Luận văn Uncover teachers’ psychology and cognition of TBLT in the context of Tay Bac University











1.1. Rationale . 1

1.1.1. State of the problem 1

1.1.2. Theoretical rationale 1

1.2. Purpose of the Study . 1

1.3. Research Questions . 2

1.4. Significance of the Study . . 2

1.5. Limitations of the Study . 2

1.6. Scope of the study . 3

1.7. Organization of the Study . 3


2.1. Definition of terminology . 4

2.1.1. Defining ‘task’ and task-based language teaching . 4

2.1.2. Task-based language teaching to learners . 9

2.1.3. Tasks, Actvities and Exercises 11

2.1.4. Developments of Task-Based Teaching 11

2.2. Theoretical Foundations 15

2.2.1. Theories of language 15

2.2.2. Theories of language learning 16 Cognitive theory . 16 Constructivist Theory . . 17 Generative Learning Theory . 18

2.3. The nature of Task-based Language Teaching . 19

2.3.1. How is TBLT different from other teaching methods?. 19 Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) 20 Silent Way . 21 Experiential learning . 22 Co-operative learning . 23

2.3.2. Task-based teaching versus other types of teaching instruction models . 24

2.3.3. Task-based Teaching Framework . 25

2.3.4. Task types . 29

2.3.5. Materials for Tasks Initiated . 32

2.3.6. Syllabus design . 33

2.3.7. Learner roles . 34

2.3.8. Teacher roles . . 34

2.4. The importance of understanding teachers’ interpretation of teaching methodology 35

2.5. Teachers’ interpretation of TBLT 37

2.6. Teachers’ views of teaching methodology and their classroom teaching . 38

2.7. Conclusion 40


3.1. The fitness of case study to the research purpose . 41

3.2. Restatement of research questions . 43

3.3. Case description and context of the study . 43

3.3.1. The setting of the study . 43

3.3.2. Participants 44

3.4. Instruments . 46

3.4.1. Interviews . 46

3.4.2. Observations . 47

3.5.3. Teaching plan interpretation . 48

3.5. The procedure: . . 48

3.5.1. Interviews 48

3.5.2. Class observation 49

3.5.3. Teaching plan interpretation . 50

3.6. Data analysis . 50

3.7. Conclusion . . 50


4.1. General overview of the findings . 51

4.1.1. Teachers’ conceptualizations of task . 51

4.1.2. Teachers’ conceptualizations of task-based teaching . 53

4.1.3. Teachers’ attitudes toward task-based teaching . 56

4.1.4. Factors affecting the TBLT implementation . 57

4.1.5. The reality of teachers’ class teaching . 59

4.1.6. Teachers’ class teaching implementation . 61

4.2. Discussions of the findings . . 63

4.2.1. Congruence and incongruence between teachers’ conceptualizations and the composite view of TBLT 63

4.2.2. Congruence and incongruence between teachers’ classroom teaching practice and teaching plans with the composite view of TBLT . 65

