otherwise dilute contaminants that can upside. Apart from that, classroom lighting plays a particularly critical role in students’ performance (Philip 1997) (qtd. in Schneider, M. 2002). Obviously, students cannot learn well unless lighting is adequate and there have many studies showing that appropriate lighting improves test scores, reduces off-task behavior and plays a significant role in students’ achievement. The research liking acoustics to learning is consistent and convincing: good acoustics are fundamental to good academic performance. Higher student achievement is associated with schools that have less external noise. Outside noise causes increased students’ dissatisfaction with their classroom and that excessive noise causes stress in students (Earthman and Lesmasters 1998:18) (qtd. in Schneider, M. 2002). It is also proved that there has a link between levels of classroom and reverberations to reading and listening ability, behavior, attention, concentration and achievement in children (Crandell 1991, and Crandell et al 1995) (qtd. in Schneider, M. 2002). Some other factors such as building quality, school size and class size are also discussed in many studies. They are all shown that newer and better school buildings contribute to higher students’ scores; in small school and small class students have more positive and challenging learning environment. 2.3.7. Social context Because language is primary a social mechanism, it is learnt in social contexts. Even in the learning of a first language where the biological basis is important, there is strong influence from social factors concerned with the special relation of a child and caretaker. Hymes (1972) (qtd. in Spolsky, B. 1998:131) has continually stressed the social nature of language and argues for a wider view of linguistic than one limited to the grammar of sentences. What is needed is a linguistics, which can describe whatever features of speech, proves relevant in the given case, and which can relate linguistics elements to each other in term of relationships of role, status, task, and the like. Such a linguistic requires foundations in social theory and ethnographic practice as well as in practical phonetics and grammar (Hymes, 1985) (qtd. in Spolsky, B. 1998:131). The process of the first language learning can be better understood if the social dimension is included. Social factors have even more importance in the case of second language learning because of the greater complexity of the second language. Learner’s social context and the resulting increase in its ability to cause variability. The process of language learning can be very stressful, and the impact of positive or negative attitudes from the surrounding society can be critical. Community attitudes towards the language being learnt can have a profound impact on SLA where the community has a broadly negative view of the target language and its speakers, or a negative view of its relation to them, learning is typically difficult. Other common social factors include the attitude of parents towards language study and the nature of group dynamics in the language classroom. It is believed that social context influences in SLA in two indirect but essential ways. First, it plays a major role in developing in the learner the set of attitudes towards the language being learnt, its speakers and the language learning situation that are hypothesized to influence motivation directly. Second, it determines the social provision of language learning situation and opportunities (Spolsky, B. 1998:131). 2.4. Summary This chapter has presented relevant literature, which has helped to form the theoretical framework for the study. Different definitions about second language acquisition and different language learning factors have been discussed. Through what have been mentioned in this chapter, it is important to reconfirm that in foreign language teaching process, the teachers should pay attention to many factors affecting students’ learning then solve out their problems to help the students get higher results. In the next chapter, a research will be provided to find out the effects of these mentioned factors on students’ English learning. CHAPTER 3: DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 3.1. Introduction This chapter consists of two parts. The first part focuses on the context of the study, in which the description of aims and the participants of the study will be given. The second part is an analysis on the data from the survey questionnaire, class observation and the interview. 3.2. Context of the study 3.2.1. Aiming The main purpose of carrying out this study is to investigate the present situation of teaching and learning English in grade 6 at a remote mountainous secondary school in Sonla. Furthermore, the major factors affecting English learning of grade 6 ethnic minority students will be identified. Basing on the results collected, some suggestions which can be useful to helps the students learn English better will be given. 3.2.2. Participants The participants of my study are the 2 teachers and 50 ethnic minority students (40 Thái, 7 Kháng, 3 Xá) who are teaching and learning English in grade 6 at Phong Lap Secondary School- a school in the specially poor religion- where the newly published English book 6 is the main textbook. 3.3. Data collection 3.3.1. The IQ test The IQ test is designed to simply measure the students’ intelligence. The test, which lasts 10 minutes, has ten questions mainly focus on the linguistic and logical intelligence. 