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Tradition and transition in English language teaching methodology 1 1 Earlier versions of this article appear in Proceedings: Fifth International Symposium on Teaching English, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China, and Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 13 (1), 1–20, 1997
  • Article

March 2000


579 Reads

T. Pica
The field of English language teaching is in transition, as it seeks new approaches, and re-examines older ones, in order to address the range and level of English proficiency required for participation in today's global community. This article describes the context of the transitional period, discusses the contributions of second language acquisition theory and research therein, and reviews classroom principles and related techniques that have already emerged.

"The Case for a Procedural Model" (with Kyung-Ae Cha). System 26 (1998): 205-222
  • Article
  • Full-text available

January 1998


52 Reads

Based on a hermeneutic model for reading, we present a procedural item designed to test discretely several of the multiple ways readers comprehend and express themselves about the content and implications of reading passages. We begin by reviewing briefly findings about existing measures widely used in testing or research (e.g., multiple choice, cloze, recall protocols) in order to make the case that it may be useful to consider an alternative task format such as the one suggested here. Next, the procedural model itself is illustrated as a task hierarchy that can be adapted (scaled) to various levels of text difficulty and to various levels of student proficiency in the second language. Two ways to scale the procedural item (and the rationale in that scaling) are then discussed in detail: (a) the stages for recognizing versus generating language for different stages in completing the item and (b) the stages at which students are asked to use their native or a second language to provide answers. We conclude by summarizing the practical advantages of isolating and sequencing key processes that L2 research identifies as significant for comprehension.

Beyond the year 2000: Phonetic-access dictionaries (with word-frequency information) in EFL

November 1994


10 Reads

Looking up in a dictionary in EFL invariably proceeds in terms of spelling. In listening comprehension tasks a learner must first convert the sound of an unknown word to its graphemic form, a far from trivial and thoroughly frustrating hit-and-miss procedure to beginners and lower-intermediates. The idea of a phonetic-access dictionary is developed, whereby the isolated spoken word is looked up directly in a phonetically transcribed lexicon of either the traditional hard-copy or the more flexible magnetic-media form. Typical applications and benefits to the EFL learner are presented.

Figure 1: System Feedback for the Advanced Learner 
Figure 2: Summary Page 
Student modeling and ab initio Language Learning

December 2003


430 Reads

This paper provides examples of student modeling techniques that have been employed in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) over the past decade. We further discuss two of our own systems and show how different types of CALL programs can, nonetheless, share similar conceptual designs of a student model. First, we describe the German Tutor, an Intelligent Language Tutoring System (ILTS) for German as a Second Language which contains a parser and a grammar that analyze student input. The student model is based on student subject matter performance and provides feedback and remedial exercises suited to learner expertise. Second, we provide an overview of Geroline, an online distance education course for ab initio German learners, and its student model. We show how a student model can support computerized adaptive language testing for diagnostic purposes in a Web-based language learning environment which does not rely on parsing technology. Here, student scores from libraries of sentence-based exercises are used as the raw input for the model.

Changes in language learning beliefs as a result of study abroad

September 2009


637 Reads

Learner beliefs have traditionally been considered stable and static. According to recent research, however, they are dynamic and variable. Under this theory, the current study explores the effects of study abroad on beliefs. Belief questionnaires were administered to 70 English language learners while studying abroad in the United States. Learners were asked to reflect on their beliefs prior to arrival and at the time of the questionnaire administration to investigate what beliefs may change due to study abroad. The learners were divided into two groups according to their amount of time thus far abroad to see if amount of time abroad has an effect on belief changes. Factor analysis identified three underlying dimensions of the learner belief system, which concerned the teacher’s role, learner autonomy, and self-efficacy. Comparisons between pre- and during study-abroad beliefs revealed that learners experienced changes in their beliefs on learner autonomy and the role of the teacher. Those with more time abroad had significantly more changes in their belief systems, suggesting that learning context and length of context exposure influence belief changes. Interviews provided insight into how study-abroad influences beliefs. This study supports the view that beliefs are dynamic, socially constructed, and responsive to context.

