Thailand TESOL International
Conference Proceedings 2014
Century English Language Education:
Towards Global Citizenship
January 17 – 18, 2014
The Empress Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand TESOL International Conference in Chiang Mai early this year
was successful in creating an intellectually stimulating atmosphere, providing our participants
with opportunities to present and discuss innovations, trends and concerns in TESOL. We are
privileged to inform our readership and contributors that the Proceedings of the 34th
Thailand TESOL International Conference 2014 are now available online.
Under the conference theme of 21st
Century English Language Education: Towards
Global Citizenship, the proceedings feature an interesting assortment of seven articles in
which contributors share their insights from their teaching and research experiences from a
variety of socio-cultural contexts. This collection of articles offers our local and international
communities of TESOL practitioners and researchers both pedagogical and theoretical
insights on current trends in TESOL in order to keep them abreast of developments in the
field. We therefore hope that our readership will find the articles both intellectually inspiring
and pedagogically useful in their research and teaching milieu.
We would like to take this opportunity once again to thank all of our conference
participants, esteemed international partners, and devoted conference organizing committee
members for their support of the conference. We appreciate having received a warm welcome
and excellent coordination from site committee members in Chiang Mai. Our profound
gratitude and appreciation also go to all authors, reviewers, and IT specialists for all their
expertise, tireless work and dedication to bring the proceedings to fruition. It has been our
pleasure working with true professionals.
On a final note, we trust that Thailand TESOL will enjoy the continued support of its
wide and varied audience and that we will join hands in making the mastery of the English
language a more readily achievable goal for English language learners. We thus look forward
to welcoming you again in our next year’s conference under the theme of English Language
Education in Asia: Reflections and Directions to be held on January 29-31, 2015 in Bangkok,
Unchalee Sermsongswad, Thailand TESOL President
Pragasit Sitthitikul , Proceedings Chair
Pramarn Subphadoongchone, Proceedings Editor
Pragasit Sitthitikul Thammasat University
Pramarn Subphadoongchone Chulalongkorn University
Acharawan Buripakdi Walailak University
Chaleosri Pibulchol Srinakharinwirot University
Dumrong Adunyarittigun Thammasat University
Ira Rasikawati Universitas Kristen Krida Wacana
Janpanit Surasin Burapha University
Jirada Wudthayagorn Chulalongkorn University
Kittitouch Soontornwipast Thammasat University
Miranda Lin Illinois State University
Nopporn Sarobol Thammasat University
Pattamawan Jimarkon King Mongkut's University of Technology
Phaisit Boriboon Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University
Richmond Stroupe Soka University
Sita Yiemkuntitavorn Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University
Stephen M. Ryan Stamford International University
Supakorn Phoocharoensil Thammasat University
Watana Padgate Naresuan University
Table of Contents
Teaching discussion skills at a Thai university through the annotation of videos
Thai-Serbian A2 university EFL learners’ perspectives on learning and teaching oral
English communication skills
David Allen Bruner
Yaruingam Phungshok Shimray
Effects of classroom praise on student engagement in online discussions
Matthew A. Carey
The perspectives of EFL Thai teachers on self-assessment
The engineering phrases list: Towards teachable ESP phrases
Abstracts writing: A case study of ScienceDirect top 25 hottest articles
16, 18, 20, 24? Correlation between student contact hours and student achievement
for English as a second or foreign language Learners
Teaching Discussion Skills at a Thai University Through
the Annotation of Videos
Mahidol University International College
One goal of the language program at the Preparation Center for
Languages and Mathematics at Mahidol University International College
is for students to be able to discuss an academic topic in a small group.
To interact successfully in this context, a student must be able to offer
points of view, agree or disagree with other points of view, ask for
clarification, switch topics, etc. In this pilot study, which involved a total
of 40 students enrolled in language courses in the Preparation Center for
Languages and Mathematics at Mahidol University International
College, the researchers used a video editing program to illustrate these
elements of discussion using videos of students’ own group discussions.
The students were then instructed to use the editor to annotate
subsequent discussion videos with the same elements. In this way, the
researchers were able to encourage students to engage more deeply in
self-assessment and peer assessment.
Keywords: group discussion, video annotation, self-assessment, peer
Meaningful interaction is critical to liberal arts education. Blaich, Bost, Chan, and
Lynch (2004) posit that one of the three factors supporting liberal arts education is “an
institutional ethos and tradition that place a strong value of student-student and student-
faculty interactions both in and out of the classroom” (p. 12). With the stated goal of
“providing quality liberal arts education” (“A liberal arts education in an Asian setting,”
2 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
2012, para. 1), Mahidol University International College (MUIC) subscribes to this theory.
Accordingly, preparing students to interact with each other and with their teachers is
important to the success of MUIC. Many students entering MUIC first study for one or more
terms in the Preparation Center for Languages and Mathematics (PC), a program that readies
students for the rigors of academic life at MUIC. Effective communication and meaningful
interaction are the foci of the PC program. This paper will focus on one type of interaction,
small group discussions. More specifically, it will describe a pilot study undertaken by two
teachers at PC with the intention of improving student interaction in small group discussions.
This paper will begin by briefly explaining the context in which the study was conducted. It
will then ground the study in relevant research and describe the problem of practice that the
study addressed. Next, it will report the procedure and results of the pilot study, which
involved the use of video editing software to comment on recordings of students’ small group
discussions. Finally, it will discuss the effectiveness of the methods used and suggest avenues
for future research.
Background information at the regional, national, and institutional levels is necessary
to understanding this study. At the regional level, communication in English is of growing
importance. The working language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is English
(ASEAN Secretariat, 2009). In 2015, the ASEAN Economic Community will become
integrated, lowering barriers to trade and allowing greater labor mobility (ASEAN
Secretariat, 2012), which will lead in turn to greater competition and interaction among the
citizens of Southeast Asian countries. This will also stimulate regional educational
exchanges. In Roadmap for an ASEAN Community, the ASEAN Secretariat (2009) states that
in an effort to advance and prioritize education, ASEAN will “promote education networking
in various levels of educational institutions and continue university networking and enhance
and support student and staff exchanges and professional interactions including creating
research clusters among ASEAN institutions of higher learning” (p. 68). For these reasons,
development of effective means of teaching communication skills in English is becoming
more important at the regional level.
The focus on meaningful interaction is also relevant at the national level. Over the
past two decades, the Thai government has made several attempts to reform the educational
system. As early as 1996, the government announced the goal of modernizing the teaching
methods used in the kingdom’s classrooms (Fry, 2002). The Asian financial crisis of 1997
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 3
precipitated further reforms, as the shortcomings of the educational system were offered as an
explanation for the crash (Jungck & Kajornsin, 2003; Sangnapaboworn, 2003). The new
constitution introduced after the crash explicitly mentioned education in several clauses
(Terwiel, 2011), and the government announced sweeping changes to the educational system.
These changes are evident in the National Education act, in which the government called for,
among other things, a shift from teacher-centered learning to student-centered learning
(Sangnapaboworn, 2003). For various reasons, this government directive failed to impact the
classrooms of the kingdom. The change that did occur was “fragmented . . . [and] lacking in
deep integration” (Hallinger & Lee, 2011, p. 154). While the ideas behind the reform efforts
were educationally sound, the reforms may have been too ambitious to succeed within the
given timeframe. In the small group discussions and video editing projects that constitute this
study, the teacher plays the role of facilitator. These student-centered activities are conducted
in the spirit of the educational reforms that have been ongoing in Thailand in the past two
Meaningful interaction is also essential at the institutional level. MUIC is an English-
medium college within Mahidol University. As it has a “strong liberal arts focus” (“About
MUIC,” 2013, para. 2), meaningful communication within the academic community is
valued. Many international students attend MUIC either on student exchanges or as full-time
students, so English communication is essential both in class and in the community at large.
The Preparation Center for Languages and Mathematics (PC) serves students who are
seeking to improve their language skills before beginning courses at MUIC. The lower level
courses at PC focus on the discrete skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. These
courses serve students at the beginner and intermediate levels of English proficiency. The
upper-level courses, which are designed for upper-intermediate students, take a more
integrated approach. These courses are theme based, and students are expected to apply their
knowledge of various themes across all of the relevant classes.
At the end of each upper-level course in the Preparation Center for Languages and
Mathematics, students complete an integrated test, which has two components. The first
component is an argumentative essay based on two inputs, a written text and a recorded
lecture. Students cite the two sources using the APA style, but they are not required to
produce a reference list. The second component is a 20-minute discussion in a group of five
or six students. Immediately after finishing their argumentative essays, students receive the
discussion question. This question is related to the prompt given for the argumentative essay.
The discussion takes place the day after the essay component, so students have time to
4 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
perform independent research; however, the members of each discussion group are not
announced beforehand. Two teachers observe each discussion and mark students based on
their original contributions, interaction with others, and language skills. This study will
address one method of preparing students for the small group discussion component of the
As video devices have become cheaper and more prevalent and as video has become
easier to store and edit, it is logical that video is increasingly used in the teaching of speaking;
both for EFL and non-EFL students. Researchers have worked to measure and evaluate the
benefit of video in speaking courses. Areas of possible benefit to students include motivation,
use of discussion strategies, and ability to analyze their performance.
Studies have shown that playing back videos of students’ presentations has
motivational benefits, and there is some evidence that it also improves speaking performance.
Rian, Hinkelman, and McGarty (2011) found that videotaping student presentations and
making them available through the Moodle learning management system provided more
motivation for students and allowed instructors to better assess them. They found that
students had favorable attitudes towards peer assessment of videotaped presentations.
Similarly, Yamkate and Intratat (2012) found that Thai University students taking an English
course “had positive attitudes towards video recording their presentations, especially since
this helped them to notice and identify their weaknesses in non-verbal language use” (p. 146).
These researchers had students examine videotapes of their own presentations to assess their
language, content, and body language. They report that the students “became aware of their
verbal and non-verbal proficiency and mistakes after watching the videos” (p. 154).
There is also evidence that video is helpful in a situation where students do not give
individual presentations but rather perform group discussions. Group discussions, unlike
presentations, involve interaction and discussion strategy. Nguyet and Mai (2012) found that
showing students conversational strategies, such as asking for clarification, through the use of
demonstration video resulted in greater use of those strategies. Christianson, Hoskins, and
Watanabe (2006), videotaped group discussions and had students do self-assessment and
peer-assessment by watching the videos. Students also made a transcript of their discussion.
The authors found that “The self-assessment process engages students in the analysis and
evaluation of their performance; this strongly suggests it may be something that should be
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 5
further incorporated in the [English Language Program]” ( p. 10). From these studies, video
appears to be a useful tool in group discussion settings.
Annotating video, as opposed to simply reviewing and analyzing video orally or on
paper, is less common in the literature. However, there is research in specific non-EFL
contexts. Bonaiuti, Calvani, and Andreocci, (2011) examined the benefit of video annotation
as a reflection technique for novice teachers. They conclude that “we could argue that video
annotation is a tool capable of guiding reflection, offering direct opportunities to increase
both the number of comments and their analytic content and to improve self-analysis skills
overall” (p. 9). In another study, Fu, Schaefer, Marchionini, Mu (2006) examined the use of
video annotations for the training of foreign teaching assistants. Student presentations were
videotaped and the other students as well as the instructor gave feedback by annotating the
video. They found that “both the annotators and the recipients of annotations benefit from the
annotation process” (p. 21). They found that the annotations “reinforce the presenters’ strong
points and build their confidence and make them aware of their weaknesses” (p. 21). This
research supports the idea that the annotation of student videos, whether by the instructor or
students themselves, could provide benefits in the students’ ability to analyze their
Problem of Practice
The purpose of this pilot study is to investigate the use video editing software to
encourage students to engage more deeply with the discussion feedback process. This use of
technology would have two additional benefits: allowing teachers to assess the students’
understanding of the different aspects of the group discussions and allowing students to self-
assess their performance in specific areas.
Success in small group discussions requires several distinct skills. In addition to
language skills such as pronunciation and grammatical accuracy, students must be able to
present new information to the group, agree or disagree with other group members,
paraphrase other students’ points, etc. Teachers use a variety of techniques throughout the
term in order to help students to develop these skills. Teachers generally record the
discussions, and several methods involve the use of the video recording. For example,
teachers show the recordings in class and provide comments or ask the students to watch the
discussion videos for homework and write a reflection about their performance.
Of course, these techniques are only effective to the extent that students actually
engage in self-assessment and review. The teachers involved in this pilot study found that at
6 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
times their students seemed to be reflecting on their discussions at a superficial level. The
students did not seem to see the value in such an activity. Often, their students would not
even watch the discussion videos shared with them. When the students did watch the videos,
they did so in a passive manner. As a result, they failed to reap the benefits of the activity.
This leads to the principal question that this pilot study seeks to address: how can students be
encouraged to engage more deeply in self-assessment and peer assessment?
In order to foster deeper reflection on small group discussions, the researchers
designed a post-discussion activity that made use of Camtasia video editing software to
comment on aspects of the discussions. This software was selected because it allows users to
add annotation in two main ways: as subtitles and as callouts, which are graphics such as text
boxes that appear in the video itself. The use of such an activity seems to offer several
advantages: it ensures that students watch the discussion videos carefully, it is active rather
than passive (i.e., students must do more than passively watch the videos), and it is engaging.
Overall, this solution seems to be well suited to the problem of low student engagement with
their discussion videos.
The post-discussion activity comprised three components: an initial in-class
component, a take-home assignment, and a second in-class segment in which the students
shared their work with the rest of the class. During the initial in-class session, each discussion
group is further divided into subgroups of two to three students. Each subgroup collaborates
on a single computer. In the case of this particular pilot study, two classes of 20 students
participated. Each discussion group contained six to seven students.
The experimental activity had several stages. First, the teacher showed a segment of
the discussion video that had already been annotated to illustrate targeted aspects of group
discussions. The students were then given a video recording of a practice discussion in which
they themselves had participated. Each discussion video was split into several shorter
segments, and a subgroup was assigned to edit each of the segments. The length of each
segment depended on the length of the video of the complete discussion and on the number of
students in each discussion group. Additionally, they were given a digital handout (see
appendix) that included the objective of the exercise, a detailed description of the task itself,
and step-by step instructions explaining the video editing process. Students were instructed to
create subtitles for their respective video segments. The subtitles were to include the name of
the speaker, the purpose of his or her utterance (e.g., agreeing, disagreeing, contributing new
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 7
information), a summary of the utterance, and comments about the speaker’s contribution.
Positive comments were to be placed in square brackets, whereas constructive criticism was
to be placed in parentheses. Finally, students were to provide feedback about the speakers’
body language and nonverbal communication (e.g., eye contact or the lack thereof) using
callouts. During this class, the role of the teacher was to explain the assignment and model
the use of the video editing software then circulate around the classroom answering questions
as students worked on the activity in groups.
After the class dedicated to explaining and modeling the video editing activity,
students were expected to complete the editing of their video for homework. In the case of
this pilot project, students were assigned the task on a Friday and were expected to upload the
edited video to Google Drive and to share it with the teacher before class on Monday. The
student-edited videos were screened in class. Afterwards, the teacher provided comments on
both the students’ editing and on their performance in the discussions.
In this particular instance, the activity was successful in encouraging students to
engage more deeply in self-assessment and peer assessment. All of the videos were submitted
on time, and the quality of the editing was generally quite good. When the videos were
screened in class, students seemed to take pride in their handiwork. Importantly, they were
also quite astute in assessing their own performance as well as their peers’. The students had
spent a significant amount of time editing the videos, as evidenced by the quality of the
editing. The results are sufficiently promising to merit the continued development of the
A few caveats are worth considering. The students involved in this pilot study were
quite experienced with the use of technology. Their generally high skill level allowed the
teacher to spend relatively little time explaining the actual use of Camtasia, as the students
found its interface intuitive. Students with a lower level of technological competence might
require a longer period of instruction. Furthermore, those students might find the activity less
intrinsically motivating. Also, as the overall purpose of the activity is not to teach technology
skills but rather to facilitate language learning, spending as little time as possible on the
technical aspects of the activity is preferable.
Additionally, this activity would have benefitted from additional structure in the form
of a rubric. While the results were encouraging overall, a few videos were lacking in certain
areas. For example, some groups employed many callouts, whereas others used relatively
8 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
few. Similarly, some groups provided mostly positive feedback, whereas others focused
almost exclusively on points that could be improved. Ideally, student’s editing would be
relatively balanced in these areas, including callouts, positive feedback, and constructive
criticism in fairly equal proportions. A rubric could be instrumental in achieving this balance.
The preliminary results seem to indicate that video editing software can be used to
increase student engagement in the analysis of their speaking performances. This is consistent
with other studies that report positive motivation when student presentations (Rian et al,
2011) and group discussions (Christianson et al, 2006) are videotaped and made available to
students for peer assessment and self-assessment. This study did not attempt to determine
whether the quality of the assessment was also improved. Other works cited in the literature
review do mention that videotaping results in “greater awareness of verbal and non-verbal
proficiency” (Yamkate and Intratat, 2012), and that annotating video affects “self-analysis
skills” (Bonaiuti et al, 2011) and makes students “aware of their weaknesses” (Fu et al,
2006). This suggests that the next phase of this project should be to see if we can confirm that
such benefits can be obtained from the video annotation exercise presented here.
This pilot study sought to address the problem of how best to encourage students to
engage productively in self-assessment and peer assessment of discussion videos. The
solution investigated in this paper, the use of video editing software to promote deeper
engagement, seems promising. Both teachers involved in the pilot study were satisfied with
the results, and both plan to continue developing the activity in future courses. Just as our
students must engage in deep reflection on their performances in order to improve their
language skills, so too must we teachers reflect deeply on our methods to better facilitate our
Christopher Willis is an instructor at the Preparation Center for Languages and Mathematics
at Mahidol University International College. He has taught at the Preparation Center since
2007 and prior to that at Suan Dusit Rajabhat and Pibulsongkram Rajabhat Universities, also
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 9
Alexander Nanni is the Director of the Preparation Center for Languages and Mathematics
at Mahidol University International College. He completed an M.Ed. in TESL at Rhode
Island College in 2009 and is currently enrolled in the Ed.D. in Curriculum, Teaching,
Learning, and Leadership program at Northeastern University.
A liberal arts education in an Asian setting. (2012). Retrieved May 5, 2013, from
About MUIC. (2013). Retrieved May 5, 2013, from
ASEAN Secretariat. (2009). Roadmap for an ASEAN community, 2009-2015. Jakarta:
Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat.
ASEAN Secretariat. (2012). ASEAN Economic Community. asean.org. Retrieved from
Blaich, C., Bost, A., Chan, E., & Lynch, R. (2004). Defining liberal arts education. Wabash
College Center of Inquiry.
Bonaiuti, G., Calvani, A., & Andreocci, B. (2011). Improving self-reflection with video
annotation. Evaluation of a new practice in teacher training. In World Conference on
Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (2011), 3265–3274.
Christianson, M., Hoskins, C., & Watanabe, A. (2009). Evaluating the effectiveness of a
videorecording based self-assessment system for academic speaking. Language
Research Bulletin, 24, 1–15.
Fry, G. W. (2002). Synthesis Report: From crisis to opportunity, the challenges of
educational reform in Thailand.
Fu, X., Schaefer, J. C., Marchionini, G., & Mu, X. (2006). Video annotation in a learning
environment. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and
Technology, 43(1), 1–22.
Hallinger, P., & Lee, M. (2011). A decade of education reform in Thailand: Broken promise
or impossible dream? Cambridge Journal of Education, 41(2), 139–158.
Jungck, S., & Kajornsin, B. (2003). “Thai wisdom” and glocalization. In K. Anderson-Levitt
(Ed.), Local Meanings, Global Schooling: Anthropology and World Culture Theory.
Nguyet, N. T. M. (2012). Teaching Conversational Strategies Through Video Clips1.
Language Education in Asia, 3(1), 32-49.
10 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Rian, J. P., Hinkelman, D., & McGarty, G. (2011). JALT2011 Conference Proceedings, 416-
Sangnapaboworn, W. (2003). Higher education reform in Thailand: Towards quality
improvement and university autonomy. In A paper presented at the Shizuoka forum
on approaches to higher education, intellectual creativity, cultivation of human
resources seen in Asian countries (pp. 12–14).
Terwiel, B. J. (2011). Thailand’s Political History: From the 13th Century to Recent Times.
Yamkate, K., & Intratat, C. (2012). Using Video Recordings to Facilitate Student
Development of Oral Presentation Skills. Language Education in Asia, 3(2) 146-158.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 11
This handout was provided to the students who participated in the video editing activity. It
begins with brief instructions about how to create a new project in Camtasia and then
provides guidelines about the types of annotation that students should provide.
Discussion Video Editing Exercise
Objective of the Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to get you to think about how people communicate in group
discussions, and what is effective in these discussions.
You are going to work in groups to annotate a short video clip of your fellow students.
You are going to use captions for the content that is spoken: the points that the
group makes and the responses to those points.
You are going to use callouts to make comments on non-verbal communication.
Note: Comments don’t have to be all positive. Your classmates can learn if you point out for
example where they might be off-topic, their point is not clear, or they are speaking too
Step 1: Create a new project and add the video clip your group is working on.
1. Start Camtasia
2. Select File menu -> New project option
3. Drag your video clip into the Clip Bin (the upper left portion of the screen)
4. Now right click on the video clip icon and select “Add to Timeline at Playhead”.
5. The video is “track 1”
Step 2: Edit the video
For input add a one line summary of the speaker’s point. Also give the speaker’s
Also add any comments about the input.
o Use square brackets, to highlight things you feel they did well:
[reference to text/video]
[supported with example]
12 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
[Good use of transition phrase…]
[very clearly explained]
o Use round brackets to highlight aspects that need improvement:
(speaks too soft)
(not sure what the argument is)
(should refer to text to support)
(throwaway line: “something like that”)
For responses to another speaker’s point try to show what kind of response it is. For
expands on ...
adds support to ...
disagrees with ...
Use callouts for body language and eye contact comments.
Step 3: Publish the video.