1 mark will be given to each right answer. The students’ intelligence will be measured by the scores. High Intelligent: 9-10 marks Intelligent: 7-8 marks Average: 5-6 marks Not intelligent: 3-4 marks Not intelligent at all: under 3 marks 3.3.2. Survey questionnaire To some extent, using survey questionnaire allows the researcher to collect the data needed in “quantitative form”. Besides, the researcher finds it easy to analyse and report the collected data because all informants answer the same questions. The questionnaire consists of 20 questions which belong to 7 parts. At first, the learning results of grade 6 ethnic minority students will be found in part one (question 1). Part two (question 2) aims at exploring students’ personality characteristics. Next, the social contexts will be made clear in part three (questions 3-8). In part four, by answering four questions from question 9 to 12, the students can express their motivation and attitude towards English. The students learning strategies and styles will be shown in part five (questions 13- 15). Then, students’ subjective reflection to their teachers’ teaching strategies is described in part six (questions 16-18). The final part of the questionnaire is made to find out the students’ comments on their English textbook, which can help the researcher give some suggestions later. 3.3.3. Class observation The author of the study chose classes 6A and 6C to observe. All activities, which the teachers and students were performing in real classroom settings, were watched and recorded. These enable the researcher to elicit reliable data. The observation was carried out two times for the same unit in these classes. For each class, the researcher observed a 45 minute lesson. She has set a checklist for her observation including teachers’ performances, students’ attitudes towards the teachers’ activities, their involvement in the lesson, their interaction with each other and the teacher as well as the description of learning condition and classroom facility. The lesson chosen to be observed belongs to unit 4- Big or Small, Lesson 1- A1, 2. This lesson contains a text which is a description of a school and the possessive “s” form. The content of the lesson is considered not to be very difficult. The researcher would like to observe how the teachers deal with this text and new grammatical item as well as what strategies they use to make the students interested in the lesson. 3.3.4. Teacher interview Each teacher was individually interviewed for 10 minutes by the researcher. The interviewer used a list of questions to prompt the interviewees in an effort to elicit useful information. The interview questions were designed to elicit the teachers’ attitudes towards their job, their daily work at a remote mountainous school, their teaching experiences and their ways of teaching English for minority students. These two teachers (their names shown in this study are conventional) take responsibility for 4 classes in grade 6, Ms. Phuong is in charge for class 6A and 6B, Ms. Lan is in charge for class 6C and 6D. 3.4. Data analysis This part of the thesis is the treatment of all the data collected from the IQ test, the survey questionnaire conducted on 50 grade 6 ethnic minority students, the class observations and the teacher interviews. The analysis of the data is presented in three parts: the first part is the results of the IQ test and questionnaire from students, the second part is the results of the class observations and the last part is the results from the teacher interviews. 3.4.1. Data analysis of the survey questionnaire Students’ most recent result of English learning In secondary school, students’ result of each subject in each semester is measured by the formula below: (T1 + T2) + T3 x 2 + T4 x 2 N = M 3 (M: the result of the subject; T1: the oral test; T2: the 15- minute- test T3: the 45- minute- test; T4: the end- of term test; N: the total number of tests before the end- of- term test) The results scale: Excellent: M ≥ 8.0; Good: 6.5≤ M ≤ 7.9; Average: 5.0 ≤ M ≤ 6.4; Bad: 3.5 ≤ M ≤ 4.9; Too bad: M < 3.5 Table 1: The students’ most recent English learning results Among 50 students participated in this study, there are 32 students get Average result (64%) and 18 out of them get Bad result (36%), none of them get Excellent or Good grade as well as Too bad one. Basing on the data, one can see that the English learning quality among the minority students in this school is not very high. Students’ personality characteristics Question 2 a b c d e f g h Frequency 6 4 9 9 15 12 5 10 % 12 8 18 18 30 24 10 20 Table 2: Students’ personality characteristics (a: open- minded, b: sociable, c: ebullient, d: active, e: self-confident, f: reserved and shy, g: quiet, h: unself-confident) Table 2 shows there is a variety in students’ personality characteristics. Many of them have certain characteristics that are considered to let them learn English better than the others. For example, 15 students are self- confident, 9 out of them are ebullient and active, 6 students are open- minded and 4 out of them are sociable while there are 12 students who are shy, only 5 out of them are quiet and 10 are unself-confident. However, as mentioned in Table 1, the data in the survey do not show the distinguished differences in their learning results. Students who are open- minded, sociable, active and self- confident either get average or bad result, and so do the reserved, shy and quiet ones. The social context Question 3 4 5 6 7 8 Choice F % F % F % F % F % F % a 0 0 0 0 3 6 48 96 5 10 3 6 b 50 100 50 100 6 12 2 4 32 64 6 12 c 0 0 0 0 13 26 13 26 21 42 d 0 0 0 0 28 56 20 40 Total 50 100 50 100 50 100 50 100 50 100 50 100 Table 3: The social context to the students’ English learning Table 3 shows the real social factors which affect students’ English learning. Although 50 students come