What should be taken into account when designing ‘English for specific purposes’ materials?

Abstract. In the context of Vietnam’s international integration, there is an increasing demand for a labor force that can use English to communicate effectively in their work place. In order to meet this demand, many Vietnamese universities now offer English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses. However, these ESP courses are often developed by teachers who have no professional training and little experience in ESP and the quality of these ESP materials is questionable. With a view to improving the quality of ESP materials, this paper analyzes some weaknesses of the book “English for Physics” which was used at the Faculty of English, Hanoi National University between 2004 and 2010. On the basis of this analysis, the question of what should be taken into account when designing ESP materials will be discussed and suggestions will be made. The three main suggestions for ESP material design are based on a student needs analysis, ESP material writing that follows a systematic procedure, and ESP material writers who have some principles in mind when they present a guide to the process of writing. It is hoped that this study will give an insight into ESP materials that are used in Vietnamese universities and elsewhere.

pdf6 trang | Chia sẻ: thanhle95 | Lượt xem: 98 | Lượt tải: 0download
Bạn đang xem nội dung tài liệu What should be taken into account when designing ‘English for specific purposes’ materials?, để tải tài liệu về máy bạn click vào nút DOWNLOAD ở trên
JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2014, Vol. 59, No. 5, pp. 138-143 This paper is available online at WHAT SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN DESIGNING ‘ENGLISH FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES’ MATERIALS? Ta Thanh Binh Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. In the context of Vietnam’s international integration, there is an increasing demand for a labor force that can use English to communicate effectively in their work place. In order to meet this demand, many Vietnamese universities now offer English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses. However, these ESP courses are often developed by teachers who have no professional training and little experience in ESP and the quality of these ESP materials is questionable. With a view to improving the quality of ESP materials, this paper analyzes some weaknesses of the book “English for Physics” which was used at the Faculty of English, Hanoi National University between 2004 and 2010. On the basis of this analysis, the question of what should be taken into account when designing ESP materials will be discussed and suggestions will be made. The three main suggestions for ESP material design are based on a student needs analysis, ESP material writing that follows a systematic procedure, and ESP material writers who have some principles in mind when they present a guide to the process of writing. It is hoped that this study will give an insight into ESP materials that are used in Vietnamese universities and elsewhere. Keywords: English for Specific Purposes (ESP), materials. 1. Introduction Together with the rapid speed of globalization and continuing increase of international communication is a growing demand for ESP. Recently, ESP has been made compulsory in many university programs in Vietnam. However, we see that most ESP materials are limited to specialized lexicon and sentence structures, an approach which fundamentally ignores learners’ needs and interests. The result is little motivation to learn English and the resulting low English competency. The Division of English for Specific Purposes of the Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education, has designed ESP curricula and materials for the Received January 25, 2014. Accepted June 20, 2014. Contact Ta Thanh Binh, e-mail address: binh.tathanh@gmail.com 138 What should be taken into account when designing English for specific purposes materials? Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy, Geography and History departments and this teaching material was used from 2004 to 2010. Since a credit-based program was adopted at our university in 1998 the responsibility of teaching ESP has shifted from teachers of the English language department to teachers of other subjects. Recently, our colleagues working in several faculties at our university have asked us (ESP teachers from faculty of English) to create ESP courses for their faculties. We proposed a curricula development and research project, “Developing ESP curricula and materials for faculties of History, Vietnamese Studies, and Social Work at Hanoi University of Education,” which has been approved and funded by the university’s scientific research department. In order to develop better ESP curricula and materials, we first had to look at the curricula and materials then in use. We chose the course book “English for Physics” as an example to show the quality of ESP materials that were in use in our university. and then made recommendations on what should be taken into account when designing ESP materials. Although our recommendations have been made in relation to the project at Hanoi National University, it is hoped that they might be useful for others who wish to design ESP teaching materials. The main discussion consists of three parts. The first part is a brief introduction to the course book “English for Physics”. In the second part we point out some weaknesses of the material and discuss possible causes. Finally, give some recommendations on what should be taken into account when designing ESP materials. 