A short stay abroad: Does it make a difference?

September 2009


460 Reads

Given that summer abroad programs are becoming more and more popular, the aim of the present study is to find out whether foreign language proficiency can be significantly improved during a summer stay of 3–4 weeks. The present study examines learners’ linguistic gains through oral fluency and accuracy measures as well as a listening comprehension task. Learners’ oral fluency is examined in terms of syllables per minute, other language word ratio, filled pauses per minute, silent pauses per minute, articulation rate, and length of the longest fluent run. The accuracy of learners’ oral production is measured by means of the ratio of error free clauses and the average number of errors per clause. In addition, learners’ errors are classified into 4 categories: morphological errors, syntactic errors, lexical errors and covered errors. Results reveal that these short stays do indeed producfe significant gains on most measures, and that proficiency level strongly affects the intensity of learners’ progress.

Mr Chong: A case study of a dependent learner of English for academic purposes

December 1991


20 Reads

Tutors in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Western higher education institutions are likely to meet, from time to time, overseas students who display what seem very dependent approaches to learning. This is perceived to be a particular problem in disciplines with a heavy cultural bias (implicit or explicit) such as the social sciences and humanities. Lecturers in these areas, in accordance with their educational philosophy, may emphasize the open-ended nature of many academic questions, while the students may be desirous of finding one correct answer in order to do well by “pleasing the teacher”. Such students may be very confused by questions which ask them to give their own views on an issue, or to critically evaluate the work of a respected authority. It was observation of the dependent approach to learning shown by one overseas student when confronted by learning tasks such as these, that suggested the possible value of carrying out a case study, to try to learn more about autonomy and dependence in the approaches to learning of overseas students. The intention was to discover what implications there might be for my work with similar students in future: and as a subsidiary objective, to try to help the student selected for the case study towards greater independence. The present paper describes the stages through which the case study proceeded, focussing in particular on the findings from an informal taped interview with the student, which influenced later stages of the case study. The case study is then looked at from the point of view of more general understanding of the nature of dependence and autonomy in learning and its implications for the work of the EAP tutor are assessed.

The direct testing of academic writing in a second language

December 1982


14 Reads

In recent years, second-language proficiency testing has become increasingly concerned with testing the ability to actually use a language. Despite widespread interest, however, there has been surprisingly little discussion of how to estimate the validity of a language-use test, how to construct one without losing control over what is being tested, or how to evaluate one after it has been constructed. The present paper is an attempt to derive, use and partially validate, for one small area of language use, a theoretical approach to the design of language-use tests, which will be called explicit direct testing.

Rhetorical approaches to the study and composition of academic essays

November 1992


43 Reads

This article focuses on essays at undergraduate level, whether written in the native language or in a second language. It contributes to the view that students can improve the quality of their essays if they concentrate on the rhetorical effects of their writing. Taking a rhetorical-functional approach a study was made of the structuring of essay introductions and endings across six subject departments. The results suggest that the rhetorical organisation of these sections of essays is influenced significantly by the conventions adopted by the subject department. This study leads to several practical approaches, designed to heighten students' sensitivity to rhetoric. The first of these employs reading tasks that combine reflection and analysis; by drawing on departmental texts for this, the local conventions of the subject discipline become apparent. Secondly, the review of draft material by peers is contrasted with that done personally by the essay writer. Some practical suggestions are made for employing personal review effectively. The common goal of these approaches is to assist students to communicate with their readership more effectively through an appreciation of the reader's perspective.