Step 4: Upload the video to Google Drive and share it with your teacher.
Thai-Serbian A2 University EFL Learners’ Perspectives on Learning and
Teaching Oral English Communication Skills
David Allen Bruner
Yaruingam Phungshok Shimray
Prince of Songkla University
This research investigated perspectives on learning and teaching oral
English communication skills of A2 students, the majority of EFL
undergraduate students, at two partner universities in countries in Kachru’s
“Expanding Circle”, namely Prince of Songkla University, Thailand and
University of Novi Sad, Serbia. A questionnaire survey explored the students’
perspectives on their teachers’ teaching methods and styles, and their own
learning styles, motivation and difficulties. Overall, Thai and Serbian A2
students had different perspectives on their teachers, learning styles and
learning difficulties, but similar perspectives on teaching methods and
learning motivation. The differences pointed to Thais’ lower oral English
proficiency, limited exposure to English outside the classroom, diversity of
varieties of English spoken by teachers, commonality between English and the
students' L1, cultural disparities between teachers and students, Thai
cooperative learning, different economic and social needs, and different class
Keywords: university learners' perspectives, learning and teaching oral
English communication skills, Expanding Circle, Southeast Asia, the Balkans,
14 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Background of the Study
Amidst globalization in the information era, the unprecedented rapid spread and the
pivotal role of English as the language of global and even local or personal business cannot
be overstated. Today, in many countries, especially those in Kachru’s (1985) Expanding
Circle, where English has long been embraced as an important language for international
communication, the language has transcended from being just an important foreign language
to an international or a global language that everyone receiving formal education has to learn
at an early age. In fact, as many of the countries in these traditional EFL contexts both in the
East and in the West are striving to compete in the fast-growing world economy and to enter
into some sort of economic union, English has undeniably become an essential part of human
capital to invest in to produce human resources capable for successful competition and
transition into desirable economies.
Given the considerably fast expansion of economies in Asia, CEOs of many
companies have come forth stressing how important it is for people to possess strong English
language skills if they want to progress in their career and capitalize on the increasing foreign
investment pouring into these countries in this era (see e.g., Byrne, 2010). Speaking English
has in fact become an even more essential goal as free trade and economic cooperation are
promoted among both Asian and European countries. In the integration of the ASEAN
economic community which takes effect on December 31, 2015, English becomes the only
official language, marking its importance for international communication in the region
where in the vast majority of countries, English is not the native language. A large number of
companies have already put forth hiring policies which require employees to have a good
command of English. For university students and academics in the ASEAN region, English
becomes essential not only for communication but for publication purposes. Likewise, with
the European Union Council’s endorsement of accession negotiations with Serbia by January,
2014, a workforce with high English language ability is becoming even more critical in the
Given the urgent need for human resources with strong English communication skills
in all parts of the world, it has become especially crucial for language educators to reexamine
the current English language teaching approaches adopted to see whether they really produce
desirable students. In her study which examined the general English proficiency of ASEAN
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 15
students measured by TOEFL- equated CU-TEP1
scores, Prapphal (2001) found that the
average English proficiency of Thai and Laotian students was lower than that of students
from other ASEAN countries. Almost a decade later, Thai students' English proficiency
remained the lowest among Southeast Asian countries (Khamkhien, 2010). In a more recent
study conducted by an international language training company using data from online
English tests, Thailand was even ranked one of the Asian countries on the lowest end of
English Proficiency Index (Education First, 2012; WhereisThailand.info, 2012). In response
to this, it has been suggested that certain changes be made in the components of the course
syllabus adopted in Thailand such as goals and objectives, materials, methods of teaching, as
well as testing and evaluation.
While Thailand is infamous for low English proficiency, Serbia, by contrast, has a
much higher English proficiency ranking according to the Business English Proficiency index
(Global English Press Releases, 2012). It seems obvious that their advantage over the South
East Asian nation of Thailand is that Serbia is in the middle of Europe where English is the
most spoken language and that Serbian is also in the Indo-European language family like
English. Serbs also have apparently much easier access to a variety of English media and are
mobile in traveling, going to school, and working in other European countries and global
businesses. However, given that Serbia is a country in the Expanding Circle planning to
integrate into an economic union and teaching English as a foreign language like Thailand,
their classroom practices related to the majority of learners merit comparative investigation.
With emphasis on developing oral communication skills of university students, this
paper was written based on a study taking a step back to examine the course syllabi currently
adopted by universities in Thailand and Serbia in order to determine what they are attempting
to achieve, what is really going on in the classroom where they are implemented and whether
these syllabi are well-received by parties involved, particularly teachers and students. Instead
of trying to lay claim on changes to be made to the syllabus adopted in Thailand, it tries to
explore the perspectives of the majority of learners at partner universities in both regions
regarding the syllabi adopted, especially the learners' own views on learning and improving
their oral English communication skills. Using international perspectives, the paper hopes to
shed light on classroom practices and learners-related factors that possibly contribute to
success or failure of oral English communication education in the respective countries. This,
Chulalongkorn University Test of English Proficiency
16 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
we believe, is necessary before any appropriate change can be made, especially to the Thai
This paper, in particular, examines the perspectives of the majority of university EFL
learners at the partner universities in their respective regions regarding learning and
improving their oral English communication skills, and if they differ, how do they differ and
what factors may account for these differences. The following research questions have
accordingly been addressed:
1. What is the overall picture of learning and improving oral English communication skills
based on the perspectives of the majority of EFL university learners at the chosen
universities in the respective regions?
2. Do the learners in the two universities differ in their perspectives and, if so, how are they
different and what factors can apparently account for such differences?
Research settings, population, and samples
The research sites were the Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA), Prince of Songkla
University (PSU)-Hat Yai, Thailand and the Faculty of Philosophy (FP), University of Novi
Sad (UNS)-Serbia. The population included the majority of PSU and UNS undergraduate
students enrolled in English courses aimed primarily at developing oral English
communication skills in the Academic Year 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Selected through the purposive sampling method, PSU student samples consisted of
year students with the majority level of English proficiency, Elementary (A2),
who took the courses in the summer semester of the same academic year. Determined by the
Cambridge Quick Placement Test, out of 557 2nd
year PSU students taking the elective
courses oriented towards developing oral English communication skills in the summer
semester of the Academic Year 2011, March-May 2012, the majority (n=439) were of the
Elementary (A2) level of English proficiency according to the Council of Europe Levels
(University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, 2001). The rest of the students
(n=92 and n=26) were of the Beginner (A1) and the Lower Intermediate (B1) levels of
English proficiency respectively. This proportion remained intact based on our rerun
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 17
placement-test with the new group of students in the summer semester of the following
academic year. The students with the majority level of English proficiency, A2, were
therefore the suitable focus group for the questionnaire analysis. Serbian participants, on the
other hand, included the undergraduate students taking English language courses in the
academic year 2012. These students took the same placement test at the beginning of the
academic year in order to be placed in appropriate groups and the majority of them, who were
A2 students, were examined in this paper.
Questionnaires were given to the majority of the EFL undergraduate students at both
universities in order to capture the holistic picture of oral English language teaching and
learning from the students’ perspectives. Developed around the issues that typically are of
central concern to language teachers, the whole questionnaire is divided into five relatively
equal sections; however, this paper only discusses the findings obtained from two main
sections of the questionnaire. The first one is concerned with the participants’ demographic
data, and the second section with the learners' perspectives on oral English language teaching
The students provided written responses to the questionnaires in their native language
while the researchers were present for explanation and clarification. To analyze the first part
of the questionnaire concerned with the demographic data of research participants,
descriptive statistics such as mean and standard deviation were employed. The aim was to
arrive at the profile of the research participants concerning their background and learning
experience, which were believed to affect their perspectives on language learning and
teaching. As for the other parts of the questionnaire that comprise statements with the Likert
scale, statistical correlations and interval-scale analysis were performed comparing the
answers of Serbian and Thai students to find statistically significant sets of data.
Findings and Discussion
The perspectives of the majority of students from both universities on learning and
improving oral English communication skills were elicited via an itemized Likert scale. The
results obtained from Thai and Serbian A2 students were interpreted based on the following
interval scale: 4.51 – 5.00 (strongly agreed), 3.51 – 4.50 (agreed), 2.51 – 3.50 (moderately
agreed), 1.51 – 2.50 (disagreed), and 1.00 – 1.50 (strongly disagreed). Additionally, they
18 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
were compared to determine item differences. Those items whose differences between the
two groups not only were statistically significant but also fell between different intervals are
described as very different, whereas those with only statistically significant differences are
considered moderately different. The rest of the items whose differences were not statistically
significant were considered similar or the same between the two groups.
Overview of A2 students’ perspectives on oral-English communication teaching and
It was found that overall, Thai and Serbian A2 students had rather similar perspectives
on teaching methods and learning motivation, but very or moderately different perspectives
on their teachers, learning styles and learning difficulties.As shown in Table 1 below, A2
students, the majority of students at both universities, were satisfied with the oral English
communication courses offered; they found the content provided in the course books used
interesting. The courses allowed them to engage in communicative tasks related to real-world
uses of English, balancing accuracy- with fluency-focused activities and making them aware
of varieties of English spoken in the world. They had opportunities to work with their
classmates and felt comfortable doing so. Their course teachers also made them feel free to
volunteer their answers in class and helped them learn to take control of their own learning.
They adopted adaptive teaching styles and were receptive to the students’ view of learning.
Furthermore, the teachers were attentive to their learning progress.
Table 1: Thai and Serbian students’ similar perspectives on teaching methods and styles
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-
Providing interesting course content Serbian 107 4.08 0.92 1.45 0.15
Thai 439 3.95 0.74
Engaging in real-world communicative tasks Serbian 107 3.64 1.14 -0.51 0.61
Thai 436 3.69 0.8
Balancing accuracy and fluency-focused
Serbian 105 4.1 0.88 1.69 0.09
Thai 438 3.96 0.77
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 19
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-
Raising awareness of world Englishes Serbian 106 3.96 1.32 -0.01 0.99
Thai 438 3.96 0.83
Learning cooperatively Serbian 107 3.83 1.33 -1.41 0.16
Thai 439 4.02 0.79
Fostering peer support Serbian 106 3.79 1.61 -1.21 0.23
Thai 439 3.99 0.76
Participating voluntarily Serbian 107 3.66 1.82 0.81 0.42
Thai 438 3.52 0.95
Nurturing autonomous learning Serbian 107 4.24 1.64 0.74 0.46
Thai 438 4.12 0.74
Teacher's adaptive teaching styles Serbian 106 4.56 2.02 1.92 0.06
Thai 439 4.18 0.70
Teachers' being receptive to students' view Serbian 105 4.46 2.18 1.67 0.10
Thai 439 4.10 0.68
Teachers' being attentive to students' progress Serbian 104 4.38 2.33 1.03 0.31
Thai 439 4.15 0.72
Additionally, it was revealed that both groups of students were in fact highly
motivated to learn English. They claimed that they attended class regularly and participated
actively in the classroom. They similarly wanted to be able to speak with native speakers and
learn about speakers of other cultures through the English language. They also found the
target language beautiful and essential for consuming pop culture.
20 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Sharing similar views overall on teaching methods and learning motivation, the Thai
and Serbian A2 students were however very different on their views towards their teachers'
teaching styles, as well as their own learning styles and difficulties. Table 2 displays the
statistical results related to the students' different perspectives on their teachers and teaching
Table 2: Thai and Serbian students’ different perspectives on teachers and teaching styles
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-
authentic examples of spoken English*
Serbian 107 4.45 0.84 4.68 0.00
Thai 439 4.03 0.75
Frequency of teachers' speaking English Serbian 107 4.94 0.33 16.25 0.00
Thai 438 4.12 0.81
Frequency of teachers' speaking students' L1 Serbian 105 4.66 0.95 15.71 0.00
Thai 438 2.96 1.16
Giving opportunities for speaking English in
Serbian 106 4.98 0.57 11.52 0.00
Thai 439 4.22 0.75
Providing essential learning opportunities Serbian 107 4.39 1.16 3.71 0.00
Thai 439 3.95 0.76
Assessing students' performance Serbian 106 4.70 1.25 8.24 0.00
Thai 438 3.92 0.75
Being communication facilitators Serbian 106 4.56 1.50 2.50 0.00
Thai 438 4.18 0.76
Giving feedback* Serbian 107 4.84 1.55 3.34 0.00
Thai 438 4.51 0.67
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 21
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-
Teachers' accents Serbian 107 4.89 1.60 2.90 0.00
Thai 439 4.43 0.74
Teachers' understanding of what they are
Serbian 107 5.07 1.62 5.29 0.00
Thai 439 4.22 0.77
Teachers' awareness of learners' ethnic
Serbian 107 4.80 1.83 6.93 0.00
Thai 438 4.04 0.70
Teachers' provision of input* Serbian 105 4.48 2.18 2.35 0.02
Thai 437 3.97 0.76
As shown in Table 2, the Serbian students were more content with the frequency of
their class teachers' English use, while the Thais preferred more Thai spoken by their
teachers. The latter were apparently more used to studying English with Thai teachers often
speaking Thai in the classroom; their first experience with oral English teaching at the
university level in fact reinforced their previous experience. Most Thai university students
had Thai English teachers in their first year of fundamental English courses, often using Thai
to a high extent as the medium of instruction. When they reached the second year or higher at
the university, they were abruptly exposed to native or near native English speakers in oral
communication class with little Thai spoken. Such an abrupt change may have made their
learning experience more difficult and challenging. In fact, some of the students surveyed
reported having problems following their course teachers' fast English speech. By contrast,
throughout their high school and university, the Serbs have Serbian teachers with primarily
American accents who apparently can strike a balance of L1/L2 use in the classroom for the
benefit of their low-proficiency learners.
While wanting their teacher to speak their native language more, the Thai students
nevertheless expected more English-speaking opportunities for themselves and more
exposure to authentic examples of spoken English for real-life communication in class more
than the Serbian students did. Apparently, for the Thais, examples of spoken English in real-
22 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
life communication and opportunities to speak English in class mattered more than having
English-speaking teachers teach the course given the fact that few English-speaking
opportunities exist outside the classroom. The Thais were actually yearning for more
opportunities to practice speaking English in class; they came to class expecting their
teachers to help them learn to communicate effectively in the target language. In fact, they
reportedly also tried more to find the opportunity to speak English with native speakers and
speakers of other languages after class. Despite the increasing number of international
students on campus, the students of other languages were spread out mainly among graduate
programs, allowing little contact with the undergraduate student majority. The Thai students
thus needed to put more effort to find the opportunity to use English. The Serbians by
contrast have more opportunities to speak English not only outside the classroom, but also in
the university oral communication classroom than they did at the primary and secondary
In addition, while both groups of students liked their class teachers in several aspects
such as accent, styles of teaching, teaching abilities, and awareness of learner diversities, the
Serbian students preferred their teacher’s English pronunciation more than the Thais. The
Serbians apparently were more satisfied with the fact they were continuously exposed to
English teachers whose accents were closer to those of the speakers in the Inner Circle. In
Serbia, teachers mostly have homogenous American English accents. The Thais, on the other
hand, were familiar primarily with British or American English accents mainly via
commercial oral communication textbooks, but at university they learned English with
foreign teachers from all the different circles speaking in a greater variety of English accents.
At the time of the survey, the Thai A2 students were taught by American, British, Canadian,
German, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Thai teachers, while the Serbian students were taught
exclusively by Serbian teachers influenced by American English accents. Such a drastic
change may have been unsettling for a number of the Thai A2 students who had had only
limited exposure to so many varieties of spoken English. This corresponds in particular with
the fact that the Thais rated lower on their satisfaction with their teachers’ speaking English
and with the comments they gave on their teachers’ giving feedback and their understanding
of the teachers’ talk and the input provided.
Furthermore, the Serbians, whose native language is in the Eastern branch of the
Indo-European group, appeared to be more accustomed to English, which is in the Western
branch of the Indo-European language family, by contrast with Thai belonging to a different
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 23
language group (i.e.,Tai-Kadai). In fact, for most Thais today, English is the only Indo-
European language that they are exposed to. Additionally, the Serbians also reported more
teachers’ awareness of learner diversity than the Thais. This was apparently related to the fact
that Serbian class was more ethnically diverse than the Thai class, and the Thais may have
perceived that teachers not sharing their native tongue may not completely understand them.
The Thai cultural value with respect to the power distance between them and their teacher
seemed to also influence their perception of their teachers' understanding them
Concerning the students' views on themselves, Tables 3, 4, and 5below show the
statistical results related to the students' different perspectives on their learning styles,
motivation and difficulties respectively. Regarding learning styles outside the classroom, both
groups of students reportedly spent time on self-study activities required by the course rather
than on any other English activities not part of the course. However, unlike the Serbians, the
Thais reportedly spent time with their English classmates not only working on class
assignments but also socializing with them. They also preferred more to do other
extracurricular English activities not part of the course requirements with their peers.
Apparently, the Thais’ learning styles were influenced by their group-oriented native culture;
they seemed to prefer cooperative to individual learning, and group to individual work. In
fact such a learning style was also reinforced in their English classroom, which mostly
involved them in group work. Because of such a collectivism cultural value, the Thais are
more likely to excel through group work rather than individual assignments. In fact, unlike
the Serbs, most Thai students confirmed that they were able to fulfill in-class group activities
more easily than self-study or individual exams. They thought that they could accomplish
class activities more easily with their classmates, and preferred to be assessed by means of
group rather than individual work. From their perspectives, group activities were more
manageable and useful as they can assist and learn from each other.
24 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Table 3: Thai and Serbian students’ different perspectives on learning styles
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-
Socializing with peers out of the classroom Serbian 105 2.41 1.29 -8.23 0.00
Thai 439 3.50 0.85
Working on assignments with peers out of
Serbian 106 2.13 1.25 -10.82 0.00
Thai 436 3.52 0.84
Doing required self-study English activities
out of the class*
Serbian 106 3.86 1.19 2.72 0.01
Thai 437 3.53 0.83
Doing extra English activities out of the class* Serbian 106 2.86 1.41 -3.70 0.00
Thai 436 3.39 0.85
Trying to find opportunities to speak English
with native speakers outside the classroom
Serbian 105 2.38 1.33 -8.06 0.00
Thai 437 3.47 0.85
Taking the opportunity to speak English even
with speakers of other languages*
Serbian 105 3.11 1.45 -2.06 0.04
Thai 435 3.42 0.87
With respect to English learning motivation, as indicated in Table 4, the Thai students
reportedly were much more driven than the Serbians by their desire to get a better job, work
for a foreign company at home and abroad, and satisfy their parents. They were driven less by
their desires to consume English media.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 25
Table 4: Thai and Serbian students’ different perspectives on learning motivation
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-tailed)
To get a better job Serbian 106 4.28 1.07 -2.38 0.02
Thai 438 4.54 0.75
Not to disappoint other people Serbian 106 2.42 1.49 -8.19 0.00
Thai 438 3.67 0.97
To travel abroad Serbian 106 4.75 0.65 5.16 0.00
Thai 438 4.38 0.78
To work for a foreign company Serbian 106 3.08 1.47 -7.87 0.00
Thai 438 4.25 0.80
To be able to enjoy English media* Serbian 106 3.75 1.41 -3.73 0.00
Thai 438 4.28 0.84
Unlike the Thais, parents apparently did not influence the Serbians’ learning English as
much. The latter group’s English learning was more driven by their desire to travel. They
were more influenced by individualistic culture than the Thais, where groups and
communities are paramount in society. English media are also more readily accessible in the
society, thereby influencing the learners’ motivation to learn the target language more.
As for learning obstacles, shown in Table 5, while overall the A2 students from both
universities similarly denied that they were experiencing difficulties learning English, there
were certain differences in discrete items reported.
26 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Table 5: Thai and Serbian students’ different perspectives on learning obstacles
Topics Students N Mean SD t Sig. (2-tailed)
Class size too big Serbian 106 2.14 1.28 -6.07 0.00
Thai 439 2.95 0.97
Problems with teaching equipment Serbian 106 1.25 0.69 -12.63 0.00
Thai 438 2.29 1.03
Lack of ones' own study desks Serbian 106 1.25 0.81 -10.96 0.00
Thai 434 2.27 1.03
Lack of ones' own room to study* Serbian 106 1.50 1.22 -5.49 0.00
Thai 435 2.14 1.05
Having disturbing roommates and/or
Serbian 106 1.60 1.10 -5.64 0.00
Thai 435 2.26 1.07
Other subjects taking away too much
Serbian 106 3.41 1.37 5.13 0.00
Thai 436 2.68 1.04
Getting no support from family
Serbian 106 1.47 1.06 -6.11 0.00
Thai 436 2.18 1.20
Getting no support from peers* Serbian 106 1.55 0.96 -5.85 0.00
Thai 438 2.17 1.08
No easy access to English media Serbian 106 1.26 0.68 -13.33 0.00
Thai 437 2.35 1.01
Other learning difficulties Serbian 106 0.06 0.23 -35.31 0.00
Thai 292 2.53 1.13
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 27
Unlike the Thai students, who did not completely deny the problem with class size,
Serbian students rejected the statement that their English class size was too big. Compared
with typical classrooms at PSU, those at UNS were generally smaller, and this inevitably
constrained the number of students in each class. Some classrooms at LA in contrast can hold
as many as 150 students, possibly contributing to the class size problem. Additionally, the
number of students enrolled in oral English communication classes at the faculty is increasing
every year. The Serbian students also reportedly had fewer problems with classroom teaching
equipment than the Thai students. Unlike classroom facilities at PSU, approximately 40-50%
of the classrooms in Serbia were equipped with a blackboard, chalk, and an overhead
projector; this apparently did not pose as many challenges to users as more advanced
equipment such as computers and LCD projectors provided in every classroom at PSU.
