Sawatdee krup,
I’m the new editor for the Journal, taking over for Dr. Sunanta Bell, who’s now happily settling
down with her family in the UK. In fact, this issue celebrates the English Department’s first
international conference entitled “Voices in ELT” (June 10-11, 2011) by including several
papers that were presented at the event.
Further, I’m pleased to say that we’ve made a few major changes to the Journal. First, we have
twelve articles, as compared to five in the last issue, and nine are research based. Each author’s
profile is put at the end of the article. Also, there are some other interesting columns: Inspirational
Poems and Stories, and a book review. Second, the editorial board and reviewer team have been
enlarged, with 16 experts from Thammasat and 27 from other institutions, both in Thailand
and abroad. I’m glad so many well-known applied linguists have lent a hand. Third, due to the size
of the volume, we have had to resort to A4 size paper. An undergrad from Ubon Ratchathani
University Tanong Raksasiri has done the design for the covers.
The twelve articles included in this volume have undergone rigorous review. We start with a pair of
papers on ELT and education in general. Then, we move on to a research paper on teaching vocabu-
lary and four papers on teaching reading. Next is a group of three papers on teaching writing, one on
culture and the last on corpora and ELT.
Leading off, (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), the plenary speaker at
our June ELT conference, draws on her vast experience to talk about ELT teacher professional
development. Her speech included the changing views of professional development and its
models, and some new professional development approaches: Lesson Study, Reflective Inquiry,
and Study Circle or Professional Learning Community—while incorporating methods from other
disciplines such as math and science. Also taking a macro view of education in Thailand,
, of King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi, examines the
Educational Ministry’s views on ELT in Thailand. He analyzes several published documents to
arrive at some positive and some not-so-positive conclusions, but proposes steps to remedy the
situation. The research of (Thammasat University) goes to the heart
of language learning—vocabulary—especially as it applies to Thai students. Based on question-
naires and student interviews, he discovers and critiques a host of strategies perceived as useful but
not necessarily in frequent use. Next, we have use of graphic organizers in
English reading lessons for first-year engineering students at Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology.
He offers a simple lesson plan and materials based on graphic organizers. ,
of Thammasat University, deals with undergraduate students’ use of cognitive and metacogni-
tive reading strategies. She suggests that reading teachers explain both types of strategies to both
high- and low-achievers, and that readers should be allowed to use a combination of strategies when
reading. In the sixth paper, (also from Thammasat University) shows how
writing a summary from an outline can improve undergraduate reading ability. She suggests writing
a summary from an outline.
Next, some KMUTT professors show how short stories can be used to improve engineering
students’ critical thinking skills, raising awareness of the importance of literature for science students.
Using Bloom’s timeless taxonomy, authors
have students form a book club to discuss ten short stories, revealing, among other
things, that literature may yield more than one interpretation. (National
Kaohsiung University of Hospitality & Tourism, Taiwan) takes a new approach to teaching
English for Hospitality and Tourism to undergraduate Taiwanese students. Using Word-Smith
5.0, he derives a list of keywords from authentic tourist brochures, hoping to instill accuracy and
authenticity in the students’ ESP writing. Next, Ph.D. candidate in Applied Linguistics at KMUTT
interviews a small group of applied linguistics doctoral students
about their anxiety, and how they coped with it, when writing their first assignment in English.
Her respondents say their main problems were with organizing thoughts and presenting ideas.
Most dealt with their anxiety by stopping writing or reading more about it (“Focusing strategies”).
In a process-oriented study, (Thammasat University) explores how
first-year MA students deal with their teachers’ written feedback. He categorizes this feedback
as surface-level, clarification-level, and content-level. He finds out that direct feedback, or the
teacher’s corrections, seems to be the most effective. Next, (Zhejiang Agricultural and
Forestry University, China) examines the beliefs of a large group of secondary-school Chinese
teachers on the importance of culture in ELT. Unfortunately, despite the number of teachers who see
the value of teaching culture, little time is actually allotted to it as compared to grammar and other
“practical” aspects of communication.
In the last paper of this issue, plenary speaker (Chulalongkorn University)
describes how ELT teachers can benefit from corpora—via concordancing programs (e.g. AntConc)
and online websites (e.g. BNC)—and other innovations like blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Skype
and smart phones. Drawing on his computational linguistics and electrical engineering
backgrounds, he describes activities that enhance students’ knowledge of collocation, synonyms,
translation and culture—stressing edutainment. In describing the small amount of research done
in this area, he advocates more research on corpora in ELT. Lastly, he ends with a thoughtful
reminder: Instead of complaining about students being inattentive, teachers should try to adjust to
the rapidly changing technologies, something with which the new generation are more familiar—
so as not to let themselves be the main obstacle in the system!
In , we have a story beautifully written by Jerry McFarland, a retired school
supervisor of Student Services, in Fredericton, Canada. In , Thomas Hoy reviews
Stephen Conlon’s (2009) book Chaos in the Classroom.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the reviewers and language editors who have worked hard to improve all
the papers. My thanks also go to the editorial board which has done all the clerical work.
Now, without further ado, please enjoy the reading, krup! apisak……………
PS: Any comments/suggestions/complaints—please direct them to me at apisakubu@yahoo.co.th.
The Editor’s Message

JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall

Richard W. Todd

Suphawat Pookcharoen

Bundit Anuyahong

Melada Sudajit-apa

Usuma Chuenchompoo

Thanis Bunsom, Sompatu Vungthong & Wareesiri Singhasiri

Wen-hsien Yang

Supong Tangkiangsirisin

Montarat Rungruangthum

Han Hui

Wirote Arunmanakul

Inspirational Poems & Stories: “An April Evening”
C. Jerome McFarland
Book Reviews:
Chaos in the Classroom

Teaching as Lifelong Learning: Reflections on Professional Development
JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall

Professional development for language teachers has undergone a paradigmatic
shift in the past decades: from top-down, short-term, generic professional
development to bottom-up, sustained, and situated learning focused on teaching
and student learning. The Internet has also made it possible for teachers to interact
and learn from and share ideas with colleagues globally. In this presentation, I
summarize the major shifts in language teacher professional development,
identify common features of effective professional development, and then focus
on three initiatives that share many of these features: lesson study, reflective
inquiry, and study circles/professional learning communities. I also highlight a
number of other interesting professional development opportunities, including
those that have been made possible by new technology.

Keywords: professional development, reflective practice, lesson study, learning
communities, study circles
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A number of experiences have led to this talk. Recently, I have been working on the fourth edition
of my chapter on “Keeping up to date as an ESL or EFL Professional” for what many of us refer to
as the “Apple Book”: Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, edited by Marianne
Celce-Murcia (Crandall, 2001), making me think about all the new professional development

opportunities that the Internet has made available, as well as some exciting professional
development projects that I or my students have been involved in.

Teacher education and professional development have been central in my professional life.
For the past 20 years, I have been teaching in a MA TESOL Program at the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County. In that time, I have also been a member of a national accreditation
association, visiting teacher education programs in several parts of the country to analyze and
evaluate their teacher education programs, and have also been invited to engage in professional
development seminars, institutes, and webinars in a number of countries.

During that time, as well, I worked for five years with a local school system, creating a
university and school district partnership focused on helping four secondary schools to improve the
academic achievement of immigrant students (Project WE-TEACH) through tailored graduate
courses and other professional development initiatives for teachers and administrators in the
schools (Crandall, 2000a). I also recently worked for two years with five community colleges in the
United States, identifying promising professional development practices (Chisman & Crandall,
2007). And for the past 13 years, I have also been involved in working with a Post Graduate TEFL
Certificate Program at Sookmyung University in Seoul, Korea, visiting and providing support to
the faculty.

And I’ve researched and written extensively on language teacher education and professional
development and will draw upon some of that in this talk.

I often begin my talks by asking how many in the audience are doing what they thought
they would be doing or had been prepared to do, and usually find that the number of hands is
limited, revealing the many lives of language teachers and language teacher educators, and the
many phases in their professional life cycles. I often follow this with additional questions: Where
did you learn to be a teacher? Who has helped? Are you still learning? If so, how?

The responses reflect the different phases of our own professional life. As we become more
experienced, we need and want different opportunities and different kinds of support. In a famous
study of teachers (not just language teachers), Martin Huberman (1989) identified (and Tessa
Woodward reviewed in her 2010 IATEFL talk on “The professional life cycles of teachers”) the
following stages in a teacher’s career, moving from the early years where we are just trying to stay

afloat—spending every night preparing for classes and trying to figure out how to manage those
classes and keep our students on task; to years in which we become more confident and thinking
about ways in which we might change our classes or our instruction (even when we have
difficulties convincing others that this is the right thing to do), to periods of “burn out” and
questioning if we should continue in the field, and then in our later years, either finding peace in
what we are doing or becoming bitter from maybe having stayed in teaching too long.

Where we are in our professional teaching cycle will have a profound effect on the types of
professional development that we want and also on what professional development will be
effective. But even when we have been teaching a long time, there will be times when we really
want to learn something new, and it just might be that new teacher who can help us with that,
especially if it has something to do with technology!

However, not all professional development opportunities are good ones. Sometimes the
people who are leading the efforts have little sense of how these will fit in with our teaching
contexts. Other times, new approaches or activities are discarded before there has been enough time
to reflect upon and adapt them.

Professional development: Both training and development
Professional development needs to provide both teacher training and teacher development
(Schaetzel, Peyton, & Burt, 2007). Richards and Farrell (2007) explain that teacher training focuses
on meeting teachers’ current needs and short-term goals, or what Henry Widdowson (1997) refers
to as “specific instruction in practical techniques to cope with predicatable events” (p. 121).
Teacher development, according to Richards and Farrell (2005), is focused on teachers’ long-term
goals, facilitating “growth of teachers’ understanding of teaching and themselves as teachers” (p 4).
In the early stages of our career, we need much more training and mentoring to help us get through
our days and learn techniques for both teaching and managing our classes, but as we become more
experienced and more reflective, we need opportunities to focus on our own growth and change,
often through longer-term, collaborative professional development models such as study circles or
reflective teaching groups (Richards & Farrell, 2005; Garet et al., 2001) often with colleagues in
our own institution or using the possibilities offered by the Internet, with others who are interested
in the same questions globally. Or we may find ourselves mentoring or coaching new teachers, and
learning a great deal in the process. Professional development related to one’s daily practice,
involving colleagues we work with or with shared interests, and taking place over time is likely to

have greater impact, since it is more relevant, intensive, and sustained (Darling-Hammond, 1995;
Hargreaves & Fullan, 1992; Garet et al., 2001; Schaetzel, Peyton & Burt, 2007).

Still, even experienced teachers may find that there are new techniques that we want to
learn or a need to learn something new to enliven our teaching, and more traditional, short-term
training through workshops or seminars or conference attendance (Garet, et al., 2001) can help
provide opportunities to learn from those outside of our regular sphere and give us new ideas to try
out in our classes. If we can find ways to keep in touch with those who have provided us with
some new ideas, after we have tried them out, or to share them with our colleagues at our own
institution and reflect upon how they can be made even more relevant to our program, then that
training has a better chance of having a lasting impact.

Research on professional development (Schaetzel, Peyton, & Burt, 2007) has found that
effective initiatives share the following features:

x It is relevant to our work and the stage in our professional life (focusing on a specific
English level, or skill, or curriculum that we are teaching);
x It is something we have helped to identify that we need, we help plan it, and it fits in with
our other responsibilities;
x It involves opportunities for active learning (we can apply and adapt what we are learning);
x It lasts long enough that we can both apply and reflect on what we are doing and learning.

Dennison & Kirk (1990), in their “do, review, learn, apply, do, review, learn, apply” model
provide one example of a professional development initiative that exemplifies those features.
Here’s what that might look like, according to Schaetzel, Peyton & Burt (2007):

For example, a professional development activity in which teachers learn about student
language errors and the possible effects of students’ first language on their production of
English might have teachers analyze a sample of writing for errors (do), review their
analysis with the trainer (review), ask questions about the patterns they see (learn), bring
samples of their students’ writing to analyze in class (apply), develop a lesson for their
students to address one of the types of errors identified (do), and so on.


A changing perspective on what constitutes appropriate professional development
In my 2000 synthesis of “Language Teacher Education” in the millennial issue of the Annual
Review of Applied Linguistics (Crandall, 2000b), I identified several major shifts in perspective on
effective teacher education that I believe apply not only to pre-service teacher training but to
professional development as well.

The first is a shift from transmission, product-oriented theories to more constructivist,
process-oriented theories of learning, teaching, and teacher learning. Traditional approaches to
professional development often view teachers as passive recipients of transmitted knowledge rather
than participants in the construction (or re-construction) of their own views. As teachers, we are
used to being decision makers, and our professional development must provide opportunities for us
to research and reflect upon our own practice (for example, through action research). As teaching
professionals, we need to be engaged in lifelong learning, but we need to help plan that process and
have opportunities to actively reflect upon what we are learning. As Michael Wallace (1991) has
explained, in clarifying the difference between teacher training (or education) and professional
development: “training or education is something that can be presented or managed by others; …
development is something that can be done only by and for oneself” (p. 3)

The second shift is from “one size fits all” workshops to a recognition that effective
professional development reflects the different contexts in which we teach—the differences in
learners, programs, curricula, materials, policies, and the socio-cultural environment—with a shift
from separation of theory and practice to increased focus on “situated learning.” When I ask most
teachers where they learned their craft, they respond that it’s “on the job” and that they are still
learning. It is not surprising, then, that experienced teachers are more likely to accept professional
development that links theory with their current practice (Finch, 1999).

It is interesting to note that in the United States, and I suspect in many countries, there is no
preservice teacher education required for university faculty, and in many states in the United States,
very limited preservice teacher education for teaching adults, certainly nothing close to the
expectations for those preparing to teach elementary or secondary education (Crandall, Genesis, &
Lopez, 2008). What that means is that most university and adult education teachers obtain most of
the training and development on the job—either learning through their own practice, or through
professional development opportunities that they seek or are planned for them. On our own
campus, there is a Center for Teacher Development that faculty members can seek out for

assistance (or be assigned to visit if student evaluations of their teaching are sufficiently poor) and
many adult education programs (for nonformal or workforce or professional education) provide a
range of opportunities by which teachers can learn as they are practicing their profession. However,
even those teachers who have extensive preservice teacher education need to continue to learn what
works from within their own contexts after they have begun teaching.

A third shift involves a “recognition that teachers’ prior learning experiences (what Lortie,
1975, refers to as ‘the apprenticeship of observation’) plays a powerful role in shaping teachers’
views of effective teaching and learning and their teaching practices.” We teachers tend to teach the
way they were taught. We likely were successful students, and we believe that the way we were
taught will result in equally successful learning with our students. Unless we have opportunities to
reflect upon our beliefs about teaching and learning and our experiences as teachers, we’re not
likely to change our views or our teaching practices.

The fourth shift involves a recognition that successful professional development
recognizes that we teachers—like doctors, lawyers, or engineers—are professionals who must
have a major role in our professional development through collaborative planning of study or
inquiry groups, opportunities for mentoring or coaching, and sustained professional development
programs, as well as short-term workshops or seminars (Crandall, 1993; 1998; 2000a; 2000b;
Darling-Hammond 1995). In place of top-down decisions on what teachers need for their
professional development, effective professional development begins with the teacher in more
innovative bottom-up, teacher-directed professional development (Atay, 2008; Richards &
Farrell, 2005), with teachers involved in all stages of planning and implementing their
professional development (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999). In their introduction to the series,
Language teaching: A scheme for teacher education, Candlin and Widdowson explain it this
way: “If language teaching is to be a genuinely professional enterprise, it requires continual
experimentation and evaluation on the part of the practitioners whereby, in seeking to be more
effective in their pedagogy, they provide at the same time. . . for their continuing education.”

Perhaps what is most significant in current theories of effective professional development is
the role that collaboration plays and the focus on development of learning communities or
communities of practice to which both novice and experienced teachers bring their knowledge and
experience and learn from each other. These learning communities provide continuous professional
development because they are linked to the classroom or teaching context and foster collaborative

learning (Hassan, 2011; Hargreaves, 1992; Lieberman, 1996). It also begins with teachers reflecting
upon their own practice, in contrast to more common top-down approaches that focus on
decontextualized knowledge or skills.

Models of professional development
There are a number of ways of conceptualizing or thinking about the opportunities we as teachers
have for continuing professional development. Wallace, in his book on Training foreign language
teachers: A reflective approach (1991), describes three major approaches to teacher education that I
believe also serve as a way of thinking about professional development. The three approaches

1) a craft or apprenticeship approach in which novice or less experienced teachers learn from
those with more experience (or what Donald Freeman, 1991, 1996; has referred to as
teaching as doing);
2) an applied science or theory-to-practice approach in which teachers learn from experts and
then apply what they have learned to their own contexts (or what Freeman 1991, 1996; has
referred to as teaching as thinking and doing); and
3) a reflective approach by which teachers critically analyze, reflect upon, and adapt their own
practice (or what Freeman 1991, 1996; has referred to as teaching as knowing what to do).

In actual practice, many professional development activities involve aspects of all three, especially
with the availability of podcasts, webinars, lists, social networking sites, and all the other resources
that the Internet makes available to us. For example, we may find that when we want to learn more
about ways in which we can better apply technology in our language teaching, we find that there is
a TESOL Virtual Seminar on “Tech Tools for Busy Teachers” being provided by Deborah Healey
and Robert Elliott in May 2011. We talk with others in our program and agree that this is
something that several of us are interested in, so we decide to participate. Following that, we try out
some of those tech tools and find that some of our colleagues (undoubtedly the younger ones) seem
to be having more success, so in a reversal of the usual roles that more experienced teachers mentor
newer ones, our newer colleagues begin coaching and mentoring us, helping us through some of the
complexities of using these new tools. In doing so, however, we find that we want to learn more
about these tools and how they are being applied, so we decide to do some research and begin
meeting informally to discuss what we are learning, maybe sharing some of those new insights at
our next regularly-scheduled faculty meeting, where time has been set aside (in the best of all

worlds) for that kind of professional sharing. And as we learn more, we innovate and reflect more
on our practice in a sustained cycle of professional learning.

Some exciting professional development initiatives
That sustained cycle of professional learning appears in the following exciting professional
development initiatives. Some of these I have been involved in, and others I have learned of
through my students.

Lesson study
Lesson Study is a professional development approach that began in Japan as a means of improving
elementary education, but has now spread far beyond that, in Japan and in the United States
(Murata, 2002; Yoshida, 1999; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999; Richardson, 2004). In a lesson study cycle,
a group of teachers, usually teaching the same subject and level, work together in a small group,
meet to discuss their learning goals and collaboratively plan a lesson (called a “research lesson”) to
improve student learning. One of the teachers then teaches the lesson, while the others observe,
focusing on student learning. Then the teachers meet again, reflect upon the class and discuss their
observations, revise the lesson, and then often, another teacher teaches the revised lesson (Lewis,
2002; Richardson, 2004; Cerbin & Kopp, 2006). While lesson study has been widely used in math
and science education in Japan, it has now become much more popular as a professional
development process in elementary, secondary, and higher education in the United States (Lewis,
2002; Fernandez, 2002; Fernandez & Chokshi, 2002; Lewis, Perry & Hurd, 2004).

The lesson study project I want to talk about is one that my doctoral student, Asli Hassan,
developed in her work as the newly-appointed Academic Affairs Coordinator of the first-year
Foundation Program at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, which prepares students for five
fields of engineering, where the medium of instruction is English. Since many of the students have
had most of their academic instruction through Arabic, they need additional English preparation
before they can take their classes through English, as well as additional learning in mathematics,
physics, and chemistry. As so often happens in programs of this type, where English becomes a
gatekeeper--allowing or preventing students from moving into their fields of study--there was little
integration among the various subjects and some frustration on the part of students. Hassan,
drawing upon her knowledge and commitment to content-based instruction, thought there might be
ways to integrate instruction in the curriculum, without intruding upon any of the faculty’s own
academic subjects. She raised the idea of Lesson Study; said that she would like to explore its

possible effectiveness and use the research for her dissertation; invited her colleagues to participate
in the project; and then made materials about lesson study, a video, and a website available. Twelve
teachers who taught Level 2 chose to participate. They decided to first develop an integrated lesson
plan that drew content from mathematics, physics and English for one cycle, with three teachers
each teaching that portion of the lesson in their subject area and the other members of the team
observing and taking notes. After discussing the results and revising the lesson, they taught it again
to another group of students. They did this through two cycles over the course of one term, with
chemistry replacing physics in the second cycle. In both cases, the lessons were videotaped to allow
those who were unable to be in the class for observation to be able to participate in the reflection
and revision process (Hassan, 2011).

As you might imagine, the results of this cross-disciplinary project were quite powerful.
Although there was some concern, in the beginning, about being observed by colleagues (not
surprising, since observation is often used for evaluation and university faculty may not be
accustomed to being observed), the focus on student learning helped alleviate that, and in the
process of collaborating, the teachers became a much closer learning community or community of

Teachers became aware of how much they were already integrating language and content in
their instruction, but also of how much more they could do this when they had the opportunity to
develop an integrated lesson plan and observe it being taught by someone in another discipline.
They also learned different instructional strategies that arise out of teaching subjects as different as
physics, mathematics, and English. Of particular interest to us as English teachers is that both
teachers in other disciplines and students became more aware of the importance of English. As
Hassan, explains, “Both language and content teachers stated that integrating the different
disciplines was of value for all the subjects taught (English, mathematics, physics, and chemistry)
and a benefit for the students’ long-term learning” (p. 63). As one teacher explained, “And they
[students] saw how connected, how integrated the math and the science and the English parts are if
they stop and think about it. Often times, you know, even though we're teaching the same subject,
the same theme, they don't see it that way. They see it as, ‘Okay this is English class; this is math
class; now this is science class’” (pp. 71-72). Another teacher noted that the integrated approach
motivated some of the less motivated students: “maybe certain individual students that were laid
back and lackadaisical and didn't give a darn . . . perked up during these lessons” (p. 77).


So why is lesson study so effective? It meets many of the criteria of effective professional
development: it is teacher-directed, focused on the current teaching context and content (Lewis,
2002), collaborative (and in this case, collaborative across disciplines), and occurs over time.
Moreover, it builds from research on effective practice and is focused on student learning. As
Hassan explains, it is reflective of the paradigm shift in professional development, where teachers
are “professionals who can initiate and create collaborative environments that enhance their
professional growth. As a result, teachers become experts in their fields and in their classrooms (p.
16). Through lesson study, teachers are able to move out from their isolation and share their
knowledge with colleagues in a way that also benefits students (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999; Hassan,

Moreover, through lesson study, a learning community or community of practice evolves
with teachers observing and learning from each other through their professional work as they
collaboratively plan, develop, teach, revise, and re-teach their lessons (Wenger, 1998).

Reflective inquiry
Next I’d like to talk about a professional development program that I was involved in with a local
family literacy programs. “Family literacy” programs are adult, nonformal programs that provide
education and support for parents (almost always mothers) and their young children. While the
mothers are in ESL class where they not only focus on English, but also on job training and ways to
support their children’s education, the children are in early childhood education programs, where
they also engage in a number of educational activities focusing on language and literacy
development. Parents and children also come together on a weekly basis, where parents and their
children might look at a picture book and “read” together. One of the ESL teachers in the school (a
neighbor) asked if I’d be willing to talk with them about professional development activities. After
some discussion with the program leaders and their discussion with the teachers, we decided to
engage in a Reflective Inquiry Project, since the majority of teachers were very experienced and
wanted to focus on specific issues related to their own teaching.
This Reflective Inquiry Project, a combination of action research and group inquiry, is
based on the work of the Teacher Knowledge Project and the Reflective Teaching Project at the
School for International Training (Rodgers, 2002), as well as the extensive literature on reflective
practice. The goal of the Reflective Teaching Project, according to Rodgers, is to help teachers
become more reflective practitioners (Cf. Dewey, 1933) and to develop a community of teachers

reflecting on their teaching and their students’ learning. I had first learned of the Reflective
Teaching Project in some research I undertook to identify promising professional development
practices in US community college ESL programs. In this research (Chisman and Crandall, 2007;
Seymour, 2007) I learned of the experiences of City College in San Francisco, where a number of
faculty were engaged in researching their own practice with a focus on student learning after
discussing their classroom concerns and sharing ideas with colleagues in a structured discussion
session. The project was so successful, that though it was intended for experienced teachers, less
experienced teachers asked to join.

We held sessions on a monthly basis, and before each session, I met individually with one
of the teachers to discuss an issue or problem that this teacher was going to share with the group.
Then at the meeting, we used an approach similar to the “cycle of inquiry” in the Reflective
Teaching Project. To begin, that teacher described the issue or problem, using what were
appropriate of Wh-Questions as a guide. Then the other teachers asked open-ended questions for
clarification, but not giving advice (which could have closed down the discussion). Next, the
teacher and then the group moved from description to interpretation, reflecting or theorizing on the
source of the problem. Based on their interpretation of the problem, the teachers then gave
suggestions about possible ways of addressing the situation, which the teacher could reflect upon
before deciding on a course of action. The session then was closed with the participants providing
feedback on the process. Before the next session, the teacher applied what s/he has decided was the
best course of action and then shared the results and insights from that action research, at the next
session describing what they did and why, how well it worked, what changes they might make, and
what they learned from the process before another teacher introduced a new issue or problem.

Our sessions began with a focus on better ways to engage problematic students who for a
variety of possible reasons were not engaged in the process, perhaps because they were more
educated than the other learners or had educational aspirations that were not being addressed.
Because of the size of the program, most of the teachers knew these students and could share their
thoughts and interpretations, as well as what they had tried with these students in the past. Another
session, quite by surprise, involved two new teachers who had heard me discuss how learning
centers might be used to meet the diverse needs of the adult learners in the program, though they
have been principally used in elementary (and to some extent, secondary) education in the US.
These two new teachers read about centers and then set up their own centers and reported back to
the group on their effectiveness and what they learned in the process. This led to a follow-up

workshop, provided by a doctoral student who had applied this approach in adult ESL as part of her
doctoral dissertation research, something I knew quite well since I was on her doctoral committee
(Lovrien, 2011).

Why is reflective inquiry effective? First, it provides all participants with a chance not only
to research one aspect of their practice, but also to draw upon the insights and experiences of
colleagues as they think through ways to address the issue or concern. As one participant at City
College explained, the “process encourages discussion of the thorniest problem issues in a
supportive environment” and “gives teachers time to sort out and understand these issues better”
(Chisman & Crandall, 2007:97). It also nurtures a learning community, in this case, even bringing
in first-year teachers and interns. And it promotes critical reflection on practice, which Paulo Freire
in Pedagogy of Freedom, (2000) has identified as “the essential moment” “in the process of the
ongoing education of teachers.” As Kenneth Wolf (1991) explains, “Reflection is what allows us to
learn from our experience. It is an assessment of where we have been and where we want to go

Moreover, while action research can be a very effective individual professional
development approach, it may not be easy to undertake. Action research undertaken by individuals
can also be quite lonely, only underscoring the isolation that many teachers feel in their work. This
reflective inquiry project provides a process for identifying and interpreting a teaching problem and
identifying and planning action to address it. It also engages a group of colleagues in the process of
reflection and discussion, providing more ideas about both the sources of the problem and possible
avenues to address it, and nurtures a stronger community of practice (Hassan, 2011; Lave &
Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). While collaborative action research may also pair novice teachers
with more experienced teacher mentors, providing new teachers with the benefit of their mentor’s
experience and experienced teachers with the enthusiasm and new theories and instructional
strategies of the novice teacher (Farrell, 2007), in this project, the new teachers decided to work
together, only later having the benefit of a mentor.

Study circle or professional learning community
The last professional development approach that I want to describe in detail is an elementary school
study circle focused on helping children (both native and non-native speakers) who are having
difficulty learning to read in English using an approach called Reading Recovery (Clay, 1993,
2002), a one-on-one tutoring program with a trained instructor.

I came to know about this professional development group through the work of one of my
doctoral students, Derek Lewis (2011), who began as an ESL teacher, went on to be both an ESL
and Reading Recovery teacher, and then the teacher leader for this program in his district. Reading
Recovery requires a teacher to develop a complex set of understandings and skills, including being
able to assess a child’s oral reading, noting what the student reads correctly, as well as incorrect
substitutions, insertions, and omissions. They also note syntactic, semantic, visual, or other bases
for determining what problems the child is having and how best to address these. This approach
involves both training in a new reading intervention and ongoing professional development.
Teachers attend a week-long summer institute prior to beginning their tutoring role, and then
participate in a teacher-in-training year of on-the-job, “embedded professional development,”
during which time they also enroll in two courses on Reading Recovery at a local, partner
university. At the end of that training year, if their performance is appropriate, they become
certified Reading Recovery teachers (Lewis, 2011). From that point on, every year that they teach
in this program, they attend six professional development sessions (in what I am referring to as a
study circle but over time has become a professional learning community) during which they read
and discuss the major texts by Marie Clay, who established the Reading Recovery approach,
meeting regularly to discuss what they are learning from their readings and their daily sessions with
their students. At these sessions, as well, two of the teachers each tutor one of their students, in a
typical 30-minute session, in a room with one-way glass, while the others observe and take notes,
providing feedback after the session has ended. Teachers admit that having their colleagues observe
them is anxiety producing, but the focus is foremost on the student’s reading, and the goal of these
observations is for the observers to take away what they can apply in their own teaching, not to
critique the teachers being observed.
At these sessions, the teachers also analyze student performance data and discuss whether
the student may be ready to exit the program and return full-time to the regular classroom and
teacher. During the year, as well, every teacher receives a class visit by the teacher leader, to
ensure that the discussions are relevant to the teachers’ experiences and needs (Lewis, 2011).

In becoming more familiar with the instructional intervention, the success of which was the
focus of Lewis’s dissertation, I was fortunate to be able to participate in one of the two-hour
professional development sessions, described above, and to see how readings, observation, and
experience--and discussion and reflection on each of these-- were seamlessly interwoven in an

ongoing learning community, where teachers with different backgrounds and experience were able
to discuss and learn from each other.