Vocabulary profiles as predictors of the academic performance of TESL trainees

March 2004


600 Reads

Given the cost of running second or foreign language teacher training programs with a high number of in-school placement hours, the selection of candidates who are likely perform well academically and complete their studies is an important consideration. The purpose of the present study was to examine the potential offered by vocabulary profiles as predictors of academic performance in undergraduate Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) programs. To this end, vocabulary profiles were established for 122 TESL students by means of an analysis of 300-word samples of their writing. The students' scores on each profile component were then correlated with the grades they were awarded in two of the grammar courses in their program of study. Finally, the effect of the students' mother tongue on both their vocabulary profiles and academic results was considered. The findings of the study reveal that the students' vocabulary profile results correlated significantly with grades in the more procedurally oriented of the two courses. Furthermore, vocabulary profiles proved to be useful in carrying out a finer assessment of the language skills of high proficiency nonnative speakers than oral interviews can offer.

Assessment for academic purposes: Where next?

December 2000


408 Reads

This paper starts by discussing research into the effect of background knowledge on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) tests and discusses EAP tests in which the content of at least some of the test components is related to students’ fields of academic study. This section shows how research has demonstrated that students do not necessarily do better if they are given tests in their own academic subject areas and how, because of the difficulties inherent in test-equating, such tests may not be testing the students fairly. The paper suggests, therefore, that for international EAP tests, English for Specific Academic Purposes testing be abandoned. In its second part, the paper discusses what EAP tests might consist of in the future. Instead of EAP proficiency tests, the paper suggests that there should be aptitude tests to find out whether L1 and L2 students would be capable of rapidly acquiring the requisite academic discourse practices once they had embarked on their academic courses. Such tests for L2 students should include a test of specific grammatical skills, so that receiving institutions can be sure that students have the requisite linguistic infrastructure needed to carry out academic work in English.

Negotiating grammatical choices: Academic language learning by secondary ESL students

September 2009


138 Reads

This paper reports on a part of a year-long investigation into high school ESL students’ academic language development. Eight participants were pulled out of their intermediate ESL class for weekly 50-minute sessions with the author for a year. While the main focus of the sessions was reading news magazine articles for meaning, the author purposely drew students’ attention to potentially difficult grammatical forms. Four sessions were on sentence-combining strategies in which the participants practiced rewriting sentences and discussed their justifications for their grammatical and rhetorical choices. Multiple solutions were encouraged and the participants negotiated meaning derived from the various ways of rewriting the sentences. These sessions were audio-recorded and transcribed, and each participant’s written responses were analyzed for grammatical accuracy, clarity, and completeness in meaning, and compared with his/her oral justification. The stronger students in the group exhibited greater willingness to experiment with different ways of rewriting sentences and had an “ear” for what academic English sounded like. In contrast, the weaker students stumbled on individual words and had considerable difficulty when presented with multiple sentences. This paper discusses the critical role of the teacher in drawing students’ attention to form within a meaning-driven, interactive discussion of academic English.

Table 1 Scales included in the Classroom Life Instrument
Table 2 Pearson Product-Moment correlation coefficients a
Table 3 Stepwise multiple regression for variables a
The relationship between cooperative learning, perception of social support, and academic achievement

September 2002


7,017 Reads

This article reports on an investigation into the relationship between cooperative learning, perceptions of classroom social support, feelings of alienation from school, and the academic achievement of university-bound learners of English-as-a foreign language (EFL). One hundred and thirty-five participants (73 males, 61 females, and one participant with missing gender data) enrolled in 10 sections of an introductory English course at a private university in Lebanon participated in the study. The participants completed a modified version of the Classroom Life Measure [Johnson and Johnson, Journal of Social Psychology 120 (1983), 77] and their responses were correlated with their academic achievement. Whereas the analysis of the data revealed that cooperative learning and the degree of academic support provided by teachers are positively correlated with achievement, learners' feelings of alienation from school were found to be negatively correlated with achievement. Likewise, the analysis revealed that cooperative learning is positively correlated with the perceived degrees of academic and personal support provided by teachers and peers, but not correlated with the feelings of alienation from school. The results are discussed in light of previous research and with reference to the cultural context of the study.

