Teaching English to Young Learners in Taiwan: Issues Relating to Teaching, Teacher Education, Teaching Materials and Teacher Perspectives

Title
Teaching English to Young Learners in Taiwan: Issues Relating to Teaching, Teacher Education, Teaching Materials and Teacher Perspectives

Keywords
EFL textbook evaluation (Taiwan); EFL lesson evaluation (Taiwan); teacher cognition and English language education (Taiwan); teaching English to young learners (Taiwan); the teaching of English in primary schools (Taiwan)

Author
WANG, WEI-PEI
University of Waikato

A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics at The University of Waikato

Abstract
Since 2005, it has been government policy in Taiwan to introduce English in Grade 3 of primary schooling (when learners are generally age 9). The overall aim of this research project was to investigate some of the problems associated with the implementation of this policy by combining research involving teacher cognition with research involving the criterion-referenced analysis of a sample of textbooks produced in Taiwan for young learners and a sample of lessons taught in Taiwanese primary schools.
A questionnaire-based survey of a sample of teachers of English in Taiwanese primary schools (166 respondents) was conducted, focusing on teacher background and training, views about national and local policies, approaches to course content, methodology and teaching resources, and perceptions of their own proficiency in English and of their own training needs. Only 46 (27%) of the respondents reported that they had a qualification specific to the teaching of English and 41 (25%) reported that they had neither a qualification in teaching English nor a general primary teaching qualification. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of policies relating to the teaching of English at national level (46/ 29%), local level (39/24%) and in their own school (28/17%). Although many reported that the availability of resources (125/ 75%) and/ or student interest (101/ 61%) played a role in determining what they taught, none reported that the national curriculum guidelines did so. Although official policy in Taiwan endorses the use of communicative language teaching , only 103 (62%) of respondents reported that their own approach was communicatively- oriented, with 18 (11%) observing that they preferred grammar-translation.
A more in-depth survey relating to teacher perception of pre- and in-service training was conducted using a questionnaire and semi-structured interview. Although all 10 participants in this survey are officially classified as being trained to teach English in Taiwanese primary schools, the type and extent of their training varied widely and all of them expressed dissatisfaction with that training, noting that they had no confidence in the trainers own competence in teaching English to young learners. All claimed that critical issues were either omitted altogether or dealt with in a superficial way.
One contextual factor that has a significant impact on teacher performance in Taiwan is the quality of the textbooks that are generally available. A sample of textbooks (3 different series) produced in Taiwan was analyzed and evaluated, the analysis revealing that the materials were often poorly organized, inappropriately selected and illustrated, contextually inappropriate.
Finally, from a sample of twenty videotaped English lessons taught to students in primary schools in Taiwan, six that were considered to be typical were transcribed, analyzed and evaluated in relation to criteria derived from a review of literature on teaching effectiveness. All of these lessons were found to be characterized by problems in a number of areas, including lesson focus, lesson staging, concept introduction, concept checking, and the setting up and conducting activities.
It is concluded that the implementation of official policy on the teaching of English in primary schools in Taiwan is fraught with problems, problems that are evident at every stage in the process, from teacher education, through materials design to lesson planning and delivery.

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