What is also interesting in this program is the way in which teachers who are interested in
the program can not only train and receive professional development to teach part-time in the
program, but also the ways in which a teacher can through extensive graduate education become a
teacher leader working in a new capacity with former colleagues. Also of note is the partnership
with a local university, where the training is provided. The teacher leaders from a number of
districts also meet regularly (four to six times a year) with the teacher trainer at the university, thus
creating broader learning communities or communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991;
Wenger, 1998)

Common features
These professional development programs all share the following features of effective teacher
professional development:

x They engage teachers in research on their classrooms and programs;
x They provide an opportunity for teachers to share insights and learn from each other,
leading to professional learning communities;
x They involve or lead to further reading on relevant issues related to the teachers’ teaching
and learning;
x They promote critical reflection on practice; and
x They occur over a sustained period of time.

Other promising professional development initiatives
In this final section, I want to highlight other promising professional development initiatives:

x An open door policy by “master teachers” who invite colleagues in to observe their classes
(usually at specified times) and also function informally as mentors to new teachers.
Extensive mentoring and coaching, especially for new teachers or even for experienced
teachers when a new instructional approach is being introduced, can be very effective,
providing support for the less experienced teacher and offering the prospect of learning
some new techniques for the more experienced. But mentoring and coaching can also be

exhausting for the mentor, and in small programs with extensive turnover of teachers, the
same experienced teachers may be asked to take on this role too often. This open door
policy with observation and informal mentoring may make it possible for even small
programs to provide this type of support.

x Team teaching, either by teachers who share the same subject and level or by teachers from
different disciplines who share the same students (for example in a ESP Program) providing
an opportunity for language and other subject matter teachers to learn not only something
about each others’ content areas, but also new instructional strategies.

x Paired, peer-observation of student learning and follow-up discussion or analysis (Richards
& Lockhart, 1994). This approach is especially effective when teachers share a student who
is having difficulty.

x Faculty meetings that routinely provide time for teachers to share and receive feedback on
things that they are trying in their classes. This is especially important when colleagues
have attended conferences and have new ideas they want to discuss.

x Engaging students in bringing their family and community “funds of knowledge” into the
classroom, helping to create a larger community of teachers and learners (Moll, 1992;
Edmonds, 2009).

The Internet has also made it possible to engage in most of Wallace’s three approaches, sometimes
resulting in global learning communities. For example:

x A TEYL (Teaching English for Young Learners Facebook Page that my colleague Joan
Kang Shin has been maintaining for some time, with teachers and teacher educators from
around the world who have participated in online TEYL courses.

x An online library of videos of teachers, the Media Library of Teaching Skills
(http://mlots.org) that “shows what teachers are doing in their adult classrooms and in
tutorials.” (Although the current adult ESL videos are limited, the idea is one that other
institutions or professional associations might want also to consider implementing.)
x A self-instructional course developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics on “Developing
Oral Proficiency of Adults Learning English,” with texts, videos, self-assessments, and
other resources (www.cal.or/adultspeak) that helps teachers understand the nature of oral
proficiency and factors that affect it and also provides activities for building speaking and
listening skills and assessing them.
x A series of Webinars like the Virtual Seminars provided free to TESOL members, offering
opportunities to listen to ask questions and listen to discussions by major theorists and
practitioners. Among those offered in May-June, 2011, are “Teaching Large Heterogeneous
Classes in ELT Contexts Worldwide,” with Penny Ur, and “Tech Tools for Busy Teachers”
with Deborah Healey and Robert Elliott.

x An Adult Education Wiki [ http://wiki.literacytent.org ] created at a national conference for
practitioners and researchers so they could continue the dialogue following the conference,
that has now become a community of practice, with ESOL as one of 30 topics, but also a
number of others such as Action Research or Project Based Learning that would also be of
As these initiatives make clear, there are many exciting and professionally satisfying ways in which
we can grow professionally, by learning from or with our colleagues, from or with colleagues in
other disciplines, as well as our students, both locally and globally. Sometimes, all that is needed is
to take action to implement these changes.


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Jodi Crandall teaches in the MA TESOL Program and directs the interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Language,
Literacy and Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She was formerly the Vice President
of the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). Her research focuses on ESL/EFL/EIL curriculum and instruction, teacher
education, professional development and intercultural communication Recent publications (some co-authored) include:
American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, Content-based Instruction in Higher Education Settings,
Content-based Instruction in Elementary and Secondary School Settings, Passing the Torch: Strategies for Innovation
in Community College ESL.. Dr. Crandall is a former President of AAAL, TESOL, and WATESOL; a founding
member and former Secretary-Treasurer of the TESOL International Research Foundation (TIRF); and a current
member of the CAL Board of Trustees. Among her awards are the AAAL Distinguished Scholarship and Service
Award, the James E Alatis TESOL Award, and the University System of Maryland Regents Award. Professor Crandall
can be contacted at Crandall@umbc.edu.

What do Thai Policy Makers Think about Education? A Critical Analysis of Published Policy
Makers’ Statements
Richard Watson Todd

If English language teaching is to flourish and be successful in Thailand across a
wide range of contexts, government support for valuable initiatives and
innovations is needed. Although there have been a large number of educational
innovations in the last few years, most have had little effect on the English
learning of Thai students. To understand why certain innovations are promoted
and why most innovations have little impact, we need to understand the thinking
of the policy makers, especially at the Ministry of Education. This paper presents
a critical analysis of quotations from Ministers of Education, senior education
officials and others influential in Thai education from the last few years to attempt
to uncover their concerns and their conceptions of education. The analysis reveals
that the policy makers subscribe to the ideology of social and economic efficiency
as the philosophy driving Thai education, that they promote preconventional
morality, that they view ‘traditional’ methods as necessarily detrimental, and that
they believe there is a single best way of teaching. The implications of these
views for the development of English language education in Thailand are
Keywords: Thai education, educational policy makers, educational innovation

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The quality of Thai education is a continual cause for concern. Despite the promulgation of the
progressive National Education Act twelve years ago (Office of the National Education
Commission, 1999), criticisms of the quality of both Thai education in general (e.g. Feigenblatt, et
al., 2010) and of English language teaching in particular (e.g. Baker, 2008; Prapaisit de Segovia &
Hardison, 2009) are common. Similarly, despite numerous efforts to initiate beneficial innovations
(e.g. British Council, 2006), very little seems to change. One of the key reasons for this bleak
picture is that Thai education is dominated by top-down centralised decision making (Watson
Todd, 2000). If initiatives are to become reality and Thai education is to change for the better, the
main top-down decision makers need to be on board, since, with the way Thai education is set up, it
is these policy makers who have the power to ensure that initiatives receive the attention and
support they deserve. With the key policy makers having substantial power over the future
development of Thai education, it is important to understand their thinking and beliefs, and the
purpose of this paper is to gain some insights into the conceptions of education, concerns and issues
of interest of some of the key educational policy makers in Thailand.

Methodological approach
To investigate the thinking of key Thai educational policy makers, we need to examine what they
say and write. Taking such statements at face value, however, does not necessarily provide
information about their thinking, since public statements are affected by many other factors than
just beliefs. We therefore need to take a critical approach to examining their statements. Such an
approach has three main benefits for the purpose of this paper. First, critical approaches can
uncover hidden meanings behind opaque language (Thurlow & Jaworski, 2006); second, they can
help in the analysis of underlying ideologies (Wallace, 2003); and third, they are particularly suited
to the analysis of situations involving dominance and inequality (Flowerdew, 2008) such as the
Thai education system where the Ministry has power over schools and teachers.

The data for the critical analysis is taken from newspaper articles published in the last six
years which were either written by policy makers or extensively quote from them. A total of 32
articles were found which fit these criteria, and these include writings or quotations from Ministers
of Education, directors of major sections at the Ministry, chairs of influential educational
organisations, and presidents of major universities or other influential educational institutions.

The statements made by the policy makers in these articles were examined for commonly
recurring themes. Themes were identified by searching the data for keywords that could act as shell
nouns (Aktas & Cortes, 2008) with broad implications for education (e.g. goal, objective, method)

and then examining the specification of the shell noun in the given context. To avoid analysis of the
idiosyncratic concerns of a single policy maker, identified themes need to have been discussed at
some length by at least three different policy makers. By identifying themes in this way, it is likely
that the themes reflect the ideologies or issues that are driving Thai education. From the data, four
key themes were identified and these are discussed below in turn.

Theme 1: The curriculum ideology of economic efficiency
Perhaps the most important issue driving educational policy is the perceived purpose of education.
One of the most influential statements on educational purposes is the Dearing Report on Higher
Education in the UK. This report identified four main purposes of education (Miller, et al., 1998):
1. To inspire and enable individuals to develop their capabilities to the highest potential
through life.
2. To increase knowledge and understanding for their own sake.
3. To serve the needs of the economy.
4. To play a major role in developing society.

These four purposes fit the four main curriculum ideologies: learner-centredness, academic
rationalism, social and economic efficiency, and social reconstructionism (similar to critical
pedagogy) respectively (Richards, 2002), which, in turn, reflect progressive (for the first two),
reproductionist and reconstructionist value systems (Wright, 2005). Given that these ideologies and
value systems are likely to have a massive impact on educational policies, which of the four do
Thai policy makers subscribe to?

Perhaps the clearest ideological statement of a Thai educational policy maker was made by
Wijit Srisa-arn, then-Education Minister, in 2007:

Education is important to Thailand because quality education will produce a valuable
workforce that could serve the demand in the globalised world and improve the country’s
competitiveness ... The objective is to develop quality people so we will have
knowledgeable workers for the globalised world. The country’s competitiveness will
improve significantly and noticeably over the next 10 years. By then, we will be able to
compete with any rivals in the region.

The driving ideology behind Thai education would therefore appear to be social and economic
efficiency. However, nearly halfway through the projected ten-year period, the goal of economic
efficiency is still a concern. In 2010, Veeravat Wannasiri, Chair of the Private Vocational Schools
Association, stated

the Education Ministry’s panel on human resources planning put the blame [for graduates
not finding jobs] squarely on the universities for turning out graduates who fail to match
the needs of the labour market

and a year later, Tej Bunnag, former-Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Asian Institute of
Technology, said

Top level companies only hire the best, and if the institutes or universities are not
producing graduates who match the market requirements, chances of them getting hired
are remote. The private sector, on the other hand, has been complaining regarding the
under-supply of globally competitive graduates and the lack of skills required by the
market place.

Economic efficiency as an educational ideology would appear to be a desirable goal. After
all, no teacher would be happy if their graduating students could not find employment. However, it
is not without its criticisms.

Although the National Education Standards (Office of the National Education Council,
2004) support the goal of economic efficiency by arguing that education is an essential factor for
“vigorous competitiveness in the international arena” (p. 1), the National Education Act (Office of
the National Education Commission, 1999) appears to prioritise learner-centredness over economic
efficiency. In Section 22, “The teaching-learning process shall aim at enabling the learners to
develop themselves at their own pace and to the best of their potentiality”; and in Section 28, “The
substance of the curricula, both academic and professional, shall aim at human development”. The
over-riding emphasis placed on economic efficiency by Wijit Srisa-arn, therefore, appears to
contradict the main purpose of education as stated in the Act.

A potentially more serious criticism of economic efficiency has been made most
influentially by Bloom (1987), an advocate of academic rationalism. He argued that focusing
education on what is effectively job training results in a dumbing down of education and missed
opportunities for deeper learning.

A more political criticism is that reproductionist ideologies of education serve the status quo
and devalue critical thinking (Wallace, 2003). As applied to Thailand, this position has been most
cogently stated by Feigenblatt et al. (2010, p. 301) which is worth quoting in full:

Greater educational opportunities were viewed as important by the Bangkok elite as a
way to jump on the modernization bandwagon. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this
instrumental need for education viewed people as tools for economic growth. Children

were supposed to learn how to become efficient and obedient workers and subjects. The
goal was not for most of those children to enjoy the fruits of development during their
lifetime but rather for them to work for the good of the “nation” which truly meant the
growth of Bangkok and the interests of the elite.

Such an argument presents the goals of economic efficiency from a different, and far more
worrying, perspective. Whether one thinks that such a hidden agenda is behind the Ministry’s
emphasis on economic efficiency is a matter of political belief, but, whatever the reality, it does
cast doubt on the use of the economic efficiency ideology as the driving force behind educational

Theme 2: Promoting morals
In recent years, policy makers have repeatedly stated that Thai education should incorporate two
key broad objectives. The first of these is the need to teach morals (in Thai: ·.ar... or jariya-tham).
The goal of education as producing moral people and a moral society is one of the most commonly
recurring themes discussed by policy makers:

“The ultimate goal is producing capable people with good morality, not just capable
people¨ (Wijit Srisa-arn, Minister of Education, 2007)
“[The goal is for students to] have knowledge in their brain and also have good social
skills and moral virtues in their heart” (Virachai Techavijit, Chairman, Regent’s School,
“Parents and school staff are placing too much emphasis on exams and competition
between students, despite the fact that fostering virtue, social skills and a positive attitude
towards learning is the most important thing for children.” (Abhisit Vejjajiva, Prime
Minister, 2010)
“Education is everything that leads to a happy and healthy populace, a better society, and
a society that is more just - a society that we would like to call a society governed by
dharma. It is a society that is moral and ethical in every way.” (Arthit Ourairat, former-
House Speaker and President of Rangsit University, 2009)

While it may seem that instilling morals in students is a valid goal for education, none of the
policy makers state what they mean by ‘morals’. Research into children’s moral development has
suggested that they typically go through three stages: preconventional morality (based on obedience
and reciprocity), conventional morality (based on interpersonal harmony), and postconventional
morality (based on the social contract and universal principles) (Tan et al., 2003). Implicitly in the
statements of policy makers and explicitly in the national test of morals organised by the National
Institute of Educational Testing Services (NIETS), it appears that the policy makers believe that
there is a ‘correct’ set of morals and that morality is largely preconventional in that students are
expected to obey the morals decided upon by their seniors. Such a view allows a hidden purpose
behind the promotion of morals. As Feigenblatt et al. (2010) state, the Thai educational curriculum

includes “a disproportionate number of hours in morals and religion. Students were and are still
taught mostly about how to behave and what to believe in primary school ... The ideal is to shape
children into submissive workers who are satisfied with what they have and who do not question
authority” (p. 302). In this way, the promotion of morals may have the same underlying ulterior
motives as the ideology of economic efficiency.

Theme 3: Promoting critical and analytical thinking
The second key broad objective is the promotion of critical and analytical thinking skills. This
objective is mentioned in the National Education Act which says that education should “enable
learners to think critically” (Office of the National Education Commission, 1999, Section 24) and
has been stressed by Ministers of Education, such as Jurin Laksanavisit in 2009:

The first pillar is a new generation of Thai people who will be able to think critically and
analytically ... I assigned all MOE agencies to design methods whereby students can
develop increased critical thinking skills and analytical acumen ... OBEC will be
instructed to adopt methods which focus on critical thinking.

Also in 2009, retiring Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Khunying Kasama
Voravan Na Ayudhaya, while similarly stressing the importance of analytical thinking as a key
educational objective, had a slightly different take on how this objective could be achieved:

In other countries, they define analytical thinking of students as far broader than forcing
them to practise analytical skills in class and only as specified by the school curriculum
... Developing an analytical culture in Thai society should be the place to start.

The most noticeable effect of the push to promote critical and analytical thinking has been
the adoption of tests of analytical thinking as part of the university entrance system in the form of
the General Aptitude Test and the Professional Aptitude Test (similar to the Scholastic Aptitude
Test of the US). This move, however, may have had the opposite effect to its goal. Uthumporn
Jamornmarn, Head of the NIETS, in 2010 talked about recent increases in GAT and PAT scores:

Special tuition classes outside of school may have helped enhance their skills. But how
the skills were improved was of secondary importance to the fact that more students
actually made substantial gains ... When children are familiar with analytical tests, they
will be able to understand the subjects better.

The improvements in test scores suggest that Khunying Kasama´s warnings about taking a
surface approach to analytical skills have not been addressed. If a short period of studying at a cram
school can lead to an improvement in analytical thinking scores, the tests do not appear to be
aiming at “developing an analytical culture,” but rather at practising a limited set of predetermined

analytical skills. The most serious issues concerning the promotion of critical and analytical
thinking in Thai education, then, appear to concern how this goal is to be reached.

Theme 4: The need to reform teaching methods
Complaints about the quality of Thai education have been a constantly recurring theme over several
decades, and are also noticeable in statements made by Education Ministers in the six years covered
by this study. In 2005, Chaturon Chaisaeng argued that:

English language teaching methods should be changed from learning by rote and
grammar to communication with a focus on speaking, writing and comprehension ... The
new curriculum must not upset students or teachers, but introduce easy-to-understand
teaching methods ... Whatever is too difficult for children must be corrected while
whatever is used for teaching must be evaluated and updated.

In 2006 he repeated the argument: “Teachers should not “force-feed” students but devise
spontaneous methods of conducting classes to make lessons interesting.”
Wijit Srisa-arn had the same concerns in 2007: “Teachers numbering around 700,000 nationwide
still apply the same obsolete teaching methods.”

Suggesting that no progress had been made, in 2009 Jurin Laksanavisit assigned Ministry
officials to investigate “how educators can eliminate teacher-centred classes and rote learning,”

The second pillar comprises highly trained teachers who are able to teach our children
using modern teaching pedagogies ... Almost all of Thailand’s 500,000 existing and long-
serving teachers, administrators and managers will need to be retrained to use modern
teaching methods ... all 500,000 teachers will be trained to a single standard, using a
single high-quality curriculum ... To ensure that the strict standards are maintained, each
teacher shall be evaluated before and after the training course ... Periodic follow-ups will
ensure that teachers continue to employ the special skills learned ... Future university
graduates will be steeped in modern tutelage.

While an easy target, rote learning in itself is not necessarily detrimental, since it may be an
effective learning method for some objectives, especially for learning collocations and formulaic
phrases and for improving pronunciation (Cook, 1994; Ding, 2007). The problem is not that rote
learning exists; rather, it is the excessive emphasis placed on it. Demands to eliminate rote learning
appear to set up rote learning as a strawman which can easily be criticised. The suggestions for
what should replace rote learning, however, are less clear. Apparently, teaching methods are
valuable as long as they are ‘modern’, and there may even be a single ideal ‘modern’ method.


The arguments about teaching methods made by Education Ministers are as obsolete as the
methods they criticise. For over twenty years, it has been widely accepted that the search for an
ideal teaching method is misguided (e.g. Kumaravadivelu, 1994). The influence of context and
participants on the potential effectiveness of teaching methods far outweighs any benefits inherent
to a particular method, and such influences also mean that ‘modern’ methods are not necessarily
preferable. Even if there was an ideal method, experience of previous attempts to implement
methodological innovation in Thailand has shown that policy demands have very little influence on
classroom practice (e.g. Darasawang & Watson Todd, forthcoming; Prapaisit de Segovia &
Hardison, 2009). Given that there is no one-method-fits-all, it is probably beneficial that English
language learning in Thailand is not overly restricted by methodological policy demands, since
competent teachers are relatively free to make methodological decisions appropriate to their
immediate context.

Implications for English language teaching initiatives in Thailand
There are three ways of viewing the beliefs of the policy makers. First, if we as teachers follow the
seemingly preferred educational model of becoming obedient, submissive workers, we can simply
accept and follow the conceptions and demands of the policy makers. This would mean that
curricula should be set up with objectives meeting the needs of employers, that we should attempt
to instill obedience and preconventional morality in our students, that we should teach surface-level
critical and analytical skills, and that we should ditch many of our proven teaching methods and
strive to be as modern as possible. It would also mean that we would need to ignore the inherent
contradictions in the beliefs of the policy makers - that any real critical thinking stands in
opposition to preconventional morality, and that reproductionist value systems promote rote
learning. Fortunately, it seems unlikely that many teachers will follow this route.

Second, if we have taken on board the critical thinking apparently promoted by the policy
makers, we can resist their initiatives, either actively by arguing against them or passively by
ignoring them. Given the lack of evidence of any real progress being derived from policy
initiatives, the last choice of ignoring policy makers’ initiatives may be the most common reaction,
allowing teachers to make the changes they feel are most appropriate for their situation.

Third, if we would like to promote and gain acceptance for our own initiatives, we can
couch them in terms reflecting the beliefs of the policy makers. When setting up a new curriculum,
include morals and critical and analytical thinking skills among its stated objectives and show how

its graduates can enhance the country’s competitiveness (even if such issues are barely dealt with in
the curriculum). When promoting a methodological innovation, imply how modern it is. While
such an approach only pays lip-service to policies and smacks of manipulation, in the Thai
educational context where the power differences in the hierarchy are large, this approach may tip
the balance between an initiative being implemented and it being ignored.

The key issue here is who decides what happens in ELT classrooms in Thailand: the policy
makers or the teachers? While there are enough horror stories of appalling teaching in Thai
classrooms to justify a need for a measure of central control, the problem is that such control may
penalise good teachers by reducing their freedom to make decisions more than it curbs bad
teaching. For example, a teacher may, for the best of reasons, decide to reduce students’ propensity
for making grammatical errors by teaching formulaic phrases on the basis that this leads to
improved performance (Yu, 2009). The teaching of formulaic phrases, however, may lead to
increases in the use of rote learning, and thus the teacher who has implemented a potentially
beneficial innovation with the goal of promoting learning becomes open to criticism for not
following the preferred methodology of policy makers. For the future development of Thai
education, a delicate balance between central control to implement policy makers’ initiatives and
individual freedom for teachers to make their own decisions is needed. While it is beyond the scope
of this paper to suggest how such a balance can be achieved, awareness of what policy makers
really believe is crucial.


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of the National Education Council.

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63(2), 154-162.

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Richard Watson Todd has worked at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi for nearly 20 years where
he is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Research and Services in the School of Liberal Arts. He is the
author of Much Ado about English and Classroom Teaching Strategies, and has published numerous articles in the
areas of text linguistics, computer-based analyses of language, and curriculum innovatio

Thai EFL Undergraduates’ Vocabulary Learning Strategies: Perception and Practice
Suphawat Pookcharoen

This study investigates the use of vocabulary learning strategies among Thai EFL
university students. The aims of the project were threefold: (a) to identify the
strategies used most and least frequently by the students and those they perceive
as most and least useful; (b) to examine how the students’ frequency of strategy
use relate to their perceptions of the strategy usefulness; and (c) to document the
factors contributing to their failure to employ certain strategies they consider
useful. A total of 400 students from different academic disciplines participated in
the study in which a questionnaire was administered. Follow-up semi-structured
interviews were carried out with 20 students who each subsequently submitted a
two-week vocabulary-learning journal. The results indicate that the students’
frequency of strategy use is strongly related to their perceptions about the
usefulness of strategies. Findings of the study also shed some light on the
complex factors that prevented them from utilizing the strategies they consider
Key Words: vocabulary learning strategies, frequency of strategy use, perception
of strategy usefulness
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For over two decades, much research in the area of second language learning has emphasized the
significance of vocabulary acquisition. In particular, vocabulary has received increased attention as
witnessed by the substantial amount of empirical research on vocabulary learning strategies in the
1990s (e.g. Haastrup, 1991; Mondria & Wit-de-Boer, 1991; Wang, Thomas, Inzana, & Primicerio,
1993). Vocabulary is the very foundation of language use, be it for a receptive or productive
dimension. Nation (1990) defined receptive learning as being able to recognize a word and recall its
meaning when it is encountered in reading or listening, whereas productive learning not only refers
to recognition and recall but also includes the ability to use the word at the appropriate time
through speaking or writing. He further indicated that most students’ difficulties in both receptive
and productive language use result from their inadequate vocabulary. Hence, promoting students’
vocabulary knowledge has become an educational priority as it is inextricably associated with
knowledge acquisition and, therefore, academic achievement.

Due to the complexity of word knowledge, students often struggle with the vocabulary-
learning task, particularly in a second language-learning context in which they devote their time
and energy to take responsibility for their own learning process. Researchers have claimed that the
learner’s use of language learning strategies correlates with various aspects of their success (Nyikos
& Oxford, 1993). They also argue that most language learning strategies are used for vocabulary
tasks, and they attempt to identify a link between the learner’s success and their preference for
strategy use.

A number of recent studies reported that many Thai EFL students’ repertoire of vocabulary
learning strategies was limited, which has, in turn, become one of the factors leading to their
lacking the four skills necessary to communicate in the English language effectively (e.g.,
Pookcharoen, 2007; Siriwan, 2007). Nevertheless, very little is known about how Thai learners
perceive the use of vocabulary learning strategies, and why they occasionally fail to use certain
strategies they consider useful. In addition, with regard to methodology, most of the research
studies have only been conducted quantitatively using questionnaires to investigate vocabulary
learning strategies employed by students at different levels. This common practice is often deemed
inadequate at yielding a profound understanding of the complex vocabulary acquisition process
(Gu, 1994; Lawson & Hogben, 1996).


The present mixed methods study investigates the use of vocabulary learning strategies
among Thai EFL university students. The aims of the project were threefold: (a) to identify the
strategies used most and least frequently by the students and those they perceive as most and least
useful; (b) to examine how the students’ frequency of strategy use relate to their perceptions of the
strategy usefulness; and (c) to document the factors contributing to their failure to employ certain
strategies they consider useful.

Literature Review
Language Learning Strategies
The past few decades have witnessed an enormous growth in research activity in language learning
strategies. Much of the research conducted in this area has been influenced by developments in
cognitive psychology (Williams & Burden, 1997). Even though there is no consensus on a
definition of the term learning strategies, an often-quoted one is “specific actions taken by the
learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and
more transferable to new situations” (Oxford, 1990, p. 8). Adding to its functions, Oxford and
Cohen (1992) further proposed a detailed definition of the term as:
…steps or actions taken by learners to improve the development of their language skills.
These strategies have the power to increase attention essential for learning a language, to
enhance rehearsal that allows linkages to be strongly forged, to improve the encoding and
integration of language material, and to increase retrieval of information when needed for
use (p. 1).
After thirty years of research and practice, Cohen (2007) devised a comprehensive survey to
examine the use of terminology by an international group of strategy experts in the field of
language learner strategies. To define what language learner strategies are, each of the seven major
themes was taken into consideration: level of consciousness, degree of mental activity, extent of
describable actions, degree of goal orientation, strategy size, amount of strategy clustering, and
potential for leading to learning. Their collective self-reflection reveals that the construct is
multidimensional and elusive. Even though disagreements in various respects exist, there is some
consensus among these experts that language learner strategies are “conscious or semi-conscious
thoughts and behaviors employed by learners, often with the intention of enhancing their
knowledge about and performance in a second language (L2)” (Cohen, 2007, p. 57).

Definition and Classification of Vocabulary Learning Strategies
Vocabulary learning strategies constitute a subcategory of language learning strategies. Catalan
(2003) defined vocabulary learning strategy as “knowledge about the mechanisms (processes,

strategies) used in order to learn vocabulary as well as steps or actions taken by students (a) to find
out the meaning of unknown words, (b) to retain them in long-term memory, (c) to recall them at
will, and (d) to use them in oral or written mode” (p. 56).

Ellis (1994) pointed out that some influencing factors in classifying language learning
strategies include, but are not limited to, the particular subjects in the study, the research setting,
and the specific interests of the researchers. In classifying vocabulary learning strategies, different
researchers have their specific ways that are also reflected in different names used to refer to an
individual strategy.

According to Oxford (1990), language learning strategies can be divided into two main
classes: (1) direct strategies, which directly involve the target language such as reviewing and
practicing; and (2) indirect strategies, which provide indirect support for language learning such as
planning, co-operating and seeking opportunities. These two categories constitute six
subcategories: memory (helps learners to store and retrieve information), cognitive (allows learners
to make sense of and produce new language), compensation (enables learners to communicate
despite lack of language knowledge), metacognitive (allows learners to regulate their learning
through planning, monitoring, and evaluating), affective (enables learners to manage their
emotions, attitudes, motivations, and values), and social strategies (helps learners to interact with
other people to improve language learning). While memory, cognitive, and compensation strategies
belong to the direct strategy group, the indirect strategy group consists of metacognitive, affective,
and social strategies.

By the same token, Schmitt (1997) proposed a vocabulary learning strategy inventory with
two main categories: strategies for the discovery of a new word’s meaning, and strategies for
consolidating a word, once it has been encountered. Similar to Oxford’s classification system,
Schmitt’s taxonomy adopted four categories, namely social, memory, cognitive, and metacognitive.
In order to cover cases where meanings of new words are discovered without other people’s
assistance, Schmitt introduced a fifth category, determination strategies. Thus, his final taxonomy
of vocabulary learning strategies contains five categories with 58 individual strategies in total.
Research on L2 Vocabulary Learning Strategies
Most studies on vocabulary learning strategies were directed at individual strategies or a small
number of them. Gu and Johnson (1996) conducted a large-scale study to examine the relationship
between vocabulary used by 850 Chinese learners of English and their vocabulary size and general
language proficiency. They reported that visual repetition of new words did not contribute to
positive learning outcome, as opposed to such deeper strategies as contextual guessing, dictionary
use skills, note-taking, and metacognitive strategies. In the same vein, Schmitt (1997) surveyed a
sample of 600 Japanese learners to explore the use of different vocabulary learning strategies and
their perceptions of how helpful they were. He pointed out that learners used more dictionary and
repetition strategies and considered them more useful than other strategies. Fewer imagery and
semantic grouping strategies were used than other strategies and were considered the least useful.
Based on the findings of studies related to learning and vocabulary learning, Schmitt further
concluded: 1) many learners were aware of the importance of vocabulary learning; moreover,
strategies for learning vocabulary were used more often than those for other linguistic aspects; 2)
such mechanical strategies as memorization, note-taking, and repetition were used more often than
deep strategies such as guessing, imagery, and the keyword technique; and 3) good learners used a
wider range of vocabulary learning strategies than poor students and actively engaged in their own
vocabulary learning process.

More recently, in Hong Kong, Fan (2003) extended the scope of previous studies by
revealing the relationships among how frequently strategies were used by 1,067 students, how
useful they were perceived to be, and how useful they actually were in enriching the vocabulary of
learners. Lip (2009) conducted another study to determine 36 Cantonese-speaking learners’
frequency of use of vocabulary learning strategies and their perception of the strategies’ usefulness.
Both studies reported that the frequency of strategy use among the students was positively and
significantly correlated with their perceptions about the usefulness of strategy. In other words, the
more often a learner used a strategy, the more useful he or she would find it for learning

While a large number of vocabulary studies have been conducted in the Thai context and
have added to our understanding of what strategies student use (e.g. Kongthong, 2007;
Pookcharoen, 2009; Siriwan, 2007), there is a dearth of research that seeks to document the
relationship between students’ frequency of strategy use and their perceived usefulness. Thus, the
current study is primarily aimed to help identify the relationship among Thai EFL learners.