4.2.3. Consistence and inconsistence between their conceptualization with teaching practices and teaching plans . 66


5.1. Summary of the major points of the study . . 68

5.1.1. Summary of the study . 68

5.1.2. Conclusions . . 68

5.1.3. Pedagogical implications . 70

5.2. Limitation of the study . 70

5.3. Implications for future research 71



Appendix A: Interview Questions . . . VII

Appendix B: Schedule of taped Interviews . . VII

Appendix C: Samples of classroom observations . VIII

Appendix D: Samples of teaching plans of university teachers . . XIV







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They define a language-learning task as including almost anything that students are asked (or choose) to do in the classroom, including formal learning activities such as grammar exercises and controlled practice activities, provided the objective of the activity is related to learning the language Williams and Burden (1997, p. 168). Ellis (2003b) distinguished between task-supported teaching (TST), in which tasks are a means for activating learners' prior second language knowledge by developing fluency, and task-based teaching, in which tasks comprise the foundation of the whole curriculum. Moreover, many other teachers have a more restricted definition. They exclude activities where the learners are focusing on formal aspects of the language (such as grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary) and reserve the term ‘task’ for activities in which the purpose is related to the communication of meanings (i.e. for what Nunan, 1989, p. 10, calls a “communicative task”). In a study published in 1987, David Nunan reported a large gap between the rhetoric and the reality in relation to CLT. Schools that claimed to be teaching according to principles of CLT were doing nothing of the sort (Nunan 1987). And the same is true today to TBLT. When asked to describe what TBLT is and how it is realized in the classroom, many people are hard pressed to do so. There are two possible interpretations for this. On the one hand it may partly reflect the fact that, as with CLT, there are numerous interpretations and orientations to the concept. That multiple perspectives and applications have developed is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is probably good that the concept has the power to speak to different people in different ways. On the other hand, it may simply be a case of ‘old wine in new bottles’: schools embracing the new ‘orthodoxy’ in their public pronouncements, but adhering to traditional practices in the classroom. In order to have a sufficient understanding of a teaching method or approach, teachers need not only be aware of its definition, its underpinned theories but also the distinction of that method to other methods or approaches which seem to be identical in many features. 2.6. Teachers’ views of teaching methodology and their classroom teaching I start the discussion of this point with the statement of Bransford, Brown and Cockling: Humans are viewed as goal directed agents who actively seek information. They come to formal education and training with a range of prior knowledge, skills, beliefs and concepts that significantly influence what they notice about the environment and how they organize and interpret it. This, in turn, affects their abilities to remember, reason, solve problems and acquire new knowledge (1999, p.l0). That viewpoint matches well with what Cuban (1993) mentioned when human agents are teachers; he has argued that "The knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes that teachers have ... shape what they choose to do in their classrooms and explain the core of instructional practices that have endured over time" (p. 256). Everybody knows that the main aim of foreign language teaching is to enable learners to communicate in the target language. Therefore, “to be an effective foreign language teacher requires a range of skills and knowledge” (Canh, 2004: 126). Unquestionably, teachers’ view of teaching methodology would very much affect their classroom teaching, or in the other hand these two factors correlate well with each other. And accordingly if the researcher wants to investigate the teachers’ viewpoint of teaching and the methodological appropriateness, the best way is through the observation of their classroom teaching; whereas, the teaching in classroom can provide the teachers’ viewpoint of a teaching method. Allwright (1988) made the point that: “... We need studies of what actually happens, not of what recognizable teaching methods, strategies or techniques are employed by the teacher, but of what really happens between teacher and class” (p.51). The teachers in TBU mostly thought that the teaching methodology is extremely vital to their teaching. They assert to prefer CLT and TBLT as the most used and favourable teaching approaches whose activities are both motivating and interesting, and that they generally promote meaningful exchanges and genuine communication in realistic contexts. The teachers, in addition, believed that implementing CLT and other modern teaching methods is troubleful because of the large classes and of lacking authenticity on all counts. Thankfully, they also thought that any deficits in activities and tasks could be overcome through adaptation or supplementation. Justification for the discrepancy between these results could be linked once again to the over-whelming and widening influence of the Communicative Approach and other newer instructional techniques such as task-based teaching. The aforementioned 'Communicative' backlash against the Grammar-Translation Approach as well as the increasing popularity of TBLT and consciousness-raising might have had the detrimental effect of procuring ELT professionals with attitudes that support an overabundance of authentic communication practice, and this could explain why the teachers at TBU thought their teaching was not communicative or meaningful enough. However, the observations of classroom teaching depicted a little different result from their opinion; learning tasks and activities sometimes did not engage much interaction and create meaningful communications. The reason might be that some teachers still cannot drive their teaching from teacher-centered approach to learner-centered approach as their aforementioned desire, so students’ learning is the result of drilling and memorization. Some other teaching periods showed that teachers could not make use of opportunities to enhance students learning, which might have done well if things went as what they have declared. The reason might be that some of them do not understand thoroughly about the method they think they are applying in their teaching. 