To Teach More or More to Teach: Vocabulary-Based Instruction in the Chinese EFL Classroom

| March 24, 2012
To Teach More or More to Teach: Vocabulary-Based Instruction in the Chinese EFL Classroom

Keywords: Explicit teaching, vocabulary instruction, Chinese EFL classroom, teaching strategies

Eunice Tang
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China

Bio Data
Eunice Tang is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests cover vocabulary teaching and learning, and pre-service teacher education. Recent publications include: Vocabulary Size of Hong Kong Primary and Junior Secondary School Students, A Cultural Framework of Chinese learn English , Lexical Input From ESL Textbooks, Blog-Based Teaching Portfolios, and Teacher Talk as Lexical Input.

In the Chinese EFL classroom, explicit teaching of vocabulary is the dominant paradigm. While there are pragmatic and cultural reasons behind this teaching practice, the techniques used by teachers to fulfill the vocabulary requirement in the syllabus and textbooks have never been studied. In this descriptive research, an analytical framework of vocabulary teaching based on the work of Ellis and his co-researchers (1994; 1995; and 1999) and Tang and Nesi (2003) on the various types of oral input and output in promoting vocabulary learning of planned and unplanned words was adopted to study vocabulary instruction in English classrooms in Chinese universities. Six teachers from three universities of different categories were invited to take part in lesson recording. A total of 1,360 minutes of classroom data was collected, transcribed, coded and analyzed. It was found that Chinese teachers shared similar teaching patterns and required minimal participation from learners. They spent a substantial amount of time dealing with vocabulary. However, words which deserved more thorough treatment and recycling were sacrificed in order to teach a larger quantity of new words within the assigned class time. The classroom data also suggests that the teaching method was monotonous, implying that teachers are unsure about exactly what to teach, how to teach, what types of knowledge are needed for the learners and what types of learning processes they adopt. When vocabulary-based instruction is indispensable in an EFL lesson and crucial in fulfilling the curriculum and textbook requirement, a good understanding of the prevailing teaching practices is essential for curriculum and textbook development and pedagogical research.
[private] See page: 254-297

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Category: Main Editions, Volume 14 Issue 1