Research Questions
Aiming to investigate the frequency of use and perceived usefulness of vocabulary learning
strategies employed by Thai EFL undergraduates in several dimensions, the current study addresses
the following research questions:
1. What are the strategies used most and least frequently by the students, and what strategies
do they perceive as most and least useful?
2. To what extent does the students’ frequency of strategy use relate to their perceptions of the
strategy usefulness?
3. What are the factors contributing to their failure to employ certain strategies they consider

Participants and Context
The participants of the study included 400 Thai EFL students who were enrolled in EG221 Reading
for Information at Thammasat University in the second semester of the 2010 academic year. This
reading course focused on three principal aspects: (1) studying strategies used in reading
informative texts; (2) analyzing the content and the writer’s presentation of information; and (3)
practicing outlining and summarizing as well as giving opinions about the texts through oral
discussion or writing. In addition, the course reinforced a wide range of vocabulary learning
strategies, which played a pivotal role in enabling the students to read informative texts effectively.

The participants were diverse in terms of age, academic discipline, and English proficiency.
Of all the students, 286 students (71%) were female and 114 students (29%) were male. Their ages
ranged from 19-23 years old. These students were from various faculties including Liberal Arts (N
= 179 or 45%), Commerce and Accountancy (N = 105 or 26%), Political Science (N = 64 or 16%),
Science and Technology (N = 16 or 4%), Economics (N = 15 or 3.75%), Law (N = 8 or 2%),
Journalism and Mass Communication (N = 7 or 1.75%), and Social Administration (N = 6 or
1.5%). These students had an average of 15 years of learning English as a foreign language in

The questionnaire used for the current study was adapted from Schmitt’s (1997) taxonomy of
vocabulary learning strategies (see Appendix A). It included six strategies in each of the five
categories: determination (DET), social (SOC), memory (MEM), cognitive (COG), and
metacognitive (MET). The frequency of use and perceived usefulness were measured by five-point
Likert scales (1 = Never to 5 = Very Often; 1 = Not Useful to 5 = Very Useful). A section eliciting
the respondents’ background information, their grade for EL172 (the EG221 course prerequisite),
and the factors preventing them from using certain strategies they considered useful was also
included. For all participants to provide as accurate and complete information as possible, the
questionnaire was translated into Thai and reviewed by an expert before the actual questionnaire

This study was designed as mixed methods research which Johnson and Onwuegbuzie
(2004) defined as “the class of research where the researcher mixes or combines quantitative and
qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches, concepts or language into a single study” (p.
17). Even though this research paradigm has been implemented in a small proportion of vocabulary
studies, this innovative approach helps acquire a better understanding of students’ vocabulary
learning process in different aspects.

In this study, a one-hour semi-structured interview was conducted with each of 20 randomly
selected students who previously provided their email address in the survey questionnaire (see
Appendix B). A two-week vocabulary learning journal was also used as data. The aim of this
instrument is to allow the students to describe their actual use of vocabulary learning strategies as
well as their difficulties and limitations for using some strategies when engaging in different tasks
at school and at home without the presence of the researcher.

Data Collection and Analysis
Working collaboratively with the instructors who taught the course, the researcher asked for their
permission and assistance to recruit students during a class session. A total of 400 students from a
wide range of majors responded to the questionnaire on vocabulary learning strategies. Although
not timed, the entire survey took approximately 15 minutes to complete. The mean scores and
standard deviations of responses to 30 strategy items were calculated to identify which strategies
were reported as being used most and least frequently and which were perceived as most and least
useful. Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were also calculated to ascertain whether
there were any significant relationships between the frequency of use and perceived usefulness of


Twenty students were randomly selected to participate in a follow-up interview that was
conducted in Thai by the researcher and lasted approximately one hour. All conversations were
recorded and transcribed for data analysis. The participants verified the accuracy of the
transcription, which was subsequently translated into English.

Two weeks later, each of the 20 participants submitted a written description in Thai of their
use of vocabulary learning strategies. In addition to statistical reports, the researcher qualitatively
discussed the emerging themes from the interviews and self-reports of strategy use and perception
to allow triangulation of the data from multiple sources.

Results and Discussion
Research Question 1: What are the strategies used most and least frequently by the students, and
what strategies do they perceive as most and least useful?
To answer this question, the researcher used quantitative data from the questionnaire, which
measured the students’ frequency of use and their perceived usefulness of strategies. Table 1 below
demonstrates the means and standard deviations for the top five and the bottom five vocabulary
learning strategies reported by the students in the current study. The value of the mean refers to the
frequency of use which ranged from 1 (never) to 5 (very often) with 3 as sometimes.

Table 1: Most and Least Frequently Used Strategies
Strategy M SD
Most Frequently Used
5. Bilingual dictionary
25. Use English-language media (songs, movies, etc.)
4. Guess from textual context
23. Take notes in class
3. Analyze any available pictures or gestures
Least Frequently Used
22. Flash cards
27. Test oneself with word tests
30. Continue to study word over time
28. Use spaced word practice
9. Ask teacher for a sentence including the new word

As revealed in the preceding table, the respondents reported using each vocabulary learning
strategy with varying degrees of frequency. The means of individual strategy items ranged from a
high of 4.29 (item no. 5) to a low of 2.54 (item no. 22) with an overall mean of 3.41.


Based on the three levels of interpretation of strategy use proposed by Oxford and Burry-
Stock (1995), these means can be divided into the following broad groups: high-usage group (mean
of 3.50 or above), medium-usage group (mean of 2.50 to 3.49), and low-usage group (mean below
2.50). For the students in this study, 11 of the 30 strategies (37%) fell in the high-usage group,
while the remaining 19 strategies (63%) represented medium-usage. None of the strategies was
reported to be used with low frequency. Thus, it can be concluded that they used a wide range of
vocabulary learning strategies on a relatively regular basis.

As for the most frequently used strategies, three of the top five items are determination
strategies (i.e., bilingual dictionary, guess from textual context, and analyze any available pictures
or gestures). This specific result is consistent with that of previous studies, particularly those
conduced in the Thai context (e.g. Kongthong, 2007; Pookcharoen, 2009). For instance, based on
his empirical evidence, Pookcharoen (2009) pinpointed that most students tended to make use of
textual cues to decipher the meanings of unfamiliar words. In cases where sufficient cues were not
provided, they often resorted to other reference materials including monolingual and bilingual
dictionaries. Often, due to their limited English proficiency, they failed to guess meanings from
context and then consulted dictionaries immediately, as demonstrated in the preceding table.

It is also noteworthy that three of the bottom five items belong to the metacognitive
category, which could potentially explain why several students in the study reported having
difficulty remembering vocabulary items they had encountered. These three strategies include
testing oneself with word tests, continuing to study a word over time, and using spaced word
practice. According to Baddeley (1990), in order to maximize the effectiveness of learning,
learners’ practice time should be scheduled and organized rather than random. As informed by
research findings that most forgetting occurs very soon after learning and the rate of forgetting
slows after that major loss, learners should review new material soon after the initial exposure and
then at gradually increasing intervals.

Following an investigation into the most and least frequently used strategies as discussed
previously, the means and standard deviations indicating the degree to which the respondents
perceived each strategy as most and least useful are summarized in Table 2 below. The value of the
mean refers to the perceived usefulness, which ranged from 1 (not useful) to 5 (very useful) with 3
as moderately useful.


Table 2: Most and Least Useful Strategies
Strategy M SD
Most Useful
25. Use English-language media (songs, movies, etc.)
5. Bilingual dictionary
26. Interact with native speakers
4. Guess from textual context
23. Take notes in class
Least Useful
29. Skip or pass new word
22. Flash cards
11. Discover new meaning through group work activity
10. Ask classmates for meaning
12. Study and practice meaning in a group

Based on the ranking shown above, the means of individual strategy items which were
perceived as useful by the respondents ranged from a high of 4.61 (item no. 25) to a low of 2.94
(item no. 29) with an overall mean of 4.00.

Comparing the two lists aforementioned, the study found that four out of the top five
strategies were both very often used and perceived as very useful: 1) Bilingual dictionary
(frequency of use 4.29/0.86; perceived usefulness 4.39/0.79); 2) Use English-language media
(4.19/0.92; 4.61/0.69); 3) Guess from textual context (3.98/0.90; 4.35/0.78); and 4) Take notes in
class (3.89/0.95; 4.21/0.81). However, only one strategy from the bottom five strategy ranking was
found to be both never used and perceived as not useful: Flash cards (2.54/1.11; 3.50/1.08).

Evidently, the mean values of the most and least useful strategies (as shown in Table 2)
were comparatively higher than those of the most and least frequently used strategies (as shown in
Table 1), which postulates that, in general, the students in the present study failed to employ each
of these reported strategies as frequently as the degree they perceived them as useful in learning
vocabulary. Furthermore, such high usefulness ratings imply that the students might be ready or
willing to try new strategies to enrich their vocabulary repertoire if they are introduced to them and
provided an explicit instruction.

Research Question 2: To what extent does the students’ frequency of strategy use relate to their
perceptions of the strategy usefulness?
The focus of the second question was on the relationship between frequency of use and perceived
usefulness of the Thai EFL undergraduates’ vocabulary learning strategies. To address the question,

quantitative data from the questionnaire were used. The means, standard deviations, and correlation
coefficients of the five strategies achieving the strongest correlation were calculated and are
presented in Table 3 that follows.

Table 3: Strategy Items with the Strongest Correlation

Frequency Usefulness Corr
18. Say new word aloud when studying
17. Study the sound of a word
3. Analyze any available pictures or gestures
13. Image word’s meaning
14. Connect word to a personal experience
* Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

It was found that a number of vocabulary learning strategies used by the students with high
frequency had strong and significant correlative relationships with their perceived usefulness, as
displayed in the preceding table. To illustrate, the strongest correlation (r = .722, p < 0.01) was
achieved by strategy item 18—Say new word aloud when studying. Strategy item 17—Study the
sound of a word—reaches the second strongest correlation between frequency of use and perceived
usefulness (r = .711, p < 0.01). Similarly, the determination strategy item 3—Analyze any available
pictures or gestures achieves the third strongest correlation between two variables (r = .698, p <

It is particularly noticeable that four out of the five strategies in the preceding table belong
to the memory category, which involves relating the new word with some previously learned
knowledge in order to retain the information about the word. To provide further insights into the
students’ attitude toward using such strategies, the qualitative data were also incorporated in this
research question. The following excerpt illustrates the point:
For me, the best way to learn vocabulary is to understand each element of a word rather
than just reciting it. Also, to learn new words by heart without having to devote too much
energy, I try to create scenarios in my head that helps me to remember how the words are
used. Most importantly, I need to use them often in daily life before they are kept in my
memory (Student 3, interview).

With regard to the strategies with the weakest correlation, as identified in Table 4 that
follows, four out of five items are metacognitive strategies. These include item 30 Continue to
study word over time (r = .302, p < 0.01), item 28 Use spaced word practice (r = .335, p < 0.01),
item 26 Interact with native speakers (r = .351, p < 0.01), and item 27 Test oneself with word test (r
= .365, p < 0.01).

Table 4: Strategy Items with the Weakest Correlation

Frequency Usefulness Corr
30. Continue to study word over time
28. Use spaced word practice
26. Interact with native speakers
27. Test oneself with word tests
7. Ask teacher for an L1 translation
* Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Even though the statistical data in the preceding table did not reveal a strong correlation
between frequency of use and perceived usefulness of vocabulary learning strategies, it is
interesting to remark that the strategies considered very useful outnumbered those reported to be
very often used. This can partially be observed from the mean values in their perception of
usefulness that were much higher than those in their frequency of use, which manifests the
students’ clear tendency to benefit from these strategies more substantially. The following is
indicative of their awareness:
I really dislike looking up words in a dictionary because it doesn’t make me understand
and remember the words permanently. When I learn new words, I try to use them in
conversations with native speakers or write them down on colorful pieces of paper and
stick them to wherever I can see them every day. I sometimes create sentences that
contain those words. Anyway, I should always do this rather than do it once in a while
(Student 14, interview).

Like many students, my problem is I forget words I have learned after a few days. I tend
to forget words that I do not use or see often. My problem can be solved by reviewing
these words as much as possible. I plan to improve my vocabulary by using the different
methods I mentioned earlier (Student 20, journal entry).

After the individual strategies were examined earlier, Table 5 below summarizes this
section by presenting the means, standard deviations, and correlation coefficients of the five
strategy categories.

Table 5: Correlation between Categories

Frequency Usefulness Corr
Memory Strategies
Determination Strategies
Cognitive Strategies
Social Strategies
Metacognitive Strategies
* Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

As identified in all the preceding categories, the frequency of use and perceived usefulness
were found to be related to each other with varying degrees of correlation. Based on this ranking,

the category that achieves the strongest correlation was memory strategies (r = .650, p < 0.01),
followed by determination strategies (r = .577, p < 0.01), cognitive strategies (r = .546, p < 0.01),
social strategies (r = .479, p < 0.01), and metacognitive strategies (r = .345, p < 0.01).
Research Question 3: What are the factors contributing to their failure to employ certain strategies
they consider useful?
For responses to this research question, the data were gathered from multiple sources. First, based
on the survey, the students’ responses to the open-ended question as to the factors that prevented
them from using certain strategies they considered useful were analyzed. Qualitative analyses of
data obtained from both interviews and vocabulary learning journal entries were also implemented.

A total of 274 (69%) students who completed the survey provided responses to the open-
ended question. Figure 1 below summarizes and reports the percentage in each of the four factors,
which contributed to the students’ failure to make use of the strategies they considered useful in
enhancing their vocabulary knowledge.

As indicated in Figure 1, lack of practice is reported by 154 (56.20%) students as their
major factor. They regarded their time limitation and limited opportunities for practice as their
principal problem. A total of 60 (21.90%) students considered their lack of motivation their main
obstacle to employing a wide variety of useful vocabulary learning strategies. In addition to these
two factors, lack of English proficiency and complexity of word knowledge were reported by 41
(14.96%) and 19 (6.94%) students, respectively.

Complexity of Word
Knowledge 6.94%
Lack of English
Lack of Motivation
Lack of Practice

Figure 1: Factors Contributing to Failure to Use Strategies

The following section scrutinizes the issue by discussing in greater detail each factor that
contributes to the students’ failure to use their preferred vocabulary learning strategies. The
analyzed data were obtained from the survey responses, the interviews, and the journal entries.

Lack of Practice
The majority of students participating in the current study articulated their lack of practice mostly
due to time constraints as their principal factor that prevented them from making use of a wide
selection of vocabulary learning strategies. Excerpts from a few questionnaires are given below:
I don’t think I’m very fond of learning vocabulary. I know the spoken English language
that is full of slang and idioms better than the written language. Anyway, because of my
tight academic schedule, I have little time to concentrate hard on learning it. This
prevents me from knowing as much vocabulary as I should as a university student
(Student 2, interview).

I used to think that I needed to know as many words as possible, so I tried to seek a good
resource about words. For me, that was a dictionary. When in high school, I read a
dictionary almost every day. I already knew some words and thought that there were
many words like technical terms that I didn’t need to know. I still keep a book where I
have jotted down many words I learned, but it’s kind of sad that I don’t have time to
review it now (Student 10, journal entry).

Lack of Motivation
Motivation plays a fundamental role in learning. According to a number of students in the study, a
lack of adequate motivation inevitably resulted in their failure to take advantage of certain
strategies they found helpful in broadening their existing vocabulary repertoire. They asserted:
Personally, I don’t find vocabulary learning a difficult task. My problem is I’m always
too lazy to consult a dictionary, so I tend to skip them without trying to make sense of
what they mean. This may seem like a trivial problem, but it sometimes leads to a
misunderstanding of the whole text I am reading (Survey respondent 25).

I memorize unknown vocabulary only when studying for exams, and I often remember
their meanings for just a couple of days. This may be because I hardly use them.
Anyway, I’ve never bought a vocabulary book for self-study, which is why I do not
improve my vocabulary. Perhaps it might be due to my own lack of motivation to learn
English (Student 11, journal entry).
Lack of English Proficiency
Based on the comments made by some students, sufficient background knowledge in English is
deemed a prerequisite for expanding their vocabulary. Without this required component, the
process of vocabulary learning occasionally poses a considerable challenge. The following quotes
stress the point:
Although I think reading news and articles in English is the best way to learn vocabulary
as it not only helps me gain knowledge but also provides a lot of reliable information, I
don’t use this strategy much. I believe it’s too challenging for me because my English is

not that good, and I’m afraid of misinterpreting the information. So I’d better ignore or
stay away from it (Student 1, interview).

One of the problems I usually encounter during reading is my English proficiency is
limited, and I struggle with so much unknown vocabulary that I feel overwhelmed and
demotivated to continue learning English and its vocabulary (Survey respondent 79).

Complexity of Word Knowledge
Unlike the three aforementioned factors, this factor pertains to the word knowledge itself. Nineteen
students claimed that even though they usually attempted to derive word meanings or learn words
through different strategies, there were times when they were not successful in doing so. They
I enjoy guessing word meanings through context and word parts, which was
recommended by all English teachers and proficient English users. I found it boring at
first but later gained more and more words using these techniques, and it was fun.
Unfortunately, I have a difficult time applying them to many academic words and
technical terms. The vocabulary learning task then becomes too complicated and boring
(Survey respondent 15).

A whole lot of vocabulary words have different meanings, so it’s quite hard to pick the
right meaning when I consult a dictionary. Or for writing, because of nuances in
meaning, it’s not easy at all to pick the right word to use (Student 9, journal entry).

The study has addressed the first research question and arrived at the conclusion that the students
reported using each vocabulary learning strategy item with either high or medium frequency,
suggesting they made use of a wide range of strategies on a regular basis. Three of the top five
items are determination strategies while three of the bottom five items belong to the metacognitive
category. It was also revealed that, in general, the students failed to employ each of these reported
strategies as frequently as the degree they perceived them as useful in learning vocabulary.

As for the second research question, a number of vocabulary learning strategies used by the
students with high frequency had strong and significant correlative relationships with their
perceived usefulness. It was noticeable that four out of the five strategies with the strongest
correlation belong to the memory category whereas four out of five items with the weakest
correlation are metacognitive strategies.

In relation to the third research question, the study identified four major factors contributing
to the students’ failure to use the strategies they considered useful: lack of practice, lack of
motivation, lack of English proficiency, and complexity of word knowledge.

In line with previous studies conducted in the Thai EFL context (e.g., Kongthong, 2007;
Pookcharoen, 2009; Siriwan, 2007), the current study revealed the most and least frequently used
strategies among university students. What this research added to existing knowledge of vocabulary
learning strategy use pertains to the complicated relationships between their frequency of use and
their perceived usefulness. The data obtained also provided valuable insights into the students’
learning process and how to help them become a better vocabulary learner.

Pedagogical Implications
The findings pointed out that there is no secret recipe to success in vocabulary teaching and
learning. What strategy one uses and how he or she uses it appear to be dependent upon the
contexts in which learning occurs. This study, however, suggests a number of pedagogical
implications, especially in EFL settings. First, taking into account the students’ frequency of use of
vocabulary learning strategies and their perception of usefulness, I propose the following three
types of strategies to facilitate the implementation of vocabulary strategy instruction:

1) Strategies which were perceived as useful and reported to be often used (e.g., bilingual
dictionary, use English-language media, guess from textual context, and take notes in class).
Teachers may not need to introduce the preceding strategies to students; however, they are
beneficial for students when teachers provide assistance should the need arise. Some students
voiced their concerns about using bilingual dictionary effectively. Also, others expected that
teachers, as expert vocabulary learners, model extensively and provide verbal explanations as to
how to use such strategies as guessing word meanings using clues provided.
2) Strategies which were perceived as useful and reported to be seldom used (e.g., continue to
study word over time, use spaced word practice, interact with native speakers, test oneself with
word tests, and ask teacher for an L1 translation).
Teachers may need to explain and discuss with students the value of strategies before providing an
explicit instruction or other types of assistance. Several factors, as outlined earlier in the current
study, should also be taken into consideration. Most importantly, students should be encouraged or
reminded to apply these strategies in actual task situations.
3) Strategies which were perceived as not useful and reported to be seldom used (e.g., flash cards,
discover new meaning through group work activity, ask classmates for meaning, and study and
practice meaning in a group).
Teachers may find it appropriate to initially identify the reasons why these strategies are not
favored by many students. Should there be any strategies they consider useful for vocabulary

learning among students, they may decide to introduce those to them. However, it should be noted
that the selection of strategy varies greatly from one learner to another, and it may prove
advantageous to allow students to choose their own effective strategies that suit their specific needs
and learning styles.

Although all research questions have been addressed, it should be admitted that some limitations
exist in the study. First, the data obtained from the questionnaire were self-reported, and one of the
problems with this self-report measure is that the participants may not report what they actually do
in vocabulary learning. However, interviewed and self-reported strategies generally tended to
match, though the quality of application varied. Another limitation is related to how appropriate
and effective strategy use is related to several interrelated variables (e.g., learner autonomy,
learning styles, gender, and motivation). Rather than scrutinize the very specific details, this study
only intends to give a general overview of the topic being discussed. Hence, the data obtained
should be cautiously interpreted.

Suggestions for Further Research
As discussed earlier, part of the data in this study was obtained from the survey questionnaire.
Future research should be conducted to document students’ actual use of strategies to provide
empirical evidence as to their learning process, which can subsequently be compared with their
attitude toward using those strategies. In attempts to report detailed observation of the learners’ use
of strategies, researchers may conduct their studies by means of the think-aloud procedure.

This specific type of verbal report offers various advantages. Oxford and Burry-Stock
(1995) indicated that think-aloud protocols provide the most detailed information on how students
implement strategies while performing a language task. Even though this procedure, when
compared with silent conditions, increases the time for undertaking the task, it does not affect the
sequence of thoughts (Ericsson & Simon, 1993). Kuusela and Paul (2000) added that reporting
which happens concurrently while performing a task offers more and better information than
reporting what they did retrospectively.



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Appendix A

Questionnaire on Vocabulary Learning Strategies
The purpose of this survey is to collect information about the frequency of use and the
perceived usefulness of English vocabulary learning strategies. The entire survey will take you
approximately 15 minutes. Your response will be confidential and anonymous. Only the researcher
of this study will have access to it.

1. Gender € Male € Female
2. Age ______
3. Faculty _____________________________________________
Major _____________________________________________
4. Years of English learning ______

5. What is your grade of EL172?

€ Exempted € A € B+ € B € C+ € C

6. For each statement below, you are requested to respond to both of the following:

a) Frequency: How frequently do you use the strategy stated to learn English vocabulary?

very often often sometimes seldom never
5 4 3 2 1

b) Usefulness: To what extent do you think the same strategy is or maybe useful to you?

very useful quite
not useful
5 4 3 2 1


Scale 5 4 3 2 1
very often never
very useful not useful
1. Analyze part of speech Frequency

2. Analyze affixes and roots Frequency

3. Analyze any available pictures or gestures Frequency

4. Guess from textual context Frequency

5. Bilingual dictionary Frequency

6. Monolingual dictionary Frequency

7. Ask teacher for an L1 translation Frequency


8. Ask teacher for paraphrase or synonym of
new word

9. Ask teacher for a sentence including the new

10. Ask classmates for meaning Frequency

11. Discover new meaning through group work

12. Study and practice meaning in a group Frequency

13. Image word’s meaning Frequency

14. Connect word to a personal experience Frequency

15. Connect the word to its synonyms and

16. Study the spelling of a word Frequency

17. Study the sound of a word Frequency

18. Say new word aloud when studying Frequency

19. Verbal repetition Frequency

20. Written repetition Frequency

21. Word lists Frequency

22. Flash cards Frequency

23. Take notes in class Frequency

24. Use the vocabulary section in your textbook Frequency

25. Use English-language media (songs, movies,
newscasts, etc.)

26. Interact with native speakers Frequency

27. Test oneself with word tests Frequency

28. Use spaced word practice Frequency


Skip or pass new word Frequency

30. Continue to study word over time Frequency


7. Any other vocabulary learning strategies you use or think they are useful? (Please specify)



8. What are the factors that prevent you from using certain strategies you consider useful?
Please explain below:

9. Are you willing to participate in the interview phase of the study?

If yes, please provide your e-mail address _________________________________________

Ŷ Thank you very much for your time and cooperation Ŷ


Appendix B

Semi-structured Interview Questions

1. Are you a good vocabulary learner?
2. How often do you learn vocabulary?
3. What do you think are the best ways or strategies to learn vocabulary?
4. In what ways do you actually learn vocabulary?
5. Do you use vocabulary learning strategies that you think are useful to you?
Why or why not?
6. What problems or difficulties do you have when learning vocabulary?
7. How do you solve those problems?
8. What do you think good language learners do when learning vocabulary?
9. What are some characteristics of a good vocabulary learner?
10. If someone asked for your advice on how to learn vocabulary, what would you respond to that

Dr. Suphawat Pookcharoen is a lecturer in the English Department, Thammasat University. He holds a Ph.D. in
Literacy, Culture, and Language Education from Indiana University Bloomington, USA. His research interests include
strategies-based language learning, vocabulary acquisition for EFL learners, new literacies, and professional
development. He can be reached at suphawatoak@hotmail.com


Using Graphic Organizers to Enhance English Reading Instruction: A Case of First-Year
Information Technology Students at Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology
Bundit Anuyahong

The purposes of this research were 1) to develop and test the efficiency of the
graphic organizer technique of English reading instruction; 2) to compare the
students’ English reading achievement before and after using the reading
instruction; and, 3) to survey the students’ satisfaction with this type of
instruction. 30 first-year Information Technology students at the Thai-Nichi
Institute of Technology were taught with eight reading units using a graphic
organizer technique, an English reading achievement test, and a questionnaire to
survey their satisfaction of the materials. The results were positive: 1) The reading
lessons were highly effective, with the students scoring 80.25 on the formative
tests and 81.00 on the post-test; 2) The students’ reading achievement after the
lessons was significantly higher than before, with lessons constructed at 0.05
level; and, 3) The students were very satisfied with all of the reading lessons.

Key words: English reading instruction, Graphic Organizer technique

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¹a a. :«.. a·..» ·¹aa!- .«+· +..v +»».a.¹·.+».· ·.· 8 :« a::«a«»:.a
+..«..a!·..»·.»·a+.·+...a· a+.a::«»:a.+..u.u»!· ++...·au:.
1) v..« «r .u·».:«.. a·..» ·· . + .« .: 80.25/81.00 + .a ». »a !·..a:a ..
2) +..«..a!·..» ·¹aa!- ..v + »».a.¹·.+».« ... . »·..!-:«.. a·»a ..
·a« +¡« ..a: 0.05 3) .+ ...»a .. +..u .u»!·.::«.. a·« +. ·a«..··»a !·..a:
a·a·a¸: :«..a·..»·.·»..¡·, .«+·+..vv. »».a.¹·.+».
In recent times, the instructional curriculum for foreign languages taught in Thailand has been
based on the National Education Act, B.E. 2542 section 22. This act stipulated that Education shall
be based on the principle that all learners are capable of learning and self-development, and that
each student should be seen as most important. It further stipulated that the teaching-learning

process should aim at enabling the learners to develop themselves at their own pace and to their full
potential. Moreover, section 24 stipulates that, in organizing the learning process, educational
institutions and agencies concerned shall provide substance and arrange activities in line with the
learners’ interests and aptitudes, bear in mind individual differences, provide training in the
thinking process, provide proper management, teach students how to face various situations and
apply their knowledge in obviating and solving problems, organize activities for learners to draw
from authentic experience, drill in practical work for complete mastery, enable learners to think
critically and acquire the reading habit and continuous thirst for knowledge, achieve, in all subjects,
a balanced integration of subject matter, integrity, values, and desirable attributes; enable
instructors to create the ambiance, environment, instructional media, and facilities for learners to
learn and be all-round persons, and be able to benefit from research as part of the learning process.
In so doing, both learners and teachers may learn together from different types of teaching-learning
media and other sources of knowledge, enabling individuals to learn at all times and in all places.
Co-operation with parents, guardians, and all parties concerned in the community shall be sought to
develop jointly the learners in accord with their potentiality (Ministry of Education 1999, 14)

The Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology has been operating under the philosophy of
“disseminating knowledge and building the economic base.” One of the TNI objectives is to
generate human resources who have abilities in the advancement of technology and industrial
management. Moreover, the TNI concept of program administration focuses on the students’
language skills, so that students will be able to communicate in Japanese and English. In order to
achieve the TNI objectives, TNI has provided an English for Communication course which is
divided into 3 core courses for students from all faculties, as well as elective courses for students
from each faculty (TNI Student Handbook, 2010, 24).

Graphic Organizers (GOs), concept maps, and mind maps are spatial representations of
linear textual knowledge in the form of graphics, pictures, and diagrams. GOs visualize thoughts
and organize knowledge, providing the reader with a whole picture of the concepts contained in the
text, and the relationships between them. The hierarchical organization of concepts in a graphic
display not only help avoid rote learning and pure memorization, but also prompt ideas and prepare
the reader to articulate ideas in composition, including both major and minor points, and to
synthesize newly acquired knowledge. GOs have long been used in learning sciences and have also
proved their usefulness in second language learning (Jiang & Grabe, 2007). Some studies (Carrell,
Pharis, & Liberto, 1989; Palincsar & Brown, 1989) revealed that non-proficient L1/L2 readers

either do not know any reading strategies, or generally employ bottom-up strategies. The findings
suggest that strategy instruction should focus on comprehension monitoring to help non-skilled
readers overcome their difficulties. In reading comprehension, research claims that GOs play a
particularly valuable role and are recommended as a way to teach students awareness of discourse
structuring in texts, an important part of a reader’s overall comprehension abilities (Pearson &
Fielding, 1991; & Trabasso & Bouchard, 2002). GOs that represent text discourse structures have
been more effective in facilitating comprehension and retention of content area reading material
than the GOs that do not (Jiang & Grabe, 2007). Review of the available literature on GOs has
revealed contradictory findings and thus raised questions about the overall effectiveness of GOs in
reading instruction. The first issue is the lack of a clear distinction between the two GO types and
understanding of their effectiveness when employed for instructional or research purposes. The
second issue regards students' insufficient exposure to differing types of textual discourse structures
and the amount of GO training required to teach students this knowledge through visual means. The
third problem lies in the lack of GO studies with learners of English as a second/foreign language.
It is important to know if GOs will facilitate reading comprehension for these learners who
potentially face more language trouble in the academic setting. And finally, previous GO research
studies have not investigated the effectiveness of GOs with different groups of learners.