2.7. Conclusion In this chapter the literature on task-based language teaching is reviewed. Various aspects of TBLT such as the definition, the nature of TBLT and the difference between TBLT and other language teaching approaches are discussed. In addition, the importance of understanding teachers’ interpretation of teaching approaches is presented. As can be seen from this literature review, TBLT has attracted the attention of second language acquisition and second/foreign language education researchers over the last two decades, much of the research has been psycholinguistic in nature. What is commonly documented in the literature is that in TBLT, the ‘task’ is used as the basic unit of analysis at the levels of goals (syllabus), educational activities (methodology) and assessment, although assessment is not discussed in this literature review because it is beyond the scope of the study. Furthermore, it seems that teachers tend to reinterpret the construct of task-based teaching according to their own experience and beliefs. Regretably this issue has not been researched in Vietnam although TBLT has been introduced into schools and universities for several years. This study is an attempt to look at the question of teachers’ conceptualizations of TBLT as well as the way the use the approach in their classroom. The next chapter presents the research methodology which is employed in this present study. CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY This chapter is to present research methodology I choose to achieve the aims and objectives of the study. It gives out thorough explanations of reasons for choosing the research instruments, and clarifies specific way of getting information through those instruments. 3.1. The fitness of case study to the research purpose. A case study is characterized by a bounded, integrated system in which a unit of analysis or entity (the case) is being studied (Creswell, 1998). However, it is not necessarily defined by the methods used for investigation, but rather “a choice of what is to be studied” (Stake, 2000, p. 435). A case study concerns with a detailed exploration of a single example of, something Gillham (2000). Gillham defines a case study in specific as follows: • a unit of human activity embedded in the real world; • which can only be studied or understood in context; • which exists here and now; • that merges in with its context so that precise boundaries are difficult to draw (p.1). Thus, a case study is used to search for various kinds of evidence in the case setting to get the best possible answers to the research questions (Gillham, op.cit). Some major characteristics of its are as follows: (1) it is abstracted and collated; (2) in a case study, the researcher does not start out with a priori theoretical notions that is derived from the literature. This means the researcher does not plan in advance ideal or desirable results. Until he or she gets hold of the data, and gets to understand the context, he or she does not know what theories or explanations works best or make the most sense. A case study proceeds from the assumption that people and events cannot be fully understood if they are removed from the environmental circumstances in which they naturally occur. In other words, the researcher will not attempt to produce a standardized set of results that will work across a range of settings, but rather study issues in relation to circumstances of which they are part. This study addresses human and social issues within a natural setting. The researcher is further concerned with process rather than specific outcomes or products. According to Mc Donough & Mc Donough (1997: 204), the study of a case is not only a qualitative undertaking, nor does it present a medial perspective in between quantitative and qualitative terms. Where, for example, researchers need to study large scale trends, cases will often be selected on the basis of random sampling and the statistics submitted to data analysis and later interpretations. It is this characteristic of the case study that lays reasons for its use in this study. However, the weight of discussion on case study is on interpretive approaches, and since teachers have access to certain kinds of data, resources and timing, naturalistic case study is "in tune with their reality for reasons of practicality as well as principle" (Mc Donough & Mc Donough ,1997: 204). Mc Donough & Mc Donough (op.cit.) claims that: Teachers spend their working lives dealing in different ways with individuals, and they need to understand those 'cases', not in the first instance to build theories and search for broader patterns, but to understand their learners' behaviors, learning styles, language development, successes, failures, attitudes, interest and motivation (p.212). Another unanimous discussion is that case study should be defined as a research strategy, an empirical inquiry that investigates a phenomenon within its real-life context. Case study research means single and multiple case studies, can include quantitative evidence, relies on multiple sources of evidence and benefits from the prior development of theoretical propositions. Case studies should not be confused with qualitative research and they can be based on any mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence. Single-subject research provides the statistical framework for making inferences from quantitative case-study data. This is also supported and well-formulated in (Lamnek, 2005): "The case study is a research approach, situated between concrete data taking techniques and methodological paradigms." This study aims to get the university teachers' responses to teaching methodology in general and to task-based approach in a particular in a specific university to know reality of their teaching and their conceptualization of teaching methodology and TBLT, which will enhance my own understanding and to share that understanding with others who may then carry out parallel work of their own, and perhaps to adjust the teaching methodology in appropriateness-oriented direction if possible. This purpose of the study stimulates me to design the study as a case study. 