from three different ethnic minorities ( Thái, Kháng and Xá), all of them use the native language of Thai people to communicate in daily life in their community (questions 3,4). It can be clearly seen in question 6 that 48 students (96%) state that their parents agree to support their going to school while only 2 ones are not supported. However, because of their poor economic status, only 13 students do not have to drop out from school to help their parents to do chores, most of them (64%) have to stay at home helping their family instead of going to school occasionally and even 5 out of 50 students (10%) are usually absent from school because of housework and farm work (question 7). Questions 5 and 8 reflect the students’ parents’ different attitudes towards English and their English learning. A lot of parents encourage their children to learn English as much as they can both at home and at school. Meanwhile, there are 3 out of them do not care what language their children are learning and speaking, 6 out of them (12%) have negative attitude towards English as they think that English is not useful for their children, they need to learn and use Vietnamese fluently rather than a luxurious foreign language. Students’ motivation and attitudes towards English Question 9 10 11 12 Choice F % F % F % F % a 11 22 28 56 10 20 6 12 b 15 30 7 14 23 46 17 34 c 23 46 25 50 16 32 25 50 d 1 2 9 18 1 2 2 4 e 17 34 f 20 40 g 6 12 h 4 8 Total 50 100 50 100 50 100 Table 4: Students’ motivation and attitudes towards English Table 4 shows the students’ motivation and attitudes towards English. Data conducted from question 9 indicate that most students have neutral and positive attitude towards English, 11 students like English very much, other 15 ones like English, and 23 out of them have neutral attitude towards this subject, only 1 student dislikes it. Unfortunately, however, together with 2 students find their English lessons boring, half of them do not find English lessons interesting enough (question 12) hence they are not actively involved in the lessons. Obviously in question 11, only 10 students usually raise their voices in the class while other 23 (46%) and 16 ones (32%) respectively sometimes and rarely voluntarily express their ideas. Through the answers to question 10, the researcher learnt that students participated in the study have both two kinds of motivation in their English learning process: integrative motivation and instrumental motivation. We can see that though they are eleven years old, they have many reasons to learn English. Among 50 students, 28 informants (56%) learn English because of English itself, half of them learn English since they want to get good marks and interestingly 17 students (34%) try to learn this subject as they want to talk to the foreigners while they live in a remote area and 40% learn English because of their English teachers. Students’ learning strategies and styles Question 13 14 15 Choice F % F % F % a 9 18 4 8 36 72 b 30 60 20 40 4 8 c 6 12 22 44 10 20 d 4 8 0 0 0 0 e 1 2 4 8 Total 50 100 50 100 50 100 Table 5: Students’ learning strategies Looking at table 5, it is unsurprising that more than a half of the participants surveyed (60%) only learn English whenever they have English homework, nearly one fifth of them (9 students – 18%) practice their English everyday, and the last 10% of them do not pay much attention to their English practicing (question 13). Question 14 is designed to find out how the students learn their English. 23 students think that they need to learn as much vocabulary as possible since knowing the meaning of the new words makes them understand better. About the same number, 20 students (40%) learn by heart all the things their teacher asked them to take notes. Some choose to learn by heart everything in their textbook (8%) or learn through their friends (8%). Especially, no one choose to learn English through playing games or T.V. programs because they do not have opportunities to do that. In the last column, it can be clearly seen that almost students (72%) in the survey have a typical habit of Vietnamese students in the classroom- looking at the board and pay attention to their teacher’s gestures and postures, the other 10 students try to listen and imitate their teachers and friends and only few students are attracted by the pictures in the textbook. In general, it is evident that the students surveyed have the traditional way of learning English. They just passively acquire English from what they learn in the class then practice by doing homework, and they have not found or applied any active strategies to improve their target language. Teachers’ teaching strategies Question 16 17 18 Choice F % F % F % a 0 0 0 0 20 40 b 0 0 50 100 0 0 c 30 60 0 0 0 0 d 20 40 0 0 30 60 Total 50 100 50 100 50 100 Table 6: Students’ reflection to their teachers’ teaching strategies Through the answers to questions 16-18, students show their comments on their teachers’ ways of teaching. It is pointed out obviously to the researcher in question 17 that all the informants occasionally have chances to take part in group work and pair work during their English lessons. The choices to questions 16 and 18 are divided in two groups because the informants are taught by two different teachers. Ms. Phuong’s students show that although she sometimes speak to them in English in the class, she doesn’t use any other teaching aids except for the textbook and the board to make their English lessons more interesting. In contrast, Ms. Lan’s students indicate that despite her only use of Vietnamese, she makes her teaching more vivid by the use of some pictures and posters in their lessons. Students’ comments on their