The Serbians also more readily rejected the problems with private facilities to study,
disturbing roommates and/or neighbors, support from family and peers when studying. This
did not seem to be a surprise given the fact that unlike the Thais most of whom lived in
dormitories, the Serbian students mostly were local, living at their own homes. However,
unlike the Thais, the Serbians did not quite deny the problem of other subjects taking too
much of their times. Most Serbian students at the Faculty of Philosophy, UNS, are required to
take EFL or foreign language courses, which unlike other compulsory courses, offer only
practice classes with no hours of lectures and allow the students to gain at most 3 credits.
This may apparently have led the students to give higher priorities to those courses with
hours of lectures and more credits.
Additionally, the Thai A2 students reportedly had more problems with access to
English media, thus lowering their motivation to learn English to consume the media as
previously discussed. Outside the classroom, a typical Thai student would be exposed more
to Thai than English media; the majority of popular TV and radio channels are still in Thai.
English TV programs are often dubbed into Thai. The Serbians are on the other hand exposed
to a greater variety of English media such as news, movies, and music because the country is
literally in the middle of Europe. While English TV and films are subtitled, the students
reportedly enjoyed them without subtitles and preferred English music. Finally, while Serbian
students reportedly had no other learning difficulties, two per cent of Thai A2 students
(sum=439) announced that they had problems learning other languages such as Chinese,
Japanese, and Korean. Apparently, Thai students were more concerned with learning
languages other than English more than the Serbian students.
28 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Factors responsible for different perspectives and implications for oral English teaching in
There appear to be a number of factors contributing to the different perspectives
between the Thai and Serbian A2 students, and these factors lead us to some implications for
oral English communication teaching in Thailand.
1. Lower oral English proficiency of Thai students and reinforcement of previous
teaching methods at the university level
Although both groups of students investigated were A2 level based on the paper
Cambridge Quick Placement Test, it is likely the Thai students had lower oral English
proficiency than their Serbian counterparts based on the findings and the literature previously
discussed. Therefore, they preferred to have their teachers’ speaking more Thai in the
classroom in the belief that it would improve their understanding and learning efficiency. In
fact, most Thai university students have Thai English teachers in their first year teaching
fundamental English courses and speaking Thai in class. However, using an abundance of
Thai in the classroom may be counterproductive and will not prepare them well for elective
courses with non-Thai teachers in later years. Therefore, it is recommended that at the outset
of students’ university career, teachers endeavor to make sure the majority of in-class
communicative activities are conducted in English and the students are encouraged to use
their English with speakers of other languages outside the classroom through interactive
2. Limited exposure to spoken English outside the classroom
In the Thai context, students mostly share the same Thai language and culture with
limited exposure to cultures of English-speaking teachers. Their exposure to native or near
native English speakers may be limited to their teachers and few opportunities exist for them
to communicate with speakers of English outside the classroom. Given Thai students’ having
more limited exposure to English than the Serbians, Thai teachers, administrators, and policy
makers should be responsible for creating more opportunities for the students to engage in
English extracurricular activities outside the classroom, which they preferred according to the
research findings. In fact, as previously reported, the Thais yearned for more English-
speaking opportunities; therefore, in the classroom teachers should aim to adequately provide
them with activities simulating real-life communicative situations in which they can really
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 29
use English in meaningful ways. Additionally, as suggested by Bell (2011) EFL students with
limited exposure to the target language in real-life situations may demand different teaching
strategies to accommodate their communication needs. Especially, in the Thai context in
which students also have limited exposure to English media, the learners may need to be
taught not only where they can use their English outside the classroom and with incentives
but by increasing their motivation to learn English by tying their personal interests with the
language (through virtual classrooms, blogs, social media, etc.), rather than mainly letting
them navigate without intervention in the entertainment-driven world of music, TV and
3. Diversity of varieties of English spoken by teachers
At the time of the study, non-Thai English teachers at Liberal Arts, PSU came from a
variety of nationalities and language backgrounds and in the majority of cases, the teachers’
L1 was not English. Not surprisingly, the students were exposed to a variety of English
accents in the oral communication classroom. Even among native English speakers, accents
also vary, proving to be challenging for the Thais with limited previous exposure to world
Englishes. However, with continuous incentive-driven exposure to English activities both in
and outside the classroom with native and non-native speakers of English, it is likely they
will become more familiar with greater varieties of English, having fewer problems with the
English-speaking teachers from different circles. And, in fact, as noted by Kessler (2003)
international or multilingual English teachers having learned English as L2 learners
themselves may benefit students through greater empathy, language learning knowledge and
sharing cultural experiences. Native English speakers are just as prone to speak too quickly or
not to pronounce words clearly. Having teachers whose English is not their native tongue can
therefore be advantageous to the students especially as English speakers in the Inner Circle
are rapidly being outnumbered by those from the other circles.
4. Commonality between English and the native language
Negative L1 interference may be felt more acutely among the Thai EFL students than
Serbian students given the fact that Thai is from a different language family than English and
Serbian. So, as teachers, we need to be cognizant of the essential linguistic differences
between Thai and English. Specialized training may be required for non-Thai teachers.
Students, on the other hand, should be made aware of the contrastive features between the
two languages, especially in pronunciation, grammar and expression use as needed to
30 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
perform various actions in oral communication via various focused, awareness-raising
activities. And the teaching aim should be to train students to start thinking in English rather
than relying on translation aids without awareness of linguistic differences. When performing
oral activities, they should be encouraged to speak spontaneously. The majority of
communicative tasks used such as role-play, discussion, and public speaking should require
non-scripted speech, bearing in mind the students’ language level so that the students will not
be over-influenced by negative L1 transfer.
5. Cultural disparity between teacher and students
Studies have suggested that L2 learning is greatly influenced by cultural values of the
parties involved (Thongprasert, 2008). Very different cultural values of non-Thai teachers
may hinder student learning in the classroom. Because of their high power distance cultural
values, Thai students prefer the direction and control of their teachers because they see them
as superior in both status and education. So, the students are inclined to be passive in the
classroom. They are also often reluctant to ask questions, volunteer answers or come up with
original ideas for fear of losing face. If their teachers are from very different cultures, cross-
cultural misunderstandings between teacher and student seem unavoidable. Non-Thai
teachers therefore need cultural-awareness through training or self-study. Given that Thai
students are inclined to stay quiet in class and keep distance from their teachers owing to such
high power distance and risk avoidance cultural backgrounds, teachers need strategies to get
students to volunteer, ask and answer questions, and express opinions without the perception
of being disrespectful or losing face.
In the case of Thai teachers, they should understand their own culture and how it can
affect the classroom dynamics. While raising the students’ awareness of the target language
culture, the teachers may at the same time need to make effort to avoid reinforcing aspects of
the L1 culture that could diminish the students’ ability to acquire oral proficiency. For
example, Thai teachers should encourage students to proactively participate in all classroom
6. Reinforcement of group culture via cooperative learning
Thongprasert (2008) suggests that Thai students are more likely to learn by group
work because of their collectivist cultural orientation. This coupled with the promotion of
cooperative learning in an ESL/EFL classroom via the Communicative Language Teaching
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 31
approach makes teachers at any education level more inclined to assign group work than
individual tasks. At the university level, this reinforces cooperative learning that the students
experienced prior to university. However, if there is no balance between group and individual
communicative assignments, Thai students may fail miserably when confronted by the latter.
For example, in oral English communication courses at PSU, more than 60% of the
requirements are based on individual achievements.
7. Different economic and social needs
The findings show that the Thai students are already instrumentally motivated to learn
to communicate in English. They know that English as a global language will enhance their
job prospect after graduation. With the AEC on the horizon, teachers should use motivation-
teaching strategies to keep them focused on the fact there will be intense competition in the
ACE job markets, particularly for positions in multinational companies. As suggested by
Saraithong (2013), teachers should engage the students in activities that allow them to
effectively improve skills essential in the workplace, in particular, listening and speaking.
8. Different classroom facilities and learning environment
PSU and UNS are located in very different environments. Given that PSU is in the
Asian tropical zone and UNS is in central Europe, this may account for differences in the
universities’ different layouts and infrastructures. With respect to LA-PSU, the policy of the
university is for all core English language training subjects to be centralized in one faculty.
This results in challenges to the faculty given annually increasing enrollments, which may
affect class size. As well, at present the Faculty of Liberal Arts can accommodate very large
classes, which could affect their students’ perspectives on class size and facilities. It is
recommended that the oral English communication classroom size has a rigorously-
encouraged upper limit in accordance with the students’ learning needs. Consideration should
also be given to hiring more English teachers given the increasing enrollment.
This research aims to highlight perspectives on learning and teaching oral English
communication skills of A2 university students in Thailand and Serbia. It was found that Thai
and Serbian students had similar perspectives on teaching methods and learning motivation,
but different perspectives on their teachers, learning styles and learning difficulties. The
differences reflect Thais’ lower oral English proficiency, limited exposure to English outside
32 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
the classroom, diversity of varieties of English spoken by teachers, commonality between
English and the students' L1, cultural disparities between teachers and students,
reinforcement of group culture via cooperative learning, different economic and social needs,
and different class facilities and environments.
To enhance oral English communication teaching in Thailand, it was recommended
that real-life, in-class communicative activities are conducted in English and the students are
encouraged to use their English with speakers of other languages outside the classroom
through interactive assignments with incentives and tied to personal interests, in order to
familiarize students with greater varieties of English. Effort should be made to acquaint both
teachers and students with the contrastive aspects of Thai and English via various focused,
awareness-raising activities for students and specialized training for teachers. Moreover, in
order for teachers to encourage students to think in English, rather than translate from Thai,
and to counter negative L1 interference, the majority of communicative tasks in the
classroom should be non-scripted. Greater cultural awareness between teacher and student
needs to be fostered so that ingrained Thai cultural values such as high power avoidance and
risk avoidance will not act as barriers to the communicative process and oral proficiency.
Team teaching between native and non-native teachers, if possible, probably will also help
the students to overcome the cultural and linguistic barriers from having solely native
teachers in class. This merits further research despite its logistical complexity. Finally,
teachers should encourage oral skills essential to the workplace and class size and teacher-
student ratios should be conducive for this purpose.
This paper emanates from research project no. L1A 560297S, “Comparative study of
approaches to the development of oral English communication skills adopted by universities
in EFL contexts,” as the result of a research grant by Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai
Campus, Thailand. The authors acknowledge the input of other project members: Dr. Biljana
Radic-Bojanic, Jagoda Topalov, Viktoriia Krombholc, Maja Bjelica and Ana Halas. Special
thanks to Professor Dr. Ivana Zivancevic-Sekerus, Vice-Dean for International Relations and
Science, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Serbia.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 33
David Allen Bruner has been a lecturer at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Department of
Languages and Linguistics since 2008 and teaches English to both graduate and
undergraduate students. His interests include English programs in Thailand and legal English.
Kemtong Sinwongsuwat (Ph.D.) is an assistant professor in the Department of Languages
and Linguistics at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University-Hat Yai,
Thailand. She has a special interest in Conversation Analysis (CA), interactional linguistics,
corpus linguistics, and the development of Thai EFL learners’ oral communication skills.
Yaruingam Phungshok Shimray joined Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai campus in
2009 as a lecturer at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Department of Languages and Linguistics.
He regularly conducts leadership trainings, seminars, professional growth workshops to PSU
students, staff, and teachers in and off the campus.
Bell, K. (2011, July). How ESL and EFL classrooms differ. Retrieved from
Byrne, M. (2010). Strong English language skills essential to capitalize on increasing foreign
investment in Thailand. Retrieved Jan 1, 2012, from http://english-click.com/strong-
Education First (2012).The EF EPI 2012 Report. Retrieved Aug 23, 2013 from
Kachru, B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language
in the outer circle. In R. Quirk & H. G. Widdowson (Eds.), English in the world:
Teaching and learning the language and literature (pp. 11-30). Cambridge, England:
Cambridge University Press.
Kessler, M.(2003).Equal opportunity and diversity: The handbook for teachers of English.
Retrieved from www.britishcouncil.org/eod_handbook.pdf
Khamkien A. (2010) Teaching English speaking skills and English speaking tests in the Thai
context: A reflection from Thai perspective. English Language Teaching, 3, 184-190.
34 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Laksanavisit, J. (2009). Proclamation of 2009 the year of Thai higher education quality
enhancement: Quality graduates for sustainable development. The National
Conference. July 2-3, 2009. The Impact Convention Centre, Impact Areana, Muang
Thong Thani. Retrieved Jan 10, 2012, from
Prapphal, K. (2001). Globalization through distance education via Inter- and Intranet
pedagogy. PASAA, 31, 75-81.
Saraithong, W. (2013).The economic perspective of labor’s English language proficiency in
the AEC era.WEI International Academic Conference Proceedings, January 14-16,
2013, Antalya, Turkey. Retrieved fromwww.westeastinstitute.com/…/ANT-335-
Thongprasert, N. (2008). Classroom environments: A case study of Thai students in Thai and
Australian universities. Proceedings of the EDU-COM 2008 International Conference
Sustainability in Higher Education: Directions for change; Edith Cowan University,
Perth, Western Australia, November 19-21, 2008. Retrieved from N Thongprasert JM
University of Cambridge-Local Examinations Syndicate. (2001). Quick placement test:
paper and pen test : user manual. UK: Oxford University Press.
WhereisThailand.info. (2012, July 25). Where is Thailand in English Proficiency? Retrieved
August 17, 2013, from http://whereisthailand.info/2012/07/english-proficiency/
Effects of Classroom Praise on Student Engagement in Online Discussions
Matthew A. Carey
With the recent push towards blended learning and independent
learning tasks, the need to increase student engagement in learning activities
outside of the classroom has become more important. While assigning
grades to homework can be extrinsically motivating, many educators
envision the development of greater intrinsic motivation within their
students. Indeed, it can be argued that this is one of the primary goals of
education itself. Dörnyei (2001) suggests that to motivate students teachers
should, 1) “Promote the learners’ language-related values by presenting peer
role models,” 2) “Raise the learner’s intrinsic interest in the L2 learning
process,” and 3) “Provide learners with regular experiences of success.”
Following the strategies indicated by Dörnyei, this paper presents the results
of an action research that explored the effects of giving praise in the
classroom on student engagement in online discussion board tasks. Results
of this action research suggest that in-class praise had little effect on students
who were not already involved in completing the task. However, results also
indicated that in-class praise may have served as feedback to help already
motivated students become more engaged in the task thus helping them to
increase content scores through repetition of the online task.
Keywords: student engagement, motivation, praise, blended learning
36 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
As the 21st
century progresses, language teachers and learners are finding that learner
independence is becoming increasingly important. In addition, with recent technological
advances, the language classroom is becoming an increasingly blended environment
incorporating both in-class and online tasks. The current shift in classroom culture to this
more blended model necessitates that students become motivated, independent learners and
that teachers seek the best ways to motivate their students to become independent learners
equipped with the necessary tools to thrive in this new era of learning.
To successfully motivate students to take control of their learning, teachers must have
a clear understanding of current theories of motivation. From the behavioral perspective
motivation could be defined as simply “the anticipation of reward” (Brown, 2007, p.168).
However, upon more deeply examining the concept of motivation, it becomes clear that other
perspectives must be taken into account. Ausubel (1968) introduced a more cognitive
perspective on motivation positing that individuals have cognitive needs for exploration,
manipulation, activity, stimulation, knowledge, and ego enhancement. Upon further
examination of Ausubel’s cognitive perspective on motivation, it appears that individuals will
have varying levels of need for the rewards of interacting within one’s environment. With the
1970s the constructivist perspective on motivation began to appear in educational psychology
literature. The constructivist view of motivation posits that while individuals may have
varying levels of need for intrinsic or extrinsic rewards, these needs are influenced and
contextualized by external social factors. One of the most frequently cited examples of this
constructivist perspective of motivation is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow (1970)
presented several levels of the hierarchy based on safety, belonging, and esteem. These three
levels do focus on individual psychological needs. However, these needs are influenced and
contextualized by one’s social environment.
Another way of looking at motivation is to view it from simply intrinsic and extrinsic
perspectives. Extrinsic motivation can be defined as motivation that is “fuelled by the
anticipation of reward from outside and beyond the self” (Brown, 2007, p. 172). Sometimes
in the classroom teachers may give chocolate to students who perform well on a class
exercise. This would be an example of purely extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can
be defined as “behaviors that are aimed at bringing out certain internally rewarding
consequences, namely feelings of competence and self-determination” (Deci, 1975, p.23).
Intrinsically motivated learners often complete tasks because simply completing the task
makes them feel a sense of accomplishment.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 37
Obviously few learners are completely extrinsically motivated or completely
intrinsically motivated. However, most educators see that a significant part of their role in the
classroom is to help students develop their intrinsic motivation for learning. A growing
amount of research also suggests that intrinsic motivation is preferable for students’ long-
term retention of knowledge (Wu, 2003; Noels et al. 2000; Noels, Clément, & Pelletier, 1999;
Dörnyei 2001, 1998; Dörnyei & Csizér, 1998; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991; Brown, 1990). By
encouraging students to become more intrinsically motivated learners, teachers help students
to become more self-sufficient, independent learners. An intrinsically motivated learner is
more likely to independently develop questions about the world around the learner, and thus,
seek out answers to satisfy his or her curiosity.
With regard to stimulating intrinsic motivation in students, researchers and teacher
educators have constantly looked for ways to help teachers develop students’ intrinsic
motivation. Piaget (1972) suggested that incongruity, uncertainty, and disequilibrium are
universally motivating for students. More recently Dörnyei (2001) published a list of 35
strategies for increasing students’ levels of intrinsic motivation in the classroom. Dörnyei
categorized his list of 35 strategies under the subheadings of: 1) Creating the Basic
Motivational conditions, 2) Generating Initial Motivation, 3) Maintaining and Protecting
Motivation, and 4) Encouraging Positive Self Evaluation. While it might seem impossible to
incorporate 35 strategies into classroom teaching within one class period or even over the
course of a few weeks, teachers should be aware of the strategies advocated by Dörnyei
(2001) and seek to incorporate whatever strategies are possible depending on their individual
For this action research three of the motivational strategies advocated by Dörnyei
(2001) were utilized in the classroom. To generate initial motivation with regards to the
independent learning task the researcher sought to: 1) Promote the learners’ language-related
values by presenting peer role models, and 2) Raise the learner’s intrinsic interest in the L2
learning process. To maintain and protect motivation in the classroom the researcher sought
to: 1) Provide learners with regular experiences of success. How each of these motivational
strategies was implemented in the classroom will be discussed following an explanation of
the online discussion task.
The Online Discussion Task
Over the course of a 14 week semester, 30 female students were given eight critical
thinking questions based on course readings. Each question required that students read a
38 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
chapter from their textbook, analyze what they had read, and post a detailed answer to the
question using the class’s online course management system. Students were given questions
which required the use of higher order thinking skills to be able to successfully answer the
question. An example of one of the eight questions that was given can be found below.
Reading 6: Do Animals Have Rights? (pgs. 207-209)
Discussion Question: As stated in the reading, in 1997 the European Union
recognized the status of animals as “sentient beings.” What are sentient beings? Do you
think that animals are sentient beings in the same way that humans are? Why or why not?
(Bloom Level, Verb: Knowledge, Define: Evaluation, Appraise, Argue)
Questions like the one above required students to define a concept as it was
introduced in the reading and then create an argument, in this case, based on their own
values. Other questions given to students required them to argue from a point of view that the
student might not necessarily agree with. In this way students were encouraged to consider
and critically analyze multiple points of view on somewhat controversial topics. All of the
questions utilized in the online task, along with the level on Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) that
they correspond to, can be found in Appendix 1. Students were not shown the notes on where
the task fell in Bloom’s Taxonomy when the questions were given to them.
With regard to extrinsic motivation students were given 5% towards their final grade
for providing a response to each of the eight questions. As there was a total of eight
questions, only 4% of each student’s total grade was determined by the completion of all
eight online discussion tasks. In addition, if the student wrote anything in response to the
question, the student was given 5%. With such a low point value for each online discussion
question it could be argued that extrinsic motivation for completing each individual online
task had been minimized.
To generate intrinsic motivation the researcher implemented three of the strategies
suggested by Dörnyei (2001). The first strategy advocated by Dörnyei (2001) is to promote
the learner’s language related values by presenting peer role models. This strategy
specifically related to giving praise in the classroom as peer role models demonstrated
attainable models of success for all learners in the classroom context. These peer role models
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 39
stand in contrast to potentially unattainable models of success that are often demonstrated by
sources coming from outside of the classroom such as prewritten solutions found in
Every two weeks, after the completion of the task, the classroom instructor featured
three students’ responses to each question. When the instructor praised each response, he
made sure to demonstrate how each response was successful by showing how the content
provided by the student corresponded with measures of success on the class’s summative
essay writing rubric. Praise, in this case, specifically focused on how student produced
content related to the descriptors of Content, Relevance, and Idea Development on the class’s
summative essay writing rubric (See Appendix 2).
The second strategy from Dörnyei (2001) that was implemented by the researcher was
to raise the students’ intrinsic interest in the L2 learning process. Although this requirement
was not necessarily fulfilled by giving praise to successful students in class, it was assumed
that given existing theories of intrinsic motivation the reasonable challenge presented by each
critical thinking question should in itself be somewhat engaging. In addition, as much as
possible, questions were localized to have students reflect on how the readings for each
question reflected their own experiences in Qatar. For example, question one asked students
to consider the effects of Gehry’s museum on Bilbao, Spain and give their opinion on
whether the Museum of Islamic Art had had similar effects on Doha, Qatar. By creating
localized critical thinking questions, the researcher aimed to encourage deeper student
engagement with the assigned reading material and discussion board questions. Furthermore,
each question required student-centered input. Questions often asked for students’ individual
opinions, or asked students to put themselves into the shoes of another person.
A third strategy from Dörnyei (2001) suggests that teachers provide learners with
regular experiences of success. Frequency of the giving of praise was controlled for in this
action research by providing two critical reading questions in two week intervals throughout
the course of the fourteen week semester. As a result, four times throughout the course six
students’ work was highlighted and praised at the beginning of the class period. Also, if a
student’s response had already been featured as a “student of the week’s response,” that
student’s future responses would not receive public praise. There were eight tasks, and for
each question, three responses were chosen. Therefore, a total of 24 different student
responses were featured throughout the semester.