2. Content 2.1. Description of the English for Physics course book The course, English for Physics, was offered at the Hanoi National University of Education between 2004 and 2010. It was taken by students who were studying to become future teachers of Physics. The course book consists of six units, Motion, Heat, Light, Electricity, Magnetism, and Atoms and Molecules. Each unit centers around a reading text on a specific topic. There are seven parts in each unit: 1) Vocabulary, 2) Reading comprehension, 3) Grammar focus, (4) Discussion, 5) Writing, 6) Translation and 7) Extra reading. In Vocabulary, students are asked to guess the meaning of 10 words which are embedded in ten separate sentences and then use those words to fill in the blanks in 10 other sentences. In Reading Comprehension, students read a text of about 300 words and do three activities: 1) Words matching; 2) True or False; and 3) Comprehension questions. In Grammar Focus, one or two grammatical rules are reviewed, and then grammatical exercises are provided. The Discussion section consists of questions to be discussed. In the Writing section, students do three writing exercises: fill in the gap, rewrite the sentence and sentence building. The Translation section consists of 139 Ta Thanh Binh 10 sentences, five of which are in Vietnamese, the other five in English. Students are asked to translate the English sentences into Vietnamese and the Vietnamese sentences into English. In the last section, Extra Reading, there are usually three exercises: comprehension questions, true or false questions, words matching questions, and fill in the gap exercises. 2.2. Evaluation of the English for Physics course book It can be said that the English for Physics course book used in our university is highly structured and has a clear format. However, feedback from the students and teachers who used the material shows that there are several shortcomings. First, most students stated that the material is boring because the same types of exercises are repeated in the same order in every unit. Teachers followed this structure and found it not interesting to use the material. Moreover, many teachers said that there is not much for them to do because this material is exercise-based and the teacher role is reduced to giving correct answers and explaining new words. Last but not least, the discussion questions are often skipped because they are not interesting. In addition, there are no listening activities which means that students are not exposed to spoken English and they do not practice using spoken English. Below is a more detailed analysis of the weaknesses of the course book. The course objectives are too general, the vocabulary and grammar to be learned not identified in the course syllabus. Task one of the Vocabulary section requires students to guess the meanings of the underlined words. However, that single sentence generally does not provide enough context for them to make a guess. In addition, difficult words in the text were not included in the Vocabulary section and their meaning could be inferred from the context. Reading passages lack gradation in length & difficulty level. Each passage in six units is of about the same length and level of difficulty and they do not contain the stylistic features (register/genre) generally found in written physics materials. And, because the reading texts are so basic and simple, students can answer the questions without even reading the text. The grammar rules in Grammar section lacks gradation and variety: there are four units dealing with “passive voice” (units 2, 3, 4 and 6), one unit with a “relative clause” (unit 5), and one unit with a modal verb (“can” in unit 1). Each unit is based on a reading text on a certain topic and examples of grammar rules are limited to the reading text content.. Questions in the Discussion section are presented without prompts or guidance and students do not feel motivated to speak. Consequently, this section is often skipped. The Writing section exists at the sentence level only; there are no paragraphs and essay writing is not required. Translation is also done at the sentence level and the sentence content is not consistent with the lesson topic of the lesson. Therefore, translation does not help students learn the new words presented. There are several reasons why the above material weaknesses exist. First, false 140 What should be taken into account when designing English for specific purposes materials? assumptions regarding the students’ needs were made when designing the course. Second, the materials were not designed systematically, ostensibly because of a lack of time and funds. Third, the course syllabus and the format of each unit were made by a teacher from the Faculty of English who did not consider the physics curriculum used by the physics students. Finally, the different units were written by different teachers who did not follow any specific guidelines. On the basis of the above analysis, we have made some suggestions on how to create an improved ESP curricula and materials. 