Towards an understanding of the task-based learning approach in supporting English language teaching and learning : action research in a Chinese university

  • Guizhi Zhang

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Henan University of Urban Construction (HUUC) is a provincial university funded by Henan Province, China. It features Civil Engineering, Construction, and Building Environment majors. The researcher is a lecturer, who has taught College English (CE) more than ten years in the Foreign Languages School of HUUC. CE, understood as general English, is a compulsory subject for the undergraduates of non-English majors during the first and second academic years in Chinese institutions of Higher Education (HE) including HUUC. The author explored to discover whether Task-based Learning (TBL) mitigated the current problems for CE, which had been identified on the initiative of a few administrative staff in the HUUC context. Action Research (AR) was used to implement TBL over a 12-week period during the 2014—2015 academic year. The sample consisted of four CE teachers (including the researcher), 326 first- year undergraduates of non-English majors in three experimental classes, and 267 students in three control classes. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected, and then analysed using statistical and interpretive methods. Findings indicated that TBL, was not well suited to the HUUC context, because of numerous personal and contextual factors such as students’ limitations in motivation, overall abilities and language skills as elements of personal factors, and examination-based syllabus, grammar-based examination, large class sizes, etc. as elements of contextual factors. TBL was, however, effective from the personal point of view in that it led to improvement in teachers’ motivation and total abilities, and students’ motivation, overall abilities and language skills when using TBL. The study provides some findings to teachers, students, researchers, and policy-makers in the development of plans for CE in future. Some recommendations are also provided by the researcher for future research on TBL in China and elsewhere, which have similar contexts for English language teaching and learning.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBarbara Skinner (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Reilly (Supervisor)

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