Three dependent variables were measured throughout the course of this action
research. They were the number of students responding to each question, the length of
40 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
student responses, and student engagement with the topic. The number of students responding
was measured by counting the number of students that responded to the question. The length
of student responses was measured in words. An average number of words was calculated for
responses to each question. “Motivation to learn refers primarily to the quality of students’
cognitive engagement in a learning activity, not the intensity of the effort they devote to it or
the time they spend on it” (Brophy, 2004, p.16). Brophy’s definition of motivation to learn
was implemented in measuring student engagement with the topic. It was assumed that if
students were more cognitively engaged with the prompt that they would provide more
developed responses as based on the class’s summative essay scoring rubric. To quantify
student engagement with the topic student responses were assigned a score for each response
based on the Content, Relevance, and Idea Development section of the rubric in Appendix 2.
These scores did not count towards students’ grades nor were they communicated to students
during the course.
Results for each of the dependent variables of the number of students responding to
each question, the average length of student responses, and student engagement with the topic
as measured by average content score were calculated and recorded throughout the course of
the semester. The table below shows the weekly totals for the three measured dependent
variables corresponding to each critical reading question (CR).
Number of Completed
CR1 19 88.79 3.01
CR2 17 56.24 3.28
CR3 17 80.82 3.38
CR4 16 63.00 3.22
CR5 20 104.60 3.44
CR6 18 69.61 3.48
CR7 21 84.76 3.60
CR8 22 94.09 3.61
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 41
Each dependent variable was then plotted on a line graph in an effort to better
examine change over time with repeated applications of praise in the classroom.
Number of Completed Assignments
Over the course of the semester the number of completed assignments did increase.
However, this increase was rather small. At CR1 it can be seen that 19 students completed
the assignment. By CR8 a total of 22 students completed the assignment. This is only a gain
of four students total throughout the course of the semester. A total of 30 students were
required to complete each assignment, yet only a maximum of 22 students successfully
completed one assignment. One may conclude from this data that students who did not have a
strong intrinsic motivation for completing the task to begin with may not have been
persuaded to complete future assignments despite the application of in-class praise. These
findings support Tileston’s (2010) claim that teachers cannot motivate students; motivation
comes from within the student. In addition, Tileston (2010) suggested that teachers’ actions
are still critical in creating the conditions in which a student becomes motivated, and teachers
play an important role in educating students about learning strategies. With regard to
Tileston’s (2010) assertions, it could be that for the eight students who did not complete the
online discussion questions the task in itself was not particularly engaging.
It can also be seen that from CR5 to CR8 there was an increase in the number of
completed assignments. This increase could be attributed to factors of intrinsic or extrinsic
motivation. With regard to intrinsic motivation, it is possible that as students saw their peers
praised publicly for completing their assignments that they too had a desire to receive praise
and began to complete the bi-weekly assignments. Another explanation for this change in
classroom behavior could be related to more extrinsic factors of motivation. As the semester
42 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
continued and midterm grades came in, it is possible that a point value of .5% became more
important for students who wanted to improve their grades.
Average Word Count
As can be seen from the line graph average word count varied throughout the
semester. Initially, it would seem that CR1 had a relatively high average word count, but
there was a comparative drop in the average word count for CR2, CR3, and CR4. Possible
reasons for this could be that students were initially interested in the task, but over time it
became something that they “had to do.” However, from CR5 there is a sharp increase in the
average number of words written by the students. The question for CR5 had to do with
differences in communication styles between men and women, and it could be that the
students in this all female class were particularly interested in this question. As a result they
may have needed more words to explain their opinion on the topic at hand.
In general it can also be seen that more students responded to CR5 through CR8. With
the increasing number of student responses, the average word count for student responses
may also have increased. This increase in average word count towards the latter half of the
semester could also be explained by potential increases in students’ writing fluency and
general language proficiency. It could be that as their proficiency improved, writing became
easier for them. Thus, they wrote more. Another possible explanation for the increase in
average word count from CR5 is that students could have become more interested in the
online discussion exercise. This could have been the result of praise over time, but as there
was no extrinsic reward for writing more, this increase in average word count is evidence of
an increase in students’ intrinsic motivation to write.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 43
Average Content Score
The most dramatic change could be seen in the average content score. This change
could be attributed to the in-class praise given by the instructor. It may be the case that as
each students’ responses were read and explained in front of the class that this caused an in
increase in some students’ desire to appear intelligent in front of their classmates. Another
possible explanation is that as the instructor was explaining what each “student of the week”
did well students became more familiar with the assessment criteria and the class’s
summative essay writing rubric. As a result, students changed how they responded to
subsequent online discussion questions in an effort to better conform with the requirements of
the rubric. Furthermore, it would seem that the combination of informative praise based on
the criteria presented in the summative essay writing rubric provided valuable feedback to
students. Ultimately, it seems that the online discussion task became a rather informative
formative assessment for the students. Students who continued to respond to the assigned
online questions from CR 1 to CR8 seemed to become more engaged with the questions with
practice over time. These findings seem consistent with Bialystok’s (1985) assertion that
strategies-based instruction requires repetition for students to begin to adopt new learning or
Summary of Findings
It should be noted that all three dependent variables did increase with the regular
application of praise. Results of this action research suggest that there is an important
relationship between praise and intrinsic motivation. However, it should be noted that
increases in the dependent variables were not immediate. The most significant gains in the
44 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
number of completed assignments, average word count, and average content scores were
found in the later assignments in CR5, CR6, CR7, and CR8. In fact, it would seem that initial
teacher feedback had little effect on student performance. However, over time with continued
praise applied to student work students who were regularly completing the online task
showed a deeper level of engagement with the task.
While in-class praise may have served as feedback to help already motivated students
become more engaged in the task thus helping them to increase content scores through
repetition of the online task, in-class praise seemed to have little effect on students who were
not already involved in completing the task. Furthermore, it can be seen that even after
classroom praise had been given at four different intervals, eight students out of thirty still
chose not to complete the online task.
Implications for Teachers
Although the results of this action research demonstrate that it may be difficult to get
students who are not interested in online tasks to become interested, the results also
demonstrate the important role that teachers play in increasing student engagement in online
tasks and the important role of feedback in helping students to become more proficient at
assigned tasks particularly with regard to students’ writing skills. In addition, the fact that
greater increases in the number of completed assignments, average word count, and average
content scores happened after repeated applications of teacher initiated praise and feedback
demonstrates how important it is for teachers to always show their enthusiasm for the
curriculum and the efforts of their students. In the 21st
century, the teacher’s role in the
classroom has not been diminished with the increased use of online curriculum. In contrast,
the role of the teacher as a guide and coach both inside and outside of the classroom is
becoming increasingly important.
Limitations of the Study and Future Research
There are several major limitations of this action research that should be taken into
consideration in future research. The first is that the sample size of only one class of 30
students is rather small. To move from an in-class action research study to a research project
of a larger scale a greater sample size is necessary. Also, the sample for this study was taken
from an all-female classroom in the Arabian Gulf. While the findings from this action
research may prove to be useful in the Arabian Gulf context, it might be difficult to
extrapolate these findings to other mixed-gender classrooms in contexts outside of the
Arabian Gulf. In addition, this action research focused only on quantitative data. Given the
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 45
complex nature of the variables involved in examining student motivation more qualitative
data would prove useful in future studies. Perhaps giving a survey to the students upon
completion of the final critical reading assignment would give the researcher greater insight
into the students’ perceptions of in-class praise and how it relates to online assignments.
Finally, as this was an action research study on only one class, the study lacks a control group
to compare against. Future research should be conducted on a larger scale and include a
control group that does not receive praise to verify if the effects observed in this action
research study can be extrapolated to much larger populations.
Matthew A. Carey has been involved in TESOL at both the secondary and tertiary levels for
ten years. He holds an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and
Instruction. His career has given him the privilege of teaching in Japan, South Korea, Qatar,
and the United States. Currently he is teaching English in Qatar University and is a Harvard
University affiliated instructor. Contact him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ausubel, D. (1968). Educational psychology: A cognitive view. New York: Holt, Rinehart &
Bialystock, E. (1985). The compatibility of teaching and learning strategies. Applied
Linguistics, 6, 255-262.
Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive
domain. New York, NY: David McKay.
Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, H. D. (1990). M&Ms for language classrooms? Another look at motivation.
Georgetown University round table on language and linguistics, 1990, 383-393.
Brown, H. D. (2007). Principles of language learning and teaching. White Plains, NY:
Crookes, G., & Schmidt, R. W. (1991). Motivation: Reopening the research agenda.
Language learning, 41(4), 469-512.
Deci, E. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum Press.
Dörnyei, Z. (1998). Motivation in second and foreign language learning. Language teaching,
46 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Do rnyei, Z. (2001). Motivational strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Dörnyei, Z., & Csizér, K. (1998). Ten commandments for motivating language learners:
Results of an empirical study. Language Teaching Research, 2(3), 203-229.
Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and Personality (2nd
ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
Noels, K. A., Clément, R., & Pelletier, L. G. (1999). Perceptions of teachers’ communicative
style and students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Modern Language Journal,
Noels, K. A., Pelletier, L. G., Clément, R., & Vallerand, R. J. (2000). Why are you learning a
second language? Motivational orientations and self‐determination theory. Language
learning, 50(1), 57-85.
Piaget, J. (1972). The principles of genetic epistemology. New York: Basic Books.
Tileston, D. (2010). What every teacher should know about student motivation. Thousand
Oaks, California: Corwin.
Wu, W. (2003). Intrinsic motivation and young language learners: The impact of the
classroom environment. System, 31, 501-517.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 47
Online Discussion Questions
Reading 1: How a Building Changed a City (pgs. 14-16)
Discussion Question: What were the effects of Frank Gehry’s museum on Bilbao? Do you
believe that the construction of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha has produced similar
effects? Why or why not? (Bloom Level, Verb: Evaluate, Evaluate: Analyze, Appraise)
Reading 2: The Negative Sides of Fast Food (Model Essay) (pgs. 199-200)
Discussion Question: The author suggests that fast food contains many added preservatives.
What do you think could be some of the negative side effects associated with the
preservatives used in fast food? (Bloom Level, Verb: Comprehension, Infer)
Reading 3: What’s Really on Your Dinner Plate? (pgs. 176-179)
Discussion Question: List some reasons why fast food chains like McDonald’s might put
additives in the food they sell. What would be the benefits of adding chemicals to the food
that is sold? What would be the risks of adding such chemicals? (Bloom Level, Verb:
Reading 4: Crisis, Disaster, and Doctors Without Borders (pgs. 93-95)
Discussion Question: Explain the causes for the growth and success of Doctors Without
Borders since 1978. (Bloom Level, Verb: Synthesis, Explain)
Reading 5: Males and Females: What’s the Difference? (pgs. 147-149)
Discussion Question: The writer states that men use language in more aggressive and
competitive ways, whereas women communicate in more cooperative and supportive ways.
Do you agree or disagree with the author? State two to three reasons why you agree or
disagree. (Bloom Level, Verb: Evaluation, Argue)
Reading 6: Do Animals Have Rights? (pgs. 207-209)
Discussion Question: As stated in the reading, in 1997 the European Union recognized the
status of animals as “sentient beings.” What are sentient beings? Do you think that animals
are sentient beings in the same way that humans are? Why or why not? Explain. (Bloom
Level, Verb: Knowledge, Define: Evaluation, Appraise, Argue)
48 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Reading 7: The Clone Factory (pgs. 213-215)
Discussion Question: Imagine that you are a representative of Origen Therapeutics or
Embrex, and you had to give a speech on the benefits of cloning chickens. What arguments
would you present to encourage people to buy your cloned chickens? (Bloom Level, Verb:
Reading 8: Against Animal Rights (pgs. 225-226)
Discussion Question: In this writing exercise you will speak from the point of view of
someone who is for animal rights. You have just read Fernando’s essay titled, “Against
Animal Rights.” Write a one paragraph refutation against one of the main ideas that was
presented in one of Fernando’s topic sentences. (Bloom Level, Verb: Evaluation, Argue)
Appendix 2: Summative Essay Writing Rubric
0 – 2.3 2.4 – 2.5 2.6 –
2.8 – 2.9 3 –
3.2 – 3.3 3.4 –
3.6 - 4
No relevant content;
examples not used;
and ideas are not
Points are minimally related
and examples show little
relevance to topic; ideas are
Some points are topic related
and explored; examples are
mostly relevant; some
attempt at idea
Most points are topic
related and explored;
examples are relevant;
ideas are logically
All points are topic related
and are explored in-depth;
examples are highly
relevant; Complex ideas
are logically developed
No thesis, topic
sentences may be present.
Paragraphs show poor
structure, and lacks
cohesion; introduction and
Thesis, topic sentences
present but unclear or does
not conform to academic
show structure, but may lack
cohesion; some ideas may be
linked with transitions.
Appropriate introduction and
conclusion are attempted.
Mainly clear, thesis which
may include supporting
points. Topic sentences
stem from the thesis.
Most paragraphs are
cohesive; most ideas are
linked with appropriate
and conclusion are
mainly complete and
Clear, narrow thesis which
may include supporting
points. Topic sentences
clearly stem from the
thesis. Paragraphs are
cohesive; ideas linked with
smooth and effective
and conclusion are
complete and effective.
Minimal use of
Multiple and serious errors
of sentence structure.
Limited use of appropriate
Frequent error types in
spelling and capitalization;
intrusive and/or inaccurate
communication. Little, if
any, proofreading evident.
Sentences show errors of
structure and little or no
variety; some use of
vocabulary; many errors of
punctuation, spelling and/or
interfere with meaning in
places. Careful proofreading
Effective and varied
sentences; some errors in
Use of appropriate
Each sentence structured
well-chosen variety of
sentence styles and length;
Range of appropriate
virtually free of
The Perspectives of EFL Thai Teachers on Self-assessment
Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya
Kasetsart University, Kampaengsaen Campus
This paper aimed at studying EFL Thai teachers’ perspectives on self-
assessment in many aspects. The findings were focused on purposes of
employing self-assessment, instruments used in self-assessment, difficulties
and benefits. It also investigated how teachers improve their teaching after
self-assessment. As to the methodology, the researcher prepared a
questionnaire responded to by 25 Thai EFL teachers. The findings showed that
the majority of EFL teachers were aware of the necessity of self-assessment.
They considered continuing professional development as an important
purpose. The most preferable instrument utilized in self-assessment was a
lesson report with the percentage of 67.86%. The interesting finding revealed
that audio and video recordings were not selected by language teachers.
Another survey result showed that heavy teaching loads caused a difficulty
during carrying out self-assessment. Moreover, developing as a teaching
professional was the maximum benefit. In addition, all participants used the
self-assessed information to improve their teaching by trying and developing
different instruction styles, contents, and instructional materials. They also
became more careful when correcting homework and providing appropriate
feedback. One of the significant methods to increase weak students’ learning
was offering remedial courses.
Keywords: self-assessment, professional development, EFL Thai teachers
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 51
In general, we accept that the most powerful, durable, and effective agents of
educational change are not the policy makers, the curriculum developers or even the
education authorities themselves; they are the teachers (Sellars, 2012). It is considered that
the teacher is regarded as the most important element in the educational process at any stages.
According to Fatemipour (2013), every teacher has a professional responsibility to be
reflective and evaluative about their practice. The teacher should consider what should be
developed to achieve better teaching. More important, teacher professional development
could not be managed by others. Rather, it is the teacher himself/herself who decides which
activities and/or resources should be used and how long it should be done for his/her own
development (Yurtsever, 2013). In addition, teachers can develop themselves through various
professional development activities, including self-assessment. As it has been assumed,
teacher self-assessment has become especially important in the recent trends towards making
teachers not only responsible for student outcomes but also for their own professional growth.
Furthermore, as recommended by Iemjinda (2007), the professional development program for
Thai EFL teacher should include components of encouraging openness in appraisal and
In this study, the researcher examined whether language teachers employed self-
assessment. It also investigated purposes of employing self-assessment, instruments used in
assessment, difficulties and benefits. Lastly, it studied how teachers improve their teaching
after self-assessment. The researcher hoped that the results will provide information for
teacher trainers. They could use obtained results to reconsider teacher self-assessment
opportunities and how to encourage EFL Thai teachers to be more effective teachers.
Self-assessment as an aid to teacher professional development
Teacher professional development is seen as a way to maintain and enhance the
quality of teachers. The acquired knowledge does not only bring about improvement in the
teaching process, but also leads to career growth (Wichadee, 2011).With respect to the
importance of professional development, Mushayikwa and Lubben (2009) and Murray (2010)
believe that professional development becomes a vital process of teachers’ lives. It is the
process of accumulating skills, professional knowledge, values, and personal qualities that
enable them to assess and re-examine teaching beliefs and practices. For teachers of English
as a foreign language, professional development should consist of at least four components;
52 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
namely, 1) recognizing and dealing with needs of individual teachers which may range from
confidence-building to technical expertise, 2) creating new experiences, challenges, and
opportunities for teachers to broaden their repertoire, 3) engaging in language development,
particularly for those teachers for whom English is not a native language, and 4) training
teachers in the use of self-assessment and cooperative techniques of professional growth.
Additionally, to maintain ongoing professional development, Hismanoglu and
Hismanoglu (2010) suggest that English language teachers could get involved in many
professional development activities either individually or collaboratively, including peer-
coaching, study groups, action research, mentoring, teaching portfolios, team teaching, or in-
service training. According to Richards and Farrell (2005), self-assessment or self-appraisal
supports teachers to develop themselves. Richards (1990,p.118) defines teacher self-
assessment as a systematic approach to the observation, evaluation, and management of one’s
own behavior for the purpose of achieving a better understanding and control over one’s own
behavior. Teachers discover their weaknesses and thus think about possible solutions. In the
same vein, Nunan (1988, p.116) proposes that self-assessment provides an effective means of
developing critical self-awareness. Hence, teachers are better able to set realistic goals and
direct their own teaching. According to Tuppoom’s opinion (1991), professional development
effort which is driven by one’s own decision tends to have a stronger effect and be more
Moreover, language teachers are supervised by supervisors or other peers. Classroom
observation and comments of a supervisor or an outside visitor are undeniably main sources
of feedback on their teaching. Nevertheless, as Ali (2007) argues, classroom observation
could also be threatening for teachers who have to present a lesson to their students in front
of an observer. Cosh (1999) believes that peer-observation is frequently carried out for
purposes of appraisal or judgment of the observed and this could be detrimental both to
teacher confidence and to a supportive teaching environment. As described by Bowen (1994),
some teachers become worried about the prospect of an observer sitting in during their
lesson. He also claims that if the observer is perceived as an institutional assessor or an
unwanted distraction, the feeling of anxiety, frustration, or resentment will increase.
On the contrary, teacher self-assessment provides an opportunity to examine one’s
own teaching and helps teachers review their image of themselves as foreign language
teachers. Significantly, it develops teacher autonomy and encourages them to seek new
challenges in the teaching profession. The researcher strongly believes that the teacher who
assesses his/her own teaching and takes an active role in his/her learning leading to
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 53
professional development. As a result, self-assessment is perceived as the ability to judge
one’s own work and critically observe one’s actions. Furthermore, self-assessment strategies
become the new trends towards making teachers autonomous and more responsible for their
own professional development.
Based on earlier mentioned, self-assessment provides many useful aspects for
language teachers, but they should be aware of the fact that self-assessment has its
limitations. Nirav (2014) emphasizes that when self-assessing themselves, teachers may
overstate the quality of their own performance. According to Papa (2014), self-assessment
was limited because it was very nature subjective. After completing the assessment, teachers
may have limited motivation for change. A result from self-assessment will not be useful if
teachers explore their weakness and leave their challenge to change it.
Instruments for English language teacher self-assessment
Language teachers monitor their own teaching performance by using self-assessment
instruments. The researcher would like to suggest the selection of self-assessment
instruments that can be employed. Some are more useful for exploring specific aspects of
teaching than others. It depends on teachers to decide which instrument is fruitful and for
what purpose. The details of each instrument are explained as follows:
a) Audio or video recording
An audio recording is a useful instrument for considering aspects of teachers' talk
while video recording can be useful in showing aspects of the teacher's behavior. An audio
recorder is one of the simplest instruments because it is easy to use. Teachers can carry it
with them and set it down in different places. Moreover, a video can be a powerful tool in
enhancing teaching professional development. As explained by Savas (2012), teachers can
watch and reflect on their own performances in teaching. The teaching videos provide
teachers with a permanent record of their own teaching that they can watch and assess
anytime. Furthermore, by watching their own teaching videos, teachers have more objective
perspective on their own teaching practices.
A self-report describes teaching philosophy, strategies, methods, and objectives. It
typically includes beliefs about optimal teaching and learning, examples of how teachers put
these beliefs into practice, and their goals’ about teaching and goals for students’ learning.