Ellis (2004) provides three reasons language teachers should use GOs in their classrooms.
First, learners are considerably more likely to understand and remember the content since GOs help
them identify what is important in a text. Second, because the semantic processing demands are
minimized, teachers can address the content at more sophisticated or complex levels. Showing how
the information is structured might be powerful aid in understanding. Third, learners are more
likely to become strategic readers as they recognize the patterns of thinking, constructing, and using
graphic organizers.

TNI students have problems in reading and also tend to lack motivation to read because the
content of instructional materials is not interesting. The content is generally not suitable to their
culture nor useful in the daily life of TNI students. Moreover, the problem often in teaching reading
is that instructional contents are dated and too difficult, and learners are not interested and do not
understand the culture in which the language is spoken. Thus, instructional management must
depend on the learner’s interests and ability, and his motivation to read. A suitable method for use
in teaching-learning English for information technology students of TNI is the Graphic Organizer
technique, in which images can be used to clarify verbal elaborations. The use of visual imagery is

necessary especially when readers face ambiguous texts as it helps avoid the tendency to rely on
personal background and situational cues for interpretation of the text, and encourages the
formation of images. The images, evoked by the language in the text, can be used as referent for the
language, and guide the encoding of the passage (Bransford, & Johnson, 1972; Grabe, 2004;
Oxford, 1990; Sadoski, Paivio, & Goetz, 1991; Trabasso, & Bouchard, 2002).

In conclusion, the researcher created English reading instruction based on the graphic
organizer technique which was then checked by experts in order to improve the study of reading for
TNI students in the second semester, academic year 2010. The results derived from this research
will provide guidelines for improvement and development of instruction and instructional materials
for future courses.

Research objectives
There are three main objectives of the research as follows:
1) To develop and determine the effectiveness of English reading instruction using a graphic
organizer techniques for first year Information Technology students, Thai-Nichi Institute of
Technology, Bangkok.
2) To compare the ability in English reading of the students before and after instruction.
3) To study student satisfaction with these English reading instruction materials.

Research Design
The data was gathered and analyzed as follows:

1. Population and sampling
1.1 The population is second year Information Technology students at Thai-Nichi Institute of
Technology, Bangkok, second semester of academic year 2010. There were 120 students from four
1.2 The sample consisted of 30 students, and was derived from a simple random sampling


2. Contents used in experiment
The topics consisted of Design, Education, Advertising, Business, Work, Language, Trends, and
Arts and Media which were chosen based on a survey of needs questionnaire.

3. Duration in experiment
The experiment ran for 16 weeks (1 hour per week)

4. Variables
Variables in this study were as follows:
4.1 The English reading ability of first year Information Technology students before and after the
4.2 The satisfaction of first year Information Technology students with graphic-organizer based
English reading instruction.

5. Research Instruments
5.1 Eight lessons of English reading instruction using graphic organizers.
5.2 A 1-hour English reading proficiency test (30 items: 30 scores).
5.3 A questionnaire constructed by the researcher assessing satisfaction with English reading
instruction using graphic organizers.

6. Construction and Development of Research Instruments
The researcher constructed the English reading instruction and the proficiency tests in the following
First, the researcher studied the objectives of English reading instruction, and focused on
English reading skills and strategies. Emphasis was placed on reading for main ideas, reading for
topic sentences, reading for pronoun references, reading for facts and opinions, reading for
sequencing events, reading for author’s purposes, reading for inference, reading using a graphic
organizer, and concept mapping.

Second, the researcher derived eight topics from the survey of needs questionnaire and
interviewed the participants regarding topics required for first year Information Technology
students. The topics were as follows:


Rank Topic Mean S.D Meaning
1 Design 4.80 0.45 Strongly agree
2 Education 4.73 0.50 Strongly agree
3 Advertising 4.71 0.55 Strongly agree
4 Business 4.65 0.60 Strongly agree
5 Work 4.62 0.58 Strongly agree
6 Language 4.59 0.72 Strongly agree
7 Trends 4.52 0.69 Strongly agree
8 Arts and media 4.49 0.77 Strongly agree

Third, these eight topics were modified to suit first year Information Technology students
by giving the students vocabulary guidelines and meanings, simplifying structures of language,
finding pictures, and applying the contents to English reading instruction. Then, the table of
contents specification was designed by determining the objectives, contents, topics, desired reading
skills, reading activities, and evaluation.

Last, the constructed table was examined for IOC by experts and lesson plans were written
for all 8 lessons. Each lesson plan was composed of learning objectives, topics and contents, and
reading activities consisting of a pre-reading activity, a while-reading activity and a post-reading

The pre-reading activity included presenting pictures and answering the questions in order
to lead the students to lessons and matching vocabulary with pictures.

While-reading was categorized into 5 groups: True/False; Yes/No Question; Information
gap; Matching; and Sequencing events.

Post-reading activities were divided into several types: semantic maps, information tables,
concept mapping, graphics, pictures, and diagrams.

The lesson test consisted of a multiple choice test, sequencing events, information gap,
question answering, concept mapping, and diagrams.

Proficiency test
Students were given pre- and post-class proficiency tests. The tests had the same format and
consisted of 30 items (30 scores). The duration of each test was 60 minutes. The researcher used
the textbook, journal articles and related research as an outline to create the test. The researcher

also, created a table of specifications including reading skills and goals for each lesson, and then
created one set of proficiency tests following this table of test specifications. The researcher
derived the difficulty and discrimination of the tests (P-R value) from standard criteria consisting of
30 items. Five experts examined, corrected and improved the accuracy, validity and reliability of
the language and contents of the test. The test had a difficulty level between 0.20-0.80 and a rank of
discrimination at 0.20 or over. The calculation of the test reliability was used K-R 20 by Kuder-
Richardson (Cited in Boonriang Khajonsil, 2000, 165). Then, the proficiency test was used to
sampling of the research.

Satisfaction Questionnaire
The researcher created a questionnaire to investigate student satisfaction with this type of reading
instruction. The questionnaire was constructed using both closed-end and opened-end questions
based on Best (1981, 168-183). The answer to each question was separated into five rating scales as
demonstrated by Likert. The rating scales in the questionnaire were
5 refers to strongly agree
4 refers to agree
3 refers to moderate
2 refers to disagree
1 refers to strongly disagree

There were four components of satisfaction which were content, instructional design, teaching-
learning activities and instructor. The data from the experts was applied with the following
IOC replaces Index of item-Objective Congruence
R replaces Experts’ opinions
N replaces Number of experts

Questions rated less than 0.5 by the experts were considered and improved. The data obtained from
a small group experiment was analyzed to find reliability by using Į-Coefficient formula stated by
Cronbach (1974: 161). Coefficient of reliability was 0.82.

Data Collection
The program was first tested on a single student, and then on a small group of students, before
being used on an actual class. Therefore, there were three phases of data collection:

Phase 1
One TNI student who was not included in the test group went through the English reading
instruction using graphic organizers, and took the 30-question pre- and post-tests. This enabled the
researcher to investigate behavior, listen to the student’s point of view, answer questions, and
troubleshoot problems with the 8 units and the proficiency tests.
The student scored 63 out of 80 on the 8 lesson tests, or 78.75%. On the post-test, the student
scored 23 out of 30, or 83.33%. The effectiveness of the instruction was 78.75/83.33. The highest
score was on lesson 3 Advertising (90%), and the lowest on lesson 4, Business (70 %).

Phase 2
A small group of 9 students then took the English reading instruction, with tests after each lesson,
and took the post-test. In this phase, the researcher recorded the problems and suggestions in order
to improve the effectiveness of the lessons. The scores derived from each lesson and scores from
the ability posttest were calculated as 77.77/79.62. These nine students scored 560 out of 720
(77.77 %) on the lesson tests. On the post-test, the students scored 215 out of 270, or 79.62%.
Hence, the effectiveness of the English reading instruction was 77.77/79.62. The highest scores
were from lesson 1 (82.45%), the lowest from lesson 5 (71 %).

Phase 3
Next, 30 students took the reading course and the post-test. The scores derived from each lesson
and scores from the posttest were calculated at 80.25/81.00. Students scored 1926 out of 2,400
(80.25 %) on the lesson tests. On the posttest, the students scored 729 out of 900, 81.00%, with an
improvement of .75%. The highest scores were from lesson 1 (81.00%), the lowest from lesson 4
(70 %).

Statistic Used in Data Analysis
1. The lesson effectiveness was determined by using E1/E2 formula followed 75/75 criteria.
2. The comparison between the pretest and posttest was done using t-test, which was calculated by
SPSS/PC for Windows XP.

3. The data from the questionnaire were rated to find the mean and standard deviation and then
translated based on criteria developed by Best (1981) as follows:
1.00 d x¯ 1.50 indicates the lowest satisfaction
1.50 d x¯ 2.50 indicates low satisfaction
2.50 d x¯ 3.50 indicates moderate satisfaction
3.50 d x¯ 4.50 indicates high satisfaction
4.50 d x¯ d 5.00 indicates the highest satisfaction

Results of data analysis
Phase 1: Tests were given to all 30 students after each of the eight units. The statistics used in the
data analysis consisted of mean (x ¯ ), standard deviation (S.D), percentage and rank order of scores
in each unit. The lesson tests got a mean score over 75% for each unit. The highest score came
from unit 8, Arts and media (88%). Unit 4, Business, received the lowest score.

Phase 2: The comparison of the before and after tests for the 30 students were as follows:
Test Total
(x¯ ) S.D (D) S.D.








* Statistical significance at 0.05 level

The post-test scores were higher than the pretest scores by 0.05 (Sig = 0.000 < 0.05). The
mean score of the posttest was 23.70, higher than the pretest (11.41 out of 30). The difference
between the pre-test and post-test scores was 12.29, and for the t-test it was 25.613. Results
indicated that students reading ability was improved by the course, affirming hypothesis 2.

Phase 3: The results of the student satisfaction questionnaire were as follows:
The mean scores of all eight units was 4.52 (S.D. =0.49). The highest mean score was on unit 1 (x ¯ =
4.69, S.D. =0.61 ). The second highest mean score was on unit 8 (x ¯ = 4.62, S.D. =0.53 ). The lowest
mean score was on unit 5 (x ¯ = 4.39, S.D. =0.62). The overall mean score of eight units was 4.52
(S.D.= 0.49). The results indicate high student satisfaction with the course, affirming hypothesis 3.


The results of the study indicate that:
1. The efficiency of English reading instruction using graphic organizers was higher than the
determined criteria. This may be on account of following:
1.1 The English reading instruction using graphic organizers used general English contents
which the TNI students were able to analyze critically, and students had the necessary background
knowledge to understand the contents. This is advocated by Sadoski, Paivio, & Goetz (1991) who
stated that background knowledge has played an important role in reading comprehension
development for two decades. The effectiveness of background knowledge in improving reading
comprehension indicates the constructive nature of comprehension, and the critical role of the
reader’s prior knowledge in that construction. In addition, the TNI information technology students
were already familiar with the contents of the instruction because they had background knowledge
about it which would make it easier to understand (Goodman, 1994).
1.2 The teaching-learning activity in each unit was constructed according to an English
reading theory developed by Freebody & Luke (1992), Harris & Sipay (1979), and Williams
(1994). They started learners with easy activities, progressing to more difficult activities for pre-
reading, and asking question in while-reading activities to check the students’ understanding. In the
post-reading stage, the researcher created semantic maps and information charts to help the learners
fill in information in the correct way. Moreover, the learners used graphic organizers to aid in
reading comprehension (Blachowicz & Ogle, 2001; Grabe, 2003; Gunning, 2003; Jones, Pierce, &
Hunter, 1988-1989; Mohan, 1986; Pearson & Fielding, 1991; Threster, 2004; Trabasso &
Bouchard, 2002).
1.3 The course was designed in accordance with experts’ views on objective learning, pre-
reading, while-reading, and post-reading activities. The contents fell in the category of general
English. The learners were able to use a reading strategy in learning because comprehending
textual discourse structures is an important aspect of a reader’s overall reading abilities (Grabe,
2004; Kintsch & Rawson, 2005; Trabasso & Bouchard, 2002). Further, the importance of GOs in
reading comprehension is made clear when we understand the role of knowledge on text structure
in reading research. Text structure can be understood as knowledge-structures or basic rhetorical
patterns in texts (Grabe, 2003), or the organization of ideas in text (Taylor, 1992), or the way ideas
in the text are interrelated to convey a message to the reader (Meyer & Rice, 1984).


2. The students reading ability improved at the 0.05 level. This may be accounted for by the
learners’ satisfaction with, and interest in the required contents. The course integrated teaching
English reading with visual aids, semantic maps, spider maps, and charts which were familiar to
TNI students. The use of GOs increased students’ comprehension, retention and retrieval of
knowledge as indicated by encoding and note-taking (Kulhavy, Stock, Woodard, & Haygood,

3. Survey results indicated students were highly satisfied with the course, confirming hypothesis 3.
This seemed to be because they understood and applied reading strategies. Results also confirmed
statements of the educational theorist, Honsefeld (1977), who reported that skilled readers tend to
keep the meaning of the passage in mind, read in broad phrases, skip words, and read with
confidence. Moreover, the knowledge of graphic organizer and textual awareness can enhance
comprehension, and students can be trained to improve their reading ability (Carrell, 1984; Ghaith
& Harkouss, 2003; Jiang & Grabe, 2007; Kintsch & Yarbrough, 1982; Koda, 2005; Martinez 2002;
Taylor, 1992).

According to the study and data analysis, the results of this study were as follows.
1. The efficiency of English reading instruction using graphic organizers for first year Information
Technology students in this experiment was 80.25/81.00 which was higher than determined criteria
(75/75). It was demonstrated that English reading instruction using graphic organizers for this
group of L2 learners was very effective, confirming hypothesis 1.
2. Ability in English reading after learning by this method of instruction was improved at statistical
significance at 0.05 level, confirming hypothesis 2.

3. These L2 learners indicated high satisfaction with English reading instruction using graphic
organizers, confirming hypothesis 3.


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problem? In J.C. Alderson & A.H. Urquhart (Eds.), Reading in a foreign language (pp.1-
27). New York: Longman.

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ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Blachowicz, C., & Ogle, D. (2001). Reading comprehension: Strategies for independent
learners. New York: The Guilford Press.

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P.N. Publishing.

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Behavior, 11, 717-726.

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non-successful second language learners. System, 5, 110-123.

Harris, Albert J., & Edward R. Sipay. (1979). How to teach reading. New York: Longman.

Ghaith, G. M., & Harkouss, S. A. (2003). Role of text structure awareness in the recall of
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ed.). London: Macmillan.















































































































































































































Example of

a to

f English re

Unit 1: D
dix B
eading instr


What is design?
The word design means things to different people. One definition given by
designer Richard Seymour is ‘making things better for people’.
Questions: 1. Who gives definition of design? …………………………..
2. What is definition of design? ………………………………
Scientists can invent technologies, manufacturers can make products, engineers can make them work and
salespeople can sell them. However, only designers can combine all these things. Designers turn an idea into
something that is desirable, commercially successful and adds value to people’s lives.
Questions: 3. Who can make products? ………………………………….…
4. Who can turn an idea into desirable something? …………..
Good design begins with the needs of the user. A good design fulfils a user’s need. A design doesn’t have to
be new, different or impressive to be successful in the market place, but it must
fulfil a need. However, it is also true that design methods often lead to innovative
products and services.
Questions: 5. Does good design begin with needs of the user?.......................
6. Do design methods only lead to innovative products?............
Many people have misconceptions about design. Magazines often use the word design when they mean style
or fashion. For example, when they show a toaster or bottle opener which is well designed, the result is that
people think that design is only about how things look. Design is also about how things work. In reality, the
way a product looks is something which happens at the end of a product development process.

Questions: 7. Why magazines use the word design?....................................
8. What do people think about design?....................................
9. Is design also about how things develop?............................
Designers, unlike artists, can’t simply follow their creative feelings. They work
in a commercial environment, which means there are many
points to consider. Designers have to ask themselves
questions such as: ‘Is the product really wanted?’. ‘How is it different from everything else on the
market?’, Does it fulfil a need?’, ‘Will it cost too much to manufacture?’ and ‘Is it safe?’
Questions: 10. Who works in a commercial environment?............................
11. What is the questions of designers to ask themselves?.........
12. Why do they consider to fulfil a need? ……………………..

Incorrect idea
about design

Designers do

The restrictions
on designers
The design is

The essential
element in
good design

Bundit Anuyahong is a lecturer and Assistant Director of Academic Affairs at College of General Education and
Languages, Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology, and is also a doctoral student at Silpakorn University in Curriculum
and Instruction-Teaching English. He obtained a Master of Education in TEFL from Silpakorn University in 2008. He
has taught English as a foreign language at TNI for four years. His research interests include CALL, English reading
instruction, ESP, and teaching English as a foreign language.


Learners’ Reported Use of Cognitive and Metacognitive Reading Strategies: A Study of Thai
Undergraduate Students
Melada Sudajit-apa

Research on EFL readers’ reported use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies
in reading can shed light onto classroom teaching approaches. In this study,
perceived use of strategies reported by Thai undergraduate students at Thammasat
University—both higher and lower-reading-ability groups— while they were
engaged in an academic reading task was investigated. The participants were
asked to complete a reading strategy self-report form immediately after they had
completed their academic reading task. The results show that the two groups of
learners had a significantly different awareness of cognitive but not of
metacognitive strategy use; that is the high-proficiency group deployed
substantially more cognitive strategies—particularly higher-level processing
ones— than their low-proficiency peers. All the findings obtained from this
present study have implications for strategy training and could lead to useful
practical applications in the EFL reading context.

Key words: Cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies, EFL reading

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This paper describes a quantitative and qualitative investigation of Thai EFL learners’ reported use
of cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies when they deal with an IELTS academic reading
task. The study was designed to shed light onto what particular strategies two groups of learners—
higher-reading-ability and lower-reading-ability—employed and what they did and did not do when
handling the IELTS reading text and test. This was assessed through their self-report. Insights into
their perceived use of strategies and the nature of this particular group of learners’ use of strategy
were gained which could have implications for practical applications for EFL strategy instruction.

A great deal of research on both L1 and L2 reading comprehension over many years has
emphasised the significant role of readers’ use of strategies in achieving their reading goals (Cohen
& DÖrnyei, 2002; Ediger, 2006; Gascoigne, 2008; Sheorey & Mokhtari, 2001). The literature on
strategic reading has shown that a high number of appropriate strategies used and readers’
awareness of ‘when’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ to use them are likely to increase their ability to
interactively construct a text meaning (Ediger, 2006). The research in this area is quite well-
developed and a cluster of good strategies consciously deployed by successful readers have now
been identified, leading to some practical implications on how teachers can actually use them in a
classroom. Combining cognitive and metacognitive strategies has been considered to be the most
effective method for reading success (Erler & Finkbeiner, 2007; Gascoigne, 2008).

The term ‘strategies’ is defined in this study as both mental processes and behaviours which
are subject to conscious use (Macaro, 2006). They are differentiated from ‘skills’, which are used in
an automatic manner. Macaro (2006), who proposes a notion of strategies grounded in cognitive
psychology and information processing, emphasizes that strategies must be also goal-oriented to
serve learners’ satisfaction in their learning goals and to enable them to transfer from one task to
another. Macaro also proposes that the habitual use of a cluster of strategies can result in learning
styles and the automation of strategies over time can contribute to the development of skilful
behaviours. Cognitive strategies are involved in working memory processing, which consists of
“perception, decoding, processing, storage, and retrieval” (Macaro, 2006, p. 328). Ediger (2006)
explains that cognitive strategies “include strategies for interacting with the author and the text,
strategies involving different ways of reading, strategies for handling unknown words, and those
making use of one’s prior knowledge in some way” (p.305).

While cognitive strategies are directly engaged with working memory processing,
metacognitive strategies are rather the strategies a reader deploys to indirectly support and evaluate
their use of cognitive strategies (Macaro, 2006; Oxford, 1990). The term ‘metacognition’ involves
two important aspects of reading: awareness of a reader’s strategy use and their ability to regulate
the comprehension process. ‘Strategic awareness’ or ‘knowledge about cognition’, according to
Baker & Brown (1984, p. 353), is comprised of “the ability to reflect on one’s own cognitive
process, to be aware of one’s own activities while reading, solving problems and so on”. The other
critical element of metacognition, or regulation of cognition, entails activities such as having a
purpose or reading goal in mind, planning one’s action, monitoring reading activities to ensure
comprehension, repairing and evaluating one’s strategy use (Chamot, 2005; Stoller, 1994).

Research on Cognitive and Metacognitive strategies in L2 reading
There have been attempts to investigate the characteristics of both successful and less successful L2
readers in terms of their reported use of L2 reading strategies since 1970s to shed light on what
strategies good readers deploy and propose instructional implications to improve learners’ strategic
reading. However, most of the work in 70s and 80s (e. g. Block, 1986; Hosenfeld, 1979; Papalia,
1987; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983) appeared to explore and classify only types of cognitive strategies
which are commonly trained rather than metacognitive ones. Overall, these studies, which started to
view reading as a process not a product, confirmed the existence of differences between good and
poor readers, explaining that good readers appeared to have better decoding skills, recognize every
word with an automatic process, thereby achieving the meaning without relying excessively on
guessing strategies. Or even when they did rely on contextual clues, they tended to do so without
much difficulty. By contrast, poor readers were unable to recognize words correctly and spent
considerable amounts of time decoding word by word.

According to Hosenfeld (1984)’s classification of 13 good L2 reading strategies, only one
strategy ‘evaluating their guesses’ can be categorized as metacognitive whereas the remaining
strategies are cognitive such as ‘identifying the grammatical category of words’, ‘examining
illustrations’, and ‘recognizing cognates.’ Likewise, Van Dijk & Kintsch (1983), who regarded the
linguistic knowledge of more successful readers as an advantage, reaffirm that ‘The good reader is
more adroit at exploiting the regularities and redundancies inherent in language and does not bother
much with laborious bottom-up decoding letter by letter or word by word’ (p. 23).


The studies focusing on what good readers did and what poor readers did not do have still
continued with the development of more or less different classification of reading strategies
throughout 1980s and 1990s. However, a clearer picture of reading strategy classification was
marked by the work of Anderson (1991), who investigated the reading strategies three individual
L2 readers employed while handling a reading comprehension test and reading academic texts.
With the use of think-aloud protocols, his analysis of the three subjects displayed individual
differences in strategies used between the good reader and the two weaker ones. He explained that
the good reader tended to use strategies in his five categories in the same way— supervising
strategies, support strategies, paraphrase strategies, strategies of establishing coherence in a text,
and test-taking strategies (p. 463). The good reader’s strategies included ‘monitoring
comprehension by identifying when comprehension fails’; ‘relating sentences from one part of the
text to another’; and ‘monitoring affective feelings about the text’ (p. 466). Interestingly, the
weakest appeared to use the same strategies as the student who gained the highest score, but
appeared to lack the knowledge of how to monitor the use of strategies. Anderson, thus, proposed
that ‘strategic reading is not only a matter of knowing what strategy to use, but also the reader must
know how to use a strategy successfully and orchestrate its use with other strategies’ (p. 469).

The study of Anderson (1991)’s work has sparked researchers’ interest in exploring the use
of metacognitve strategies in L2 reading and a number of them stressed the importance of
introducing not only cognitive but also metacognitive strategies in the classroom context (Block,
1992; Carrell & Grabe, 2002; Nassaji, 2003; Phakiti, 2003). These studies argued that cognitive
strategies alone cannot assist both high and low-proficiency L2 readers in overcoming
comprehension barriers. Phakiti (2003), for instance, focused on the use of cognitive and
metacognitive strategies of Thai L2 test-takers in performing a reading comprehension test. The
results suggested that high use of metacognitive strategies, such as evaluating whether the text
makes sense, monitoring and maintaining one’s understanding of the text, significantly correlated
with high scores on a reading comprehension test. The higher the subjects’ scores, the higher their
reported use of metacognitive strategies while performing the test. A closer investigation revealed
that the high-scoring test-takers were aware of why and how to use both cognitive and
metacognitive strategies to succeed on the test. This suggests pedagogical implications for the way
that both cognitive and metacognitive strategies should be promoted in L2 reading strategy


Until recently, the trends in L2 strategic reading research have focused on an exploration of
individual learners’ use of both cognitive and metacognitive strategies in a more localized context
(Benson & Gao, 2008; Cohen, 2007; Grenfell & Macaro, 2007; Takeuchi, Griffiths, & Coyle,
2007). Among these studies, the work of Ikeda & Takeuchi (2006), who explored 10 Japanese EFL
learners’ learning process of reading strategies, was able to disclose six major differences in the
learning process of reading strategies between the higher and the lower proficiency students
through the use of portfolio analysis. Interestingly, the higher proficiency group tended to deploy
more cognitive and metacognitive reading strategies than their counterparts as well as displaying
their clear understanding of the purpose and merit of those strategies while the other group did not.
This study further explained that the higher proficiency group could understand the conditions that
increased the effectiveness of strategy use as well as using reading strategies in an orchestrated
manner and in a variety of contexts. The last difference between the higher and lower proficiency
group was that the former knew how to evaluate the efficacy of their strategy use. The pedagogical
implications were specifically tailored to improve Japanese EFL learners’ use of reading strategies.

The recent reading strategy research conducted by Malcolm (2009), who again paid much
attention to the localization rather than globalization concept of learners, investigated reported
academic reading strategy use of 160 Arabic-speaking medical students in Bahrain. The students
were divided into two groups according to their English proficiency level and year of study—low
and high-proficiency groups. The study showed significant differences in reported use of
metacognitive strategies that were related to translating from English to Arabic. To be precise, the
low-English proficiency reported translating the text more whereas the high-proficiency group did
not translate that much and deployed more metacognitive strategies, such as skimming to note text
characteristics, using text features and critically evaluating. Such an emphasis on the “view of the
learner as individual” (Benson & Gao, 2008, p. 36) has played a critical role in the area of current
strategy research as the way to discover individual use and specific problems and offer pedagogical
implications appropriate for each particular group of learners.

With the significance of the ‘learner as individual’ view in mind, the center of interest for
this study lies on the survey of my Thai students’ perceived use of both cognitive and
metacognitive strategies in the localized context. The fact that all participants in the study have
undertaken a strategic reading course that emphasizes cognitive strategies intrigued me to further
investigate whether a different level of proficiency causes them to deploy cognitive and
metacognitive strategies in a different way. This research aims at answering the following
a) Were there any differences between the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-
ability students in their perceived use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies while
reading an academic text?
b) Did the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability students report using
cognitive strategies in the same way as they took control of metacognitive strategies
while reading an academic text?
c) What cognitive and metacognitive strategies did the higher-reading-ability and the
lower-reading-ability students report using to a significantly different level of

The significance of the study is two-fold. First, this study provides insights into patterns of
cognitive and metacognitive strategies currently used by both higher- and lower-reading-ability
students while dealing with the IELTS reading text and test. It also offers implications for
classroom instruction in the EFL reading context.

The participants in this study were 32 undergraduate students at Thammasat University who had
previously undertaken a Reading for Information, a course which focused on building up learners’
basic reading strategies. All the participants came from the Humanities and Social Sciences field
despite the fact that they were majoring in different disciplines—English, Linguistics, Japanese,
Commerce and Accountancy, Drama, and History. This particular group of students was also a mix
of 17 second and 15 third-year students.

In order to investigate whether good and poor reading-ability learners reported using
cognitive and metacognitive strategies in the same way, the participants were divided into two
groups, called the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability group, according to the mean
score (M = 11.37, SD = 2.57, total score = 20) on their IELTS academic reading test, conducted
through SPSS statistical procedures. The total number of 18 students or those whose scores were
above the mean score were placed in the higher-reading-ability group, whereas the remainder (N=
14) whose scores were below the mean were labelled as the lower-reading-ability group. Table 1
illustrates the details of the participants’ disciplines in both groups.

Table 1: Details of the Participants’ Disciplines in both Groups
Majors Higher-Proficiency Group Lower-Proficiency Group
Frequency Percent Frequency Percent
English 11 61.1 3 16.7
Accounting 4 22.2 3 16.7
Linguistics 2 11.1 1 5.6
1 5.6 -
Japanese - 3 16.7
Drama - 2 11.1
Marketing - 1 5.6
History - 1 5.6
Total 18 100 14 100

Concerning their prior strategy training, these participants were introduced to L2 reading
strategy instruction in their high school years as well as in their first two years in university.
Nevertheless, they might not yet be able to resort to a cluster of good reading strategies while
reading the L2 text. This could be that the teaching and learning at high school in Thailand is
mainly teacher-oriented and intensive, with an emphasis on the Grammar-Translation Method, as
well as a predominant focus on test-taking strategies to enable students to pass the entrance
examination for university. Insufficiency of learners’ opportunities to apply reading strategies when
doing their own reading has been claimed to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of their
use of strategies (Oxford & Leaver, 1996). However, this study does not aim to focus on these two
factors but the association between the students’ reading proficiency and their reported use of
Experimental Tools
Academic Reading Text and Test: The reading passage entitled Working in the Movies was selected
from Harrison and Whitehead (2006)’s Exam Essentials: IELTS Practice Tests to be used as a tool
to test the students’ reading proficiency and to solicit their use of reading strategies. The Working
in the Movies text discusses step-by-step methods on how to subtitle a film and the difficulties that
are faced by people whose work involves subtitling films. The thematic content of the text which
was familiar and of general interest was one of the factors making it an appropriate choice for this
group of learners. Even though the text seemed to be quite difficult for the participants in terms of
vocabulary and sentence structures, given the element mentioned earlier—content familiarity—the
students were expected to be able to make use of a variety of strategies in order to understand the
overall text meaning. The Working in the Movies text is approximately 600 words in length, a
moderate text length which the students were expected to complete within an hour.