textbook Question 19 Frequency % a 26 52 b 0 0 c 26 52 d 17 34 Table 7: Students’ comments on their textbook Question 19 is aimed at finding out the students’ comments on their textbook. It is made clear that none of them find the tasks in their textbook easy for them. They express that the new English textbook is difficult for them and they are overwhelmed by the amount of new vocabulary in one unit. In addition, the content of the book is remote from their daily lives and their background and is therefore difficult to comprehend. Question 20 is an open- ended question, to answer this one, students can write whatever they want about their English textbook. Half of them expect a textbook which is more focused on their ethnic daily lives, the other half want their textbook to be easier and less vocabulary. Students’ IQ test scores Score 9-10 7-8 5-6 3-4 <3 Total Frequency 1 19 23 7 0 50 % 2 38 46 14 0 100 Table 8: Students’ IQ test scores As mentioned above, this IQ test was designed to identify whether the students have linguistic intelligence or not. Surprisingly, not many students get low scores (only 7 informants) while it shows that 40% of them are intelligent at language and nearly a half of the students are at average level. Looking at this table the researcher looked forward to a difference in the students’ English learning results; nevertheless, there is no significant difference as expected. As shown in Table 1, students were only evaluated at Average and Bad levels while there IQ test scores range from the High intelligent level to the Not Intelligent one. In general, the facts shown in this part lead to the conclusion that although almost students have support from their parents as well as positive attitudes towards English, for some other factors such as their surrounding language environment, their economic status, their unsuitable learning strategies, their teachers’ not very creative and appropriate ways of teaching, and their textbook, the students’ English learning result is not high enough. This learning result is not only particularly in this school but considered to be common in every secondary school in remote mountainous areas. 3.4.2. Data analysis of the class observation The researcher observed two classes (Class 6A of Ms. Phuong’s and Class 6C of Ms. Lan’s) with the same lesson. The most noticeable things to her were not the teachers’ and students’ activities in the classrooms but the classrooms and the learning condition themselves. It was much more out of the imagination to many people that their old school was not solidly bricked built, all the classrooms were simply made of bamboo with thatched or mental roof. It must be very cold in winter. The furniture was old and not very comfortable. In the classroom, there was no electricity. As a result, there were not any lights as well as modern teaching and learning equipments. In general, the learning condition for the students observed was very poor and not suitable for children to learn any subjects, especially in bad and harsh weather. Turning back to the lessons observed, the first observation was taken from class 6A of Ms. Phuong’s with 27 students. It is a listening lesson but because of the poor learning condition, the teacher adapted it into a reading one. As described above, the lesson is about a simple description of a school with possessive‘s’ form. To start with, the researcher saw her use pelmanism to define relationship of that lesson to the previous ones by asking students to match personal pronouns with their possessive pronouns. After that, she introduced the new words (big, small, in the country, in the city) by giving Vietnamese translation and read the reading text once aloud then asked students to work individually to read the text themselves (Task 1). Task 2 in the textbook was aimed at checking students’ comprehension hence Ms. Phuong raised the questions then asked students to stand up to give the answers. She ended her lesson by asking students to write a short paragraph about their school. During her observation within 45 minutes, the researcher did not see the teacher either present overview or summarize major points of the lesson. What is more, in the text there appeared the possessive‘s’ form; however the teacher neither identified the difference between it and the verb to be – “is” form nor the use of ‘s’ possession. Therefore, the students only imitated their teacher to speak Phong’s school or Thu’s school without understanding. It was also observed that the students’ involvement in the lesson was not much. They just looked at the board, took note what the teacher wrote on the board and answered the questions when required. The interaction between students and the teacher as well as among the students themselves was little. The teacher asked some questions and the students passively responded. To cut it short, from the researcher’s observation, although the teacher’s voice was clearly and she sometimes spoke English, the students were not interested in the teacher’s activities in that lesson very much and the class atmosphere was quite boring because of too much dead time. The second observation tool place in class 6C of Ms. Lan’s. She also used pelmanism as the warm-up activity to start the lessons. Then she showed a picture to introduce the new words, which directly described things in the picture. The students learnt and understood the new words without translation. Then she stated that: “Today, we will learn how to use these words to describe our school” in Vietnamese and asked the students to listen to her reading. After that, she had all the class read after her in chorus on

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