Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

A Comparative Study of Activity Preferences of Learners and Teachers in College English Teaching and Its Implications for Curriculum Design

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

A Comparative Study of Activity Preferences of Learners and Teachers in College English Teaching and Its Implications for Curriculum Design

Article excerpt


The present paper takes as its point of departure methodological aspects of the curriculum, and specifically, it attempts at a comparative study of activity preferences of teachers and learners, and wishes to invest tentative thoughts and efforts in College English (CE) curriculum design. It conducts an empirical study on divergent views of 132 students and 30 CE teachers in University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB) by means of questionnaire on 50 learning activities derived through interviews with a group of teachers and learners. Major findings indicate that there is a considerable lack of correspondence between learners' and teachers' opinions on various learning activities, and teachers respond more favorably to communicative activities while learners express stronger liking attitudes towards non-communicative activities. To provide a comprehensive picture, learners' attitudes towards various learning activities are also examined carefully, which reveals that they embrace both communicative and traditional activities. Tentative implications of the study for curriculum design are:

1) it sets up an empirical basis for methodology design in curriculum development by providing a detailed picture of learners' preferences;

2) it establishes a useful operating model for prompting a learner-centered curriculum by suggesting several mechanisms such as negotiation and consultation, incorporation of learners' feedback and flexibility and adaptation;

3) it supplies the rationale for specifying and optimizing CE classroom teaching by impressing teachers with the divergences of learner teacher views on learning activities.

Keywords: activity preferences, College English teaching, learners, teachers, curriculum design

1. Introduction

In recent years' EFL pedagogy research, there is a noteworthy shiftof focus from preoccupation with teachers' role in course planning, implementation and evaluation to incorporation of learners' needs and attitudes in these processes. Accordingly, the newly promulgated College English Curriculum Requirements (For Trial Implementation) by the Ministry of Education in China calls for 180 experimental institutions of higher learning nationwide to develop an individualized curriculum as a guidance for their own College English (CE) programs. One of the central themes of the Requirements is to replace the traditional unitary teacher-dominant pattern with a learner-centered one. In such a curriculum, it is important that all aspects of the curriculum process be informed by attitudes of the learners rather than be decided by the teachers who base most assumptions on whatever they believe are legitimate. Meanwhile, many studies have already shown that there can be considerable discrepancies of opinion between learners and their teachers or syllabus experts on various elements of curriculum design. A divergence of opinion between these two groups has been noted in relation to what learners need, what they prefer, and the nature of language and language learning (Brindley 1984; Nunan 1988b; Kumaravadivelu 1991). These divergences by all means hinder the effective achievement of course objectives. Among various elements of curriculum development, the methodological aspect, which includes various classroom techniques and learning activities, is generally the area where there is the greatest potential for conflict between the learner and the teacher. In a traditional curriculum, this disagreement would probably be ignored on the grounds that the "teacher knows best", while in a learner-centered teaching model, it is crucial that any conflicts be resolved and learners' needs and attitudes be incorporated in the process of curriculum design.

2. Literature Review

Various studies have been conducted to explore different perceptions of teachers and learners on methodological aspects of curriculum design. These studies appear to have focused on three areas: teachers' preferred activities, learners' opinions on their activity preferences, and comparisons of learners' and teachers' activity preferences. …

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