Academic journal article International Education Studies

Activity Theory as a Framework for Designing the Model of College English Listening

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Activity Theory as a Framework for Designing the Model of College English Listening

Article excerpt


Activity theory signifies that activities are at the centre of human behaviour and it has been used to study cognitive process in many fields. Nowadays, college English listening learning is time-consuming but less effective in China, so enhancing the performance of listening instruction is a very hot topic. Theoretically, activity theory is able to provide a proper framework for analyzing motive, designing tasks, contributing rules and tools in English listening in English as foreign language environment. Therefore, it is necessary and significant to unify the activity theory to design a novel model of listening comprehension and to analyze the college English listening from a different perspective. According to the theoretical analysis, activity theory is a useful framework to design the model of college English listening and to provide learner-centered education.

Keywords: activity theory, learning activities, model of listening

1. Introduction

English listening is hard work and it deserves more analysis and learning. At the same time, in English as foreign language environment, college English listening (college students' English listening proficiency) has been paid so much attention, because it is a complicated process, in which students must discriminate sounds, understand vocabulary and structure, interpret stress and intonation, grasp speakers' meaning. In China, listening, which is time-consuming but less effective, has been the weak link in college English instruction. Therefore, constructing an efficient listening model for college English instruction is currently one of the vital research subjects to boost English listening comprehension.

Activity theory, which is an intricate framework that aims to analyze activity systems in human beings and to focus on the interaction between human activity and its relevant environment context, has been used to study cognitive process in various fields, such as computer-based learning (Zurita et al., 2007), personal learning environment (Blina et al, 2008), group working analysis in education (Choi & Kang, 2009), learning objects (Hansson, 2012), etc. So, in this study, the activity theory and college listening will be unified to analyze listening motive, tasks, rules, tools and outcomes in order to design a novel mode of listening comprehension and to analyze the college English listening from a new perspective in China.

2. Literature Review

Activity theory belongs to a concept of psychology which mainly claims that "activity" is the logical starting point and central area of the subject, so activity theory can be used to study and explain the occurrence and development of human behaviours. Originally, activity theory can trace its roots from the classical German philosophy of Kant and Hegel and Marxist dialectical materialism. In recent years, it develops and grows rapidly in the field of pedagogical psychology (Mosvold et al., 2011). Therefore, to some extent, activity theory is not a simple methodology but a theoretical framework and an interdisciplinary pattern for analyzing different forms of human behaviours in a socio-cultural and socio-historical lens.

2.1 Activity Theory

Activity theory is developed by Russian psychologists Vygotsky (1978) and Leontiev (1979). They claim: "Consciousness is constructed through subject's interactions with the world and is an attribute of the relationship between subject and object." Activity theory emphasizes that human behaviours and social changes should be explained from the socio-cultural and socio-historical perspective so that any human activities can be viewed as a multidirectional, structured and interactive system.

Also, activity cannot be understood and analyzed outside the context in which it occurs. Therefore, activity theory usually includes four parts: (1) Activity is a complicated interactive process between human beings (the subject) and external environment (the object); (2) Activity possesses a variety of types and levels; (3) Activity has various impacts on people's existence and development. …

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