Self-reporting allows teachers to make a regular assessment of what they are doing in the
54 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
classroom. They can check to see whether their assumptions about their own teaching are
reflected in their actual teaching practices. For example, a teacher could use self-reporting to
find out the kinds of teaching activities being regularly used, whether all of the programs’
goals are being addressed, the degree to which personal goals for a class are being met ,and
the kinds of activities which seem to work well or not to work well (Qing,2009).
c) Diary or journal writing
A journal or diary is widely used for assessing teaching. Lee (2008) defined journal
writing as a kind of reflective writing that requires prospective teachers to construct
knowledge through questioning their own assumptions about teaching and learning. While
keeping the journal, teachers usually record regular learning or teaching experiences, a
reflection on what they did as well as the descriptions of events. The record may be used as a
basis for later reflection. Lee (2004) also summarized to major advantages of keeping a
journal or diary. First, keeping a diary activates teachers’ thinking and enables them to make
connections between issues. Teachers explore their ideas, generate new ideas, and discover
meaning during the learning process. Second, journal writing places the focus on the teachers
themselves, since it is based on the premise that individuals bring their own beliefs and
experiences to bear on the learning process. According to Debreli’s study (2011), data
obtained through the diaries were worthy. Firstly, they provide various short little stories
which could then be turned into a narrative. Secondly, they are subjective; that is, all the
entries recorded include teachers’ feelings and emotions.
d) Checklist and questionnaire
A checklist or questionnaire provides another way of documenting what happens
during a lesson. Both instruments can be developed to cover the overall structure of a lesson
or to focus on particular aspects of a lesson, depending on the teacher’s interests. For
example, a checklist that covers the overall lesson might include the lesson opening and
closing, the main activity of the lesson, the amount of time spent on teacher-led activities and
group activities, and the amount of time spent on different skills. By contrast, a checklist that
focuses on one aspect of the lesson such as pronunciation might include items related to the
amount of time spent on pronunciation work, the kind of pronunciation activities in the
lesson, and pronunciation difficulties that are identified.
e) Classroom observation
One of the most common ways of self-assessment on classroom teaching is to engage
in classroom observations. Ma and Ren (2011) stated that observation is the most basic
research technique that teachers can employ in classrooms. Teachers encounter many issues
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 55
in classroom settings. Most of the rich data of classroom occurrences are gathered by the
teacher himself/herself. Cogan (1973, p.134) defined classroom observation as an operation
that individuals make careful and systematic scrutiny of the events occurring during
classroom instruction. The records of classroom events can be carried out either alone, with
the use of a recorder (audio/video), and/or having a peer or supervisor observe classes. Farrell
(2008) suggested that classroom observation within a reflective practice framework can give
language teachers a means of collecting information about their teaching and classroom
processes so that they can begin to examine classroom events in more detail.
f) Teaching portfolio
Richards and Farrell (2005) defined a teaching portfolio as a collection of documents
and other items that provides information about different aspects of a teacher’s work. It
describes and documents the teacher’s performance. Teaching portfolio facilitates
professional development and provides a basis for reflection and review. In addition, during
the process of compiling the portfolio, teachers are engaged in a comprehensive self-
assessment of different aspects of their works. By reviewing the portfolio, teachers can make
decisions about goals and areas for future development or improvement. Lastly, a portfolio
can promote collaboration with other teachers. It can become part of the process of peer
coaching or peer reviews.
Alternatives strategies to sustain professional development after self-assessment
Being effective language teachers, they demand self-assessment in order to learn
about their teaching and explore strengths and weaknesses which could be later continued
and improved for better teaching. For successful results of self-assessment, it is necessary to
provide some professional help and guidance concerning its implementation after self-
assessment. Sometimes, they need more opportunities to interact with other teachers. Teacher
collaboration thus creates learning environments and develops a closer professional and
personal relationship. In this part, the researcher would like to propose alternative strategies
that teachers could pursue after self-assessment as follows:
a) Team teaching
Team teaching is a process in which two or more teachers share the responsibility for
planning the class or course, for teaching it and for any follow-up work associated with the
class such as evaluation and assessment (Richards & Farrell, 2005). According to Brown
(2001), EFL teachers can choose among the following models of team teaching: (1) two
56 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
teachers are overtly present throughout a class period, but divide responsibility between
them; (2) two teachers take different halves of a class period, with one teacher stepping aside
while the other performs; and (3) two or more teachers teach different consecutive periods of
one group of learners, and must collaborate closely in carrying out and modifying curriculum
An important benefit of team teaching is promoting collegiality among teachers in an
institution. When two teachers teach a class, they can learn from each other’s strengths when
planning and teaching lessons. Each teacher will have different ideas on how to deal with any
difficulties in the lesson, as well as a different body of experience to draw on. Their
combined degrees of knowledge and expertise are bound to lead to a stronger lesson plan.
This gives each team member a new perspective on teaching and learning.
b) Teacher support group
Professional development is not only the internal exploration process to individuals
but it also includes interaction with others. Numerous researchers mentioned that teacher
collaboration generates some decision making based on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and
awareness. As defined by Farrell (2008), teacher collaboration or a teacher development
group is a group of teachers who work together to achieve outcomes that may not be possible
for an individual working alone. Farrell cited three types of teacher development groups.
They are peer groups within a school, teacher groups that operate outside the school within a
school district, and virtual groups that can be informed anywhere on the Internet. During the
collaboration, teachers share ideas, express beliefs, provide solutions to specific problems,
and also reflect on the awareness of their practices. Finally, they find out new strategies to
deal with their problems and initiate changes in relation to their teaching behaviors (Mede,
2010; Tugui, 2011).
c) Action research
Action research is a model of professional development that promotes collaborative
inquiry, reflection, and dialogue. When taking an active part in action research, teachers
systematically observe and constantly reflect on their own teaching. They raise questions on
their own teaching and take actions to solve it. An action research is developed in a
continuous spiral. It is reasonable to say action research promotes teaching and therefore is
widely used as a way to promote teacher autonomy (Lin, 2012). Professional knowledge
through action research was seen in the case study as insights and understandings that
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 57
teachers develop themselves. These insights can be distinguished from the general knowledge
(developed by others) that teachers also use in practicing their profession. Action research is
conceived as a strategy that teachers can use to make their work more professional (Ponte et
Within the action research process, teachers may choose to focus their study on one
student, a small group of students, a class or several classes, or a whole school. The focus and
level of participation among school and district colleagues depends on the level of support,
needs, and interests of the teacher(s) and school. Calhoun (2002) described three approaches
of action research: (1) individual teacher research, (2) collaborative action research, and (3)
school-wide action research. Even though the environments are different, the process of
action research remains the same. This process uses data to identify classroom/school
problems, creates and implements a plan of action, collects, analyzes data, and uses the
results to improve student learning continuously. The detail of action research approaches is
described as follows:
1. Individual teacher research focuses on studying a problem or issue within a single
classroom. The teacher who engages in individual teacher research may or may not have
support from colleagues and administration to share, brainstorm, and discuss the topic of
action research. Although just one teacher may become directly involved in action research,
support from knowledgeable educators at the school or district site is still important for
successful teacher research. Also, universities, educational agencies, and districts may
encourage teacher action research by providing ongoing professional development related to
the needs of the individual teacher researcher.
2. Collaborative action research focuses on studying a problem or issue within one or
more classrooms. Teachers may collaborate and work together to study a particular problem
in many different ways. This collaborative action research fosters a joint effort because more
than one teacher is involved in a specific area of study. Opportunities for sharing and
dialogues are more likely to occur.
3. School-wide action research is a school reform initiative. Every faculty member of
the school is involved in studying a specific issue identified from school data. This approach
requires a great deal of support from the administrators and lead teachers/personnel, but the
results can lead to school-wide change. Successful school-wide action research is directly
related to initiatives contained within the school improvement plan.
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d) Teaching blogs
Modern teachers need modeling of professional development using emerging
technologies. Blogs allow teachers to reflect and communicate professionally and to respond
to other teachers experiencing similar circumstances. Ma and Ren (2011) defined teaching
blogs as written or recorded accounts of teaching experiences which will be about teachers’
routine and conscious actions in the classroom. These actions include conversations with
students, critical incidents in a lesson, teachers’ beliefs about teaching, events outside the
classroom that will influence teaching and teachers’ views about language teaching and
learning. There are two purposes for teaching blogs. The first is for later reflection and
triggering teachers’ insights about teaching by writing while the other can involve all their
students, their colleagues ,and other educators in the blogs so as to offer more advice on
teaching. Furthermore, most ELT blogs in particular present a variety of authentic resources,
multimedia materials, computer-based activities, ideas, tips on teaching, and useful websites
to enhance language instruction. Consequently, blogs can be used to equip teachers better
with a theoretical framework and practical experience for integrating technology to both their
present and future instructional experiences (Okan & Taraf, 2013).
The participants in this study were 25 EFL Thai teachers who were working in the
secondary schools in the western part of Thailand in the academic year 2012. Their ages
ranged from 23-59 years old with an average of 41. Fifteen of the teachers held a bachelor’s
degree, nine of them had a master’s degree and one of them finished a Ph.D degree. The
population of the study consisted of 23 females and 2 males. The years of teaching
experience ranged from less than 1 year to more than 20 years. The majority of participants
have worked more than 20 years (52%) while 1-5 years and 6-10 years shared the same rate
which was 8%. A detailed demographic profile of the participants is shown in the figure 1- 4
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 59
Figure 1: Gender Figure 2: Age
Figure 3: Years of teaching experience Figure 4: Educational background
The study aims to find out answers to the following research questions:
1) Have teachers self-assessed their teaching?
2) What are teachers’ perceptions about self-assessment with respect to (1) purposes
(2) instruments (3) difficulties, and (4) benefits?
To answer both research questions, the researcher prepared a questionnaire as an
instrument for this study. The questionnaire consisted of two parts. The questions were in the
checklist form. The first part included personal information. The researcher learned more
about the participants’ gender, ages, years of teaching experience and educational
backgrounds. The second section asked teachers what purposes, types of self-assessment
instrument were used, difficulties were faced, the derived benefits and how to improve their
teaching after self-assessment. Also, at the end of the survey questionnaire, the researcher
gave participants an opportunity to state their further information using an open-ended
less than 1 yr
60 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
question. The questionnaire was written in Thai because teachers could answer quicker and
The researcher selected an accidental sampling for this research because it was readily
available and convenient. The data for the study were gathered from English language
teachers who were working in the western part of Thailand. They participated in a seminar on
students’ preparation for entrance examination sponsored by Kasetsart University,
Kampaengsaen Campus, Nakhon Pathom in the academic year 2012. The researcher
distributed questionnaires during this seminar for these teachers to complete and hand in. A
total of 25 questionnaires were returned. This was very low to draw on any statistical
implications. As a result, the obtained data could not make generalizations about the total
population from this sample because it would not be representative enough. While the results
of this study could not be generalized to the larger language teacher population, the results of
the survey could still be useful. For example, the results will actually provide information for
teacher trainers. They can use the results to reconsider and design the appropriate framework
to promote self-assessment for EFL Thai teachers.
Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. To find answers to each research
question (see below), the frequency and percentage of responses were computed.
To answer research question 1, the researcher found that 23 teachers (92%) have ever
self-assessed their teaching and only 2 teachers (8%) have not. The latter group stated that
they lacked the knowledge and skills to employ self-assessment. However, they were aware
of the necessity of self-assessment. In the future, they would like to become more critical
teachers and examine their teaching behaviors and experiences deeper through self-
assessment. The instrument that they select would be a lesson report.
Teachers who had experience of self-assessment needed to answer the next question.
First of all, the researcher would like the participants to explain why they self-assessed
themselves. The results have been illustrated in the following figure:
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 61
Figure 5: Purposes of self-assessment
This figure showed that the majority of participants (54.84 %) considered continuing
professional development as mainly a purpose of self-assessment. 17 or 22.58 % of
participants would like to improve the learning experience for students. Some of them would
like to meet the requirements of school policy (16.13%). Only 2 teachers (6.45%) self-
assessed their teaching in order to obtain a higher academic standing.
Obviously, the findings showed that the majority of participants had positive attitudes
towards self-assessment. They were aware of the necessity of self-assessment. Significantly,
the majority of them assessed their teachings in order to continue professional development
as the most important purpose. The results revealed that this may be due to the fact that
teacher professional development has become increasingly important in many countries,
including Thailand (Iemjinda, 2007). Teachers were affected by a rapidly changing world
where knowledge, concepts, technology, philosophies, in fact, almost everything, were
swiftly altering education which has also been exposed to some fundamental changes
(Hismanoglu & Hismanoglu, 2010). In the same vein, Karabenick and Noda (2004) noted
that teacher development was a critical factor in improving teaching practice, as well as in
staying current with the latest knowledge in the field. Furthermore, Mizell (2010) pointed out
that ongoing efforts at career development were needed for teachers to understand the best
methods for reaching their students, while Richards and Farrell (2005) suggested that
ongoing teacher development helped teachers to familiarize with the latest resources and
methodologies and to avoid falling behind on the current standards for instruction.
When it came to the instruments used for self-assessment, the following figure
revealed the results:
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
To continue professional development
To improve the learningexperience for students
To meet the requirement of school policy
To obtain a higher academic standing
62 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Figure 6: Self-assessment instruments
As indicated in figure 6, the result revealed that EFL Thai teachers mainly used lesson
reports as self-assessment instrument (67.86%). The most interesting findings showed that
both audio and video recordings were employed at a very low rate (0%). Furthermore, diaries
and other instruments shared the same rate, which was 7.14%. The participants stated that
other instruments were checklists and students’ evaluation.
As mentioned in the literature review section, Qing (2009) proposed that writing a
lesson report has benefits for language teachers. A teacher could use self-reporting to find out
the kinds of teaching activities being regularly used, whether all of the programs’ goals were
being addressed, the degree to which personal goals for a class was being met, and the kinds
of activities which seem to work well or not to work well.
Moreover, the results also revealed that audio and video recordings were not selected
by language teachers. The data obtained from this study was in accordance with Tice’s
(2007). She believed that when recording the teaching session, teachers could become aware
of the things happening in the class. The experience of using audio recording appeared to be
intrusive and affected the behavior of both teachers and students. However, the results were
different from Dymond and Benz (2006) and Clarke (2009) in that they believed that video
recording could provide a permanent record of teachers’ own teaching that they could watch
and reflect on anytime. Furthermore, by watching their own teaching videos, teachers had a
more objective perspective on their own teaching practices.
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 63
Figure 7: Difficulties while doing self-assessment
Another survey showed that among 4 difficulties while doing self-assessment, a heavy
teaching load had the highest percentage (40.54%). Oppositely, lack of knowledge of self-
assessment represented the lowest percentage of responses (10.81%). In addition, 35.14 %
and 13.51% of participants revealed that they dealt with the problem of too many students in
a class and a lack of training and support from experts respectively.
To support this finding, Ho (2008-2009) mentioned that the exhausting workload of
teachers would bring adverse impacts on the quality of education as teachers could not put
their entire effort in teaching and building positive relationships with students. Atkins, Carter,
and Nichol (2002) stated that for the teachers, workload was related to matters of planning,
teaching, assessment, and managing learners. Surely, teachers’ workload affected their
When it came to the result of benefits that teachers received from their self-
assessment, figure 8 could describe clearly:
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Heavy teaching loads
Too many students in a class
Lack of trainingand support from experts
Lack of knowledge of self-assessment
64 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Figure 8: Benefits that teachers gain from their self-assessment
Figure 8 indicated that the maximum percentage of benefit that teachers gained from
their self-assessment was developing as a teaching professional (33.33%).The remainder
were knowing strengths and weaknesses (28.57%) and enhancing understanding of students
(23.81%).There were only 6 teachers or 14.29 % who stated that they could generate better
relationships between colleagues through self-assessment.
In addition, all participants used the self-assessed information to develop their
teaching. After gathering data of their teaching practices, they made changes to their
teaching. Some participants improved and tried different instruction styles, content, and
instructional materials. They also became more critical when correcting homework and
providing appropriate feedback. One of the significant findings to increase students’ learning
was offering remedial courses for weak students.
Self evaluation is a process in which one makes judgments about the adequacy and
effectiveness of performance for the purpose of self improvement. It is the most common
form of evaluation used by teachers to improve practice (Airasian et al, 1995). The function
of self evaluation is to help teachers identify and make decisions about the strengths and
weaknesses of their practice, with the intent of improving it (Airasian et al, 1997).
This study was concerned with EFL Thai teachers’ perspectives on self-assessment.
A questionnaire was used as a data collection device. The findings showed that the majority
of EFL teachers had positive attitudes towards self-assessment. They were aware of the
necessity of self-assessment. The researcher found that the majority of teachers assessed their
teachings in order to continue professional development as the most important purpose. They
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Develop as a teaching professional
Know strengths and weaknesses
Enhance understandingof students
Generate better relationshipsbetween colleagues
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 65
also identified lesson reports as a self-assessment instrument with the percentage of 67.86%.
The results also revealed that audio and video recordings were not selected by language
teachers. Another survey outcome showed that heavy teaching loads caused a difficulty
during carrying out self-assessment. The greatest benefit from self-assessment was
developing as a teaching professional. In addition, all participants used the self-assessed
information to improve their teaching by trying and developing different instruction styles,
content, and instructional materials. They also became more careful when correcting
homework and providing appropriate feedback. Offering remedial courses was considered to
increase weak students’ learning.
Limitation and Future Research
The sample size was the significant limitation. The number of respondents was small,
and the research focused on only English teachers in the western part of Thailand. Therefore,
the results of this study cannot be generalized to all EFL Thai teachers.
Based on the limitations of this study, future research should consider the following
information. Firstly, future work should increase the number of respondents and should focus
on more EFL Thai teachers which will help in generalizing the findings of the study.
Secondly, as mentioned in the results section of this study, the researcher found that all
participants never used audio and video recordings to self-assess their teaching. Therefore,
further investigation should be done on the effects of integrating these specific instruments to
self-assessment. Finally, this study was conducted in western parts of Thailand, so the results
may not be the same in other areas. Therefore, further should be done in other geographical
areas and also with more appropriate instruments and measurements.
Jittima Choopun is a lecturer at the College of Industrial Technology and Management,
Rajamangala University of Technology Srivijaya, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. She
completed her MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language at Silpakorn University in
2004. Her academic interests include teacher training and teacher professional development.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
Dr.Jirayu Tuppoom is a lecturer at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Science, Kasetsart
University, Kampaengsaen Campus, Nakhonpathom, Thailand. He received a PhD in English
Language Studies from Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhonratchasima in 2005. He
66 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
has a particular interest in language teacher training, teaching of writing to ESL students, and
writing assessment. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Engineering Phrases List: Towards Teachable ESP Phrases
King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi
This article presents the rationale and development of the Engineering
Phrases List (EPL). The EPL is a 40-word list of teachable phrases for
Engineering students based on a mixed-method empirical and intuitive corpus
approach. First, frequent, engineering-specific, widely used phrases were
identified in a corpus of engineering English. These phrases were then
analyzed for markedness and ranked to determine which would be most useful
from a teaching perspective and in terms of productive and receptive
usefulness for learners. This research both creates a useful tool for teachers of
engineering English as well as presents a methodology which should be useful
for those developing similar lists in other ESP/EAP contexts. Furthermore, the
implications of identifying and teaching phrases by focusing on markedness
are discussed throughout the paper.
Keywords: ESP, EAP, corpus linguistics, markedness, teachability, formulaic
The fields of English for Specific Purposes (ESP), English for Academic Purposes
(EAP), and their related subfields (see, eg. Jordan, 1997) have clearly established the need for
English to be taught for specific purposes based on learner context and need. For example,
work by Evans and Green (2007), and Nurweni and Read (1999) among others has shown
that students entering universities in English as a foreign language environments such as
Singapore, or Thailand often have difficulty comprehending their textbook materials both for
general purpose studies and for specific study areas. This is most likely because learners in
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academic contexts are lacking in academic literacy and lacking in knowledge of academic
discourse appropriate to their field of study (Hyland & Hamp-Lyons, 2002). Similarly, those
learning English for work purposes require a specialized set of linguistic knowledge to allow
them to properly conduct their business. Because of differences in usage between general
purpose English which is usually taught in elementary through secondary schools (English
for General Purposes, EGP) and the more specific context that the learners at post-secondary
levels are usually targeting (a specific ESP or EAP context) learners have difficulty applying
the general purpose linguistic knowledge that they have studied so far to their new linguistic
Therefore, there is a great need to teach specialized linguistic knowledge to students
coming from a general English background and a wide variety of resources and materials
have been created. Bowker and Pearson (2002), list vocabulary, collocations, syntax,
discursive function, and text and discourse structure as some of the traditional levels of
language employed by these materials to teach learners English for specific or academic
purposes. The first level at which language can be seen to be highly specialized in both
academic and professional fields is in the use of specialized vocabulary. Many materials have
been generated in ESP and EAP to attempt to address learners’ vocabulary needs, such as the
Academic Word List (Coxhead, 1998), and other more specialized word lists (see eg.
Mudraya, 2006; Ward, 2009).
Similarly, there can be variation at the syntactic level, the most often cited example
being that academic language contains a high degree of passivization and nominalization
compared with general English usage (Bowker & Pearson, 2002). Other levels at which
language has been analyzed for difference between EGP and a specific context are
collocations (eg. Fuentes, 2001), discursive functions (eg. Conrad & Biber, 2004), and the
structure of texts and discourse (eg. Swales, 1990).
Recently, another level of language has emerged for study in corpus linguistics.
Formulaic language, which takes a wide variety of forms such as multi-word units, phrasal
expressions, lexical bundles, phrases, gapped phrases, or concgrams (among others) has
provided insights into a new level of variation between genres and registers. These highly
frequent formulaic expressions have been shown to be useful to both learners and native
speakers in terms of fluency, comprehension, retention, and processing speed (Millar, 2011;
Tremblay, Derwing, Libben, & Westbury, 2011), as well as production, and as a means of
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showing in-group knowledge and membership (Nattinger & DeCarrico, 2009; Schmitt,
2010). Therefore, there has recently been much research into the development of language
materials focused on formulaic language such as the Phrasal Expressions List (Martinez &
Schmitt, 2012), academic lexical bundles (Conrad & Biber, 2004), and the Academic
Formulas List (Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010).
These phrase lists while useful to learners and teachers, contain many phrases such as
“the university of Michigan” (Simpson-Vlach & Ellis, 2010, p. 494), or “I don’t want to”
(Biber & Barbieri, 2007, p. 271) which are most likely not of interest to the majority of
teachers. In the case of these two examples, it is not a problem, as a teacher or learner can
easily ignore items which they believe are either not useful in their context such as “the
university of Michigan” or are already well understood by the learner such as “I don’t want
to”. However, there may well be other issues. The sheer number of phrases in the lists may be
overwhelming for some teachers or learners, or they may be unsure of whether a phrase is
indeed useful or not. For that reason, one of the topics of interest in this article will be the
question of how to determine not only which phrases represent difference between EGP and
ESP, but which of those are interesting from a teacher’s perspective. While these lists of
phrases are all statistically significant, and the formulaic language is presented, generally,
alongside their discourse functions there has been little research done into which phrases will
be most useful for teachers in ESP.