The rationale for using the IELTS’ 13- item questions was that they focused on three
different levels of comprehension—literal, analytical, and inferential levels. The students were
expected to employ different kinds of strategies they had previously learnt. In addition to these
follow-up questions taken directly from the IELTS test, I added a summary section requiring the
participants to summarize the reading passage as a whole, suggesting that they begin the first
sentence with the main idea or thesis and then give the necessary major supporting details to
support the thesis. The 13-item follow-up questions were worth one point each whereas the
summary part accounted for 7 points. Table 2 illustrates the test specifications.

Table 2: Test Specifications
Test Items Test Specifications
Items 1-5 Skimming for main ideas, Identifying major
supporting details
Items 6-9 Making inferences
Items 10-13 Understanding the text as a whole, Retrieving
specific information
Part 2: Summarizing Summarizing

Reading-Strategy Report Form: The reading-strategy report form used in this present study
consisted of two major sections: (a) the reported use of metacognitive and cognitive strategies in
the form of a checklist and (b) the participants’ reading journal. The first part of the reading-
strategy report form was adapted from Ediger’s (2006) Key Reading Strategies (pp. 305-307), in
which Ediger proposed a list of a variety of metacognitive, cognitive, and affective and social
strategies an L2 reader employed while dealing with a text. To design the report form, 12
metacognitive out of 16 Ediger’s purpose-oriented, comprehension-monitoring and repair strategies
and another 12 cognitive out of 12 Ediger’s strategies for interacting with author and text were
selected. The remaining metacognitive strategies listed by Ediger—such as ‘comparing information
from one text with that of another’ and ‘evaluating the quality of a text’ were excluded from the
report form because they were not relevant to the nature of the IELTS reading text and test. Each
reading strategy shown in the report form appears with its L1 equivalent translation to assist the
students to grasp the idea of what each strategy concerns.

The second section of the reading-strategy report form was presented in the form of a
reading journal requiring the students to describe their reading processes in detail. The students
were expected to describe what strategies they used first and which ones they used next and why
they decided to employ them. They were also asked to describe their feelings or problems, if any,
while coping with the text. This part of the reading-strategy report form was used to provide

qualitative data in the form of participants’ revelation of their own reading processes, which would
be used to support the discussion of the participants’ self-report strategy checklist (Carson &
Longhini, 2002).
Data Collection
The participants were told to read the Working in the Movies text and then to complete the test.
They were also informed at the beginning that they would have to complete the reading-strategy
report form immediately after they completed the test. They, however, had neither seen nor been
explained what the report form was exactly about at that stage. The time spent on the reading and
the follow-up questions was one hour and 30 minutes. Immediately after they completed the test
within the time limit, they were asked to complete the reading-strategy report form. At this stage,
clear oral instructions and explanations of each strategy shown in the checklist were given to the
students in Thai, to ensure that the participants would do as directed. In relation to the reading
journal, they were asked to describe their observations of strategy use in Thai, to encourage them to
be elaborate on their use of reading strategies and reading processes. The time spent on the reading-
strategy report form was approximately 30 minutes.
Data Analysis
My first two research questions aimed to investigate whether or not there were any differences
between the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability students in their perceived use of
cognitive and metacognitive strategies and whether the higher-reading-ability and the lower-
reading-ability students displayed their awareness of cognitive strategies in the same way as they
took control of metacognitive strategies while reading an academic text. To answer these questions,
I collected the data from the checklist section of the reading-strategy report form in a simple tally.
In addition, I conducted independent-samples t-tests to explore any significant differences between
the two groups of students’ perceived use of both cognitive and metacognitive strategies as well as
to investigate any significant differences between the reported use of these two types of strategies
within each group.

To answer the third research question, What cognitive and metacognitive strategies did the
higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability students report using to a significantly
different level of frequency?, the chi-square test for independence was performed to determine
whether there was any difference in the proportion of the higher-reading-ability and the lower-
reading-ability students reporting using each particular strategy while dealing with the text. The

data collected from the checklist section of the reading-strategy report form was also collected in a
tally and presented in the form of frequency tables showing the number and percentages of
frequency of reported use of each individual strategy (see Tables 7-8).

In addition to the quantitative analysis, the participants’ written description of their actual
reading processes and their feelings towards the way they read were collected and translated into
English (all participants wrote their journals in Thai). This qualitative data was presented to support
and strengthen the discussion of students’ use of strategies.

Results and Discussion
This study was designed to investigate three distinctive aspects of Thammasat students’ perceived
use of reading strategies: (a) differences between the higher- and the lower-reading ability students
in their reported use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies; (b) differences in the students’ use
of cognitive and metacognitive strategies within each group of students; and (c) cognitive and
metacognitive strategies which the higher- and the lower-reading-ability students reported using to
a significantly different level of frequency. Both quantitative and qualitative data collection was
conducted and the participants’ reported use of the two types of reading strategies is described as
Research Question 1: Were there any differences between the higher-reading-ability and the
lower-reading-ability students in their perceived use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies
while reading an academic text?

In response to this research question, the independent-samples t-test revealed no significant
difference in the perceived use of metacognitive strategies between the higher- and the lower-
reading-ability group (t
= .89, p = .38, two-tailed test, d = .59), although the higher-reading-
ability group reported using metacognitive strategies slightly more than their counterparts. This
statistical data showed that both higher- and lower-reading-ability students displayed an awareness
of metacognitive strategy use, while coping with the text Working in the Movies, in more or less the
same way. Table 3 presents the means of the students’ perceived use of metacognitive strategies.

Table 3: Higher- and Lower-Reading-Ability Students’ Means of Metacognitive Strategy Use
Thammasat Students N Mean S.D S.D Error
Higher-Proficiency 18 5.44 2.28 .54
Lower-Proficiency 14 4.86 1.02 .27

Unlike the results obtained in relation to their use of metacognitive strategies, the
independent-samples t-test showed a significant difference in the perceived use of cognitive
strategies between the two groups of students (t
= 2.26, p = .03, two-tailed test, d = 1.58). To
be more precise, the higher-reading-ability group (N = 18, M = 6.44, SD = 2.01) reported using
cognitive strategies significantly more than the lower-reading-ability group did (N = 14, M = 4.86,
SD = 1.92). Table 4 reveals the means of the students’ reported use of cognitive strategies.

Table 4: Higher- and Lower-Reading-Ability Students’ Means of Cognitive Strategy Use
Thammasat Students N Mean S.D S.D Error
Higher-Proficiency 18 6.44 2.01 .47
Lower-Proficiency 14 4.86 1.92 .51

The higher-reading-ability group’s descriptive written journals are also in agreement with
the quantitative data discussed above. They provided a number of positive descriptions confirming
the survey reports of their perceived use of cognitive strategies employed during their actual
reading processes as follows:

I felt there were a number of words I didn’t know the meanings of. So I tried to guess the
meaning of those unknown words from context clues. I also scanned for the answers from
the passage. I didn’t read every word in each paragraph. When I found the part that was
supposed to be the answer, I translated it into Thai to increase my understanding...
I first skimmed the text to roughly grasp its overall meaning and then I tried to connect
different parts of the text together. I also reread part of the text for greater detail. When I
got stuck with some difficult words, I guessed their meaning from context clues. But too
many difficult words could sometimes discourage me from reading...
Research Question 2: Did the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability students
report using cognitive strategies in the same way as they took control of metacognitive strategies
while reading an academic text?

To answer this research question, an independent-samples t-test was implemented to
examine any differences in reported number of metacognitive and cognitive strategies used within
each group. In the case of the higher-reading-ability group, an independent-samples t-test revealed
no significant difference in the number of metacognitive and the number of cognitive strategies
used by this group of students (t
= -1.39, p = .17, two-tailed test, d = -1.0), even though they
reported using cognitive strategies more than metacognitive ones. Table 5 presents the means of the
higher-reading-ability group’s metacognitive and cognitive strategy use.


Table 5: Higher-Reading-Ability Group’s Means of Metacognitive and Cognitive Strategy Use
Types of Strategies Higher-
Reading-Ability Reported Using
N Mean S.D S.D Error
Metacognitive 18 5.44 2.28 .54
Cognitive 18 6.44 2.01 .47

Likewise, an independent-samples t-test was conducted with the data from the lower-
reading-ability group and it also showed no significant difference between the number of
metacognitive and the number of cognitive strategies used by the lower-reading-ability group (t

= .11, p = .91, two-tailed test, d = .07). Nevertheless, unlike their higher-ability peers, the lower-
reading-ability students reported using metacognitive strategies slightly more than they reported
using cognitive ones when dealing with their academic reading. Table 6 shows the means of the
lower-reading-ability group’s metacognitive and cognitive strategy use.

Table 6: Lower-Reading-Ability Group’s Means of Metacognitive and Cognitive Strategy Use
Types of Strategies Lower-
Reading-Ability Reported Using
N Mean S.D S.D Error
Metacognitive 14 4.86 1.03 .27
Cognitive 14 4.79 2.19 .58

The data obtained from the participants’ reading journals also reflect their awareness of not
only cognitive but also metacognitive strategies. The first sample excerpt written by a higher-level
participant whose score was relatively high (16 out of 20) displays a well-balanced proportion of
cognitive and metacognitive knowledge while coping with his academic reading. He was aware of
a number of good cognitive strategies including ‘identifying the main points,’ ‘connecting one part
of the text to another,’ ‘guessing the meaning of unknown words from context,’ while at the same
time he was conscious of his own reading weaknesses and of ways to improve them.

I made all efforts in identifying the main points of each paragraph and then I tried to
connect all the main points together to see how they were related to each other. I also
tried to specify the writer’s purposes in writing each section and guessed the meaning of
some unknown words from context clues. While reading, I felt that I needed to
concentrate a lot on this passage because English was not my mother tongue. Sometimes,
well, actually a lot of time when I got lost, I wasn’t able to understand and grasp the main
points. On top of that, I thought not knowing the meaning of vocabulary could be a great
barrier to text understanding. We need to have sound vocabulary knowledge...
(Descriptive journal writing of a higher-level participant)

Another example is the descriptive journal written by a lower-level student who received
9.5 out of 20. Similar to his high-proficiency peer, he was able to make use of some cognitive
strategies—‘scanning,’ ‘rereading,’ ‘identifying the main points’—despite his negligence of
‘guessing the meaning of unknown words.’ Apart from the cognitive strategies, it is obvious that he

was aware of his own actions while reading and constantly checked whether or not he understood
the text.

I started off by reading questions in the test and then I read the text by trying to find out
which section was related to each question. Also while reading, I underlined important
sentences or parts I thought should be the answers to the questions. When I finished
reading, I tried to summarize the whole text. I also reread the paragraphs that I couldn’t
understand or find the answers. I felt very confused and had reservations about the
answers. However, I felt much better when I could locate the answers... (Descriptive
journal writing of a lower-level participant)
Research Question 3: What cognitive and metacognitive strategies did the higher-reading-
ability and the lower-reading-ability students report using to a significantly different level of

In the third research question, I further explored if there was any metacognitive and
cognitive reading strategy that the higher- and lower-reading ability group reported using to a
significantly different level of frequency by implementing a chi-square test for independence for
the statistical analysis. The results obtained from the chi-square test showed no significant
difference at all in the proportion of the higher-reading-ability and the lower-reading-ability group
who reported using each individual metacognitive strategy. However, significant differences were
established in the students’ reported use of two cognitive strategies, namely ‘connecting one part of
the text to another’ (X
= 4.09, df = 1, p = .04, N= 32) and ‘guessing the meaning of a new word
from context’ (X
= 4.26, df = 1, p = .04, N = 32). To be precise, around 78 and 100 percent of the
higher-reading-ability group reported connecting one part of the text to another and guessing the
meaning of a new word from context, while only 43 and 79 percent of their counterpart did the
same. Tables 7 and 8 illustrate both higher- and lower-reading-ability group’s reported use of
metacognitive and cognitive strategies in greater detail.

Table 7: Higher and Lower-Reading-Ability Group’s Reported Use of Metacognitive Strategies
Strategies High-Proficiency Low-Proficiency X² P
Metacognitive N Percent Percent
1. Specifying a purpose for
10 55.6% 42.9% .50 .47
2. Planning what to do 2 11.1% 28.6% 1.57 .20
3. Predicting the contents of the
12 66.7% 78.6% .55 .45
4. Checking predictions 4 22.2% 35.7% .70 .40
5. Posing questions about the text
to yourself
6 33.3% 14.3% 1.52 .21
6. Finding answers to posed 5 27.8% 28.6% .01 .96

7. Summarizing information 13 72.2% 71.4% .01 .96
8. Checking comprehension 9 50% 28.6% 1.49 .22
9. Identifying difficulties 8 44.4% 28.6% .84 .35
10. Judging how well objectives
are met
8 44.4% 35.7% .25 .61
11. Taking steps to repair faulty
9 50% 28.6% 1.49 .22
12. Reflecting on what you have
learnt from the text
13 72.2% 64.3% .23 .63

Table 8: Higher and Lower-Reading-Ability Group’s Reported Use of Cognitive Strategies
Strategies High-Proficiency Low-Proficiency X² P
Cognitive N Percent N Percent
1. Skimming 11 61.1% 9 64.3% .03 .85
2. Connecting text to background
13 72.2% 8 57.1% .79 .37
3. Making inferences 8 44.4% 2 14.3% 3.33 .06
4. Connecting one part of the text
to another
14 77.8% 6 42.9% 4.09 .04*
5. Paying attention to text
5 27.8% 2 14.3% .83 .36
6. Rereading 16 88.9% 14 100% 1.65 .19
7. Guessing the meaning of a new
word from context
18 100% 11 78.6% 4.25 .04*
8. Using discourse markers to see
11 61.1% 4 28.6% 3.34 .06
9. Critiquing the author 2 11.1% 2 14.3% .07 .78
10. Critiquing the text 3 16.7% 2 14.3% .03 .85
11. Analyzing words and sentence
5 27.8% 2 14.3% .83 .36
12. Translating a word or phrase
into L1
8 44.4% 5 35.7% .24 .61

In addition to the significant differences found in the students’ use of ‘connecting one part
of the text to another’ and ‘guessing the meaning of a new word from context’, there were two
cognitive strategies which the higher- and lower-reading-ability groups used in a different level of
frequency—‘using discourse markers to see relationships’ (X
= 3.34, df = 1, p = .06, N = 32) and
‘making inferences’(X
= 3.33, df = 1, p = .06, N = 32). Around 61 and 44 percent of the higher-
reading-ability group reported using discourse markers to see relationships and making inferences,
while 29 and 14 percent of their lower-proficiency peers reported using them. Even though the P
value received from the chi-square test for these two higher-level strategies did not establish a
significant difference, it was very close to the critical value.


Interestingly, the data from the participants’ reading journals appear to be consistent with
the quantitative findings. That is the higher-reading-ability students displayed their awareness of
those higher-level cognitive strategies whereas their lower-proficiency peers tended not to resort to
them in the same quantity as their counterparts did. Examples from the descriptive journals are
provided below.

I read the title and the first paragraph of the text first to help me visualize what the whole
text was about. I read the text paragraph by paragraph and tried to locate the topic
sentence of each paragraph and then underlined or marked it. When I came across some
difficult vocabulary, I tried to guess their meaning from context and also marked the
clues. When I finished reading, I summarized the whole text to see what I had learnt from
it. (Descriptive journal writing of a higher-level student)

I read through the text and then read the questions. Then I tried to find out the answers by
reading each paragraph focusing on key words. I read it again and again until I could find
the answers. I felt the text was difficult and that was because I personally don’t like
reading, but I knew that it’s important. I, therefore, tried to do my best. (Descriptive
journal writing of a lower-reading-ability student)

In analyzing the individual strategies which the higher- and lower-reading-ability group
frequently employed and tended not to pay attention to, based on their perception, I performed a
simple tally, counting the number of participants who reported their use of each individual strategy.
This type of quantitative analysis showed that the higher-reading-ability group viewed these
metacognitive strategies—‘summarizing information,’ ‘reflecting on what you have learnt from the
text,’ ‘predicting the contents of the text,’ ‘specifying a purpose for reading,’ ‘checking
comprehension,’ and ‘taking steps to repair faulty comprehension’—as their preference. All these
strategies might more or less associate with their reading performance on the test. However, some
of the metacognitive strategies, such as ‘planning what to do,’ ‘checking predictions,’ and ‘posing
and answering questions to oneself’ were the least frequently used. One reason why they did not
resort to these strategies might be that they could be very competent at them and thus used them
unconsciously as skills. In contrast, it might simply be that they were not aware of them and even
that they might rarely resort to them when they read texts in their L1.

On the students’ perceived use of cognitive strategies, the higher-reading-ability group
placed importance on strategies such as ‘guessing the meaning of a new word from context,’
‘rereading,’ ‘connecting one part of the text to another,’ ‘connecting text to background
knowledge,’ and ‘skimming the text,’ whereas ‘critiquing the author and text,’ ‘paying attention to
text structure,’ and ‘analyzing words and sentence structure’ were overlooked in their academic
reading. In addition to the reasons mentioned previously, the reasons why this group did not make

use of the critiquing strategies might be related to the text type and purpose for reading. The higher-
reading-ability students, furthermore, might aim at global comprehension and that might answer
our question as to why they did not focus on analyzing words and sentence structure (Alderson,
When compared to their higher-level peers, the lower-reading-ability group resorted to
similar cognitive strategies. Among the cognitive strategies, ‘rereading’ was the most frequently
used, followed by ‘guessing the meaning of a new word,’ ‘skimming the text,’ ‘connecting text to
background knowledge,’ and ‘connecting one part of the text to another,’ while the least frequently
used ones were ‘critiquing the text,’ ‘analyzing words and sentence structure,’ ‘paying attention to
text structure,’ ‘making inferences,’ and ‘critiquing the author.’ What seemed to be a distinctive
difference between the two groups was that the lower-level group was not aware of the use of
‘drawing inferences,’ whereas the higher-level students were.
With regard to the lower-reading-ability students’ perceived use of metacognitive strategies,
they placed a priority on ‘predicting the contents of the text,’ ‘summarizing information,’
‘reflecting on what you have learnt from the text,’ ‘specifying a purpose for reading,’ and
‘checking predictions.’ In spite of the fact that they used a variety of these strategies, they displayed
their lack of awareness of the strategies, such as ‘planning what to do,’ ‘posing questions about the
text to yourself,’ ‘checking comprehension,’ and ‘taking steps to repair faulty comprehension.’ In
contrast, the latter two were in fact used very frequently by the higher-level group.

Pedagogical Implications and Practical Classroom Applications
I will now reflect on the implications I drew from the findings of the students’ perceived use of
both metacognitive and cognitive reading strategies. These cover four crucial areas of EFL strategy
instruction: combination of cognitive and metacognitive strategy training, significance of cognitive
strategies, roles of higher-level type of reading strategies, and important strategies to be
emphasized in the classroom context.

First of all, this study offers clear evidence that a combination of cognitive and
metacognitive strategy use can contribute to learners’ reading performance. This research paper has
led to a solid conclusion that no readers seem to use a single type of processing as they read. Yet,
good readers are likely to resort to both types of reading strategies, to a widely varying degree. This
conclusion is also consistent with Carrell & Grabe (2002), who suggested that L2 readers should be

taught to use a wide variety of reading strategies, not merely a single one, over an extensive period
of time in order to make use of them effectively.

It also provides support for the argument that cognitive strategies seem to be the key to
learners’ academic reading success. Even though not only cognitive but also metacognitive
strategies contribute to reading comprehension, it seems that cognitive strategies are directly related
to more chance of success in comprehension, requiring great effort and time in practicing using
them until they become automatized.

Given the fact that the higher-reading-ability students were able to display a significantly
higher awareness of four types of cognitive strategies—‘connecting one part of the text to another,’
‘guessing the meaning of a new word from context,’ ‘using discourse markers to see relationships,’
and ‘making inferences,’ we can conclude that higher-level processing strategies can maximize
learners’ academic reading success. Islam & Mares (2003) highlight the importance of higher-level
cognitive strategies stating that they enable learners to “hypothesize, predict, infer, make
connections and associations and visualize” (p. 90). These types of higher-level processing
strategies can also engage readers with the text.

Finally, the study offers evidence that metacognitive strategies which are likely to be
associated with a high reading performance are ‘summarizing information,’ ‘reflecting on what you
have learnt from the text,’ ‘predicting the contents of the text,’ ‘specifying a purpose for reading,’
and ‘checking comprehension.’ In addition, it leads us to conclude that ‘guessing the meaning of a
new word from context,’ ‘rereading,’ ‘connecting one part of the text to another,’ ‘connecting text
to background knowledge,’ and ‘skimming the text’ are major cognitive strategies of high-reading-
ability readers and thus can contribute to reading performance.

Considering the implications drawn from the data in this study, I shall propose some
recommendations for practical classroom applications, particularly in the Thai university context.
First of all, reading strategy training as well as reading materials design should integrate the
training of both metacognitive and cognitive strategies throughout to maximize learners’ success in
reading. This can be done by implementing explicit strategy training of why and how to apply a
cluster of cognitive and metacognitive strategies in various specific reading situations to serve
students’ reading needs. As outlined in the literature review section, strategies are defined as
conscious or deliberate mental and behavioral process, and thus they can be taught. Explicit

strategy training can raise students’ awareness of which strategies to employ and how to employ
them, despite their low proficiency, to promote their ability to remedy reading difficulties and,
more importantly, to increase their autonomous learning and self-regulation during reading
(Oxford, 1996; Weaver & Cohen, 1998)

It is also recommended that higher-level strategies—such as ‘connecting one part of the text
to another,’ ‘guessing the meaning of a new word from context,’ ‘using discourse markers to see
relationships,’ and ‘making inferences’—should be emphasized in the classroom context and in
materials design and development. Despite the fact that they have an awareness of all these higher-
level cognitive strategies, low-proficiency readers might not yet be able to apply them fluently and
skillfully in their contextualized reading. Since these are advanced strategies, long-term strategy
instruction, preferably over two consecutive semesters, which emphasizes the use of high-level
processing strategies in the actual reading context, should be used to provide students with
sufficient practice. In addition to this, clear purpose and importance of all higher-level processing
strategies and of reading itself should be incorporated. Understanding the purpose and importance
of each strategy can motivate readers to apply strategies more effectively and thus contributes to
their better performance.

Specific tasks and activities also need to be implemented to improve learners’ use of those
higher-level reading strategies (e.g. using discourse markers to see relationships). The use of story
grammar (Gascoigne, 2008), for example, is likely to enhance learners’ understanding of how the
author organized his ideas throughout as well as how ideas are connected. Such a task specifically
tailored to serve learners’ needs is required, in addition to using only traditional multiple-choice

As the data of this study illustrates, both higher- and lower-reading-ability students were not
aware of some metacognitive strategies—‘posing questions about the text to yourself’, ‘finding
answers to your posed questions’, ‘checking predictions’ and ‘planning what to do’. Therefore,
strong emphasis, in terms of direct explanation and task design, on these in the classroom context
would assist them to take more control of their reading activities.

The study provides information about the patterns of cognitive and metacognitive strategies
currently used by Thai undergraduate participants when asked to deal with academic reading.

Significant differences between the higher- and lower-reading-ability groups were merely
established in their use of cognitive reading strategies, particularly in their use of higher-level
cognitive types. The study substantially supports the focus on higher-level processing in the
classroom context as a way to promote EFL learners’ reading performance. Future instructional
research should be conducted to investigate (a) students’ perceptions of the emphasis on higher-
level cognitive strategies in the classroom context (b) their progress in reading performance after
being trained to apply higher-level strategies and (c) teachers’ views on implementing higher-level
strategy-based training.


Alderson, J. C. (2000). Assessing reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Anderson, N. J. (1991). Individual differences in strategy use in second language reading
and testing. Modern Language Journal, 74, 460-472.

Baker, L., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Metacognitive skills and reading. In P. D. Pearson (Ed.)
Handbook of reading research (pp. 353-394). New York: Longman.

Benson, P., & Gao, X. (2008). Individual variation and language learning strategies.
In S. Hurd, & T. Lewis (Eds.), Language learning strategies in independent settings
(pp. 25-40). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Block, E. L. (1992). See how they read: Comprehension monitoring of L1 and L2 readers.
TESOL Quarterly, 26 (2), 319-343.

Block, E. L. (1986). The comprehension strategies of second language readers. TESOL
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Carrell, P., & Grabe, W. (2002). Reading. In N. Schmitt (Ed.), An Introduction to Applied
Linguistics (pp. 233-250). New York: Oxford University Press.

Carson, J. G., & Longhini, A. (2002). Focusing on learning styles and strategies: A diary
study in an immersion setting. Language Learning, 52 (2), 401-438.

Chamot, A. U. (2005). Language learning strategy instruction: Current issues and research.
Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 112-130.

Cohen, A. D., & Macaro, E. (Eds.) (2007). Language learner strategies. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Cohen, A. D., & Dornyei, Z. (2002). Focus on the language learner: Motivation, styles and
strategies. In N. Schmitt (Ed.), An introduction to applied linguistics (pp. 170-187).
London: Arnold.

Ediger, A. M. (2006). Developing strategic L2 readers by reading for authentic purposes.

In E. Uso-Juan, & A. Martinez-Flor (Eds.), Current trends in the development and teaching
of the four language skills (pp. 303-328). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Erler, L., & Finkbeiner, C. (2007). A review of reading strategies: Focus on the impact of
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206). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gascoigne, C. (2008). Independent second language reading as an interdependent process.
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(pp. 67-83). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Greenfell, M., & Macaro, E. (2007). Claims and critiques. In A. D. Cohen, & E. Macaro
(Eds.), Language learner strategies (pp. 9-28). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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and non-successful second language learners. System, 5, 110-123.

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Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Ikeda, M., & Takeuchi, O. (2006). Clarifying the differences in learning EFL reading
strategies: An analysis of portfolios. System, 34, 384-398.

Islam, C., & Mares, C. (2003). Adapting classroom materials. In B. Tomlinson (Ed.).
Developing materials for language teaching (pp. 86-100). London: Continuum.

Macaro, E. (2006). Strategies for language learning and for language use: Revising the
theoretical framework. Modern Language Journal, 90, 320-337.

Malcolm, D. (2009). Reading strategy awareness of Arabic-speaking medical students
studying in English. System, 37, 640-651.

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New York: Newbury House Publishers.

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perspectives. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii at Manoa Press.

Oxford, R. L., & Leaver, B. L. (1996). A synthesis of strategy instruction for language
learners. In R. L. Oxford (Ed.), Language learning strategies around the world:
Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 227-246). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii at
Manao Press.

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language teaching (pp. 70-82).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Learning, 53, 649-702.

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Oxford University Press.

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reading strategies among native and non-native readers. System, 29, 431-449.

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language (pp. 66-97). Essex: Addison Wesley Longman.


Appendix 1: Reading Text and Test

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13 which are based on the following passage.

Working in the movies
Subtitling is an exacting part of the translation profession. Melanie Leyshon talks to Virginie
Verdier of London translation company VSI about the glamour and the grind.

When people ask French translator Virginie Verdier what she does for a living, it must be tempting
to say enigmatically: ‘Oh me? I’m in the movies’. It’s strictly true, but her starring role is behind
the scenes. As translating goes, it doesn’t get more entertaining or glamorous than subtitling films.
If you’re very lucky, you get to work on the new blockbuster films before they’re in the cinema,
and if you’re just plain lucky, you get to work on the blockbuster movies that are going to video or

Virginie is quick to point out that this is as exacting as any translating job. ‘You work hard. It’s not
all entertainment as you are doing the translating. You need all the skills of a good translator and
those of a top-notch editor. You have to be precise and, of course, much more concise than in
traditional translation work.’

The process starts when you get the original script and a tape. ‘We would start with translating and
adapting the film script. The next step is what we call ‘timing’, which means synchronizing the
subtitles to the dialogue and pictures.’ This task requires discipline. ‘You play the film, listen to the
voice and the subtitles are up on your screen ready to be timed. You insert your subtitle when you
hear the corresponding dialogue and delete it when the dialogue finishes. The video tape carries a
time code which runs in hours, minutes, second and frames. Think of it as a clock. The subtitling
unit has an insert key to capture the time code where you want the subtitle to appear. When you
press the delete key, it captures the time code where you want the subtitle to disappear. So each
subtitle would have an ‘in’ point and an ‘out’ point which represent the exact time when the subtitle
comes in and goes out. This process is then followed by a manual review, subtitle by subtitle, and
time-codes are adjusted to improve synchronization and respect shot changes. This process
involves playing the film literally frame by frame as it is essential the subtitles respect the visual
rhythm of the film.’

Different subtitlers use different techniques. ‘I would go through the film and do the whole
translation and then go right back from the beginning and start the timing process. But you could do
it in different stages, translate let’s say 20 minutes of the film, then time this section and translate
the next 20 minutes, and so on. It’s just a different method.’

For multi-lingual projects, the timing is done first to create what is called a ‘spotting list’, a subtitle
template, which is in effect a list of English subtitles pre-timed and edited for translation purposes.
This is then translated and the timing is adapted to the target language with the help of the
translator for quality control.

‘Like any translation work, you can’t hurry subtitling’, says Virginie. ‘If subtitles are translated and
timed in a rush, the quality will be affected and it will show.’ Mistakes usually occur when the
translator does not master the source language and misunderstands the original dialogue. ‘Our work
also involves checking and reworking subtitles when the translation is not up to standard. However,
the reason for redoing subtitles is not just because of poor quality translation. We may need to
adapt subtitles to a new version of the film: the time code may be different, the film may have been
edited or the subtitles may have been created for the cinema rather than video. If subtitles were
done for cinema on 35 mm, we would need to reformat the timing for video, as subtitles could be
out of synch or too fast. If the translation is good, we would obviously respect the work of the
original translator.’

On a more practical level, there are general subtitling rules to follow, says Virginie. ‘Subtitles
should appear at the bottom of the screen and usually in the centre.’ She says that different
countries use different standards and rules. ‘In Scandinavian countries and Holland, for example,
subtitles are traditionally left justified. Characters usually appear in white with a thick black border
for easy reading against a white or light background. We can also use different colours for each
speaker when subtitling for the hearing impaired. Subtitles should have a maximum of two lines
and the maximum number of characters on each line should be between 32 and 39. Our company
standard is 37 (different companies and countries have different standards)’.