3.2. Restatement of Research Questions 1. What are the conceptualizations and attitudes of university teachers towards task-based language teaching? 2. To what extent do their conceptualizations match the composite view of task-based language teaching? 3. How do they implement task-based language teaching in their classroom? The answers of these questions would provide the reality of TBU teachers’ teaching, their conceptualization of teaching methodology and TBLT, and the feasibility of applying this teaching approach in the available context. 3.3. Case description and context of the study 3.3.1. The setting of the study Tay Bac University (TBU), located in Son La, is one of the six provinces in the North-West of Vietnam with the number of about 6,000 students. Its mission is mainly teacher training; besides, there exist 30 % of the students specialising in different subjects such as information technology, agronomy, forestry, economics, etc. Teachers of English at TBU are mainly newly-recruited; the most senior of them is 10 years teaching. Most of them have been doing the MA course in applied linguistics and English teaching methodology. The number of teacher of English is 15, who have to be in charge of teaching seven classes of students majoring in English, and other thirty classes of non-major English students. With regard to students, there are from 50 students to 130 students in each class, which seem to be over exceeded in comparison with other universities’. However, it is a little bit luckier for teachers of English when each class of major English students is organized with the number of from 40 students to 60 students, which is much fewer than classes of other professions.  Unlike other universities, students at TBU have less or no exposure to authentic English. In the era of information technology, lots of universities in Vietnam are teaching all subjects in English. The location of TBU, quite isolated from developed areas, is not convenient to regional and international interactions, and accordingly reduces the opportunity of acquiring foreign languages. As far as the teaching of English is concerned, methodological renovation is one of the primary focuses of the university and the Department in an attempt to raise the quality of English language teaching. The major orientation for renovation is the advocacy of TBLT. However, this orientation is largely verbal rather than being institutionalized by means of an official policy or curriculum renewal. This may lead to the variation in understanding about TBLT among the teachers of the Department. As mentioning to the course books selected for English teaching in TBU, most of them are non TBLT- based ones. In skills, course books are mainly skill-based and teachers usually lead their teaching according to what the course books instruct. Except for the set of course books including three books named “Tactics for listening” and the set of “Cutting edge” for listening skill, and “Discussions A-Z” for speaking skill, no other course books selected are TBLT –based. Other names of course books for skills can be listed as follows: “Let’s talk1, 2, 3”, “New interchange1, 2, 3”, “Speaking extra”, “Cambridge for fluency speaking” for speaking; “Let’s listen”, “Listen first”, “Listen for it”, “Extra listening”, “Listening and speaking” for listening; “Concept and Comment”, “Strategic Reading 1, 2, 3”, “Journeys-Reading 3”, “Practical faster reading”, “Effective reading” for reading; “Journey 1, 2”, “Written word”, “Academic Writing”, “Writing Academic English”, “Academic writing Course” for writing. In subjects of linguistic theory, such as grammar, lexicology, phonetics and phonology, methodology, all course books are non TBLT designs; moreover, in teaching teachers get used to lecturing to get the knowledge loads through to their students, which can be called textbook-oriented teaching. 3.3.2. Participants I use case study as an investigative technique to probe deeply into the teachers’ viewpoints and actions, thereby helping me to understand the implementation from their perspectives. I selected the participants for the study based on the following relevant attributes: young and capable teachers in their late 20s or early 30s, open-minded in responding to questions of my interview, confident enough in their teaching to be observed in the classroom, professionally motivated to take part in the study, cognisant of the study’s demands and willing to participate on that basis. Table 1 below will provide a brief contextual background about university teachers involved in the study. TABLE 1 Participants’ Profile Teacher Gender Teaching experiences Qualifications/ training Teaching skills/ subjects in charge Cam Female 8 years She both finished the bachelor course and master course majoring in English in Hanoi University. Her master professionalism is in ELT methodology. She is in favour of speaking skill and translation. Quyt Female 8 years She graduated her bachelor course of English translation from Hanoi University. Now she is writing her thesis for the master course of ELT methodology. Her subjects in charge are reading, writing, and translation. Mit Female 3 years She graduated her bachelor course of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. Now she is also writing her thesis for the master course of ELT methodology. She usually teaches speaking and phonetics. Dao Female 3 months She is a newly- recruited teacher who has just graduated her bachelor course of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi for 5 months. She is now mainly in charge of teaching non English major students and a little in translation. Nho Female 5 years She got her bachelor degree of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi 5 years ago, and then started her teaching career immediately at TBU. Now she is also on the way of accomplishing her thesis for the master course of ELT methodology. She is much favoured to speaking skill. Hong Female 4 years She finished her bachelor course of English for education in