This article will describe and explain the theory behind the development of the
Engineering Phrases List (EPL), a short (40 phrase) list of teachable, interesting phrases that
represent language specific to engineering English that is useful for both English teachers as
well as those teaching engineering. While this article will focus on data from an engineering
corpus, it is hoped that the concepts and approach taken will be useful and pertinent to those
working in ESP and EAP fields in general. The article begins with a discussion of the corpus,
statistical methods for determining important phrases, followed by a discussion of the
methods used to select useful phrases for teaching. The article will finally propose that a
more teaching-oriented approach to research into formulaic language for the purposes of
ESP/EAP based on the concept of linguistic markedness, and that formulaic language by its
nature carries with it elements of each of the traditional levels of language described above
and can provide insight into those aspects of language used within the ESP context to both
the teacher and learner.
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The specific language context to be discussed in this article is that of engineering
English. In order to study the language that students at an engineering university in Thailand
will be using, the Engineering English Corpus (EEC) was developed using the 29 English
language engineering and math textbooks the students use in their first year of study. The
corpus includes approximately 45,000 word samples from each textbook with an effort made
to include all styles of language: explanation, practice exercises, and questions from several
chapters in each book resulting in a corpus that is approximately 1.15 million words in size.
These books were scanned and optical character recognition software was used to convert
them into plain text documents and make up the target corpus for the purposes of this study.
For full details of the corpus’ composition, please see appendices B and C.
Given that the aim of this research is to determine difference between English used in
a specific context with that used in general English, a comparison corpus is necessary for the
purpose of comparing usage. The general English corpus used in this research is a
representative sub-set of the British National Corpus (BNC). The BNC is a useful reference
point as it contains a wide variety of language from many sources both spoken and written
across a range of genres and registers. Slightly more than 38 million words from the BNC
were used covering the range of registers, genres, found in the BNC and both written and
spoken modes. It may be useful to note here that the textbooks used in the EEC are by and
large written in American English, and therefore the phrase lists had to be normalized for
some spelling differences (eg: color vs. colour) before comparing phrases between the
Identifying Common Phrases
In order to determine the interesting formulaic language in the target corpus, first a
frequency list of all N-Grams of 3, 4, or 5 words long was created. An N-Gram in the context
of formulaic language can be considered to be any immediately consecutive sequence of 2 or
more words, however, in this article “phrase” and “N-Gram” will be used interchangeably.
The common N-Grams used to create the EPL were first identified on the basis of four main
criteria: frequency, occurrence in multiple texts, corpus-specificity, and by co-occurrence. By
this it is meant that the N-Grams should occur frequently in multiple textbooks of the target
corpus, be used overall more frequently in the target corpus than in general English as
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represented by the BNC, and that the words that make up the phrases should more often
occur together than with other words.
The first criterion for identifying these N-Grams was to set a raw frequency cutoff, in
line with previous work (eg. Biber & Barbieri, 2007; Conrad & Biber, 2004; Simpson-Vlach
& Ellis, 2010). In formulaic language research it is common to set a hard cutoff point for
words with a given frequency of occurrence per million words where phrases that fall below
the cutoff will be ignored for further analysis. Biber generally applies a cutoff of 40
occurrences per million words mark for 3 or 4-grams. The goal of this criterion is to ensure
that items which only occur rarely will not be included in the final data. On the other hand,
Ellis et al. while compiling the AWL employed a cutoff frequency of 10 occurrences per
When the initial frequency lists were analyzed, it was determined that setting a cutoff
of 40 per million would be too restrictive in that only a small number of highly technical
phrases would be produced. The technical phrases are generally uninteresting from an
English teacher’s perspective as they contain straightforward grammar, collocations, and so
forth. For example, in the phrase “the magnitude of the” the only novel content for the learner
might be the use of the technical term “magnitude” which a learner from an EGP background
would not be familiar with. However, these technical terms are taught as part of the standard
material for the engineering courses, and are therefore less interesting from an English
teacher’s perspective as the only problematic point for the learner, the technical term, will
already be taught. For this reason lower cutoffs were selected for the purposes of the EPL.
Because general frequency per million words declines as N-Grams increase in length, the
frequency cutoff was scaled by length of phrase to 15, 10, and 5 occurrences per million
words for N-Grams of 3, 4, and 5 words in length.
The second criterion for inclusion in the EPL was that the phrases should occur in
multiple disciplines. As there is variation between the language used in different engineering
disciplines and the goal is to produce results that apply to the entire field rather than any
specific sub-discipline, it is necessary to ensure that the phrases produced for this work are
ones which will be useful to a variety of engineers, not only one particular subgroup of
engineers who happen to use a phrase very frequently. The criterion was set such that a
phrase must occur in at least 10% of all texts in the corpus as well as one of the key sub-
corpora (calculus, chemistry, math, and physics). Each of these sub-corpora represent
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materials which students from all engineering disciplines must study, and were therefore
considered to be “key”. After applying both of these criteria, an initial list of about 3,000
phrases was created.
Identifying Significant Phrases
A variety of statistical methods are available to determine which phrases represent the
statistically significant phrases for a corpus of data. These statistics include Log Likelihood
(LL), Mutual Information (MI) (Rayson & Garside, 2000; Schmitt, 2010), and a composite
statistic known as the “beta score” (N. C. Ellis, Simpson-Vlach, & Maynard, 2008). Each
statistic has a different function and appropriate applications, and each will be briefly
discussed in the context of its use in developing the EPL.
The Log Likelihood statistic (Rayson & Garside, 2000) is used to measure how
“surprising” an item from one corpus is. The statistic is a hypothesis test to check the
difference between expected frequency and actual frequency. The phrases with the highest
LL scores, then, are those which show the most significant difference in frequency between
the two corpora, and therefore, should be most representative of language that is used in the
engineering context. This statistic was used to select phrases occurring with a significance
level of p < 0.0001 for three and four-word phrases, and p < 0.001 for phrases five words in
length. Because long phrases occur less frequently in both the target and comparison corpora,
the threshold of significance of the results is somewhat reduced.
The final criterion for the creation of the initial list of N-Grams used to create the EPL
was the calculation of mutual information (MI). The MI statistic is used to determine how
much a combination of words predicts each other. That is to say that a pair of words with a
high MI score occur together very frequently, but rarely occur with other words. In a sense, it
can be viewed as how much one word will then predict the words that are to follow. While
the LL score is used to determine difference between general English and engineering
English, the MI score is used to determine which phrases consist of words that occur together
more frequently than would be expected by chance. Using the Collocate tool, the MI scores
for each N-Gram were calculated and a cut-off of 3.3 was selected. After applying this
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statistic as well as LL, there remained 1,289 three-word phrases, 389 four-word phrases and
50 five-word phrases. These phrases were then used as the basis for the formation of the EPL.
The Identification of Teachable Phrases
While there has been much research into statistical significance of formulaic language
(Dunning, 1993; N. C. Ellis et al., 2008; Schmitt, 2010), there has been has been less research
into how best to locate the teachable language from a set of statistically significant phrases.
One approach to the identification of teachable phrases is the beta score (N. C. Ellis et al.,
2008). The beta score is calculated as a composite value determined by both the frequency of
a phrase and the phrase’s MI score. The Beta Score is based on Ellis et al’s investigation of
the correlation of both frequency and MI to teacher’s ratings of phrases for teachability. It
was found that frequency had a greater effect on the ratings, but that MI was also significant
and a composite score was developed to attempt to represent these judgments empirically.
This beta score was used as the final ranking for the approximately 2,000 phrases that
remained after the application of the criteria described above. However, while this score is an
interesting and useful first step toward filling the void of metrics of teachability, I believe that
it may be useful to look at non-statistical, more intuitive measures by which to identify useful
Markedness as Criteria for Teachability
While a phrase may be highly significant from a statistical perspective, it may not be
interesting from a teaching perspective. For example, the phrase “what is the” (see Table 1) is
the highest ranking three-word phrase by beta score from the initial 2,000 phrases. This is a
phrase which is exceptionally frequent, it is more frequent in the engineering textbook
language than in general English (high LL vs. the BNC), and the words in the phrase strongly
predict each other’s presence (high MI score). However, this is an uninteresting phrase from a
teacher’s perspective, as it is still frequent enough in general English that learners from an
EGP background should be familiar with it, and there is nothing special about its usage in the
engineering English context. Other similar phrases shown in the table below are “how long
will it take”, or “can be used”.
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Table 1: Top ten phrases by beta score
Rank 3-Gram 4-Gram 5-Gram
1 what is the can be used to at a rate of #
2 the number of as a function of you should be able to
3 as shown in the magnitude of the beyond the scope of this
4 # and # as shown in figure how long will it take
5 can be used with respect to the the first law of thermodynamics
6 shown in figure in this chapter we in such a way that
7 the value of the value of the the rate of change of
8 in terms of the sum of the the external forces acting on
9 be used to newton 's second law recall from chapter # that
10 # to # in terms of the in this section we will
Other phrases shown in Table 1, that may initially appear interesting, are at a second
glance, possibly less interesting to teach. For example, the phrase “the first law of
thermodynamics” or “the magnitude of the”, are both phrases which could reasonably be
expected to be new to first-year engineering students. However, both of these phrases focus
on technical terms. In the first case, the entire phrase is a technical term, and in the second
case the phrase revolves around the term “magnitude” with standard collocations and
syntactic patterns. As stated earlier in this work, technical vocabulary is generally well taught
by specialist teachers within the engineering discipline and are already known to be part of
the necessary knowledge for students and therefore these phrases are not considered
interesting from the perspective of an ESP/EAP English teacher.
In order to determine which phrases are interesting from a teaching perspective, it is
proposed to apply markedness criteria in order to differentiate between more teachable and
less teachable phrases. Markedness refers to how “standard” a particular linguistic feature is
to the grammar of the language. The more different from standard English or language-
specific a linguistic feature is, the more highly marked it is said to be (see eg. R. Ellis, 1985).
A form which is highly marked should be special in some way it may be a form which is
which is less frequent, or more “structurally or conceptually complex” in some way (Saville-
Troike, 2005). Saville-Troike explains that marked forms of language are generally acquired
later than unmarked forms. As any type of English for a specific purpose can be considered to
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be a specialized subset of English, it will by necessity contain certain marked forms which
occur much more frequently than in general English and help to serve to distinguish it from
general English. These marked forms should therefore be indicative of the difference between
any specific English, and general English. Furthermore, as these marked forms are more
difficult to learn, they are forms that learners are unlikely to be familiar with even though
they may already be used in general English.
Here I propose six categories of markedness for the determination of the phrases to
include in EPL which will be listed briefly here and described in detail below. For each
criteria that is satisfied a phrase can be considered to be more marked. These criteria were
then applied to the 300 highest ranked three and four word phrases, and all five-word phrases
to create the final 40-word EPL. The criteria are:
(1) marked part of speech: any of the words in the phrase do not have their usual
part of speech;
(2) marked word form: any word in the phrase does not occur in the most common
form of that word;
(3) non-prototypical word meaning: any word in the phrase does not occur with its
most prototypical meaning;
(4) marked collocations: the phrase contains any collocations or co-occurrence
patterns that differ from general English patterns;
(5) non-literal phrase meaning;
(6) specialized syntax: the phrase contains or is connected with complex or unclear
Finally, an additional criterion un-related to markedness was put in place to remove
phrases which were only marked due to their inclusion of a technical term. Such phrases were
deemed less useful to teachers as technical terms are already taught by specialist teachers.
However, it is possible that a phrase containing a technical term might be interesting due to
its syntax, or some other aspect. Therefore, phrases containing a word with only a specialized
technical use were not considered unless the phrase was marked in at least two of the
categories mentioned above. A word such as “axis”, for example, is highly technical and
unlikely to occur in general English. However, a word such as “function” has both a regular
usage, and a special technical usage in mathematics and would be considered acceptable in a
marked phrase. All data discussed in this section is from the EEC, unless otherwise specified,
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and the full list of phrases from the EPL annotated for markedness can be found in Appendix
A organized by level of markedness.
Marked part of speech
The first criterion of markedness was if any word in the phrase occurred with a less
common part of speech, that it should be considered as marked on that score. Many words
may occur with different parts of speech in different contexts and meanings. Let us begin
with an example phrase from the EPL:
Ex 1. for a given
It is clear that the part of speech of the word “given” in this sentence will be adjective
because it follows the determiner “a”. In general English “given” can be used as a verb (past
participle) (see Ex 2), an adjective (Ex 3), or a noun (Ex 4).
Ex 2. The man was given a car.
Ex 3. Using the given information, determine the speed of the arrow.
Ex 4. It was a given.
In general English, the use of “given” as a verb is by far the most common. In the
BNC 91% of uses of the word “given” are coded as “verb”, 7% as adjective, and 2% as a
noun. We can see that while there is substantial use of “given” as an adjective, it is
overwhelmingly used as a verb in general English. However, in the EEC, the usage of
“given” is significantly different. In this corpus the usage of given is split almost evenly
(approximately 50%/50%) between verb and adjective, a significant difference from usage in
general English. This difference in usage is clearly reflected in the top phrases in the EPL.
The top ten most common three-word phrases containing the word “given” in the EEC are
clearly split between passive and adjectival usage, whereas in the BNC an adjectival usage is
not encountered until the 28th
phrase, with the previous all being past participles as shown in
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Table 2: Top six phrases by frequency per million words in the EPL and top 5 and 28th
phrases from the BNC
Rank Freq Phrase Rank Freq Phrase
1 14.07 given to the 1 85.22 is given by
2 11.51 to be given 2 63.70 for a given
3 9.85 be given to 3 37.01 given by the
4 7.55 should be given 4 22.38 in a given
5 7.27 given by the 5 20.66 is given in
28 2.51 in a given 6 18.94 at a given
A second example is the phrase shown in Ex 5. In this phrase from the EPL, the part
of speech of the word “note” is clearly different from the most common usage in general
English. Normally, “note” will be used as a noun, rather than as a verb. This principle of
markedness not only allows us to locate a phrase which contains usage that is different from
that in general English, but also then gives us insight into a general usage pattern that is
different within the context of engineering English.
Ex 5. note that the
Similarly to the case of “given”, above, “note” appears almost exclusively as a verb in
the EEC, compared with almost equal noun and verb distributions in the BNC. Again, we see
that phrases by their nature make clear not only which words are most frequently used, but in
what way they are used.
Marked Word Form
Words can occur in a variety of forms. To continue with the example of “given”, this
word is the past participle form of the canonical form “give”. Similarly, many words used in
engineering English use the non-canonical form much more frequently than the canonical
form of the word. This can often be seen to link to passive voice usage, which as in general
academic English, is very common in engineering English as well.
Ex 6. acting on the
Ex 7. passes through the
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In Ex 6, “acting” is a less common form of the word “act”. While “acting” is not a
particularly strange word in and of itself, in general English is much more common for it to
appear in the bare form “act”. In fact, “act” is approximately ten times more common than
“acting” in the BNC. The same is true of “pass” and “passes”, where “passes” is significantly
less common in general English usage than the base form “pass”. Again, as was the case
when discussing part of speech, the usage of the words in the phrases is representative of the
differences between engineering English and general English. In both of these cases, the form
used in the phrase is the less common form in general English, but the more common form in
engineering English, once again, highlighting a difference in usage between the two types of
Non-prototypical Word Meaning
Many words in English have multiple possible meanings. This is most obvious in the
case where a word has both a specialized technical meaning, and a non-specialized general
meaning that is significantly different from the technical meaning. In Ex 8, the word
“function” refers to a mathematical function, rather than “what or how something does what
it does”. This is a highly specialized technical meaning which is rare to non-existent in
general English, but in very common use when discussing math, and physics.
Ex 8. (as) a function of
However, there may also be words with several meanings that are equally valid in
general English, but one is more common, but that in the context of a specialized field, a
different meaning (which is still valid in general English) becomes more common, see Ex 9
and Ex 10.
Ex 9. under the action of
Ex 10. about an axis
Both Ex’s 9 and 10, show a usage of prepositions different from the most common
one in general English. In each case, the meaning is not the one typically associated with the
word. “under” does not refer to location, but rather refers to an object which is subjected to
some action or event (“Merriam-Webster Online,” n.d.). This is not a specialized technical
meaning as it can be used in common phrases such as “be under pressure”, or “be under fire”
(“Merriam-Webster Online,” n.d.), but this usage is quite rare, and therefore is here
considered marked. Similarly, “about” does not have anything to do with something
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concerning an axis, but rather denotes location rotating around the axis. While this use of
“about” is not the most common usage in the EEC (the standard usage to convey information
concerning something is most common), it is used with this uncommon meaning much more
frequently than in general English usage.
Finally, one difficult case that was selected for the EPL is the phrase in Ex 11, “due to
the”. This phrase while unmarked, may be considered marked in English of most EFL
students arriving at university as they may only be familiar with the use of “due” in the
meaning of “time at which work is to be handed in” as this is most likely the most common
usage in their learning environment.
Ex 11. due to the
Marked collocation/co-occurrence patterns
The fourth markedness criterion included for the determination of what will occur in
the EPL was whether the words occurred in collocational patterns which are different from
those in general English, that is, do the words in the phrase normally appear together in
general English? While this criterion is less frequently useful than those of word-meaning
and word-form, it is still a useful criterion to take into account. If words are used together in
different ways, it will certainly be of interest to learners.
Ex 12. normal to the
In Ex 12, the word “normal” is used with the preposition “to”. In general English, the
word “normal” does not have any special prepositional collocates, and the preposition that
collocates with it most highly is “under”. However, in this more specialized technical usage
of the word, it collocates very highly with the preposition “to”, on the right-hand side. In
general English use, when “normal” and “to” are used together, “to” will appear on the left-
hand side, as in Ex 13 from the BNC:
Ex 13. It's as close to normal as it can be.
Again, this phrase shows some insight into the language used in the EEC that would
not be readily apparent merely by examining a word list. It becomes clear that the usage of
the word “normal” is abnormal relative to general English, and interesting for both its
collocational pattern and meaning.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 83
Non-literal Phrase Meaning
Occasionally, a phrase will be used that demonstrates a non-literal meaning. Such
phrases are similar to cases in which a word is used with a marked meaning and the two often
come together. These phrases are interesting for learners because the actual meaning may not
be immediately clear. Often phrases in these categories are employing rhetorical devices for
the sake of arguing about theoretical ideal cases.
Ex 14. A function f is said to be continuous at x=c provided...
Ex 15. We see that for leftist heaps, another strategy is needed.
In Ex 14 and Ex 15, the phrase does not actually mean what it could be literally
construed to mean. In Ex 14 no one is in fact saying that a function named ‘f’ is continuous,
but the reader is being informed that this is the definition for what constitutes a continuous
function. Similarly in Ex 15 there is nothing to be literally seen, but rather information that
must be understood.
Certain phrases either contain specialized syntax, or exclusively appear in sentences
containing specialized syntax. For the general purposes of language learners, the declarative
indicative sentence is the standard basic syntax that can be expected to be used, and other
more complex structures will be more highly marked. Often, phrases occur in a specific set of
grammatical conditions. In Ex 16 and Ex 17 the usage of the subjunctive mood can be
observed. The subjunctive mood is often realized when discussing hypothetical situations
which students will need to consider for the purpose of understanding theory or solving
problems posed in their text. However, it is an aspect of English which many students find
difficult to master as it is rarely visible in general English. Ex 16 also contains the use of the
imperative verb “let”, another form of marked syntax wherein the subject is dropped. Ex. 17
may further be confusing for learners of English as it may pose a garden path type problem.
Learners may expect a phrase of the form of a noun followed by copula be followed by
adjective or noun phrase, but instead be met with an infinitive verb.
Ex 16. Let x be the length of a straightaway.
Ex 17. A garden is to be laid out.
Another less marked type of syntactic structure common to academic English is the
extensive use of the passive voice. This can also be see frequently in the phrases in the EPL.
84 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
In Ex 18 and Ex 19 it is clear from the use of the past participle form of the verb followed
and the following preposition that these phrases most likely occur in the passive voice. And if
an investigation of concordance lines is performed, then that hypothesis is born out.
Ex 18. based on the
Ex 19. applied to the
Finally, a syntactic structure could be marked in terms of its position within a clause
or sentence. For example, a number of phrases such as “in this case” (Ex 20) are almost
always sentence-initial and are used to introduce a new clause.
Ex 20. In this case s increases as t increases.
Results and Implications for teaching
Using markedness criteria to identify teachable phrases is an approach with several
benefits. First, because marked phrases are more difficult for learners, we can be sure that
these phrases will be at least somewhat useful to teach. Secondly, markedness has potential
implications for the teaching of phrases for the purposes of either comprehension or
production by learners. Thirdly using the markedness approach allows both teachers and
learners to induce patterns of usage that occur in the specific linguistic context being taught.
Generally speaking, learners acquire receptive capabilities earlier than productive
ones. That is to say that comprehension of language precedes the ability to reproduce that
language effectively. The markedness of phrases has implications then for how a learner will
best be able to put to use the phrases in the EPL. It is proposed that a more highly marked
phrase can be viewed as something which a learner might have more difficulty learning to
use, but that the learner can learn to understand for the purposes of comprehending their
materials. However, it should be easier to acquire productive capabilities for a phrase which
is less marked, and therefore these can be taught as phrases which a student can learn to use
in their own language early on.
Table 3, below shows a comparison of some highly marked and some less marked
phrases. Each phrase is given a markedness score based on how many of the markedness
criteria are met. A phrase such as “for a given” or “acting on the” may be more complex or
difficult for a student to learn to write correctly as it is more highly marked and may be more
suitable for learning for receptive purposes initially. Conversely, a phrase such as “we
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 85
assume that the” or “we see that” should be fairly straightforward for a learner to learn use it
for productive purposes early once their awareness has been raised.