Learning for life: The potential of academic writing courses for individual EFL learners

March 2005


43 Reads

This case study examined the learning outcomes of three learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) enrolled in different Writing for Academic Purposes courses. Of the many learning outcomes observed, some express self-perceived intrapersonal and interpersonal changes, which in previous research have been named “by-products” of writing courses [Katznelson et al., 2001; Pally, M., Katznelson, H., Perpignan, H., Rubin, B., What is learned in sustained-content writing classes along with writing? Journal of Basic Writing 21 (1) (2002) 90–115; Rubin, B., Perpignan, H., Katznelson, H., 2003. Affective and social changes perceived by students in EFL Academic writing Courses: sources and links. A paper presented at EARLI 10th Bienniel Conference at the University of Padua, Padua, Italy. August 28, 2003]. The research questions for the current study were: (1) What meaningful connections can be made between the three learners’ measured writing apprehension and their measured performance on timed essays on the one hand, and the course outcomes as perceived by the three learners on the other? (2) To what extent did the perceived non-writing learning outcomes – the “by-products” – express the long-term personal and social development of each learner? The data consisted of pre- and post-course scores on the Daly–Miller Writing Apprehension Scale (1975b) and on timed essays, learner responses to two open-ended questions and in-depth interviews, matched with the teachers’ reflective journals. The findings throw light on the idiosyncratic nature of “by-products” and their relationship to other learning outcomes for each student, and, more importantly, on how these “by-products” impact their lives as lifelong learners.

Word-level stress patterns in the academic word list

March 2004


801 Reads

This paper addresses teachers and researchers of English as a second or foreign language who are interested in speech intelligibility training and/or vocabulary acquisition. The study reports a stress-pattern analysis of the Academic Word List (AWL) as made available by Coxhead [TESOL Quarterly 34 (2000) 213]. To examine the AWL in a new way, we identified patterns of word-level stress in the AWL's 525 headwords and 2454 sublist items, or 2979 polysyllabic academic words in all. The report's final table rank orders 39 patterns of word-level stress. We learned that the first 14 patterns encompass over 90% of the AWL's lexical items, while the remaining 25 patterns are low in frequency of occurrence. Results of our analysis may be coupled with information on word-level stress already available in the literature (e.g., systematic shifts in word-level stress—as well as corresponding changes in vowel quality—due to such phenomena as suffixation, derivational morphology, and other aspects of rule-based pedagogy). The paper's concluding section highlights the importance of introducing English for Academic Purposes (EAP) learners to such pattern phenomena in coordination with the word stress frequency data reported in the study.

The role of chunks, phrases and body language in understanding co-ordinated academic lectures

June 1999


84 Reads

A crucial component of academic lectures is the use of chunks, phrases and body language, and their role in facilitating understanding. This paper seeks to examine the functions and contexts of this component in the discourse of academic lectures. As we all know, giving a lecture may not always entail the good understanding of learners. The following study gives teachers or lecturers a reflection on the conditions under which some university teachers use chunks, phrases and body language to ensure better understanding. This topic has been relatively neglected, though any lecture should be judged by what the learners understand of it. The ideas to be discussed emerged from the original data collected from Jordan University of Science and Technology, Jordan, where two academic lectures given by two different teachers on the same topic were tape-recorded, analysed and interpreted. The study showed that teachers use various ways and means to have their messages understood properly. But, these ways and means can be different in terms of quality and quantity.

Test of English as a Foreign Language and First Certificate of English tests as predictors of academic success for undergraduate students at the University of Bahrain

September 1999


57 Reads

The purpose of this study is to examine the multivariate relationships of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the First Certificate of English (FCE), and to determine whether students' total score on the TOEFL or their overall score on the FCE tends to be a better predictor of their success at the University as measured by the overall grade-point average (GPA). Subjects were 86 students enrolled at the University of Bahrain. The multivariate prediction of the GPA from the scores on the FCE is very accurate. Regression analysis revealed that the FCE cloze, and sentence transformation subscores are the only test scores that contributed to the prediction of both student's GPA, and his or her GPA in English courses. The TOEFL section scores did not contribute enough to be maintained in the linear prediction model. Results indicate that the FCE is a better test instrument than the TOEFL, particularly when English is being taught as a foreign language. Since the TOEFL test did not appear to be an effective predictor of students' academic achievement at university level, using it as a test instrument in any of the major language courses taught at the university within an English as a Foreign Language context should be reconsidered.