Translators often have a favourite genre, whether it’s war films, musicals, comedies (one of the
most difficult because of the subtleties and nuances of comedy in different countries), drama or
corporate programmes. Each requires a certain tone and style. ‘VSI employs American subtitlers,
which is incredibly useful as many of the films we subtitle are American,’ says Virginie. ‘For an
English person, it would not be so easy to understand the meaning behind typically American
expressions, and vice-versa.’

Source: Harrison, M & Whitehead, R. (2006). Exam Essentials: IELTS Practice Tests. London:
Thomson ELT. 96-97.

Directions: After finishing reading the text, answer the following questions or do as directed (20
Questions 1-5 (one point each)
Complete the flow chart below.
Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

The Subtitling Process
Stage 1: Translate and adapt the script
Stage 2:
x (1) ______________________________-matching the subtitles to what is said

x Involves recording time codes by using the (2) ______________________ and
____________________ keys

Stage 3: (3) ______________________- in order to make the (4) _________________ better
Multi-lingual projects
Stage 1: Produce something known as a (5) _________________________ and translate that

Questions 6-9 (one point each)
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
6. For translators, all subtitling work on films is desirable. __________________
7. Subtitling work involves a requirement that does not apply to other translation work.
8. Some subtitling techniques work better than others. ____________________
9. Few people are completely successful at subtitling comedies. _____________

Questions 10-13 (one point each)
Complete the sentences below with words from the reading passage.
Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.
10. Poor subtitling can be a result of the subtitler not being excellent at ________________.
11. To create subtitles for a video version of a film, it may be necessary to ______________.
12. Subtitles usually have a __________________________ around them.
13. Speakers can be distinguished from each other for the benefit of ___________________.

Source: Harrison, M & Whitehead, R. (2006). Exam Essentials: IELTS Practice Tests. London:
Thomson ELT. 98-99.


Write a summary of the reading passage. Begin the first sentence with the main idea and then
provide some major supporting details (7 points)





Melada Sudajit-apa, Director of Graduate Diploma Program in English for Business and Management at Thammasat
University, holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Her PhD thesis entitled
“Systematizing EAP Materials Development: Design, Evaluation and Revision in a Thai Undergraduate Reading
Course” focuses on three main areas: materials design and development, reading strategies, and collaborative learning.
She is currently interested in materials development, learners’ strategies, motivation, reading instruction, and
systematic functional approach to text analysis. She can be reached at smelada@tu.ac.th

Empowering Thai University Students to Cope with English Texts Using Outlines and
Usuma Chuenchompoo

Thai university students still need help with reading. Generally, many students tend to
read word by word or sentence by sentence; they do not pay attention to reading
strategies such as reference, transition, text organization and so on, which would help
enhance their comprehension. Many of them find it difficult to separate main ideas from
supporting details, and cannot summarize and communicate what they have read either
verbally or in writing. The author has tried to find ways to increase her students’ reading
ability, and found that an effective approach is to write a summary from an outline.
Conducting an action research in a reading class, she found that this method improved the
students’ performance in their reading comprehension tests.

Keywords: Outlining, summarizing, reading comprehension

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·.+ .·..a:.·. «a+a·».¹«a· ·.·..a .+.. v ¡·!·..» · .+ .+ » ¹.
«..a·:!·+..« +¡¹a ¹. «..a«. v+..·.« .« » ·¹a v ¡·+ » ·.+ .·.·+
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.-· ..«....+».». +·.».+«+.·a·!-.-».¹a.+..+a .va::·»..·.·a· .+»a
··a ...aa.!·+..« +¡»».·..a+..» aa a+...«. v+.. ..a a«»a+.. ¹. .
·..v·..ua·.»...· a· +.· a·¹auaa.·.+a «r.u »- .a!··.+ .·» ·¹aa ·· a+.
«..a· .. ».« » ·.a a«»a!·+.·a..·.· a·¹a + .. r ..·· .« + ·u:+ » ..!·
·.+ .·» ·a+..· a·.+ ¹+.. (outline) a+.·..+ ¹+..!· .· a·.v ·a »+.. (summary)
++·...« . ·a.- .v¸ :. ...:·.+ .·« .. a·. -..» ·· ».·· .¹aa.· ·...· a·
a»+..·..+¹+..a..+. ++v..¸.+.a··..»··».·.+.·.u...··
a·a·a¸: ...·a·.+¹+.. ...·a·a»+.. +...·!·!·..»·
The idea to do this action research started in an English class called ‘EG 221: Reading for
Information.’ The purpose of this course is to help the students develop effective reading strategies
for understanding informative texts such as articles in newspapers, magazines and textbooks (see
details in Appendix 1). It is the first reading course designed for the 2
year English majors of the
English Department, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University (TU), who have 6-9 years
prior knowledge of English, plus two prerequisites they have to study in the freshman year, unless
exempted. EG 221 is also a required course for other students in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, and
those from other faculties—the Faculty of Political Science, the Faculty of Science and
Technology, and the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy. It is offered every semester and
available for all TU students, with a fixed number of 30 students per class. Thus, the total number
of students taking this course reaches approximately 800-1,000 a semester and the students are of
mixed abilities. As for the instructors, they are all qualified teachers of English with at least a
master’s degree in English language teaching.

The problem that led to this research project was that many students did not do well, getting
only a C average, because they did not fully comprehend the texts they read and could not express
their ideas in writing either. (In the achievement tests, the students had to answer open-ended
questions, which were about 60-75% of the test.) The author found that the majority had problems
with vocabulary, long complex sentence structures, and text organization. It seemed that when the
students read, they concentrated only on vocabulary or short phrases, and paid no attention to the
context, references, transitions, text organization, and other features of the text, which could help
them understand the text better. In other words, they do not make use of reading strategies. Then
comes the instructor’s problem. How could the instructors empower the students to read more
carefully and strategically, using reading strategies to improve their comprehension and increase
their writing ability up to the level that they could express their ideas clearly in writing? In this
regard, the author thought of writing a summary from an outline, which was controlled summary
writing, in contrast to free writing.

In each unit in the textbook used in this course, there was an outline activity in which the
students were asked to write an outline of a paragraph, or 3-5 paragraphs, and produce a summary
from that outline (see details in Appendix 1). If the students did not fully comprehend the text they
read, they could not get a correct outline or a logical summary. If they got everything right, all
supporting details would support or clarify the main idea. If any of the supporting details did not go
well with the main idea, there must have been something wrong, and so the students had to go back
to the text and reread it. This was meant to encourage the students to use reading strategies to
increase reading proficiency and learn to monitor their comprehension by themselves. Three
‘research’ questions were posed then:
- Can teaching reading that emphasizes outlining and summarizing help improve
reading comprehension?
- Can this controlled method of writing summaries help improve writing ability?
- Would the students be satisfied with this approach?

Literature review
Before starting, the author reviewed literature on teaching reading to confirm the idea of using
writing to help reading and vice versa, and found that the approach was supported by many
researchers and theorists, including Bean & Steenwyck (1984); Gordon & Braun (1982); Grabe
(1991); Kirby (1986); Pearson & Fielding (1996); Shanahan (1984); Shanahan & Lomax (1986,
1988); Taylor & Beach (1984); Tierney & Pearson (1983); and Tierney & Shanahan (1991).

Shanahan & Lomax (1986), for example, found reading and writing connections, when
examining 256 second and fifth graders, and offered the following conclusion:

Reading influences writing and writing influences reading; theories of literacy
development need to emphasize both of these characteristics similarly. These findings
suggest that reading and writing should be taught in ways that maximize the possibility of
using information drawn from both
reading and writing. (p. 208)

Bean & Steenwyck’s studies about summary writing (1984) with sixth graders and Taylor &
Beach’s (1984) with seventh graders showed that writing led to improved reading achievement,
reading led to better writing performance, and combined instruction led to improvement in both
reading and writing in the long run.
Many studies showed that reading and writing influenced each other, but they generally
lacked the detail description necessary to allow such findings to be applied to instructional practice
(Tierney & Shanahan 1991). Most importantly, little was known about this area in second
language literacy. Grabe (1991 & 2009) also supported this idea, and suggested that reading and
writing be taught together in advanced academic preparation, because many cognitive skills were
mutually reinforcing, and the integration of literacy skills developed strategic approaches to
academic tasks.

From the above literature review, it could be concluded that reading and writing, when taught
together, could help increase the students’ reading and writing abilities. The next step was to search
for instructional strategies to enhance reading and writing relationships in order to achieve the
desired effect. In regard to summary writing, Pearson & Fielding (1996) proposed that helping
students learn how to summarize had a positive effect on their comprehension and recall of text.
However, the strategies used varied, and all the research surveyed had been done with young
English native speakers. Little had been done with L2 learners.

Among the summarization methodologies found were Day (1980)—which provided students
with five summarization rules and promoted their independent monitoring of their own rule use;
McNeil & Donant’s experiment (1982)—in which students received a set of summarization rules
with instruction on how to apply the rules to simple passages; the intuitive discovery approach, or
‘getting the GIST procedure’ (Cunningham, 1982)—in which students got continuing feedback
about the quality of the summaries they made from short passages; and Rinehart, Stahl, & Erickson
(1986)—which applied three of Day’s rules and a general rule concerning main ideas and
supporting details derived from Taylor (1982; Taylor & Beach, 1984), all of which produced
favorable effects.

From these studies, Rinehart, Stahl, & Erickson’s work was closest to the approach planned
to be employed in this research project. However, similar to other studies, this research was done
with young L1 learners (sixth-grade students), and so a question arose — Would it also work well
with L2 university students?

Comprehension monitoring and summarizing are effective reading comprehension
strategies under the umbrella of metacognition (Casanave, 1988; Grabe, 1991& 2009).
Metacognitive knowledge is defined as knowledge about cognition and the self-regulation of
cognition (Baker & Brown, 1984; Brown, Armbruster & Baker, 1986). Metacognitive strategies are
behaviors undertaken by the learners to plan, arrange, and evaluate their own learning (Singhal,
2001). As related to reading, metacognitive strategies includes recognizing the more important
information in the text; using context to sort out a misunderstanding segment; skimming portions of
the text; previewing headings, pictures, and summaries; using search strategies for finding specific
information; formulating questions about the information; using a dictionary; using word-formation
and affix information to guess word meanings; taking notes; summarizing information; self-
monitoring and correcting errors; and so on (Grabe, 1991; Singhal, 2001). Numerous studies have
shown that good readers are more effective in using metacognitive strategies than less fluent
readers (Singhal, 2001; Grabe, 2009).

Monitoring comprehension is commonly discussed as a major reading strategy that improves
comprehension (Grabe, 2009). According to Grabe, almost any strategy that supports main-idea
comprehension could be seen as a choice for monitoring comprehension. Making an outline is an
activity that allows the students to check whether or not they fully comprehend what they have
read. If they find something out of the realm of the writer’s focus or illogical, they have to go back
to the text, read more carefully, and clarify misunderstanding, all of which are strategies used for
comprehension monitoring (Grabe, 2009). Thus, outlining and summarizing could possibly help
improve the students’ comprehension, making them become fluent readers.

Research methodology
The research method would be action research. Having studied action research methodology, the
author decided to follow the basic process: planning, acting, observing, and reflecting (Kemmis &
McTaggart 1988).

The author thought about what she would have to do in class, and found that the following items
were needed: a suitable text, a reading comprehension test, two questionnaires, and progress sheets.

A suitable text
The text that was being used consisted of 6 units, each of which contained quite a long text (about
1,000-1,300 words, taking about 7-9 hours to finish each unit), and presented reading strategies bit
by bit throughout the text. In this research project, it would be more appropriate to review all the
reading strategies the students had learned from the prerequisites, and give them shorter texts in the
beginning (about 500-800 words, taking 4-6 hours to cover) prepared specially to help students
learn how to write an outline and a summary. The author started by surveying commercial texts, but
could not find any that suited the need stated above. Thus, a suitable text was prepared, and in late
2008 it was ready for use, with permission from the English Department. (Later on it became a
textbook used for the EG 221 course, called Pathways to Reading Comprehension). It consisted of
two parts. The first part was a review of all the reading strategies that the students had already
learned from the prerequisites (i.e. prediction; text organization and transitions; skimming;
scanning; dealing with new words; references; and inferences). Furthermore, it detailed how to
write an outline and a summary with four articles (about 600-800 words) for practicing outlining
and summarizing. The second part consisted of six longer texts (about 1,000-1,300 words) for
practicing all the learned strategies.
A reading comprehension test
Together with the text, a test paper was also prepared to be used in the beginning (pretest) and at
the end of the course (posttest), the interval of which was three months. The test consisted of a
reading passage, which was an article from the Time magazine called Stressed-out Kids (Gorman,

2000), the length of which was 600 words. This test was used on six trials by three instructors (with
128 students) and improved before being used in this research. The test tasks included five
multiple-choice questions, six open-ended questions, and a completion task on outlining, the same
features as the test tasks on the examination papers for EG 221. The same form of test was used
because it would test not only reading but also writing, the latter of which covered about 60-75% of
the EG 221 examinations. In this way, the students’ writing abilities could be compared, both pre-
treatment (their proficiency) and post-treatment (their achievement). More importantly, writing was
a crucial part in this action research since it was part of the problem mentioned earlier as to why the
students did not earn good grades for this course.

Two questionnaires
Two questionnaires were written in Thai to avoid language problems. The first one was used after
the students had learned how to write an outline and a summary from the outline for the first time
(see Appendix 2). The purposes were 1) to see whether or not the students had prior knowledge or
experience of outlining and summarizing; 2) to survey their attitudes towards outlining and
summarizing; and 3) to encourage the students to think about advantages of these activities. The
outcome would be useful for making lesson plans.

The second questionnaire, used at the end of the course, concerned the students’ satisfaction
about the course, self-evaluation, and recommendations. The students would have a chance to
reflect on what they had learned. This would also be helpful for further planning (see Appendix 3).

Progress sheets
A progress sheet was designed to record the students’ scores on outlining and summarizing, as well
as notes on their problems or weak points such as sentence structures, vocabulary, transitions, etc.
The purpose of this was to monitor their progress and assist them when and where needed.

Acting and observating
The research was conducted with a group of 17 second-year TU students in the second semester of
2008. The class started by discussing the course outline, in which the emphasis was on outlining
and summarizing, and then the students were tested (using the pretest paper) before beginning the
lesson to evaluate their reading proficiency.

After a few weeks of practice on general reading strategies (e.g., recognizing transitions and
relationships between ideas; dealing with unfamiliar words and expressions; recognizing
references; skimming; and predicting), the work on outlining and summarizing was introduced. At
this stage, the students learned how to identify main ideas and supporting details, all at a paragraph
level. When they understood what they were expected to perform, the first questionnaire was given
to survey their prior experience on outlining and summarizing and attitude towards these activities.
This was meant to encourage them to think about the advantage of the activities. It turned out that
88.33% of the students had learned outlining and only 11.76% had done summary writing before,
but it was free writing. As for advantages of doing outlining and summarizing, all the students said
it would help enhance their comprehension. However, all of them anticipated two main problems:
1) More than 70% were concerned about vocabulary, comprehension, and how to identify the main
ideas and supporting details. 2) 23.52% worried about how to express their ideas in writing. This
provided useful information for further planning.

In teaching how to make an outline from an article, the author started with a very short article
called “Is Going Nutty Good for You?” (see Appendix 4), and demonstrated the techniques for
separating the main idea from the supporting details: using questions; and using text organization.
From this article, the author did the following:
1) Showed the title of this article on the screen, and asked the students to
guess what the topic was. In the first place, no one knew what it was.
Without the context, they could not link the word going nutty with nuts, but
after they were encouraged to think about the word nutty, especially its
sound and spelling, some of them said, “It’s about nuts.”
2) Asked them to skim through the text to find out whether their answer was
correct. Their answers were: Nuts; Benefits of nuts; A health benefit of nuts; and
Nuts and diabetes.
3) Asked them, “What does the writer say about this topic?”
4) Told them to read the text carefully to find the answer.
The answers were:
A. Nuts are good for you.
B. Nuts reduce the risk of diabetes.
C. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical
Association, nuts in all forms, including peanut butter, reduce the risk of
adult-onset diabetes. (Some of them copied the whole sentence.)

5) Held a class discussion in which the students gave their opinions about each
choice. Upon reflection with some notes taken immediately after the class,
a conversation between the instructor (I) and the students (S) can be produced as
shown below:
I: Which one do you think is the best answer to the question in the title?
S: C
I: Why?
S: It gives more information.
I: Do you need all the information in C to answer this question?
(Are nuts good for you?)
S: No.
I: OK. Tell me all the words in C that you think are needed for your answer.
S: nuts/nuts in all forms/reduce/diabetes/the risk of diabetes/adult….
What does ‘adult-onset diabetes’ mean?
I: A good question! Let’s look at the word diabetes first. What part of
speech is it? It’s in the pattern…to reduce (v.)+ the risk (n.)+ of +(adult-
onset) diabetes, right?
S: of+ noun. It’s a noun. (This pattern had been discussed before.)
I: Right! The text is about health, right? So, what should it be? Nuts can
reduce the risk of …..what?
S: A disease.
I: Yes. It’s an illness or a medical condition dealing with sugar in the blood.
What do you think it’s called in Thai?
S: It’s….(in Thai).
I: Right! As for onset, it means the beginning of something. OK. Now,
we’re going to put this idea into a sentence, using our own words. Think
of the pattern: SVO. What is the subject?
S: Nuts/Nuts in all forms.
I: Nuts in all forms is ok. This means in the particular way they exist or
appear. What about the verb? What can be used in place of reduce?
S: lower/ minimize
I: Very good. So, we’ve got…Nuts in all forms can lower/minimize the
risk of diabetes. And what about adult-onset? ……….
Adult-onset diabetes is a medical term, so you can’t change it. If you find an

expression you think is a medical/legal/technical/scientific term like this,
check by using Google search. It’s a useful tool. So’ we’ve got: Nuts in all
forms can lower the risk of adult-onset diabetes. This sentence answers the
question why nuts are good for you. It’s the main idea of this article. Now,
you have to find the details to support this idea, and I’ll show you how to do

After the students got the main idea, the author asked them to reread the text more carefully to find
out why nuts could minimize the risk of adult-onset diabetes. Most of the students found the answer
in sentences 5-8, which showed an analysis and assumption that polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and
magnesium in nuts may help maintain the levels of blood sugar. This was the major supporting
detail. It presented the reason why nuts could lower the risk of adult-onset diabetes. The author then
led the students to a discussion of text organization, and how to write an outline and a summary
(see Appendix 4).

It can be argued that such a summary may be obtained from the three questions asked
above: 1) What is the topic?; 2) What does the writer say about this topic?; and 3) Why can nuts
minimize the risk of adult-onset diabetes? That might be true, but this strategy (using an outline to
write a summary) helps the students become aware of text organization, and learn how to monitor
their comprehension, which in the long run will make them become strategic readers, being able to
separate the gist from details automatically, even with long complicated texts.

As stated earlier, if the students got an inaccurate main idea or supporting detail(s), they
would get an illogical summary. The article entitled “Bamboo Cures Earthquakes” (see Appendix
5) was a good example of this. In this case, text organization really helped. Many students had
problems with the first paragraph. Some talked about the Iranian earthquake; others thought about
bamboo housing. The class had a long discussion why the latter idea was correct. (If the students
put the Iranian earthquake in the outline, they would learn later when they wrote the summary that
it would not go with the other two paragraphs, which described the prototype house, the testing,
and the reason why bamboo was used.)

In addition to the practice of general reading strategies including outlining and summarizing
presented in the text, extra work on outlining and summarizing was given every other week, and the
students’ progress was recorded on an Individual Progress Sheet. At the same time, they had to do
the reading project in groups. The author gave them advice from the start when they tried to find
suitable articles to produce outlines and summaries, helped them get the gist or thesis of the text
and the main idea of each paragraph, and worked closely with them on the outline. After that, they
had to produce a summary from the outline by themselves. After 36 hours of instruction (about 3
months), they were given the posttest. The scores of the pretest and the posttest were recorded and
then analyzed. Also, the scores and the written work from the outline part in the two tests (5
points), and the class work were analyzed.

In this part of the process, the first indicator of effectiveness that needed discussion was the
findings from the pretest and posttest scores. The first question leading to this action research was:
Can teaching reading that emphasizes outlining and summarizing help improve reading

The pretest scores ranged from 30%-70%. The average score was 57.65%, which meant the
majority of the students were somewhat capable of reading. The posttest scores ranged from 32% to
82%, the average of which was 70.82%. When the pretest and posttest scores were analyzed using
T-test, there was a significant increase [t = -3.931, p < .01]. This meant teaching reading that
emphasizes outlining and summarizing could enhance the students’ reading capability.

However, since the number of population was only 17, the statistical analysis of data alone
might not be reliable. The author, therefore, went back to the original test papers, and compared the
outline items in the pretest with those in the posttest papers of each student. Some interesting points
were found, as discussed below.

The content in the outline (see Appendix 6) was part of the main point of the article, in
which Gorman, the writer, discussed why children and teens today seemed more anxious, and
suggested what parents should do to help their kids cope with stress. After the pretest and posttest
scores of this part were compared, it was found that 64.70 % of the students earned more marks in
the posttest, getting 1-2 more points.

In addition to the item in the pretest and posttest mentioned above, another important
evidence of success was the students’ reading project. Three out of five groups (60% of the class)

had a considerable improvement. Their first draft outlines showed that they understood more than
70% of the texts.

Another point that indicated the students’ reading achievement was the two tests (for the
midterm and the final examinations) produced by the 14 instructors teaching this course that
semester. The midterm and the final tests were more or less at the same level of difficulty as the
pretest and posttest used in this research project. And the subjects in this study did well in both the
midterm and the final examinations. The average scores of the pretest, the midterm and the final
examinations, and the posttest (all after transferred to percentage) increased from 57.65%,
63.33 %, 66.92 %, to 70.82%, respectively.

The students’ self-evaluation from the questionnaire completed in the last month of the
course also confirmed the achievement. 12.5 % of the students said their reading ability had
increased dramatically, and 50 % said it had improved a lot. From the results, 50% of the students
who expressed their opinions about reading said they had gained more understanding of the text
they read and were able to find the main points more quickly. Some said they had also learned to
read in chunks and were able to separate a main clause from a subordinate clause, making them
comprehend more. Other students said this approach made them visualize the outline of what they
read, making them clearly understand the whole story and enjoy reading. 23.52% of the students
said they had some improvements, but still had problems with vocabulary. As a whole, all the
students said they were pleased with this instructional strategy.

As for writing, the question was: Can this controlled method of writing summaries help
improve writing ability? Unlike reading, the progress of which could be achieved more quickly and
seen more easily by means of comprehension check, the improvement in writing in this case could
not be proved easily since the students tended to copy the answers from the texts, instead of
paraphrasing. However, when going through all the students’ writing tasks, the test papers and the
class work, the author found that there was an indication of improvement, although it was not
statistically significant.

The first improvement was that the students appeared to gain more understanding of sentence
structure. This could be seen from the main idea of the outline item in the posttest when compared
with the pretest (see Appendix 6). 58.82 % of the students got the right answer in the posttest

(about a 35% increase from the pretest). These students were able to use their own words and write
in chunks and sentences, as shown below:
x How to deal with kids’ anxiety
x How to help children reduce stress
x The way to protect children against stress
x The way to help the next generation cope with stress
x There are many ways to help the next generation deal with anxiety.
x There are many ways to help you cope with your children’s anxieties.
Another example of progress was that the students were more thoughtful and showed an
attempt to express their ideas, though they still copied the answer from the text. The example of
this came from the same source. In the pretest, half of the class copied the answer from the text:
Adults can still do plenty to help the next generation cope. However, in the posttest about half of
this group still copied the text, but added more information (see the underlined part): Adults can
(still) do plenty to help the next generation cope with stress/anxiety. This kind of improvement
could also be seen in many cases in their class work and the reading project.

There was also an improvement in vocabulary, some of which could be seen in the students’
class work and the reading project. For example, they used words outside the texts such as subject
and divide to summarize a paragraph: The subjects who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease
were divided into three groups.

In addition, the students were aware of cohesive devices. This could be seen in their
summaries in which they used expressions like moreover, however, therefore, this practice, such
questions etc.

The most welcome improvement of all was the students’ attitude. From the second
questionnaire, more than half of the students said they understood English structures better and
could write better sentences. Some said they could apply the knowledge from this course (both
reading and writing) to other subjects.

Still, 23.52% said their writing ability had improved, but they could write only short
sentences and could not express everything they wanted. This problem was discussed in the last

session of the course, and the students thought there were two reasons why their writing
capability did not improve as much as reading: 1) Sentence structure was quite new
to them, so it took time to understand and practice; and 2) Vocabulary needed to be acquired
to help paraphrase or summarize.

As stated in the beginning, this action research has been specially designed to help college students
improve their reading ability using outlines and summaries. Three questions are involved: 1) Can
teaching reading that emphasizes outlining and summarizing help improve reading
comprehension?; 2) Can this controlled method of writing summaries help improve writing
ability?; and, 3) Would the students be satisfied with this approach? The first question has been
answered above. Both the statistical analysis of data and paper work analysis show great
improvement in reading. Also, nearly 90% of the students were very pleased with this approach,
and 60% thought their reading capability improved a lot, which corresponds with the statistics.
As for writing, it had been anticipated that the structures learned from the reading texts and
all writing practices such as answering the questions after reading, paraphrasing, writing an outline
and a summary, would help increase the students’ writing capability. Unfortunately, it did not
improve as much as reading. Two obstacles found from the study are the students’ limited
vocabulary and the limitation of time, 48 hours a semester.
However, the effects from this study cannot be generalized since the sample population is
very small. What can be done for the next group of students is to address the problems that
emerged in this study. The number of hours allocated per semester cannot be changed so the
solution might be to encourage self-study, e.g. for writing, and the instructor has to prepare self-
taught materials, accordingly. Other problems to be fixed in the next lesson plan are those
concerning vocabulary, transition, and paraphrasing. The instructor can help enhance vocabulary
by using mapping concepts (Grabe, 2009), or help them build vocabulary repertoire, for example.
Also, transition and paraphrasing should be emphasized and practiced continually so that students
can use them automatically when writing an outline and a summary.
The last point that should be mentioned here is that, as stated earlier, this group of students
was quite capable of reading from the start. Thus, it is interesting to employ this approach to the
less-capable or poor students.



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Appendix 1

EG 221: Reading for Information

Time allocation / semester: 48 hrs. (3 hours / week)

Course description: Study and practice of reading skills used in reading informative
texts, outlining and summarizing, giving opinions about the texts
through oral discussion or writing.
Course outline:
x Predicting what the text to be read is about
x Identifying text organization
x Skimming and reading for main ideas
x Dealing with new words
x Recognizing references
x Drawing inferences
x Finding specific information
x Recognizing relationships between ideas
x Outlining
x Summarizing ideas
x Expressing opinions about the subjects discussed in the text

Text: Reading for Information by Pimonpun Rajatanun and an outside reading, which
is changed every semester. The main text is comprised of six units, each of
which consists of a long story, all authentic texts from such magazines as The
Time magazine, The Economist, etc., the length of which is about 1,000-1,300
words, and exercises designed to teach the points mentioned in the course
outline. The exercises in each unit start with text organization, in which the
students have to write a sentence summarizing each or some paragraphs. Others
include reading comprehension, and an outline and a summary of 1-5
paragraphs from the story, the approach of which is writing a summary from an

Midterm exam 60 points
Final exam 90 points
Class work 50 points
Total 200 points

Types of Exam Questions:
There are seen passages (including outside reading) and unseen passages, each
of which consists of 5-10 multiple choice questions and 10-20 open-ended

Types of Class work: This includes quizzes, project work, and class participation.


Appendix 2

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1. «·.+a4.« outline ..»··.»¹. ____ .+a« ____ ¹..+a«

2. «·.+a4.« summary ..»··.»¹. ____ .+a« ____ ¹..+a«

3. .+a« ______ outline ·.»/a+. ____ summary !·.- ____________________
-·/v ___________ -»«a:·..+.· ________________________
¹v.a..:.r..¹aaa» ________________________________________________________

4. «·+a...« outline / summary ..«¹a..a·¹v ».»J·.ìarvu·»¹» ¹v.a!·.·.++
____ . .u.._________________________________________
____¹.. .u.. ________________________________________

5. «·+a. ».»J¸u·!·..« outline / summary ·.»¹.
____ . ¹aa. _________________________________________
____ ¹..

6. +..+a.··»·| ·.» ·».«·»a·.

Appendix 3

ìJ·a»··a· »+u»·a x lvr»+.·+ «a.»·»»v »a.·»a·»a.·»·Jv»·+
..««a .. v·.+. ·»a ·»a««a
1. «·.+..n+nol».:..«»·¹aa.··« outline a+.
summary ..-·»a.u a.!a ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
2.«·+a.«·. +..«..aluo..o.u.u.··..-·»a.u a.!a ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
¹v.a!·.·.++ ____________________________

3. «·+a.«·.+..«..aluo..·vau.u.··..-·»a.ua.!a ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
¹v.a!·.·.++ _____________________________

4. .««+·. «·»J¸u·!·..« outline / summary ·.»¹.
____ . ¹aa. _________________________________________________________
____ ¹..

5. +..+a.··» ·| ·.» ·».«·»a·..u»a.v¡·!··» 4


Appendix 4

Is Going Nutty Good for You?

They may be greasy and fat- that researchers suspect may help
tening, but nuts are also good keep blood- sugar levels stable. (7)
for you.(1) According to a study in The high levels of fiber and
the Journal of the American magnesium in nuts may have a
Medical Association, nuts in all similar effect.(8) “Just about
forms, including peanut butter, everything in nuts is healthy,”
reduce the risk of adult-onset says Frank Hu, the study’s leader
diabetes.(2) After analyzing the and a nutrition professor at the
munching habits of more than Harvard School of Public Health.(9)
83,000 nurses for up to 16 years, To get the most benefit, it’s best
researchers found that women who to use nuts as a substitute for
consumed 150 g. of nuts each week high-carb snack foods such as
(about five handfuls) were 30% potato chips and pretzels.(10)
less likely to develop diabetes than But because nuts weigh in at an
women who rarely touched them.(3) average of 5 calories per gram,
Five tablespoons of peanut butter you shouldn’t go overboard.(11)
reduced the risk 20%.(4) What’s the
secret?(5) It’s fat—but the good kind. (6) --By Janice M. Horowitz
Nuts contain polyunsaturated fats
(From Time ٟ December 23, 2002)


Is Going Nutty Good for You?