Table 3: Comparison of markedness in phrases (See full list in Appendix A)
Highly Marked Phrases Slightly Marked Phrases
Phrase Markedness Phrase Markedness
can be viewed as 5 we assume that the 1
for a given 4 in this case 1
acting on the 4 we see that 1
is known as 4 relative to the 1
Markedness and phrases also have implications for the general teaching of language
for a specific purpose. The phrases and markedness categories each focus of parts of
language that are traditionally taught separately by teachers: vocabulary, parts of speech,
collocations, syntax, and discourse function. The phrases bring parts of each of these
traditional levels of language along with them, and provide insights into general patterns of
use in the specific linguistic context. As described above, the phrases can be taught in terms
of vocabulary (word meaning in context, parts of speech, word forms), collocations, or
grammatical patterns such as use of passive voice constructions or subjunctive mood. As
shown by Biber (2007), phrases can also be used to show functional discursive patterns that
occur in a specific type of English and that could be used as a criterion for future work.
This research shows the beginnings of a useful approach to determining useful
phrases for teachers of English in a specific context, but it will need further refinement and
development to be truly useful. Further research might also be useful to see if the same types
of inferences can be made equally well or better using other types of formulaic language such
as gapped phrases, or concgrams. Finally, markedness is not binary, but exists on a scale
within types of markedness. For example, one type of abnormal syntax may be considered
more marked than another. This would affect judgments of markedness overall and a more
detailed metric may need to be developed. Nevertheless, the current research shows that
applying markedness criteria can be a useful way to judge teachability of phrases and lends
insight into why the phrase is important to teach.
86 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Dougal Graham (email@example.com), graduated with an MA in Linguistics from
Memorial university and is now a lecturer at King Mongkut’s University of Technology,
Thonburi, Thailand in the Centre for Research and Services in the School of Language
Biber, D., & Barbieri, F. (2007). Lexical bundles in university spoken and written registers.
English for Specific Purposes, 26(3), 263–286. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2006.08.003
Bowker, L., & Pearson, J. (2002). Working with specialized language: A practical guide to
using corpora. London: Routledge.
Conrad, S., & Biber, D. (2004). The Frequency and Use of Lexical Bundles in Conversation
and Academic Prose. Lexicographica, 20, 56–71.
Coxhead, A. (1998). An academic word list. School of Linguistics and Applied Language
Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, 18. Retrieved from
Dunning, T. (1993). Accurate methods for the statistics of surprise and coincidence.
Computational Linguistics, 19(1), 61–74.
Ellis, N. C., Simpson-Vlach, R., & Maynard, C. (2008). Formulaic Language in Native and
Second-Language Speakers: Psycholinguistics, Corpus Linguistics and TESOL.
TESOL Quarterly, 42(3), 375–396. doi:10.1002/j.1545-7249.2008.tb00137.x
Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding second language acquisition (Vol. 1). Oxford University
Press Oxford. Retrieved from http://www.getcited.org/pub/102583342
Evans, S., & Green, C. (2007). Why EAP is necessary: A survey of Hong Kong tertiary
students. English for Academic Purposes, 6(1), 3–17.
Fuentes, A. C. (2001). Lexical behaviour in academic and technical corpora: Implications for
ESP development. Language Learning & Technology, 5(1), 106–121.
Hyland, K., & Hamp-Lyons, L. (2002). EAP: issues and directions. Journal of English for
Academic Purposes, 1(1), 1–12.
Jordan, R. R. (1997). English for Academic Purposes: A Guide and Resource Book for
Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 87
Martinez, R., & Schmitt, N. (2012). A Phrasal Expressions List. Applied Linguistics, 33(3),
Merriam-Webster Online. (n.d.). Dictionary. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from
Millar, N. (2011). The Processing of Malformed Formulaic Language. Applied Linguistics,
Mudraya, O. (2006). Engineering English: A lexical frequency instructional model. English
for Specific Purposes, 25(2), 235–256. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2005.05.002
Nattinger, J., R., & DeCarrico, J., S. (2009). Lexical Phrases and Language Teaching.
Oxford University Press.
Nurweni, A., & Read, J. (1999). The English language knowledge of Indonesian university
students. English for Specific Purposes, 18(2), 161–175.
Rayson, P., & Garside, R. (2000). Comparing corpora using frequency profiling. In
Proceedings of the workshop on Comparing Corpora (pp. 1–6). Association for
Computational Linguistics. Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1604686
Saville-Troike, M. (2005). Introducing Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Schmitt, N. (2010). Researching Vocabulary: A Vocabulary Research Manual. Palgrave
Simpson-Vlach, R., & Ellis, N. C. (2010). An Academic Formulas List: New Methods in
Phraseology Research. Applied Linguistics, 31(4), 487–512.
Swales, J. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge
Tremblay, A., Derwing, B., Libben, G., & Westbury, C. (2011). Processing Advantages of
Lexical Bundles: Evidence from Self-paced Reading and Sentence Recall Tasks.
Language Learning, 61(2), 569–613.
Ward, J. (2009). A basic engineering English word list for less proficient foundation
engineering undergraduates. English for Specific Purposes, 28(3), 170–182.
West. (1953). A General Service List of English Words. London: Longman.
88 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
The Engineering Phrase List (EPL) with Markedness Categories (An empty space is
“unmarked” and an “X” is “marked”)
can be viewed
X X X X X 5
for a given X X X X X 4
acting on the X X X X 4
is known as X X X X 4
X X X X 4
X X X 3
let us consider
X X X 3
can be written X X X 3
about an axis X X 2
the degree of X X 2
note that the X X X 3
with respect to
X X 2
based on the X X 2
X X 2
the action of X X 2
let x be X X 2
we can write X X 2
for each of X X 2
in such a way
X X 2
X X 2
such that the X X 2
normal to the X X 2
scope of this
X X 2
(as) a function
X X 2
assume that the X X 2
applied to the X X 2
as shown in
X X 2
is assumed to X X 2
is said to be
X X 2
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 89
X X 2
it can be shown
X X 2
is to be X X 2
in terms of X X 2
relative to the X X 1
we say that X 1
due to the X 1
we see that X 1
we will assume
we assume that
in this case X 1
Disciplines included in the CEEM Corpus
Disciplines Included in EEC
Control Systems and Instrumentation
Electronics and Telecommunication
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Textbooks of the CEEM corpus by subject and number of words included
Textbook Subject # of Words Textbook Subject # of Words
1. Biology 42,857 15. Hydraulic fluids 42,174
2. C++ 50,103 16. Java 28,049
3. Calculus 59,326 17. Manufacturing processes 61,837
4. Chemical engineering 46,509 18. Material and energy balance 21,950
5. Chemistry 45,350 19. Mechanical solids 26,501
6. Database 52,811 20. Physics 88,978
7. Data structure 35,789 21. Statics and dynamics 50,302
8. Discrete mathematics 50,991 22. Statics 36,888
9. Circuits and circuit analysis 34,585 23. Structural analysis 36,826
10. Engineering materials 53,426 24. Surveying 48,353
11. Engineering programming 29,165 25. Technical drawing 69,228
12. Environmental pollution 34,235 26. Thermodynamics 54,149
13. Environmental engineering 40,861 27. Wastewater management 24,144
14. Fluid mechanics 39,138 Total 1,204,525
Abstracts Writing: A case Study of ScienceDirect Top 25 Hottest Articles
Kasetsart University, Kamphaeng Saen Campus
An abstract is used as a survivor tool for international researchers and
readers to screen relevant documents from massive knowledge production.
Consequently, an effective written abstract will promote the original full text
in its international discourse community. In this paper, we examine the
generic structure of abstracts of the 25 most frequently downloaded articles
on Arts and Humanities in the ScienceDirect database over a full year period
of 2012, based on the theoretical framework of an abstract as a promotional
genre promoting its full text to the international readers in its specific
discourse community. The findings suggest that successful abstracts do not
necessarily follow the traditional conventions of abstract writing suggested
by previous studies or teaching materials. Moreover, an awareness of the
persuasive functions and linguistic manipulations are visible in the
successful abstracts. These findings offer pedagogic implications for writing
courses at the graduate level and guidelines for both expert and novice
Keywords: abstract, research article, downloaded articles, rhetorical organization,
move analysis, genre, persuasion
92 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
The communication of the findings of researchers within or outside the global
research communities is mainly disseminated in the form of research articles (Jubb, 2013).
Moreover, every researcher has a purpose or purposes for him/herself and also for others, as
Pinkowitz (2002: 487) stated that the goal of research is to have it read by others. Thus,
research articles are accepted as a gateway to the opportunity of international recognition.
Unfortunately, not all valuable research articles have been read because, in the
electronic era, a huge number of research articles are published every day. Moreover, each
research paper competes with one another in order to promote itself (Breeze, 2009). This
means that, with a few mouse clicks, we can access a variety of academic writing in full texts
such as research articles (RA), dissertations, theses, etc. Since this may lead to information
overload, only some attractive winners would be read.
Figure 1: Reading behavior in a digital context
In a digital context, among a huge
number of academic writing, abstracts
of research articles play a primary role,
even if their readers can access full
papers (Nicholas et al, 2007).
According to Nicholas et al. (2008),
readers’ behaviors in digital libraries
are shown in the diagram in figure 1. At
the beginning, the readers use a search
facility to scan for interesting
information such as journals, titles or issues. On one hand, they can view any abstract and
make their choices from a digital information flood. On the other hand, they can read full-text
articles in some digital journal libraries without viewing an abstract. An abstract of an article
is also provided when its full-text article is viewed. Finally, the users make a decision
whether to read or ignore them.
Practically, in a virtual environment, the full-text download is generally accepted,
with controversy, as a proxy for “reading” (Nicholas et al., 2008; Pinkowitz, 2002). Likewise,
reading is a way of measuring a level or degree of knowledge dissemination. Hence, a
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 93
frequent download of full-text research articles is one of the indicators that can be seen as the
success of knowledge dissemination. With this assumption, the term “successful abstract” in
this paper is defined as an abstract that its full text is frequently downloaded.
In selecting any relevant article, the use of abstracts may be the best way (Koltay,
2010). It is wildly recognized that, apart from a title, an abstract is one of the most important
parts of a research article and is the most frequently read part of any paper, (Paltridge &
Strafield, 2008; Pinto, 2006). Moreover, it is the only part of that paper that is read in case
that the reader ignores the full paper (Pinto, 2006). Therefore, an abstract is used as a
survivor tool for screening only relevant documents from massive knowledge production by
researchers and readers. Consequently, an effective written abstract will surely promote its
original full text in the international discourse community of its own field.
In information searching, quality English abstracts could make contributions to
researchers and readers. According to Huckin (2001), traditional abstracts have at least four
functions as follows.
First, they serve as stand-alone mini-texts, giving readers a quick summary of a
study‘s topic, methodology, and findings. Second, they serve as screening
devices, enabling the reader to decide whether to read the article as a whole.
Third, for those readers who do opt to read the article as a whole, abstracts
serve as previews, creating an interpretive frame that can guide reading.
Finally, abstracts serve as aids to indexing by professional indexers for large
database services (Huckin, 2001: 93).
Together with the above traditional functions, abstracts are classified to serve the
readers’ needs for making relevance judgment as indicative, informative and indicative-
informative abstracts (Cross & Oppenheim, 2006). They stated as following:
• Indicative abstracts indicate the content of articles in general terms but do
not include statements about the outcome of any discussions or conclusions.
• Informative abstracts present as much as possible of the information in the
original document, including discussions and conclusions. They serve the
dual functions of aiding the assessment of document relevance, and also
serve as substitutes for the original when only a cursory knowledge of the
subject is needed.
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• Indicative-informative abstracts contain general information as found in
indicative abstracts together with brief conclusion-like statements (Cross &
Oppenheim, 2006: 432).
According to Bhatia (2005), in recent years promotional elements have been
incorporated in many genres, even in academic discourses, and they are increasing. He also
said that a mix of promotional genres in professional and academic genres came from several
reasons. The highly competitive situation in a massive information explosion is one of the
results. As called by Bhatia (1997) as “genre-mixing and embedding”, this hybrid genre has
the primary communicative purpose not only in providing information but also in marketing:
that of selling a product. Within the context of the global Internet and information overload,
we predict that there are a mix of genres and some differences from the tradition in the
Although there have been a considerable number of studies on abstract writing in
general, little has been done on the roles of an abstract as a promotional genre that promotes
its parent text to readers. Moreover, the authentic abstracts of research articles, which have
been successfully disseminated, i.e. the top downloaded full text articles, have not been
thoroughly studied. The aim of this paper is to investigate the rhetorical organization and the
construction of the successful authentic abstracts. This empirical study of the abstracts will
provide some deep knowledge and understanding for novice and expert writers in the area of
Arts and Humanities, who are writing academic abstracts in English as their international,
foreign or second language. A better understanding of the rhetorical units and the
construction of the successful abstracts is useful not only for teaching abstract writing but
also for facilitating the dissemination of research papers.
Data compilation and description
This study analyzed the abstracts of the 25 most frequently downloaded articles in the fields
of Arts and Humanities in the ScienceDirect Top 25 database
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/) over the full year period of 2012 (January to December).
The database is restricted to only the recent one year period to ensure current situations. All
research articles were empirical research articles; that is, no reviews or theory articles were
selected to prevent them from being limited to only some types of abstracts by their very
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 95
nature (Koltay, 2010). This corpus consisted of all the population or 25 abstracts and
approximately 4,500 words.
In this investigation, the genre-based approach, proposed by Swales’ (1990) Move
Analysis, was used to analyze the dataset. As Swales (1990, 2004) pointed out, each genre
has a typical rhetorical structure, and the structure consists of a number of specific ‘moves’
with a communicative function. He also said that a ‘move’ is a discoursal segment (both in
oral and written) that performs a particular communicative function and can be identified by
linguistic clues. Since a research article abstract is considered a well-established genre in
academic discourse (Gillaerts & Van de Velde, 2010), move analysis can provide a structure
of information used in the abstracts.
Santos’s (1996) five-move classification of abstracts: introduction, aim, method,
result, and discussion was applied as a framework for the analysis of the move structure in
the present study, rather than the four-move Traditional IMRD structure (i.e., IMRD or
introduction, method, result, and discussion) used in some previous studies (Lorés, 2004;
Samraj, 2005; Van Bonn and Swales, 2007) because of the following reasons.
To start with, these five moves have been applied in many of previous research
studies on abstracts, namely, Hyland (2000), Kanoksilapatham (2013), Santos (1996), Swales
and Feak (2004) and Tseng (2011). As a result, a five-move model is also a suggested
structure of an abstract although the moves are entitled differently in different books.
Secondly, Santos (1996) suggested a model with five moves for a study of abstracts in
applied linguistics. Similarly, Hyland (2000) also employed a five moves model in his study
and pointed out that the finer identification between introduction and purpose (or aim) in five
moves classification can portray a clearer picture of the rhetorical structure of the selected
96 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Move Typical Title Purposes
Move 1 Background/Introduction/Situation Establishes a context of the paper and
motivates the research or discussion
Move 2 Aim/ Purpose/ Present research Indicates a purpose, thesis or
hypothesis, outlines an intention
behind the paper
Move 3 Methods/Procedures Provides information on design,
procedures, assumptions, approach,
Move 4 Results/ Findings States main findings, results,
arguments, or accomplishments
Move 5 Discussion/Conclusion/Implications Interprets or extends results beyond the
scope of paper, draws inferences,
points to applications or wider
Table 1: A classification of rhetorical moves in research article abstracts
Finally, the results of this study can be compared with the previous five-move model
of abstract studies that focused on the field of Arts and Humanities or the similar ones as
studied by Santos (1996) and Tseng (2011). The title and purposes of each move of the
analytical model in this paper are shown in table 1.
In the Move Analysis, which attempts to determine the purpose of a text, typically involves
subjective judgment. The analysis is further complicated because one unit of text may serve
more than one purpose. Following Kanoksilapatham (2005), inter-coder reliability was
conducted in an effort to ensure that move boundaries were reliably identified. Therefore, in
this study a Ph.D. candidate in English language teaching was asked to identify the rhetorical
units. After the coding of all abstracts by two different individuals was completed, the
findings were compared to identify any coding disagreement. High inter-coder reliability
rates were obtained (over 80 %). Next, the other coder and the researcher reached an
agreement in any discrepancies by discussion and negotiation.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 97
Results and Discussion
Distribution of publication years
Figure 2: Publication years of the abstracts
Figure 2 exhibits the frequency of appearance of the abstracts in each year, varying
from 1985 to 2012. We can clearly see a trend in this corpus that shows more significance in
the recent years than the remote past of publication time. In addition, 60 % or more than half
of the top articles that have been read are published within 5 years recently and the most
common year of publication, or mode, with a value of 6 articles is in 2011 or the preceding
year. It seems to suggest that the researchers or scholars have time limitation in disseminating
their new findings or new knowledge.
The relationship between the length of abstracts and the number of moves
Some scholars argue that one factor that determines the total number of moves in
abstracts is the length of that same abstracts (Ren & Li, 2011). This is so because some
abstracts are much longer than the others. As a result, it is possible that lengthy abstracts
might include a higher number of moves and vice versa. In other words, there is a
relationship between the number of moves and the length of abstracts. In this study, the
length of abstracts was given in the number of words and the move appearance was given in
the number of moves. To examine this relationship, the simple linear correlation analysis,
y = -0.2203x + 3.5152
R² = 0.2785
98 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
which is used for measuring the degrees of the relationship between two variables, was
Figure 3: Scattered plots of moves
Figure 3 shows the coordinate points of the length of the abstracts in terms of words
and the occurrence of moves of that same abstracts. It seems to indicate that there is no
apparent correlation since the coordinate points appear randomly. In addition, through the
correlation analysis, the coefficient of determination (R2
) between the number of moves and
the number of words is 0.0229. We can clearly see that R2
is closer to zero (0.0229). That is,
only 2.29 % of the variations in the number of moves is explained by the variations in the
number of words. In other words, there is a very low relationship between the number of
moves and the length of abstracts in the top 25 corpus.
The advantages of structured abstracts
Some scholars argued that the traditional form of abstracts, i.e. the unstructured
format, does not facilitate efficient searching and reading as structured abstracts (Hartley,
1997). Hartley also pointed out that structured abstracts, which are arranged according to
prescript headings (ANSI, 1997) (e.g. Background, Aims, Methods, Results and
Discussions), are easier to read, search and recall, and often contain more information than
the traditional ones. However, the acceptance and use of structured abstracts continues to be
controversial (Koltay, 2010; Zhang & Liu, 2011). Regarding this issue, the question of the
significance of structured abstract formats can be answered by counting the number of
structured abstracts in the corpus.
y = 0.0021x + 3.6545
R² = 0.0229
y = 0.0021x + 3.6545
R² = 0.0229
Number of words
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 99
Type Number of Abstracts Percentage
Structured 1 4.0
Unstructured 24 96.0
Table 2: Number and percentage of structured abstracts in corpus
According to the results in table 2, the number of structured abstract in this corpus is
only one of the 25 abstracts, or less than 5.0 %. This very low frequency seems to show that
the structured abstracts do not play an important role in terms of promotional full papers.
Distribution of the Five Moves
The findings of the move distribution in the abstracts of the 25 most frequently
downloaded articles are shown in Table 3.
This presentation Tseng
Period of publication Median is in 2007 1990-2007 before
Move Number of Abstracts Percentage Percentage Percentage
Background (B) 18 72.0 41.0 43.0
Aim (A) 23 92.0 96.0 99.0
Method (M) 17 68.0 97.0 98.0
Results (R) 18 72.0 91.0 80.0
Discussion (D) 25 100.0 74.0 53.0
Table 3: Presence of moves in the abstracts and comparison with previous research
As seen in Table 3, all the moves are conventional because most of the abstracts had 5
moves. However, some moves were found to be more frequent than the others. The
Discussion Move is found most frequently, in 25 out of 25 abstracts or with a frequency rate
of 100.0 %, and the Aim Move is the next most frequent, with a frequency rate of 92.0 %.
These two moves are quite frequent, as compared to the Background Move, with a frequency
rate of 72.0 %, the Result Move, with a frequency rate of 72.0 %, and the Method Move, with
the least frequency rate of 68.0 %. All of the five moves occurred greater than 60 %, based on
100 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
the cut-off occurrence rate in Kanoksilapatham (2005). It reveals that all moves seemed to be
obligatory in these successful abstracts.
Interestingly, this differs from the results of Santos (1996) and Tseng (2011) on the
patterns of the Move Distribution. It suggests that the Background Move and the Discussion
Move are not considered an obligatory move. In contrast to these previous studies, 72% of
the Background Move in this study are compared to only 41.0 % and 43.0 % in Tseng’s study
and Santos’ respectively. Like the Background Move, the Discussion Move was always
present or 100.0 % in this study, compared to only 74.0 % and 53.0 % in Tseng’s study and
Santos’ respectively. As a result, the Background Move and the Discussion Move are clearly
recognized as the obligatory moves in these successful abstracts.
The Discussion Move is the most frequent because it explicitly emphasizes the value
of the original paper (Kanoksilapatham, 2013). She also said that this move is usually the last
to end the abstracts and discusses the findings from several perspectives including
implications, significance, interpretations, explanations, etc. Due to the multi-functions of
this move, the linguistic features used to highlight the functions are quite diverse.
Consequently, this move is ideal for abstract writers to use varieties of linguistic features in
selling his or her full paper and feel freer to write when compared with the other moves. All
of the top 25 abstracts containing the Discussion Move may indicate that their authors tend to
deliberately promote their papers because this move has several points for sale.
The Aim Move, which is the next most frequent, is considered as an essential
component of the abstract, with a frequency rate of 92.0 %, indifference with 99.0 % and
96.0 % in Santos’ study and Tseng’s respectively. This is so because the author can give a
signal of the existence of the original and help readers to decide if the original is likely to be
of sufficient interest (Cross & Oppenheim, 2006). The empirical evidence for this is that 21
of the 23 Aim Moves or 91.3 % showed a strong preference for “this” (e.g. “This paper…”,
“This study…”, “This article…”, “This research…”), suggesting that the author wanted to
incorporate the abstract into the body of the paper (Santos, 1996). Based on these signals, the
user makes a decision about the need of consulting the original.