College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. Now she is also writing her thesis for the master course of ELT methodology. Her teaching subjects are reading and English culture and literature. Mo Female 5 years She got her bachelor degree of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi 6 years ago, but worked as a translator for a year before taking the teaching job at TBU. Now she is also writing her thesis for the master course of ELT methodology. She is interested in teaching writing skill and background of English-speaking countries Man Female 10 years She got her irregular bachelor degree of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi in 1998, and led her teaching at TBU from that time. She teaches reading skill. Chuoi Male 5 years He got his bachelor degree of English for education from College of Foreign Languages, Thai Nguyen University 7 years ago, but he started his teaching in a secondary school in his homeland for 2 years before he was offered a job in TBU in 2003. Now he is also writing his master thesis majoring in applied linguistics. His subjects in charge are writing and grammar. Dua Female 9 years She finished the bachelor course of English for education in 1999, and taught English for TBU just after that. Then she did her master course majoring in ELT methodology in Hanoi University. And she is now taking the role of a vice-dean of the department. Her favorable subjects are speaking, methodology, lexicology, and ESP for teachers. Continued Teacher Gender Teaching experiences Qualifications/ training Teaching skills/ subjects in charge Chanh Female 1 year She is a newly- recruited teacher who has just graduated her bachelor course of English for education from College of Foreign Language, She teaches writing. Chanh Female 1 year Vietnam National University, Hanoi for about a year.. Xoai Female 9 years She graduated her bachelor course of English for education from College of Foreign Language, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. Now she is also writing her thesis for the master course of applied linguistics. And she is now the dean of the department. Her interest is in listening and grammar. (Note: Table 1 introduces the teachers who participated in the study. However, all names are pseudonyms) To accomplish the objectives of this study, in the first phase, 12 teachers of TBU mentioned above were interviewed about different aspects related to TBLT. The participated were chosen randomly without any previously fixed criteria. They were explained that their responses to the interview were anonymous. This was to secure the most honest and accurate responses from the participants. In the second phase, some of the teachers will be asked for the permission of class observation, which is for the researcher to get information about the reality of their teaching. The classes observed are mainly classes of English major students, as in teacher’s interviews, most of teachers say that they make effort in teaching methodology renovation in classes of English major students. In other classes, they cannot apply new teaching methods, but the traditional ones – mainly Grammar Translation. The reason for the choice of English major students for new teaching methods application, in teachers’ views, is that these students have had good background of English; they are, therefore, believed to have more ability to be succeeded. English non-major students, in their view, have very limited experience and background knowledge of English because their study of English is mainly for their examinations. 3.4. Instruments This part is used to introduce the reason why the research tools fit the purpose of the study. It is also about the advantages and disadvantages of these instruments. 3.4.1. Interviews Interviewing is an effective research instrument to get real statistics of any aspects in life as it is more natural than questionnaire or some of the other instruments. With the same planned questions, the answers of interviewees may be much various, optional, unpredictable, and different from methods that let the answerers graph on paper sheets. It can provide realistic information for later thought. Therefore, it may be used as the primary research tool or in an ancillary role as a checking mechanism to triangulate data gathered from other sources. According to Mc Donough & Mc Donough (1997: 181), interviewing has three applications in classroom research, i.e. (1) to focus on a specific aspect of classroom life in detail; (2) to know teacher-pupil discussions in class which provides the diagnostic information; (3) to improve the classroom climate. Nunan (1992) adds the following uses to interviews: (1) needs analysis; (2) program evaluation; (3) individual case studies; (4) mini-surveys (within institution). This study fits well with these uses of interviews: - it is to investigate one specific aspect of classroom life, i.e. teacher' exploitations of learning tasks as well as their knowledge of teaching methodology and application ability; – to know teacher-pupil discussions in class, i.e. for the researcher to have the diagnostic information; - and it is actually a mini-survey within a particular university. However, interviewing has its own fails: - it is difficult to control interviewees’ answers and the time; – it is a variety in answers, which requires more efforts and dealing of the researcher in the later phase of the study (interpreting phase); – it is the interviewee who may talk over time but does not focus on the core points. The researcher, therefore, must be sensitive, active and tackful in the way of arousing question and eliciting answers. In spite of all advantages and disadvantages mentioned above, interviewing is profitable to this case study as the final aim of this study is to find out the teachers' attitudes towards teaching methodology, and their conceptualization of a specific teaching method - TBLT. The advantages outweight the disadvantages in such a case. 3.4.2. Observations Classroom observation was conducted in order to bolster the qualitative and quantitative results, i.e. to clarify the validity of the interview answers of the teachers participated. As Hopkins (cited in Mr Donough, J and Mr Donough, S. 1997: l01) descr

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