Main idea: Nuts in all forms can lower the risk of adult-onset diabetes.
Supporting detail(s): Polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and magnesium in nuts may help
maintain the levels of blood sugar.


Nuts in all forms can lower the risk of adult-onset diabetes. This might be because
polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and magnesium in nuts help maintain the levels of blood


Appendix 5

Bamboo Cures Earthquakes

Last December’s earthquake 35 Britain’s Timber Research and
in the Iranian city of Bam took Development Association. (2)
a huge death toll—roughly By some estimates, more than
40,000 people—largely because a billion people already live in
5 of the collapse of thousands of bamboo structures. The innovation
mud-brick buildings. If a group 40 lies in developing ways to exploit
of researchers in India are bamboo’s resilience. Easily
successful, the next earthquake prefabricated, fire resistant, and
might not be as devastating. far lighter than steel, bamboo-
10 British and Indian engineers are based structures could be
developing earthquake-proof 45 assembled in three weeks and last
housing using a cheap, ubiquitous 50 years. At five dollars a square
material: bamboo. (1) foot, they would cost roughly
They designed a prototype half as much as brick-and-
15 house built around waterproofed block construction. Follett
bamboo sheet roofing and bamboo- 50 says the project will follow an
reinforced concrete walls. To test “open source” model: “What-
the structure, the engineers, ever is developed is freely
sponsored by the U.K. Department available for the common
20 of International Development, good.” (3) –Matthew Power
took it to the Earthquake Engi-
neering and Vibration Research
Centre in Bangalore (bottom-right),
which has a state-of-the-art
25 earthquake simulator. The re-
searchers shook the house with
five consecutive 30-second
pulses, equivalent to 7.8 on the
Richter scale. The simulation
30 was more than 10 times as
violent as the Bam earthquake,
yet the house emerged unscathed.
“We didn’t even crack the paint,”
says engineer Paul Follett, of

(From Discover ٟ August 2004)


Appendix 6

The Outline Part of the Test

Stressed-out Kids

From paragraphs 4 to 10, complete the following outline. (4 points)

(There are many) ways to help (your) kids cope with stress.
Main idea: _______________________________________________ (1)

Supporting details:

A. Developing a better appreciation of the limits of individualism
and strengthening social ties.

Limiting the amount of violence your kids will face.
B. _________________________________________________ (1)

C. Not sharing your worries with your children.

Keeping reasonable expectations for your kids.
D. _________________________________________________ (1)

Doing regular exercise to reduce your own anxieties, and give your kids
a good model.
E. _________________________________________________ (1)

Usuma Chuenchompoo is an assistant professor at the Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat
University. She obtained an MS in Technological and Adult Education from the University of Tennessee, U.S.A., and a
Diploma in Teaching English Overseas from Leeds University, U.K. Her research interests include reading strategies,
and reading and writing relationships. She has been teaching reading and writing for more than 17 years and has written
two books: Pathways to Reading Comprehension (2007), and Writing through Reading (2010).


Developing Engineering Students’ Critical Thinking Skills through Reading Short Stories
Thanis Bunsom
, Sompatu Vungthong
and Wareesiri Singhasiri

As stated in section 28 of the National Education Act of B.E. 2551 (2008), the
substance of the curricula, both academic and professional, places an emphasis on
human development with critical thinking. Therefore, the purpose of this study
was to investigate how critical thinking can be developed through close and
analytical readings of short stories. A book club was established to facilitate the
conduct of the research in which eleven participants comprising KMUTT students
from different departments were assigned to read nine English short stories and
discuss their opinion and understanding of each text in groups. Further data were
collected through the participants’ personal written journals. They were used as
evidence to demonstrate the subjects’ individual interaction with the texts which
according to the ‘reception theory’ (Fish 1980; Holland 1975) have independent
meanings and are open to interpretation. The implementation of the research was
based on Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) which classifies cognitive behaviours into six
categories, ranging from the fairly simple to more complex. The results reveal
that some of the subjects were able to read and understand the texts in a more
critical manner and their perceptiveness broadened. Also, it is hoped to shed light
on the application of literature in developing critical thinking skills.
Key words: reading, short stories; Bloom’s taxonomy; critical thinking skills

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King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, as the name suggests, is an academic
institution that offers a wide variety of technology-oriented courses, most of which belong to the
faculties of Engineering, Science, Industrial Education and Information Technology. Therefore, it
is not surprising to learn that the teaching of English at KMUTT forms only a small part of the
curricula, making up nine compulsory credits. In order to graduate, students are required to take
three English subjects, LNG 101 Fundamental English 1, LNG 102 Fundamental English 2 and
LNG 103 Fundamental English 3. If the students have higher scores of English from the entrance
examination, they may be allocated to other elective courses that suit their level such as Oral
Communication 1-2 or English for Work.

Due to the limited number of elective or optional courses that the students are required to
take and the nature of their studies, the department of Language Studies feels obliged to comply
with their academic needs as well as interests. The department has tried to accommodate the
students’ main concentration by designing the materials of each English course in a technology-
orientated manner. To clarify, an example is the subject LNG 103 in which a whole chapter is
dedicated to the topic “gadget/technology design.” The students are required to invent an imaginary
technological tool and explain the process of its function in writing and oral presentation. The input
they are given before the work begins includes technology-related reading passages and relevant
sets of vocabulary and expressions.

As a result of this, the research team felt that the students’ reading abilities were not fully
developed because of the limited type of passages they have been exposed to. We also believed that
technology-related passages were straightforward, consisting of sets of fixed expressions and ideas
that did not require further elaborate thinking skills above the comprehension level. Hence, the
research team agreed that extensive reading should be used in order to stimulate the students’
critical thinking skills, one of the skills the Thai government would like to promote as stated in
section 28 of the National Education Act of B.E. 2551 (2008). Although the students have access to
the Self-Access Learning Centre, organised by the School of Liberal Arts, where a large number of
fictional works are available, there has been no concrete evidence as to how the students really
make use of the materials nor has there been any prior attempt to investigate whether the students
develop any critical thinking skills after reading the materials.


The book club was the research team’s solution for the two aforementioned problems. By
exposing the students to a number of short stories, we would like to answer the two following
research questions:
1. Based on Bloom’s taxonomy, which levels of thinking do students’ reflections belong to?
2. How will the reading of short stories develop the students’ critical thinking skills?

Literature review
What is critical thinking?
Over the past several decades, many definitions of critical thinking have been proposed. Critical
thinking can be defined as reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to
believe or do (Ennis, 1987) or thinking that is purposeful, reasoned and goal directed (Halpern,
1989). According to Bensley (1998), critical thinking is reflective thinking involving the evaluation
of evidence relevant to a claim so that a sound conclusion can be drawn from the evidence. Facione
(1990) argues that the keys of critical thinking include interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference
and self- regulation. Analysis is identifying the relationship between statements, questions, or
descriptions to express judgment. For evaluation, it is assessing the credibility and the logical
strength of statements, descriptions or questions. Inference refers to the ability to draw reasonable
conclusions based on facts and judgments. Self-regulation, the last skill, is seen as the ability of an
individual to monitor their own personal cognitive activities to make sure that they are engaged in
critical thinking.
Importance of critical thinking in learning and teaching
Since critical thinking is highlighted as one of the six major intellectual and practical skills to be
gained during undergraduate study (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2004) and
in Thailand is stated in the National Educational Act of 2008 as a skill that must be offered through
the curricula, the importance of critical thinking seems to be recognised. However, most students
are still deprived of this necessary skill. Many educational reports including the National
Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrated that the American educational system was
failing to teach many of its students to think effectively. Mckinnon and Renner (1971), for
example, found that only 25% of all first-year college students after being tested showed the ability
to reason logically and abstractly. Langer and Applebee (1987) found that students often had
difficulty in persuasive and analytic writing, two kinds of writing that require critical thinking. For
Thailand, very little research has been done and very few courses are designed to address this
concept. Khuankaew (2010) investigated the impact of using literary and non-literary texts as

supplementary reading in a writing class focusing on critical writing. Quantitative results from a t-
test analysis show the development of writing and critical thinking in both experimental and control
groups. From the findings of her study, it shows that reading literature and critical thinking are
interrelated as it is believed that reading literature is a common practice for the students to analyse
the themes, plots, characters, setting and others so that they can criticise works of literature.

Regarding the methods of teaching critical thinking, in the Western world, there have been
numerous attempts to address the topic. Gokhale (1995), for example, contends that collaborative
learning can help improve students’ critical thinking skills. However, the idea of critical thinking
through the act of reading seems the most prevalent; the intricate link between reading and critical
thinking has been emphasised. Students can substantially develop their thinking skills while
reading. Based on the ‘reception theory’, texts have independent meanings and are open to
interpretation. This approach focuses on readers. Readers interpret the meanings of the text based
on their individual cultural background and life experiences. In essence, the meaning of a text is not
inherent within the text itself, but is created within the relationship between the text and the reader.
Tierney and Pearson (1983) maintain that reading offers the potential for higher level thinking as
readers draw on background experiences to compose a text and engage in an ongoing negotiation to
gain the meaning. According to Wilson (1988), critical literacy allows the use of strategies and
techniques such as formulating questions before, during, and after reading, responding to the text in
terms of the student's own values, anticipating texts, and responding to texts through writing
activities which ask readers to interact with the text in personal ways.
Literature, especially as a critical text, can be used to stimulate students’ critical thinking.
Through literature, students learn to read personally, actively, and deeply (Sweet, 1993). Tung &
Chang (2009, p. 291) have elaborated the inextricable link between literature reading and critical
Literature reading is a complex process that requires readers to recall, retrieve and reflect
on their prior experiences or memories to construct meanings of the text. While they are
doing so, they need to demonstrate the following capacities: to differentiate facts from
opinions; to understand the literal or implied meanings and the narrator’s tone; to locate
details related to the issues discussed; to find out the causal relationship or the
connections between the events or actions; to detect an inferential relationship from the
details observed; to be perceptive of multiple points of views; to make moral reasoning
and fair-grounded judgments; and most of all, to apply what they have learned from this
process to other domains or the real world.


Similarly, according to Riecken and Miller when literature is approached from a problem
solving perspective, students are asked to evaluate evidence, draw conclusions, make inferences,
and develop a line of thinking (1990). Even for children, literature offers them more opportunities
to consider ideas, values, and ethical questions (Somers & Worthington, 1979).
Measuring critical thinking
How to measure critical thinking is also a significant topic. This paper will use Bloom’s taxonomy
as the basis for measuring students’ critical thinking level. Benjamin Bloom established a hierarchy
of educational objectives, which can be called Bloom’s taxonomy. It divides cognitive objectives
into six levels moving from basic to high levels of thinking. These include knowledge,
comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. All of these stages relate to how
the brain processes information and thoughts (Bloom et al., 1956).

Bloom’s taxonomy classifies cognitive behaviours into six categories, ranging from fairly
simple to more complex. These categories are described by Orlich et al. (1998) as follows:

a. Knowledge: This category emphasises remembering - either by recall or recognition. Both
processes involve the retrieval of information stored in the mind. The information is
retrieved in basically the same form as it was stored. For example, in a reading class, the
teacher may ask students to name the main characters of the story in the previous lesson. In
answering this question, students would be retrieving the knowledge in the same form as it
was received.

b. Comprehension: This involves transforming information into more understandable forms.
There is a distinction between this processing and recalling. Through the act of processing,
students transform information into a form that makes sense to them. For example, after
reading a story, students may summarise the story in a diagram or paraphrase by using their
own words. That is they can state the differences and similarities of the two characters; in
other words, they are making comparisons and contrasts.
c. Application: This category involves using information to find a solution to a problem. The
activity that can be used to enhance this level of thinking is asking them to help the
characters in the story solve the problem. Students have to propose ideas which are
applicable to the problem.

d. Analysis: The emphasis in this level is on explaining how the various parts of a complex
process or object are arranged or work together to achieve a certain effect. The teacher may
give a poem or a story for students to read and ask them to explain how the different
elements interweave to achieve an effect.
e. Synthesis: The key of synthesis is creativity and uniqueness. Synthesis is the process of
combining parts in such a way as to constitute a pattern or a structure that did not exist
before. For example, after reading the story, they may write a short story of their own.
f. Evaluation: To function at the evaluation level, the students must set up appropriate
standards or values and determine how closely the idea or object meets standards or values.
This brings out the subjective and creative component of evaluation. For instance, students
may make a judgment on the characters in the story. They may evaluate the value of the

Research Methodology
Regular members of the book club comprised of eleven students (nine male and two female), five
of whom are 4
year Mechanical Engineering students. The rest are 1
year Computer Engineering
students. These students were chosen because of their good performances in English classes. Also,
they expressed their desire to be well-trained in reading English texts. From 11 students, four
students were further chosen to be the subjects of this study because they regularly participated in
the reading club, submitted their journals, and their journal entries generated several critical
thinking levels.
Apart from being expected to read the short stories beforehand and actively participating in the
discussion, the members were asked to keep reflective journals on the stories they read. Each
journal was one to two pages in length and was in either Thai or English. After having discussed
the ninth story, the research team called each member to fill in a questionnaire and to conduct an
in-depth interview with each member.
Criteria for Selecting Short Stories
The criteria for choosing the short stories for discussion among members in the book club can be
divided into three main scopes. The first one is the level of difficulty, in terms of length (number

of words), linguistic features (i.e. level of vocabulary, writing styles, and structure of the text) and
literary elements (number of characters, symbols and other literary techniques). The level of
difficulty was our priority because of the time constraint of each session and the members’ reading
abilities. Each session lasted 45 – 70 minutes; therefore, it did not leave much time for long,
discursive discussions. In addition, texts which were too long would discourage the subjects’
interest and texts which were too difficult would hinder their comprehension of the texts which in
turn would obstruct the flow of critical/analytical skills.

The second scope of criteria is the themes of the stories. The researchers chose a variety of
texts that contain different themes to stimulate the members’ critical thinking. The themes range
from topics familiar to the members such as human relationships such as parental, spousal and
sexual love, jealousy and selfishness to topics beyond the members’ existing knowledge such as
Western traditions and European colonialism. The familiar topics were discussed in a more active
and argumentative manner whereas the topics with which the subjects were not familiar yielded
more difficulties both in reading comprehension and critical interpretation.

The last criterion responds to the researchers’ convenience. All of the nine stories
included in the book club have been carefully studied and analysed by the research team. The
researchers are highly familiar with the chosen texts due to the fact that these stories were part of
the researchers’ past studies and the discussions were done in formal classroom settings, conducted
by professional, experienced lecturers with high expertise. Prior to the discussion in the book club,
the texts were also scrutinised by more readings of different criticisms available.

The nine short stories discussed in the book club are as follows:
1. Ernest Hemingway’s A Very Short Story: The love story of a soldier and a nurse during the war
that turns out to be just a quick, meaningless affair
2. Dorothy Parker’s A Telephone Call: The psychological battle of a woman who is waiting for her
man to telephone her
3. Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter: The story of a woman who kills her husband with a frozen
lamb leg and covers up her crime
4. Sally Benson’s The Overcoat: The contemplation of her situation in life recalled by a woman
going home on the subway
5. Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince: The story of a prince who after his death is turned into a statue
and a swallow that responds to the prince’s requests

6. Katherine Mansfield’s The Doll’s House: The story of a girl who extends her compassion to the
pitiful girls who are shunned by the society
7. Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: A woman’s protest against the traditional lottery drawing that
aims to sacrifice people for the sake of a community
8. William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily: A mad woman who kills a man and covers up her crime
until her death
9. Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (excerpt): A visit to an orphanage run by Mrs. Jellyby whose
preoccupation lies in a project to help African people
Steps of Running the Book Club
The book club was established to serve the members’ desire to develop their reading and critical
thinking skills. The research team gathered KMUTT engineering students of different years and
departments and we met twice a week for six weeks, starting from 2
of January to 11
February 2011 at the department of Language Studies, School of Liberal Arts, KMUTT.

Each session lasted between 45 and 70 minutes. The first ten minutes were for
comprehension checking i.e. to check if the members understood the plot, the vocabulary and other
linguistic features. Comprehension checking was done through researchers’ explicit questioning
and peer supporting explanations.

Afterwards, the discussions of the meanings of symbols and settings as well as the analysis
of characterization (characters’ development, conflicts, motivations and actions) were led by the
researchers through a series of questions. The research team responded to the members’ questions
with more questions. Answers were rarely given unless the discussion halted due to the depth of
analysis with members having no background in the topics. It is noted that the discussion was
conducted in both English and Thai.
Limitation of the study
The results of the analysis may be affected by some of the following problems encountered during
the conduct of the research:

The subject’s inconsistent participation was mainly caused by the sessions being too close
to the end of the semester. The fourth year participants, in particular, were expected to finish their


graduate project which required a lot of time and energy. Some first year participants also claimed
that they had a lot of homework and that time management was a big problem for them. We
believed that the lack of consistency prevented us from cultivating a higher level of critical thinking
skills in them. Also, the lack of consistency resulted in the number of journal entries submitted by
the participants.

The members of the book club were pre-selected by the research team. We selected subjects
with a medium to high level of proficiency in English as seen from their performance in the courses
they took, the grades they received and other experiential exposures to English such as travelling
abroad. However, it turned out that they still found certain texts too difficult to follow when the
language was unfamiliar to them such as William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily in which the stream-
of-consciousness style of writing was employed. They also found that some short texts such as an
excerpt from Dickens’s Bleak House were short yet very tense and therefore, required more effort
and concentration. This also leads us to another major problem found in Thai students: the lack of
reading habit. The subjects admitted that they hardly read any other types of written texts, let alone
literature. This corresponds with a research report, written by the Ministry of Education (2009:55),
regarding the assessment of Thai educational institutions, that stated that “only 16.3% of Thai
students read regularly.”

As the findings mainly focused on the written journals and questionnaires, the oral
discussions and the in-depth interviews which we believed could yield more effective and fruitful
results were not included. It was an issue of technicality as some files were unintelligible to
transcribe the sound. However, the research team did not find this exclusion of the sound files
problematic as we believed that the discussion during the session could also be biased by a series of
questions led by the researchers and the peer influence on an individual’s point of view. The
subjects’ journals, usually written one or two days after the discussion and the interview, conducted
after the termination of the book club, should produce more authentic results in this aspect.

Data analysis
The method used to analyse the journal entries is content analysis. The first two researchers read
the journals and broke the content into small chunks based on the definitions and key words of six
categories of Bloom’s taxonomy. After that, the third researcher would read to check if he agreed


upon on the results of the analysis. Negotiation was conducted to recheck if there were some
Levels of subjects’ critical thinking
To answer RQ 1 ‘Based on Bloom’s taxonomy, which levels of thinking do students’ reflections
belong to?’, thirteen journal entries written for six short stories by four subjects were analysed.
Only four out of eleven subjects’ journal entries were scrutinised in detail because they reflected
several categories of critical thinking, while the rest tended to merely summarise the stories briefly.
It should also be noted here that the extracts selected from the subjects’ journals are copied
verbatim as they were written originally by the subjects including the grammar mistakes and typo
mistakes. Table 1 below shows how the students’ reflections were grouped and identified into each
category of thinking levels. It can be seen that that the subjects’ reflections cover almost every
aspect except synthesis level. The subjects obviously could reflect their ideas well in knowledge,
comprehension, and analysis levels; however, not all subjects could do well in application and
evaluation levels.
Table 1: Subjects’ thinking levels
Short Story

Subject Thinking Levels

A Very Short Story
1 3 3 - - - 3
2 3 3 - 3 - -
3 3 3 3 - 3
4 3 3 - 3 - -

A Telephone Call
1 - - - 3 - -
2 3 3 - 3 - 3
3 3 3 - 3 - -
Lamb to the Slaughter 1 3 3 - 3 - 3
4 3 3 - 3 - 3
The Overcoat 1 3 3 3 3 - 3

The Happy Prince 1 - 3 3 3 - 3
Bleak House 1 - - - 3 - -
4 3 3 - 3 - -

To support the findings above, here are the extracts of the subjects’ reflections in each thinking

Category 1: Knowledge (Remembering, memorizing, recognizing, recalling)
Subject 1: The Happy Prince
“Many days passed and Swallow help him as a habitat. The winter came, Swallow
decide to died with happy prince.”
Subject 2: A Telephone Call
“!·..».·.v ·..».«.:++++···..+..»¹«.+u«·.-a+···.¹aa.»..u..u»
[“This is a story of a person who is waiting for a call from one man. The person’s
mind is occupied with the strong desire for that man to call him/her.”]

Subject 3: Lamb to the Slaughter
“.. ».·.. ..·« +·¡ .+··· ..v ·a. :·« +»a« « .|»a ..a!·:· .r»· .+»a«. .+:
:·.. »«. .+:.. +»av.·· :. «. a. «. :»..+ ..:.r»¹aa!·.·. ++. .·¹. «.a..
[“The story starts with the portrayal of a housewife who looks after everything in
her house. She is waiting for her husband to come home. When her husband
reaches home, she takes care of him. However, the husband tells her that he is
going to break up with her, giving a reason that it is not convenient for his

In this category, all the subjects were able to summarise the plots of the texts. Their journal entries
demonstrated a satisfactory account of recalling the structures of the texts, the sequences of events
and the importance of each character and their roles in the stories. In Subject 1’s entry, the subject
stated the facts of the relationship between the swallow and the prince and the swallow’s decision
at the end of the story. In Subject 2’s entry, the story was clearly summarised and the role of the
female character was directly mentioned. Similarly, Subject 4 recalled the story of a woman whose
husband was going to leave her despite her complete wifely duty.

Category 2: Comprehension (Interpreting, translating from one medium to another, describing in
one’s own words)

Subject 1: A Happy Prince
“Before he is the statue, he’d never met sorrow. Surely he never met true
Subject 2: A Very Short Story
“!·· a··..· ·¹a. !·- ....+··.v ·...«.+.. ..« ·.·+..« ·!« ..··+.·.·
¹a¹. . a·.……. · .¹. · av+.!··.« «.«».·... a+...« .a |a+.. +..«.u·r.·
[“During the war, it is hard to find happiness. ….. It is therefore not surprising
that they develop a good feeling and have a relationship beyond that of a nurse
and a patient.”]
Subject 3: A Telephone Call
“.r».v ·.·. »·+·« »a !·...+·».+....« .».¹. .· ·« .. .|.».a. +....« »a
...··«¹..a....«...·...r»·..·.»¹. .r».a..··....»...·.»..!·!·.r»:.
«.·aa· | .u...·.. a..r». « ..a .«».+..…..»··..v ·.u a.+ .. a.r...a« ¹. ¹a+ a
».¹..¹a a.·¡.«..a..4.» .»+»a¹«.+u«.»¹v”
[“It is like she is under the spell of love. She is so blinded by love that she cannot
see other things. Her mind is occupied with her love for him; she is not really
sure whether he loves her. However, she tries to come up with a sign of his love
for her. She cites the fact that he calls her “darling” two times….. Anyway, it may
be just an empty word and the man may have no feelings for her. However, the
woman still keeps on waiting for his call.”]
Subject 4: Lamb to the Slaughter
“.·!·.+·¡ .+··»·¹. + »a¹au:++·.+a+ av .+ ·. +-a·..»......»... « .·..
+-a.».+..: ».:« +·¡ .« + »+»av.·· :. . .|·|+ +. –··¹v. +·¡ .» ·a+.¹. .
[“I think that this woman rarely meets people; she believes that her husband loves
her so much. As for the husband, he is bored with this woman who repeatedly
takes care of him. So he has another woman and is not responsible for his child
and wife.”]

For the second level of higher thinking, moving beyond the knowledge level, the subjects in
the research exhibit understanding of ideas from the selected short stories provided in the book club
by interpreting, translating from one medium to another, and describing in one’s own words.
Subject 1, for example, after illustrating what was going on in A Happy Prince, further interpreted
that as the prince was alive and had never faced misery, he had surely never realised the real
meaning of happiness. Similarly, instead of simply depicting an account on a couple’s affair during

the wartime in A Very Short Story, Subject 2 interpreted this kind of relationship as stemming from
an individual need to gain happiness as it was rarely found in the wartime. Subject 4 tried to come
up with the embedded reasons behind the characters’ action in Lamb to the Slaughter, postulating
that the fact that the male character left his wife was quite comprehensible as he was bored with the
constant or even excessive care and attention his wife always paid to him. As for Subject 3, this
participant elaborated his/her comprehension by paraphrasing the story in his/her own words and
simultaneously interpreted that in A Telephone Call the dear name the man called the female
protagonist might be just an empty word.

Category 3: Application (Problem solving, applying information to produce some result)
Subject 1: The Happy Prince
“This is the evidence that money can’t buy everything. …. (may be it’s common
for them and in their perspective I think they don’t feel bad as in happy prince’s
perspective.) …… I think he know too that the families that had been helped may
have problems again like an unstoppable loop but it’s happy when you help
someone right?”
“There’s mottos in this story teach me new things and give me new perspective of
this world.”

In this category, only one subject illustrated the ability to apply information (i.e the moral of
the story) to his/her real life. According to the subject’s journal, it clearly reflected the subject’s
ability to understand the underlying messages of the text which the story was implying. Despite
having a lot of money and power, the prince finally found his true happiness in helping other
people. Having understood this, the subject posed a question relating to his/her life (it’s happy
when you help someone right?) and claimed to have learnt “new things” and “new perspectives of
this world.”

Category 4: Analysis (Subdividing something to show how it is put together, finding the
underlying structure of a communication, identifying motives)
Subject 1: A Telephone Call
“I will call you at five, darling” make me hesitate that what position are they
stand together. She seem very blissful after she hear the word “darling”. ……….
It is not the word that the couple should be so much happy like this. After that,
she wait for the call madly. The evidence has showed by she count “5, 10, 15,…”
rather than “1,2,3…” or her feeling can told us obviously. And why is she insult
herself.. What’s her fault after the man said “I’ll call you at five, darling” nothing
to nervous at all. Nothing weird and unnatural in this sentence except there are
something separate them.

Subject 2: A Telephone Call
“a...»u·.a!·.a+..»aa·»..·».. ».a+. .·+a·a!· ..+..·»a·+av...a· ...
·.!·.»·a..«»·a+.a..¹.··.·...·»..».¹v.». a.. .+..·..«.«+.·a·
.·a·. ·..· ·¹a . ..+.+.«.+.u..u»!·..». ¹.¹a.«..u·. ·.»+!a|«:.:».
.u+·»...+.+.·· .u....+.+..u a.a«·. ..».a .a+. ‘I’”
[“After considering the details, there are many aspects to analyse. From the first
time of reading this story, if we don’t use our own imagination but objectively
analyse what the author wrote, we can see that there is no pronoun to signify the
sex of the person waiting for a call. That person just represents himself/herself
with the pronoun ‘I’.” ]

Subject 3: A Very Short Story
+...«.«.. a··!·- ..· ·.v·+...« .«.·.»·+·«··..uaa.·:.«.:.»a..
....u»aa.··a.·.!· ¹. .«.···..v ·».¹.·.»!+.... ·».ua.!·..·.»·:.+·
«.·». «a·« !·.+:¹v ..·.»··.. a..!·«·....a·.»¹v¹a ”
[“People in that time are desperate and look for something to hold on to. If they
have something to hold on to (whether it is a person, a thing, or a place), they will
have motivation to live on.”]
“.».·+.·:«.+..a+. +...«.·¹a·a¹v .u..¹..+. “+...a” .+»a::+·
·.!· «!·« .«»..+...«..va... .+«·.+».«.!·.| «!· u:.::+++..|.·¹v
a..·.· .a...».«+·. a.»a..+»»a. .·+·¹va+. »··... :.v·+..«..·:.
a.¹.·»a...v·...··a-..!··a.··.+.+»·+.·:«.+..a.+.+·. . «..a ·
[“After the war ends, the desire to have something to hold on to is gone because
the idea of death does not weigh on their minds. They both open their hearts and
try new things. They get to know various people. Although they may think of the
past, what is done cannot be undone (the past is the past). It is already gone. They
may remember the past but they will not allow the past to determine their present
lives. That is, after the war, they both have their own paths.”]
Subject 4: Mrs. Jellyby
“¹av.»a.· ·.+»··.v..·+a!·.u.....».¹.+»a...».v... .+«....· ...»..¸
·».+··..¹..+a¹a a·..»·a. ..·!·.+.·a·+.»a.«»+..·.a·».«.!·¡¹aa!-
.ua....v. a:.«a:.:. .+.+. .+..ua....a a.”
[“After the discussion, I feel amazed because I don’t know much about history. I
have not heard about the white man’s mission before. However, I understand that
the author wants to use the single character to represent the bigger idea or

In this category, all the four subjects were capable of demonstrating their analytical thinking
towards the texts they read. They could identify different motives and pinpoint the underlying ideas
of the texts with strong and concrete evidence such as the analysis of a lexical item in Subject 1’s
entry, the observation of the lack of gender signifier in Subject 2’s, the circumstantial motives of
the two characters in Subject 3’s and the writer’s deployment of metonymy to criticise the society
at large in Subject 4’s. Subject 1 analysed the term “darling” which in a normal context would not
create such a strong feeling to the audience yet in this particular story, the subject could understand
the character’s nervousness and insecurity from her reaction to the cordial term and further
concluded that “there are something separate them.” Reflecting on the same story, Subject 2
pointed out its lack of gender specification in the narrative voice which he/she believed could
change the whole tone and understanding of the text such as if the person waiting for the call were
a man, it could be a story of another kind (such as a story of a father and son). Subject 3 echoed
his/her personal opinion of A Very Short Story through the external factor (i.e. war) which had
influences upon the characters’ decisions and relationships. His/her ability to identify the
characters’ motives was evidently shown. To our surprise, Subject 4 grasped the writer’s technique
of metonymy in attacking British colonialism at large.