Evidently, with a surprisingly low appearance, the Method Move was the least
frequent, with a frequency rate of 68.0 %, considerably decreasing from 98.0 % and 97.0 %
in Santos’ study and Tseng’s respectively. Similarly, the Result Move was the next least
frequent, with a frequency rate of 72.0 %, noticeably decreasing from 80.0 % and 91.0 % in
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 101
Santos’ study and Tseng’s respectively. It seems to show that expert writers pay less attention
in these two moves.
This phenomenon can be explained by the “subjectivity and objectivity” in academic
discourses. In general, abstracts claim documentational objectivity or present only
information that is contained in the articles (Koltay, 2010). In case of the Method Move and
the Result Move missing (32.0 % and 28.0 % respectively) in some abstracts, since both
Moves are considered as the considerable portions of objectivity in abstracting, it may
suggest that the authors of these abstracts provided a lower level of objectivity and provided a
higher level of subjectivity to the readers. The reason for this is that they should not add any
promotional texts in the objectivity parts (i.e. the Method Move and the Result Move).
Unlike the Method Move and the Result Move, even if the Background Move
occurred as frequently as the Result Move, the Background Move has been increasing
dramatically from 43.0 % and 41.0 %, in Santos’ study and Tseng’s respectively to 72.0 % in
this study. According to Martín Martín and Pérez (2009), the Background or Introduction
section generally entails a great deal of complexity in terms of rhetorical options, which can
be added some degrees of promotional value.
This Move Analysis of these successful abstracts seems to reveal that the expert
writers use persuasive language in their abstracts than in traditional ones.
Content in Abstracts
This figure shows the details of the components of the successful abstracts in average
102 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Figure 4: Average word count and percentage of each move
Due to the fact that the abstracts are limited in space, with an approximate average of
180 words for these present abstracts, each word might substantially contribute to the value
of the abstracts. Therefore, the importance that the writers attach to each move is in relation
to the length (number of words) of it. In other words, the number of words in each move can
infer the importance of that move, i.e. more words indicate more importance.
Content Analysis was applied and the results as shown in figure 4. Interestingly,
among the five moves, the Background Move is the longest portion in the abstracts. The
average number is 59 words or 33 %, doubling in quantity when compared with the other
moves. It suggests that expert writers seem to pay much more attention to the Background
Move. On the contrary, The Method Move and the Result Move is the shortest portion in the
abstracts, with an average of 29 words or only 16%, suggesting that expert writers seem to
pay less attention to.
According to Martín Martín and Pérez (2009), the Background or Introduction section
generally entails a great deal of complexity in terms of rhetorical options that are rhetorical
promotion. Therefore, the largest portion is devoted to the Background Move. It may indicate
that the writers try to construct the significance of their papers, thereby lending it credibility.
Since, the Background Move not only provides background information but also highlights
the importance of the topic. On the other hand, the very short length in the Method Move and
the Result Move infers the lack of informative type of the abstracts because they should not
Aim, 30.60, 17%
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 103
add any promotional texts in the informative parts. This Content Analysis also suggests that
the expert writers use persuasive language in their abstracts more than in traditional ones.
The results of the analysis of rhetorical structure from the abstracts of the 25 most
frequently downloaded articles in the ScienceDirect Top 25 database have shown that these
successful abstracts do not necessarily follow the traditional conventions of abstract writing
suggested by previous studies or teaching materials. Due to the need in competition with
other research papers, awareness of the persuasive functions and linguistic manipulations are
visible in the successful abstracts. In doing so, these expert writers tend to utilize the
advantages of both informative and indicative types of abstracts by mixing them into
informative - indicative abstracts. To do this, the abstract writers pay more attention in all
moves that are subjectivity, i.e. the Background Move, the Aim Move and the Discussion
Move, and pay less attention in all moves that are objectivity, i.e. the Method Move and the
Result Move. In other words, the expert writers pay more attention to the persuasive function
than the informative function of the abstracts.
Figure 5: Change in
As Swales (1990, 2004)
pointed out, the genre, by
itself, changes in both
form and structure over
time, depending on its
context. Thus, we can see
that this successful
abstracts, in terms of the
tool for disseminating
knowledge in the context
of information overflow, have some characteristics that differ from the traditional ones. They
seem to move from a pure academic genre to a persuasive one.
This research however had some limitations; that is, the abstracts in this study came
from only one subject domain, in only one period, and in only one database.
104 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
In the modern digital context which makes full texts of research articles available on
the Internet, we propose that the promotional function is necessary for successful abstract
writing. These findings offer pedagogic implications for writing courses at the graduate level
and guidelines for both expert and novice writers.
Adul K.laorr is currently a Ph.D. student in English as an International Language Program
at Kasetsart University. He received master’s degree in Translation for Education and
Business from King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok. His research
interests are genre analysis, corpus linguistic and translation.
Wisut Jarunthawatchai, PhD, is a lecturer in English Department, Faculty of Liberal Arts
and Science, Kasetsart University, Kamphaeng Saen Campus, Thailand. He obtained a PhD
in Applied Linguistics from University of Southampton, UK. His main research interests are
in the areas of second language writing, discourse analysis, and genre analysis.
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1979 (R1987). Bethesda, MD: NISO Press.
Breeze, R. (2009). Issues of Persuasion in Academic Law Abstracts. Revista Alicantina de
Estudios Ingleses, 22.
Cross, C., & Oppenheim, C. (2006). A genre analysis of scientific abstracts. Journal of
Documentation, 62(4), pp. 428-446.
Gillaerts, P., & Van de Velde, F. (2010). Interactional metadiscourse in research article
abstracts. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 9(2), 128-139.
Hartley, J. (1997). Is it appropriate to use structured abstracts in social science journals? .
Learned Publishing, 10.
Huckin, T. (2001). Abstracting from abstracts. In M. Hewings (Ed.), Academic writing in
context: Implications and applications. Birmingham: University of Birmingham
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 105
Jubb, M. (2013). Introduction: Scholarly communications - disruptions in a complex ecology
In D. Shorley & M. Jubb. (Eds.), The Future of Scholarly Communication. London,
UK: Facet Publishing.
Kanoksilapatham, B. (2005). Rhetorical structure of biochemistry research articles. English
for Specific Purposes, 24(3), 269-292.
Kanoksilapatham, B. (2013). Generic characterisation of civil engineering research article
abstracts. 3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature, 19(3), 1-10.
Koltay, T. (2010). Abstracts and Abstracting: A genre and set of skills for the twenty-first
century. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing.
Martín Martín, P., & Pérez, I. K. L. (2009). Promotional strategies in research article
Introductions: an interlinguistic and cross-disciplinary genre analysis. Revista
Canaria De Estudios Ingleses, 59.
Nicholas, D., Huntington, P., & Jamali, H. R. (2007). The Use, Users, and Role of Abstracts
in the Digital Scholarly Environment. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(4),
Nicholas, D., Huntington, P., Jamali, H. R., Rowlands, I., Dobrowolski, T., & Tenopir, C.
(2008). Viewing and reading behaviour in a virtual environment. Aslib Proceedings,
Paltridge, B., & Strafield, S. (2008). Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language.
Pinkowitz, L. (2002). Research Dissemination and Impact: Evidence from Web Site
Downloads. The Journal of Finance, 7(1).
Pinto, M. (2006). A grounded theory on abstracts quality: Weighting variables and attributes.
Scientometrics, 69(2), 213-226.
Ren, H., & Li, Y. (2011). A Comparison Study on the Rhetorical Moves of Abstracts in
Published Research Articles and Master's Foreign-language Theses. English
Language Teaching, 4(1), 162-162-166.
Santos, M. B. D. (1996). The textual organization of research paper abstracts in applied
linguistics. Text, 16(4).
106 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre Analysis: English in academic and research setting. Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge University Press.
Swales, J. M. (2004). Research genres: Exploration and applications. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
Zhang, C., & Liu, X. (2011). Review of James Hartley’s research on structured abstracts.
Journal of Information Science, 37(6), 570-576.
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 107
Abstracts in the Corpus
1. Working memory and language: an overview
Baddeley, A. Journal of Communication Disorders, Volume 36, Issue 3, May 2003, Pages
2. Oral communication: the workplace needs and uses of business graduate employees
Crosling, G.; Ward, I. English for Specific Purposes, Volume 21, Issue 1, January 2002,
3. The learning styles and strategies of effective language learners
Wong, L.;Nunan, D. System, Volume 39, Issue 2, June 2011, Pages 144-163
4. The political ecology of war: natural resources and armed conflicts
Le Billon, P. Political Geography, Volume 20, Issue 5, June 2001, Pages 561-584
5. Climate change, human security and violent conflict
Barnett, J.; Adger, W.N. Political Geography, Volume 26, Issue 6, August 2007, Pages 639-
6. Analysis of users and non-users of smartphone applications
Verkasalo, H.; Lopez-Nicolas, C.; Molina-Castillo, F.J.; Bouwman, H.
Telematics and Informatics, Volume 27, Issue 3, August 2010, Pages 242-255
7. The effect of different types of corrective feedback on ESL student writing
Bitchener, J.; Young, S.; Cameron, D. Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 14,
Issue 3, September 2005, Pages 191-205
108 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
8. Paradox and Promise: MySpace, Facebook, and the Sociopolitics of Social
Networking in the Writing Classroom
Maranto, G.; Barton, M., Computers and Composition, Volume 27, Issue 1, March 2010,
9. Genre-based tasks in foreign language writing: Developing writers'genre awareness,
linguistic knowledge, and writing competence
Yasuda, S., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 20, Issue 2, June 2011, Pages 111-
10. Reading fair trade: political ecological imaginary and the moral economy of fair
Goodman, M.K., Political Geography, Volume 23, Issue 7, September 2004, Pages 891-915
11. Does the autistic child have a ‘theory of mind'?
Baron-Cohen, S.; Leslie, A.M.; Frith, U., Cognition, Volume 21, Issue 1, October 1985,
12. Effects and student perceptions of collaborative writing in L2
Shehadeh, A., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 20, Issue 4, December 2011,
13. Memory and the self
Conway, M.A., Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 53, Issue 4, October 2005, Pages
14. English as a''global language''in China: An investigation into learners'and
Pan, L.; Block, D., System, Volume 39, Issue 3, September 2011, Pages 391-402
15. The efficacy of various kinds of error feedback for improvement in the accuracy and
fluency of L2 student writing
Chandler, J., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 12, Issue 3, August 2003, Pages
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 109
16. Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict
Reuveny, R., Political Geography, Volume 26, Issue 6, August 2007, Pages 656-673
17. Error feedback in L2 writing classes - How explicit does it need to be?
Ferris, D.; Roberts, B., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 10, Issue 3, August
2001, Pages 161-184
18. Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items
Baayen, R.H.; Davidson, D.J.; Bates, D.M., Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 59,
Issue 4, November 2008, Pages 390-412
19. Collaborative writing tasks in the L2 classroom: Comparing group, pair, and
Fernandez Dobao, A., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 21, Issue 1, March
2012, Pages 40-58
20. The relationship between EFL learners'beliefs and learning strategy use
Yang, N.-D., System, Volume 27, Issue 4, December 1999, Pages 515-535
21. Mobile application market: A developer's perspective
Holzer, A.; Ondrus, J., Telematics and Informatics, Volume 28, Issue 1, February 2011,
22. An exploration of speaking-in-class anxiety with Chinese ESL learners • Article
Mak, B., System, Volume 39, Issue 2, June 2011, Pages 202-214
23. What's magic about magic numbers? Chunking and data compression in short-term
Mathy, F.; Feldman, J., Cognition, Volume 122, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 346-362
24. Genre pedagogy: Language, literacy and L2 writing instruction
Hyland, K., Journal of Second Language Writing, Volume 16, Issue 3, September 2007,
110 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
25. Climate change and conflict • Article
Nordas, R.; Gleditsch, N.P., Political Geography, Volume 26, Issue 6, August 2007, Pages
16, 18, 20, 24? Correlation Between Student Contact Hours and Student
Achievement for English as a Second or Foreign Language Learners
American University of Sharjah
This research faces the emerging controversy about what
constitutes the most productive model of weekly instructional learning time
for English as a Second or Foreign Language and Intensive English
Programs (ESL/EFL/IEP). Due to a spike in enrollment in Fall 2007,
necessitating fewer instructional hours per week per student in order cover
all sections with Full Time Instructors, persistence and success rates were
tracked through three consecutive Fall semesters (2006, 2007 & 2008) in
which new students (n=720) in the American University of Sharjah (UAE)
Intensive English Program were offered varying numbers of contact hours
of identical skill-based courses. This research was deemed critical for
program, praxis, and curriculum development, especially as informed by
the culture and educational models in the catchment areas from which the
American University of Sharjah draws its students. Based on student
success and persistence rates, the data indicate that there is little or no
significant learning difference between 20 and 16 hours of student contact.
Keywords: persistence, success, ESL/EFL program, student learning hours
The number of contact hours has long been considered a vital component in English
Language Acquisition. Despite this, the correlation of student contact hours and student
achievement in ESL/EFL/IEP is slimly researched. There is, however, a great deal of general
education research in primary, secondary, and special education settings. Berliner (1990), in
his work with primary and secondary level learners, hypothesizes that student learning
increases as much with instructional quality and pedagogy as time in class. He theorizes that,
for instance, more time reading does not necessarily increase comprehension; rather students
112 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
must be engaged in various reading activities in a setting he calls the Academic Learning
Time (ALT) model to raise achievement levels. Goodman (1990) states that “No one has yet
demonstrated an ability to produce the requisite changes in learning time and the
accompanying increases in student achievement” (pp. 5-6). Wiley, on the other hand,
analyzed the effects of Average Daily Attendance (ADA) on student achievement. Not
surprisingly, he found that increased attendance produced increases in verbal ability, reading
comprehension, and mathematics achievement (Goodman).
Stoops, in the study entitled Better Instruction, Not More Time, cites the Pennsylvania
State University research project of student achievement in various countries throughout the
world. Stoops concludes “that there was no statistically significant correlation between
instructional time in math, science, reading, and civics and test scores on international
assessments of those subjects” (2007). Stoops concludes, citing the PSU study, “If there is a
choice between using resources to increase time versus improving teaching and the
curriculum, give priority to the latter”.
Statement of the Problem
The IEP Model is largely driven by the mandates of the Commission on English
Language Program Accreditation (CEA) and the American Association of Intensive English
Programs (AAIEP). CEA states that “The intensive English program must offer at least 18
hours of instruction per week (1 hour= 50 minutes) for at least 8 months of the year…”
AAIEP mandates 21-24 hours of English Instruction per week.
Boswell and Shiina (2003), in their study to determine the success of American
Intensive English Programs accredited by the AAIEP, surveyed eighty American Intensive
English Programs that offer an average of 24.5 student contact hours per week. Boswell and
Shiina were unable to retrieve any data correlating student contact hours with student
success among those IEPs who responded to their survey questionnaire. They did receive
anecdotal responses claiming IEP students had higher retention rates and grade point
averages than native speakers in their undergraduate academic studies.
Young (2007), employing the standardized oral proficiency assessment Best Plus to
test pre- and post-test 6,599 ESL learners in Massachusetts and Illinois, studied the effects of
instructional hours in accordance with The National Reporting Systems for Adult Education
accounting model for measuring Listening and Speaking learning gains. Young found that
“the percentage of level (learning) gain is not always consistent with increasing numbers of
instructional hours” (p.4). Among High Beginning, High Intermediate, and Advanced ESL
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 113
students, learning gains dropped among learners who received 140 or more instructional
hours versus those who received 120-139 instructional hours. Low Intermediate ESL students
evidenced a learning gain when receiving 140 or more instructional hours versus 120-139
The notion of quality of language teaching rather than quantity of time in the
classroom was pioneered by the Bulgarian psychiatrist, Georgi Lozanov (1988). Utilizing his
theory of Suggestopedia, combining knowledge of how the human brain learns with his belief
that language acquisition should be a pleasurable, natural process (by introducing music, art,
and role-playing into the lesson plan), Lozanov found that his students could tap unconscious
learning capacities (Lozanov). They produced amounts of the target language up to five times
faster than students learning under then-current language acquisition theories and methods in
a relatively short period of time (Lozanov). Lozanov’s work paved the way for such
psycholinguists and researchers such as Shuster & Gritton (Society for Accelerated Learning
and Teaching), Cummins & Chomsky (Language Acquisition Device, Common Underlying
Proficiency), Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), and Grinder and Bandler (Neuro-Linguistic
Programming). Linguists and researchers Krashen, Terrell, Freire, and Cummins further
debunked the notion that segregated skills, accelerated learning, highly structured classes, and
more student contact hours produced increased student language learning by advocating for a
natural approach to language acquisition—much the way a child acquires its first language—
in which students are exposed to comprehensive, communicative input in a relaxed setting
(Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Krashen, 1988; Cummins, 1994). These hypotheses rely heavily on
the working of the student’s conscious and unconscious in the language acquisition process,
and indicate that the quality, content, and context of instruction correlate more with student
language acquisition and success than the amount or length of time of instruction. These
student-centered, psycho-linguistic theories, methods, and strategies have over time replaced
more plodding, teacher-centered theories, such as Grammar Translation, Audio-Lingual
Method, Direct Method, etc.
Despite the findings of Lozanov, Chomsky, Krashen, and other cognitive linguists, as
well as the literature available on the correlation of student achievement and student
instructional hours, it is widely accepted within the Intensive English Program community
that fewer than 18 hours of academic instruction per week result in diminished skill-based
language acquisition. Therefore, it is commonly accepted praxis for an IEP curriculum to
offer 20-24 hours of class time per week (Institute of International Education, 2007). The
Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) definition of an Intensive
114 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
English Program (IEP) “as a minimum of 18 clock hours a week, with a clock hour equaling
50 minutes” (CEA, Policy and Procedures for International Accreditation, p.1, July 2008). It
also should be mentioned that this minimum set by the CEA, as opposed to being based on
research, replicates the previously established minimum of 18 student contact hours per week
required by the US Department of State to grant student visas to study in the United States
(US Department of State, 2009).
In order to determine the precise number of weekly student contact hours that produce
the maximum amount of learning at my institution, the American University of Sharjah, I
conducted a research project in the Intensive English Program that tracked persistence and
success rates of three cohorts of new students (n = 720). This study covers three consecutive
Fall semesters (2006-2008) in which incoming students, due to constant numbers of full time
faculty and varying enrollment, were offered differing numbers of weekly instructional hours
of identical skill-based courses. These courses include a common final exam for each level.
The results of this research project were deemed critical for program, praxis, and curriculum
This analysis follows new students who entered the IEP in Fall 2006, Fall 2007, and
Fall 2008 as they moved into subsequent semesters (Spring, 2007, Spring 2008, and Spring
2009) in order to identify the correlation between student contact hours and student
achievement. The Fall 2007 cohort received 16 hours per week of instruction, while Fall
2006 and Fall 2008 cohorts each received 20 hours of instruction per week (Charts 1-3).
The data indicate that the difference in student persistence and success rates between
semesters in which the students received 16 contact hours per week (Fall 2007) and 20
contact hours per week (Fall 2006 & Fall 2008) are insignificant. For example, Chart 1
indicates that 74.2% and 80.1% respectively of the Fall 2006 and Fall 2008 cohorts (20
contact hours of instruction) moved to higher level courses (IEP and Department of Writing
Studies (DWS), compared to 80.8% of Fall 2007 students who studied 16 hours per week.
Further, Chart 2 shows that a greater number of Fall 2006 and Fall 2008 students (20 hours of
instruction) left the IEP and the university between the Fall and Spring Semesters than their
Fall 2007 counterparts (18.65% & 16.37% vs. 13.80%). In terms of remaining the same IEP
level, Chart 3 indicates that more students of the Fall 2006 cohort (20 hours contact time)
Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014 | 115
remained in the same IEP level than the Fall 2007 cohort (16 hours contact time) [7.14% vs.
5.39%]. On the other hand, fewer Fall 2008 students (20 hours contact time) remained in the
same IEP level the following semester (3.51% vs. 5.39%) than their Fall 2007 counterparts
(16 instructional hours).
Based on success and persistence rates, the data indicate that there are no significant
learning and persistence differences between 20 and 16 hours of student instructional time
Chart 1: Movement to Higher Level by % (new students)
Fall 2006 (n187)
20 hrs instruction
Fall 2007 (n240)
16 hrs instruction
Fall 2008 (n143)
20 hrs instruction
74.2% 80.8% 80.1%
Chart 2: IEP Dropout Rate by % (new students)
Fall 2006 (n47)
20 hrs instruction
Fall 2007 (n41)
16 hrs instruction
Fall 2008 (n28)
20 hrs instruction
18.65% 13.80% 16.37%
Chart 3: Return to Same Level IEP by % (new students)
Fall 2006 (n18)
20 hrs instruction
Fall 2007 (n16)
16 hrs instruction
Fall 2008 (n6)
20 hrs instruction
7.14% 5.39% 3.51%
This research, at least for these American University of Sharjah IEP students (drawn
from 85 countries), appears to contradict the mandates of CEA and AAIEP, and of many
English Language Acquisition professionals, that contact hours above 18 equates to increased
student learning and persistence. In this study, student contact hours above 16 per week did
not significantly improve student achievement -- rather, in some cases seemed to hinder
success and persistence rates. It seems prudent to conduct more research and rely less on
anecdotal evidence to set a standard for weekly student instructional hours for ESL/EFL/IEP
programs, including the relationship of quality, content, and context of instruction to student
achievement. Further, and more importantly, this study suggests that institutions of higher
116 | Thailand TESOL International Conference Proceedings 2014
learning would be better served conducting organic research within their own college or
university to determine the correlation between English Language learner persistence and
success and optimum contact hours
Tom Alibrandi, Ed.D, is Head of Department and Director of Achievement Academy,
American University of Sharjah, UAE.
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Young, S. (2007, September) Effects of Instructional Hours and Intensity of Instruction on
NRS Level Gain in Listening and Speaking. CALdigest. Washington, DC: Center for