When writing fails: How academic context and past learning experiences shape revision

March 1996


44 Reads

Much previous research into the revision strategies used by ESL writers has been comparative in nature and has sought to highlight the differences between skilled and less-skilled writers. Results of this research have invariably highlighted the ways in which less-skilled writers are unlike their “betters” and often conclude with recommendations as to how they might go about emulating what the more skilled writer does when he or she revises. As yet, however, little research has concentrated exclusively on the revision strategies of the less-skilled EFL writer or sought to enquire into the possible reasons for such revision behaviour. This study investigates the revision strategies of 15 Spanish native-speaker undergraduates writing in two different discourse types and in two time conditions. Post-writing interview protocols were also analysed to investigate the possible effect of self-imposed and context-imposed constraints on the revision process. Results suggest that, whereas these underachievers revise in similar ways to their ESL counterparts, revision strategies may be initiated by past learning experiences and respond to the perceived nature of the task and the current writing context.

Promoting academic literacy with technology: Successful laptop programs in K-12 schools

December 2004


438 Reads

One of the main challenges that US schools face in educating English language learners is developing their academic literacy. This paper presents case studies of two K-12 schools that successfully employ high-technology environments, including laptop computers for each student, toward the development of English language learners’ academic language proficiency and academic literacy. In the first school, Latino fourth-grade students use laptops and other new technologies for a wide variety of pre- and post-reading tasks as part of their effort to transition from learning to read to reading to learn. In the second school, diverse immigrant and refugee students at the middle school level combine technology use with Expeditionary Learning to carry out community projects leading to the development of sophisticated products. In both schools, technology is used to engage students in cognitively demanding activity, motivate independent reading, and provide scaffolding for language development, while the researchers also made use of technology to document learning processes and outcomes. Taken together, the schools offer valuable lessons for utilization of technology to promote academic literacy among culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Fig. 2. Difference in proportion of variance explained (R 2 ) by suprasegmental features in accentedness vs. comprehensibility ratings ( ¼ syllable per second, art.rate ¼ articulation rate, MLR ¼ mean length of run, PTR ¼ phonation-time ratio, #SP ¼ number of silent pauses, Lng.SP ¼ length of silent pauses, #FP ¼ number of filled pauses, Lng.FP ¼ length of filled pauses, Aty.TP ¼ atypical topic pauses, and pitch.rng ¼ overall pitch range).  
Table 2 Final model summary of stepwise multiple regression of suprasegmental variables on comprehensibility ratings.
Relative salience of suprasegmental features on judgments of L2 comprehensibility and accentedness

June 2010


2,838 Reads

Suprasegmentals have been emphasized in ESL/EFL pedagogy since the advent of communicative language teaching. However, it is still unclear how individual suprasegmental features affect listeners' judgments of non-native speakers' accented speech. The current study began to specify relative weights of individual temporal and prosodic features for listeners' judgments on L2 comprehensibility and accentedness. Using the PRAAT computer program, 5 min of continuous in-class lectures from 11 international teaching assistants (ITAs) were acoustically analyzed for measures of speech rate, pauses, stress, and pitch range. Fifty eight US undergraduate students evaluated the ITAs' oral performance and commented on their ratings. The results revealed that suprasegmental features independently contributed to listeners' perceptual judgments. Accent ratings were best predicted by pitch range and word stress measures whereas comprehensibility scores were mostly associated with speaking rates. ITAs' acoustic profiles as well as listeners' comments on their rating offer practical implications to ITA program developers, ESL teachers, and future research in accented speech.