2.3. Suggestions for designing new ESP materials 2.3.1. ESP materials should be based on students’ needs Analyzing the specific needs of a particular learner group should be a prelude to ESP material design that determines the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the ESP course. Yong Chen [4] also reached the conclusion that ESP material designers should first identify students’ potential needs. Material writers should take into consideration all aspects of learners’ needs. Needs analysis in ESP, according to Dudley-Evans and St John [2], should include consideration of the following aspects: 1) An understanding of the tasks and activities for which students will be using English; 2) Personal information about the students should include students’ previous learning experiences, cultural information, reasons for attending the course and their expectations of it, and their attitude towards English; 3) Current level of English language skill; 4) The difference between the students’ current competence level and the requirements of their profession; 5) Ways that the targeted students can learn English; 6) Knowledge of how English is used in the target situation; 7) Course goals; 8) Information about the environment in which the course will be run. 2.3.2. ESP material writing should be done systematically The procedure used by Hutchinson & Waters [3] is a good example to follow. Stage 1: Find your text. Stage 2: Go to the end of the model. Think of tasks that learners could do at the end of the unit. Stage 3: Go back to the syllabus: Will the task or activity be beneficial to the students? Stage 4: Decide what language structures; vocabulary, functions, and content should 141 Ta Thanh Binh be included. Stage 5: Design exercises and activities that will allow students to practice items targeted. Stage 6: Go back to the input: Can it be revised to make it more useful? Try out any revisions on students if possible. Stage 7: Take the revision through stage 1 – 6 again. Stage 8: Check the new materials against the syllabus and amend accordingly. Stage 9: Try out the new materials in the classroom. Stage 10: Most importantly, revise the materials in light of classroom use. There is no such a thing as perfect material. Materials can be always be improved. 2.3.3. ESP material writers must keep certain principles in mind as they write the materials The principles identified by Hutchinson & Water [3] can be used as a reference: 1) Materials provide a stimulus to learning. Thus, good materials must contain: interesting texts; enjoyable activities; opportunities to use existing knowledge and skills; and content that both the students and teachers can deal with. 2) Materials help to organize the teaching-learning process. Good materials should provide a clear and coherent unit structure which will guide teachers and students though various activities in such a way as to maximize the likelihood that they will learn. However, good materials should not be so tightly structured as to produce a monotonous pattern of lessons. In other words, a materials model must be clear and systematic but flexible enough for creativity and variety [2]. 3) Materials embody a view of the nature of language and learning. In writing material you, as an author, are making all manner of statements about what you think language learning consist of. Material should, therefore, truly reflect what you think and feel about the learning process. 4) Materials reflect the nature of the learning task. It is noted that language learning is a complex process that involves many different kind and levels of knowledge. Material should create a balanced outlook which both reflects the complexity of the task and makes it appear to be manageable. 5) Materials can broaden the basis of teacher training by introducing teachers to new techniques. 6) Materials provide models of correct and appropriate language use. This is a necessary function of material, but it is all too often taken as the only purpose, with the result that materials become simply a statement of language use rather than a vehicle for language learning. 142 What should be taken into account when designing English for specific purposes materials? 3. Conclusion In this article I have analyzed some weaknesses of the course book English for Physics used at the Faculty of English, Hanoi National University and then recommended what should be taken into account when designing ESP materials. In summary, the main suggestions are: 1) ESP material design should be based on students’ needs analysis; 2) ESP material writing should follow a systematic procedure and finally 3) ESP material writers must keep some principles in mind to serve as a guide in the process of writing. It is hoped that these suggestions not only help teachers at Hanoi National University of Education in our new project of developing ESP curricula and materials, but also benefits other ESP materials designers working in other universities in Vietnam. REFERENCES [1] Dudley Evans, T. & St John, M. J., 1998. Developments in English for Specific. Purposes: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [2] Hutchinson, T. & Waters, A., 1987. English for Specific Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [3] Yong, Chen., 2006. From common core to specific. Asian ESP Journal Online, 1(3), 24-47. Retrieved Nov 28th, 2006 from 143
Tài liệu liên quan