Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Feasibility Study of Task-Based Teaching of College English Writing in Chinese EFL Context

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Feasibility Study of Task-Based Teaching of College English Writing in Chinese EFL Context

Article excerpt

Abstract

In this study the author draws on Jane Willis' TBL framework and examines its effects on the improvement of EFL learners' writing competence when such a framework is applied to college writing classrooms in Chinese EFL settings, and thus tentatively explores the feasibility of the task-based approach to the teaching of EFL writing. Results of this study are derived from discussion concerned with qualitative data and quantitative data yielded from a quasi-experiment designed for this research, and reveal that the application of Willis' framework for TBL to Chinese writing classrooms will have some positive influences upon college EFL learners' understanding of a good piece of English writing, greatly help them to solve some problems related to composing, and thereby significantly improve their writing competence. This study attempts to provide the teaching of EFL writing or even the discipline of teaching writing a feasible and effective approach.

Keywords: feasibility, writing competence, task-based approach, teaching of EFL writing

1. Introduction

It is widely acknowledged that "writing is not only a means of communicating but also a tool of learning a language" (Wolff, 2000). It often helps people to clarify ideas and to create new ones. However EFL learners in Chinese settings score low in English writing task, according to statistics of international language test analysists, such as IELTS, TOFEL. How to improve learners' writing competence is a significant topic for language teachers. This study is undertaken to test an extensively worked-out framework in task-based language pedagogy for its feasibility in improving college EFL learners' writing competence based on a thorough analysis of qualitative and quantitative data yielded from a quasi-experiment in which an experimental class and a control class are designated randomly, in order to tentatively provide the teaching of EFL writing and even the discipline of writing pedagogy and practices another feasible and innovative approach to improving learners' writing competence.

In this study, we refer to Jane Willis' framework for task-based learning as the 'task-based approach', which we tentatively draw on to organize activities in writing classrooms to test whether there is feasibility or not in the improvement of college EFL learners' writing competence under the influence of such a task-based approach, this paper aims to address the following issues:

1. Will 'the task-based approach to the teaching of EFL writing' be a real help for college EFL learners to solve problems encountered in writing classrooms where common writing methods have been adopted?

2. Will 'the task-based approach to the teaching of EFL writing' bring forth significant improvement in college EFL learners' writing competence?

2. Significance of the Study

2.1 Theoretical Significance of the Study

In the discussion of writing theories and pedagogies, the focus of attention has been on two main approaches, namely 'product-oriented approach' and 'process-oriented approach'. The 'product approach' focuses on "the final product, the coherent, error-free text". The 'process approach', on the other hand, places its emphasis on "the steps involved in drafting and redrafting a piece of work" (Nunan, 2001, p. 272).

However, these two approaches leave some problems unsolved in the teaching of writing because of limitations and shortcomings inherent in them. As a consequence of the development of CLT, task-based learning has arrived on language pedagogy scene. As far as TBL is concerned, "both processes and outcomes are taken care of", and furthermore, "there is a compatible and creative relationship between the two" (Nunan, 1989, p. 14). Therefore, if TBL theory is integrated with the teaching of writing, its attention will be naturally focused on both the writing process and end products. However, although much effort has been made to explore the theoretical accounts of task-based language pedagogy (see, for example, Willis, 1996; Skehan, 1998; Bygate, Skehan, and Swain, 2000) and of the teaching of writing ( Horowitz, 1986; Walshe, 1987; Wolff, 2000), the investigation of the task-based teaching of writing, especially task-based teaching of EFL writing, is leftrather much untouched. …

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