Fig. 1. The electronic catalogue. 
Fig. 2. Needs analysis – rating current and goal levels. 
Fig. 3. Needs analysis: setting learning goals. 
Big brother is helping you: Supporting self-access language learning with a student monitoring system

March 2007


69 Reads

Self-access and language advising are relatively recent and increasingly common types of language support offered in schools and tertiary institutions around the world. There is a great deal of anecdotal support for the positive contribution of such support to student learning. Self-access and language advising hold strong potential as learner-centred and highly flexible approaches. In addition, there are many sound practical reasons for offering self-access as complementary to or as an alternative to classroom teaching, especially in situations where existing learning needs are too great or diverse to be met by traditional methods. At the same time, there are concerns about the effectiveness (how well they help students learn) and efficiency (how quickly students learn) of these approaches and more research is clearly needed. This article reports how one centre has attempted to take into account some of the challenges reported in previous literature by developing an electronic learning environment that better prepares students for and guides them in their self-directed learning. In addition it reports on the implementation of an extensive monitoring system of student learning, that allows for the provision of more tailored language support than previously possible.

Practising what we preach: Teaching teachers about self-directed learning through the integrated use of self-access environments in the teacher training course

December 1982


16 Reads

The author suggests that many teacher training courses merely encourage lip-service to methodological developments because they fail to provide participants with an opportunity to actually experience the methodology—to see it from the inside as it were. By failing to practise what we preach we may be sending a different ‘message’ from the one we think we are sending. The paper illustrates one way of setting up and running a self-access centre, by describing a specific situation, and contains examples of some of the materials used.“Teachers, like parents, need to find a way of fostering independence, but an independence based on the development of internalized criteria, not simply on the rejection of authority...” (Allwright 1978).

The role of the self-access centre in the tertiary language learning process

June 2008


3,744 Reads

This paper discusses the role of the self-access centre (SAC) in tertiary language learning and teaching, a role which has developed out of the changes that have occurred within the disciplines of Applied Linguistics and Education as well as from wider changes in technology and society itself. As the focus in language learning has moved, over the past thirty years, from the teacher to the learner, self-access language learning has emerged as a complement to the more traditional face-to-face learning model, with SACs now operating in many parts of the world.One aim of the study was to develop a theory of how a SAC operates, in other words to answer the question “What is a self-access centre?” Central to this is the place that the SAC plays in the learning and teaching process. The study suggested that the SAC plays four main roles: bringing together language learning and independent learning, enabling the learner to improve both linguistic proficiency and independent learning skills, providing the necessary resources and providing learner support. The study also identified a number of constraints that can hinder SACs from playing a fully effective and efficient role in the learning and teaching process.

The open access sound and video library of the University of Cambridge: Progress report and development

December 1982


16 Reads

This paper intends to outline some of the pedagogical and administrative problems involved in the organisation and development of an open access and video library.In the first part of the paper, we briefly describe the layout of the library and the audience for which the system was created.The second part of the paper describes how we set about to improve the present system in practical terms in order to match the facilities available to the learners' needs, and part 3 offers a quantitative evaluation.Lastly, in part 4, we make a critical assessment of the limitations of the set up and describe how we intend to develop the sound and video “on the spot” library into a language learning resource centre, by creating a counselling service which will operate as a matching device between the resources available and individuals' needs and will be responsible for the provision of new materials used outside the premises to small independent groups of learners engaged in communicative activities.

Obstacles to access: An investigation into the perceptual strategies of the non-native learner of english

December 1987


9 Reads

Recent investigations into the reading processes of the efficient learner of English as a foreign language all tend to emphasize the importance of activating the “schemata” which already exist from first language reading and experience of the world. According to this view the same individual should be able to comprehend a text with almost equal facility whether it is written in the native language or the foreign language, given texts of equal conceptual load and sufficient foreign language competence. Classroom observation indicates, however, that this is not always the case. This observation was tested out in an experiment with native speakers of Hebrew in which the same respondent was asked to carry out the same task after reading texts in Hebrew and in English, texts which were expected to be as difficult conceptually in both languages. The results suggest that there is a powerful affective factor which completely blocks the reading in English of some students and severely limits the comprehension of a considerable number of others when they meet difficulties in the foreign language text. Some implications of the results for classroom instruction are mentioned.

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