Category 5: Synthesis (Creating a unique, original product that may be in verbal form or may be
in physical form)
None of the subjects have written or reflected on this category.
Category 6: Evaluation (making value decision about issues, resolving controversies or
differences of opinions)
Subject 1: Lamb to the Slaughter
“In my opinion, Mary Malony is a good wife. Her husband should love her much. ……
I don’t think she is bad because if his husband doesn’t broke up with her, she will be
looked better by the readers.”
Subject 2: The Overcoat
“First impression and think for this story is that Mrs. Bishop is a pitiful girl but it’s serve
her right because I think she don’t have money because of bridge.”

Subject 3: A Very Short Story
“.v·..».r...a«..a· ·!·«.+.. +....!·-..«.+..»··..v··..¹aa «.«».»aa.a.·
.«.»a+..+..·..!·.». ·”
[“It is so common during the war. Love during the war can be real if lovers stay together
and are sincere with each other.”]

Subject 4: Lamb to the Slaughter
“¹aa+...· ·«.·. .+a. »a..a...+·¡.¹.··.«!·«..a!·¹aa..v.··:. .u..a
+·¡.¹.«.v ·v..·»aa+ .«..··..··a+...a..«.«a!·.....«.·+· ·..v·¹a ”
[“In my opinion, the woman should not have taken care of her husband just to make him
feel unguarded because if she had not always done it this way, her husband would have
recognised her premeditated intention to murder him when she tried to please him.”]

The highest level of higher thinking according to Bloom’s taxonomy, evaluation, was
reflected in the journal entries of the three subjects. They could present and defend their opinions
by making judgments about characters portrayed in the short stories and subject matters revolving
around those stories. To illustrate, subject 1 pondered over the female protagonist’s action in Lamb
to the Slaughter and reached the conclusion that despite her murder of her husband, she was not
really a “bad” person, arguing that when the fact that her husband was trying to leave her was taken
into consideration, her action was quite comprehensible. Different from Subject 1, Subject 4 made
the decision about the controversial topic in Lamb to the Slaughter proposing that the wife was to
blame as she should not have always taken care of her husband to make him feel unguarded and
become unaware of the imminent threat leading to his own death. The ability to make judgments
was also manifested in Subject 3’s journal which maintained that the subject matter of a transient
affair of a couple in A Very Short Story was not extraordinary whereas many other readers found
the story rather contradicting to their expectation of a happy ending which is a common practice in
a traditional narrative.

Developing students’ critical thinking skills
To answer RQ2, ‘How will the reading of short stories develop the students’ critical thinking
skills?’, the findings of the book club running show that teachers’ perspectives, interviews, and
questionnaires can prompt and solidify the development of students’ critical thinking. After the
book club sessions were over, the members were individually called in for a questionnaire
completion and an in-depth interview. The results were classified into three main themes as shown

From the researchers’ personal experiences of teaching at a technology institution, we have
found that in order to truly promote our students’ critical thinking, we need to venture out of the
“comfort zone” (relying on science-oriented texts) and be more willing to deploy literary texts in
our teaching despite the literary genre being out of context for our students’ concentration. In using


short stories to enhance the development, we discovered that leading questions in each session’s
discussion were the most significant component to stimulate not only students’ curiosity but also
their enthusiasm in thinking more profoundly. There were seven stages of questionings conducted
respectively in the book club. They were:
a. Questions regarding overall comprehension: What is the story about? What is the
sequence of events in the story?
b. Questions regarding content and specific details: What is the significance of different
elements of each story: exposure, conflict, denouement and ending?
c. Questions regarding characterisation: How are the characters in a story related? How do
they interact? What are the motivations of their actions? How do they develop as
d. Questions regarding writing techniques: How do certain particular or taken-for-granted
words contribute to or change the course of the meaning of the text? What do metaphors,
similes or understatements signify and how do they affect your understanding?
e. Questions regarding meanings beyond text: What is the tone of the story? What do you
think is the writer’s intention?
f. Questions regarding application: How does the story relate to your own experience? What
is the moral of the story?
g. Questions regarding evaluation: Do you like the story? Do you agree with the writer?
Would you do the same if you were the character? Why or why not?

The seven stages of questions were created to build up the subjects’ critical thinking in a
more efficient way. Question A is meant to check the subjects’ comprehension of the texts they
read. Question B, C, and D encourage them to examine and analyse certain events, characters and
settings more closely as well as to look carefully for symbols and signs which may have greater
significance to the texts. After going through the previous questions, the researchers used Question
E to let the subjects make informed critical decisions about the tone and the writer’s intention. By
this stage, the subjects already had their arguments to support their alternatives. The last two
questions, F and G, give them an opportunity to interact directly with the texts. The subjects got to
apply what the stories showed them to their real world and evaluate them in a more reliable and
reasonable way.

Most of the subjects said that they learned from other students. That is, they had chances to listen to
their peers’ comments and opinions. They learned that people could think differently and there
could be different angles in any story. Furthermore, they learned to think contemplatively and at the
same time learn to appreciate the differences in thoughts and opinions of other members. Most
importantly, the subjects came to realise that literary texts, like life itself, yield more than one
conclusion or no conclusion at all, as expressed in ten (out of eleven) questionnaires.

As for self-reflection, one subject quoted a popular saying “read fictional characters and
look at oneself in the mirror.” They agreed that the characters they read about had the same kind of
experiences as any other human beings. The chosen stories feature characters who share the same
stories, feelings, dilemmas, problems and struggles to cope with their lives as all of us. They are
driven by different forces such as their individualistic needs, social expectations as well as their
positions in the society dictated by gender and class. Having stood in the characters’ shoes, the
subjects reflected upon their lives and the conditions attached to them. For example, one subject
compared the characters’ relationship in Lamb to the Slaughter to his/her own and questioned
him/herself whether he/she would kill the man or he/she would cope with his/her problem in a
different way.

Most of the students revealed that when they read short stories, they found that they read
them differently from other types of texts. That is, they had to read and interpret the story. They
could not ignore words and they had to pay attention to details in the stories. They could not just
skim through the text to grasp the main ideas. According to one subject, he/she asserted that
although the literary language was difficult, it was worth it because it was challenging and thought-
provoking. He/she further elaborated that every single word or even a pause between each dialogue
could mean a lot and could represent a far deeper idea than it might appear. In this respect, the
research team agrees that the subjects have developed an awareness of “reading between the lines,”
a necessary tool for the development of critical thinking skills.

Discussion and Conclusion
Literature develops critical thinking and self-reflection
The analysis of the reflective journals shows different levels of critical thinking skills in accordance
with Bloom’s descriptions of taxonomy. The findings demonstrate that all the four subjects can


successfully reach the first category (knowledge). They could easily recall the synopsis and
remember the characters and their functions in the story. In the second category (comprehension),
all four subjects were able to express their interpretive understanding of the story such as the
characters’ feelings and internal conflicts. In the third category, however, there is only one subject
that conveyed the notion of application. His/her journal reflects an attempt to relate the story to
his/her own experiences in the real world. In the fourth category (analysis), all four subjects
exhibited the ability to understand the underlying structure of the text and identify motives. All
subjects could identify different elements in the story that help create an effect to the reader such as
the fourth subject’s journal that mentions the deployment of Mrs. Jellyby as a representative of the
larger establishment. In the fifth category, none of the subjects achieved the definition of synthesis.
This is explicable as the way the book club was conducted did not leave room for the synthesis
process. We did not have a plan to assign them to do the activity which requires synthesis. The last
category, evaluation, appeared in three subjects. They made informed choices about what was right
and what was wrong.

The self-reflection stage leads the subjects to the development of critical thinking skills. The
subjects were at first startled by the inconclusive nature of literary work. Different from science-
related passages, short stories as well as other genres of literature bear no absolute ultimatum nor
could one final conclusion be attained. The members, who are engineering students, found this kind
of indefinite ending very hard to understand. To initiate the subjects’ critical thinking skills, the
research team applied Fish and Holland’s reception theory. We explicated that reading is an
interaction between the text and the reader; therefore, each reader has his/her own expectations
stemming from his/her existing background knowledge. Like life itself, there cannot be one right
way to read and understand a book and its characters. The subjects were then trained to make an
informed choice with convincing, logical arguments and well-supported evidence found in the
texts. After the first session, the subjects started to get used to the nature of reading short stories
and that allowed the discussion to be smoother.

Literature promotes reading enjoyment
Although developing the subjects’ reading skills was not primarily our research goal, the impact on
enjoyment of reading short stories at the book club was far too great to be ignored. Therefore, the
discussion on how reading short stories could create a reading habit and equip readers with a new
dimension of ‘refined’ vocabulary and expressions is briefly included at this stage.


All the members mutually agreed that reading short stories brought a lot of benefits to their
reading knowledge and gave them pleasure. All the participants were excited and glad that they had
been introduced to the world of extensive reading. They had opportunities to read well-known short
stories which they normally would not choose to read. They exposed themselves to new words and
language structures because all members of the book club agreed that they acquired a lot of new
‘refined’ vocabulary and expressions through the activity. They explained that after having been
put outside their reading comfort zone (i.e. science/technology-related passages), they had to
struggle to understand the chosen texts because of their lack of exposure, training and familiarity.
However, after the first ten minutes of each session, they felt more confident and satisfied with the
new vocabulary and expression they learnt. Some included the new words in their journal writings,
showing their attempt to put the new words into use. This inspires them to find other short stories to
read in the future. All the participants were excited and glad that they had been introduced to the
world of extensive reading.

Literature needs a bigger space in English classroom teaching
Two big questions regarding this piece of research have arisen in the process of analysing the data
and they are worth considering:
1. “Why should only four students be included in the analysis and the rest left out?”
2. “Does literature truly promote critical thinking when the number of subjects who reflected
with several categories of thinking seems very little?”

The answers are not straightforward yet explanations can be offered. The four students who
were selected demonstrated a variety of their arguments in the written work whereas the rest
seemed to enjoy retelling the synopsis in their journals. The research team decided to include the
four subjects and present their works in this paper in order to show that literature can certainly
make a useful tool to promote and develop critical thinking. We did not intend to disregard the rest
of the participants whose development of thinking skills fell into the first two categories:
knowledge and comprehension. The seven participants were able to summarise the stories and put
them in their own words with further elaboration of certain interesting points. Surely, their
development was explicit enough, considering their engineering backgrounds and their scarce
exposure to literary texts. However, the research team felt that the data presented in this paper
should illustrate what a reader could potentially achieve from reading short stories and the four
subjects make quite a good example. Therefore, to answer Question 2, the research team believes
that literature can be very beneficial for students’ development of critical thinking whether they are

arts or science students. The number of subjects presented merely exemplifies the different
categories of thinking a reader could accomplish, not a discouraging sign of failure.

We believe that English teachers in Thailand should be more willing to include literature in
their English classrooms. The book club was run for five weeks and the subjects showed their high
potential in thinking more deeply and reasonably. The most important aim of the club was for the
subjects to ‘start thinking’ and not be afraid to ‘share’ their thoughts. In this respect, the research
team found the data of all eleven subjects’ journal entries very satisfactory. It was a good start for
KMUTT. If English teachers make use of literature in their English classrooms in the long run, the
results should be very interesting to see.

Recommendations for future research
From the problems previously stated in the methodology section, the research team became aware
of the possible causes of the problems and different ways to improve the book club in order to
enhance the development of critical thinking skills. First of all, the book club should begin early in
the semester so that the prospective subjects will not feel that it is a burden to their full-time
studies. In addition, due to the limitation in terms of time permitted for each session, a variety of
texts should be used such as poems, short plays and pictures. Furthermore, in order to
accommodate the right level of difficulty, there should be a more concrete way to evaluate the
subjects’ reading abilities and their vocabulary knowledge. Pre-tests may be necessary. Also,
questionnaires should be distributed at two different stages: before and after the session. This will
help the research team detect the development of critical thinking skills in a more tangible way.
Finally, recording the oral discussion should be done to check the consistency of the subjects’
opinions as their viewpoints can be influenced by external factors such as leading questions and
peer arguments. This voice record, along with written evidence, will certainly produce a more
reliable result.


«·..·.+·r..«...+.· ...«...+.·r.. (2551). ..·..vo.. ··o..·o...:
o..vvo..n+v.o..oov.-o.¹..·.·v·.·:o.o..v..·.v·.·voo.ov·.o. ....«u:
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Thanis Bunsom, a lecturer of English at the School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut’s University of Technology
Thonburi, completed his BA and MA in English at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. He is interested in
Asian Englishes, literature in classroom and postcolonial literature in English, French and Portuguese. His previous
works include modern Brazilian novels, neo-realistic approaches to modern Portuguese novels and Chinese identity in
contemporary Australian novels.

Sompatu Vungthong is currently a lecture of English at the School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut’s University of
Technology Thonburi. She was a recipient of a Chulalongkorn University Graduate Scholarship to Commemorate the
Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and received her MA in English from the Faculty
of Arts, Chulalongkorn University in 2010. Her research interests include post-modern literary theories, semiotics and
critical discourse analysis. She is now conducting a research on semiotics and travel advertisements.

Wareesiri Singhasiri is an assistant professor in the Department of Language Studies, King Mongkut’s University of
Technology Thonburi. She was awarded a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Essex, UK. Her research
interests include research methodology and learning strategies and styles.

Enhancing Authenticity in Composing Informative and Promotional Texts by Analysing Key
Words in a Genre-based Writing Course
Wen-hsien Yang
This study aims to examine the lexis used in the texts of tourism English. 78
Printed authentic tourist attraction brochures together with 24 ESP learners’
productions. A computerised package was used to generate the wordlists of the
used lexis as well as the keywords. Besides, non-Chinese readers’ evaluation of
the students’ writings was treated as the qualitative data. The analysis show that
the students’ choices of the lexis differed to some extent from the authentic ones.
The possible reasons stem from contextualised differences, students’ fossilisation
of English learning, and their unilateral lexical knowledge. The results of this
study pedagogically imply that key words need to be prioritized. It also argues
that “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a
large matter” (Twain, 2011). ESP teachers are advised to draw learners’ attention
onto lexis choices and constraints to enhance the authenticity and trust of the

Key words: genre-based writing instruction; tourist attraction brochures; key
words analysis

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Recently, a great number of ESP related studies on professional disciplines such as medical
English, legal English, commercial English, and academic English have been greatly explored in
applied linguistics context (Bhatia, 1993; Hyland, 2004a; Swales, 1990; Vergaro, 2004); however,
English for hospitality and tourism (EfH&T) including catering, travelling or hotel apparently has
not received equal attention from researchers (Henry & Roseberry, 1996; Lam, 2006; Lien, 2008;
Moya-Guijarro, 2006; Moya-Guijarro & Albentosa-Hernaadez, 2001). Indeed, compared to the
highly-skilled professions like medical, engineering or legal disciplines, research on the writing
genres of some low-skilled professions like hospitality or tourism is still scant.

It has always been assumed that English for tourism and hospitality (EfH&T) should focus
on listening and speaking skills for these two skills are exactly what students need in their future
working places. Therefore, most of the published textbooks about English for these two professions
are oral communication oriented, and apparently English writing for tourism and hotel is not
supposed to be a required skill for the basic employees and may be intentionally overlooked by the
educational institutes due to the fast-changing speed of these industries. Furthermore, what is
taught in classroom is usually different from what is really used in workplaces (Bremner, 2010;
Forey, 2004) which can make students’ productions in classroom lack of authenticity in real
communication. Indeed, writing is permanent and it is expensive to fix the errors or mistakes
compared with oral skills (Wildes & Nyheim, 2009) and, thus, I would like to highlight the
importance of hospitality and tourism writing in this paper.

‘Word’ is one of the very essential elements weaving a good or appropriate piece of writing
work and it has no doubt that various professions have their different ‘technical or key words’ to
use in order to make their written formats look authentic and fit the right contexts. As it is believed
that a narrow-focused examination on lexical-grammatical features in a language can facilitate
ESL/EFL learners’ acquisition because they can compare the authentic choices with their inter-
language hypothesis (Ellis, 1995; Wennerstrom, 2003) it, thus, is assumed that keywords in a genre
should be analysed and taught in priority if learners are expected to write professionally with an
authentic flavour rather than a personal one. In this study, I used a computerised package tool to
generate word lists to identify what the frequently-used essential words in authentic tourist
attraction brochures are and I also hoped to evaluate whether or not students perform better in their
H&T brochure writing after a teacher explicitly displayed the analysed the key words including the
overused and underused words for learners under a genre-based instruction. Furthermore, research

on analysing keywords of tourist attractions is still scant in Taiwan, which makes this study
significant from others. Hopefully this study can serve as a starting point for establishing a well-
planned ESP writing instruction for hospitality & tourism purposes and setting up a model for
analysing key words in other disciplines in higher education.

Literature review
The application of genre analysis in ESP
Genre analysis is one stream of discourse analysis, which investigates specific uses of language. “It
is driven by a desire to understand the communicative character of discourse by looking at how
individuals use language to engage in particular communicative situations (Hyland, 2004b: 195).”
Then, it is hoped to support language education by applying this knowledge. Hyland specifies some
purposes of analysing genres (2004b). First, genre analysis seeks to identify how texts are
structured in terms of move, stage and strategy, and to distinguish the characteristic features in
certain texts to realise their communicative purposes. Secondly, genre study explores the
knowledge of the readers, writers, speakers and listeners in one particular community and tries to
discover how they relate to user’s communicative activities. In addition, genre study also provides
explanations for how and why linguistic choices are made in terms of social, cultural, and
psychological context; therefore, it helps to support language teaching, which is one of its purposes
in pedagogy.

Swales (1990) provided approaches to research genres in academic settings but indeed there
are still many different ways of analysing genres for different approaches have their respective
goals and they have differentiated theoretical frameworks and concerns (Paltridge, 2001). In ESP
contexts, most approaches tend to research the structural and patterning elements in grammatical
terms; furthermore, genre analysis in ESP area also “highlights the importance of social and
cultural context in their descriptions and explanations of genres, discussing how these impact the
language features of a text” (Paltridge, 2001: 13).

Genre analysis or corpus-based research on teaching English, especially the form-focused
approach, has been greatly advocated and conducted in English for academic purposes (see
Carstens, 2008; Cheng, 2006; Henry & Roseberry, 2007; Hyland, 2010; Hyon, 2008; Johns, 1995,
1997, 2007; Maingueneau, 2002; Samraj & Monk, 2008; Woodward-Kron, 2005; Wennerstrom,
2003; Wrigglesworth & McKeever, 2010; Zhu, 2005 ) and for non-academic (or occupational)
purposes (see Hafner, 2010; Henry & Roseberry, 1996, 1998; Karlsson, 2009; Matt, 2007; Osman,

2008; Schneider & Andre, 2005; Wennerstrom, 2003) and much of the research proves the positive
effects on teaching English writing (Lee & Chen, 2009). However, genre analysis in EAP or EOP
can be too broad, and as Hyland (2008) and Hyland and Tse (2007) assert, it would be more
pedagogically fruitful if only a specific type of texts in a discipline is focused.

The benefits of conducting a genre-based writing instruction in classroom
According to Hyland (2003), genre-based pedagogy is a social response to the process approach.
He criticises that the process approach makes writers isolated from the contexts, and requires
writers to ‘discover’ appropriate forms in writing by themselves, which may only work for L1
writers but not for L2 writers. Besides, it also deprives learners’ chances from constructing texts
with social codes, purposes, audience and message. In other words, process approach is different
from GBI in that genre-based instruction is able to provide learners with real world writing and thus
generates their interests and enhances confidence to cope with specific genres; however, process
approach seems not (Osman, 2004). Other difficulties are that the process approach gives writers no
access to cultural knowledge and makes them lack engagement with sociocultural realities.
Contrarily, “genre-based pedagogies address these deficits by offering students explicit and
systematic explanations of the ways language functions in social contexts” (Hyland, 2004a: 18),
and this makes students acquire the specialist culture (Bhatia, 1997). As Ur (1996) argues, a genre-
based syllabus, as a mixed syllabus, combines characteristics of different syllabus types all together
in a coherent and principled way, which includes the features of the structural syllabus, functions
and notions syllabus and content-based syllabus (Paltridge, 2001).

Furthermore, conducting a genre analysis can provide ESP teachers insights into how a
particular language is used by its members in a discourse community, as discussed in the preceding
sections. Similarly, Paltridge (2001: 3) argues that “making this genre knowledge explicit can
provide language teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to communicate successfully in
particular discourse communities (and) it can also provide learners with access to socially powerful
forms of language.” Now more and more ESP curricula are planned on the basis of generic
pedagogy in hopes of facilitating learners’ generic competence including rhetorical, linguistic and
socio-cultural awareness of a particular situation (Cheng, 2006, 2007; Johns, 2006; Martin, 2009).

Genre-based writing instruction is targeted, relevant and supportive for ESP learners. They
realise the texts they are exposed to are relevant to their need in their future workplaces and thus
supportive to their social participation in the world outside the classroom. Likewise, genre-based
instruction or curriculum can “give language educators a more central role in preparing individuals

to teach second language writing and to confidently advise them on the development of curriculum
materials and activities for writing class” (Hyland, 2007: 148). It helps not only language teachers
to realise “how writing is shaped by individuals making language choices to achieve purposes in
social contexts” (p. 163) but also helps learners to identify the texts used in particular ESP
situations, and thus to meet their needs in learning a targeted language course.
The importance of studying the key words in a genre
This study is also form-focused and narrows a whole text to vocabulary for it is believed word
choices would greatly affect the descriptiveness, accuracy and quality of writing (Read, 1998).
However, the emphasis is put on ‘key words list’ rather than ‘wordlist’. Wordlist lists all the words
used by frequencies in all texts but a keywords list only displays the words which have unusual
occurrences in a genre in comparison with a reference corpus. Why the key words in a genre are
crucial is because they display two concepts of the selected words i.e. ‘keyness’ and ‘aboutness’.
“Keyness” is defined as “a quality words may have in a given text or set of texts, suggesting they
are important, they reflect what the text is really about, avoiding trivia and insignificant detail”
(Scott & Tribble, 2006: 55-56) while “aboutness” refers to what a key word can talk about in its
particular genre i.e. what do these key words mean in this targeted situation (Scott & Tribble,
2006). Keyword analysis can ‘awaken the learners to the influence of subject matter and academic
discourse on lexical units, which might vary in accordance with the different subjects and genre
categories’ (Chen and Ge, 2007: 511). Besides, as Baker (2009) and Archer (2009) argues,
keyword list is a useful instrument to help researchers to identify significant differences between
texts, to determine what the texts are about and styles of them, and to direct researchers’ attention
on aspects of texts which deserve further examination.

Indeed, research on wordlisting has been greatly examined in academic and some highly
professional settings such as medical or engineering (e.g. Chen & Ge, 2007; Martinez et al., 2009;
Mudraya, 2006, Wang et al., 2008; Ward, 2009). Yet, studies on the wordlists or key words in
some lower-skilled vocations like hospitality and tourism, which presumably still have their
specific technical words, apparently do not receive equal attention,. This situation also makes the
curriculum planning in English for hospitality and tourism purposes scant in literature. Hence, this
study hopefully can bridge this gap to some extent.


Research Methodology
Participants and quantitative data collection
In total, there are 78 tourist attraction brochures in English, which were collected in the U.K. for
the purpose of analysis in this study. For the students’ texts, they all came from the productions in a
genre-based writing course. Twenty four senior English-major students attended an 18-week course
i.e. ‘English Writing for Hospitality & Tourism’ in National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality
and Tourism in Taiwan. The course was delivered in a genre-based instruction manner (informative
and promotional brochures), following the procedures of reading the authentic texts, identifying the
genre and its features, analysing the obligatory and optional moves, the 1
drafting and submitting,
analysing the lexis used in the authentic texts and the students’ writings, the 1
revising and
analysing the lexis differences again, the 2
revising and finalising, and the instructor’s grading
and outsiders’ evaluation as the final step. In other words, each student’s self-designed brochure
should be revised and resubmitted for three times (termed as the V1, V2, and V3 versions)
following the instructor’s feedback on the contents, moves arrangement, lexis choices and
grammar. Therefore, I had 24 student texts for each version and 72 texts in total. The students were
given 6 weeks to complete the three versions of their tourist attraction brochures and there was no
limitation of length provided that the information was sufficiently, clearly and appropriately
supplied in the texts. As to the 78 printed authentic brochures, they were all collected in the U.K.
by the researcher to ensure they are still currently used for business purposes. In the following
sections, I would explain how to wordlist and keyword the H&T writings by using the 1
(V1) of the students’ designed brochures to exemplify the procedures of wordlisting and
Quantitative data analysis
After the texts were gathered, firstly, all the words in the authentic and students’ brochures were
transcribed and saved in a text-format in order to be analysed by the computer tool i.e. Word Smith
v.5.0 (WS) (Scott, 2008). Then, the second step was to wordlist by importing all the texts to WS.
The two major categories of the texts i.e. the 78 authentic texts and the 24 students’ texts were
imported to the working area of the WS to generate two separate wordlists.

Next, I did the keywording, which followed the similar procedures as wordlisting. The
major difference lies in that there should be two word-lists in order to generate a key word list. One
is the study/main corpus from which keywords would be identified and the other is a wordlist
serving as the reference/comparison corpus. The reason why it needs two different corpora is that

keywording tries to examine the items of unusual frequency (Scott & Tribble, 2006), and this helps
researchers locate the specific words in one genre in comparison with a reference corpus. In other
words, it is these keywords that characterise a specific language.

To generate the keywords of the authentic tourist attraction texts, I used British National
Corpus (BNC) as the reference corpus, which collects 100 million of British words from written
and spoken samples from a wide range of sources, and the wordlist of the authentic texts was used
for the study corpus. Similarly, to generate the students’ overused and underused keywords, the
main corpus is the wordlist of their texts and the comparison corpus is the wordlist of the authentic

There are two different keywords lists but they have different implications. On one hand,
the keywords generated from the authentic texts mean that they are essential words for designing
tourist attraction texts for information and promotion purposes and these words should be treated in
priority in class. On the other hand, the overused keywords generated from the students’ texts
should receive less emphasis for these words appear too frequently compared with the authentic
texts but the underused words should be paid more attention due to the higher frequencies in the
authentic texts when students compose this genre.

Qualitative data collection and analysis
Aside from the above quantitative data, I also had a number of non-Chinese readers make
qualitative judgements on the three versions of the brochures. They were asked to evaluate which
version was the best brochure3 KW lists based on the criteria of authenticity and motivation. In
other words, these non-Chinese readers, who would probably visit Taiwan one day and read these
students’ produced brochures beforehand, were requested to select the version which was read
more authentically in words and accordingly can trigger their motivation to pay a visit to the tourist
attraction in the near future. The reason why this evaluation was made was because I would like to
know whether or not these self-designed brochures can provide sufficient information and also
interestingly promote Taiwan and its tourist attractions to potential visitors, which was exactly what
a tourist attraction brochure aims for i.e. being informational and promotional. Their preferences
were calculated by EXCEL and tabulated in the next section. The following are the results of these
quantitative and qualitative data together with discussion.


Results and discussion
The wordlist for authentic tourist attraction brochures
Table 1 shows that there are 50,805 tokens which have 6,414 distinct words used for the word list
of the authentic texts. The mean words are 651 in length on average in each brochure. In
comparison, there are only 2,756 distinct words of 13,199 tokens on average in the students’ 72
texts, and the mean in words is 550 per text on average across the three versions. It also shows that
in general a student’s text is shorter than an authentic text by around 100 words. Students’
inexperience of composing an informative & promotional brochure or applying the ‘avoidance
strategy’ to elude making errors may account for this gap. This was the students’ first time to write
about a specific professional genre and thus unfamiliarity with this genre made them cautious with
the word choices. Firstly, they may not have a clear idea of what words they have learnt could be
used, or secondly they may not have learnt the essential words needed for composing a tourist
attraction brochure. Hence, writing with fewer words is surely a good strategy to avoid making
errors for them.

Though there are 6,414 distinct/ different words (DW) calculated by WS in the end;
however, it cannot be assumed that these words are so-called ‘key words’ in authentic tourist
attraction brochures. A wordlist simply lists all the words used with their frequencies, which may
also appear frequently in other kinds of genre texts like the articles ‘a’ or ‘the’. Therefore, to
identify the key words in tourist attraction brochures it needs to do keywording.

Table 1: Total tokens, distinct words (DW) and key words (KW) in the authentic texts (AT) and the
students’ texts (ST)
Authentic tourist attraction brochures (AT)
*Total tokens/DW/
KW in AT
50,805 tokens
(78 texts)
651 tokens/AVG.
6,414 DW
728 KW
12.62 DW/ per 100 tokens
1.43 KW/ per 100 tokens
11.35 KW/ per 100 DW
Students brochures
The 1
version The 2
version The 3
#Total tokens/DW in
(24 texts)

2,708 DW

(24 texts)
550 tokens/AVG.
2,767 DW
2.756 DW/ AVG.
(24 texts)

2,793 DW
DW/ per 100 tokens 21.82 20.68 20.35

20.95 AVG.
Total KW
Ref. to BNC
260 284 293
-KW per 100 tokens/
Total KW
Ref. to AT
58 70 69
-KW per 100 tokens/
Total KW excl. special
36 45 42
^KW per 100 tokens/
Note: *:used for wordlisting and served as the reference corpus, #: used for wordlisting and served as the study
corpus, ^: excl. special terms, DW: distinct (or different) words, KW: key words; AVG: on average of that category
The key words in the authentic tourist attraction brochures compared to BNC
There are 728 key words in total, 661 of which are overused words and 67 words in italics are
underused compared to BNC. The higher ranking a word is, the more keyness it has in the study
corpus. Hence, the token “#”, referring to any digits such as 12, 254 or 100 etc., has the highest
keyness in tourist attraction brochures. While the words ranking from the 662th to the 728th are
underused words when compared to BNC, which implies these words are not as essential as the
overused words from ranking 1 to 661. Hence, for pedagogical implication it is these 661 words
that teachers should treat in priority for they are exactly the vocabulary which is used in authentic

I, then, classified the above 728 words into two main categories i.e. content words and
function words, and the content words were further divided into nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and
verbs as partially shown in Appendix 1. Many adjectives used in tourist attraction brochures are the
past participles like ‘themed’, ‘guided’, or ‘located’, which may also imply that the passive voice is
commonly seen throughout authentic brochures. If the words are examined closely, these key
words may collocate with certain words mainly in this genre. Take the verb ‘enjoy’ for instance, the
usage of gerunds following it is not commonly seen in the texts; one of the few examples is ‘enjoy
exploring the family-friendly paths’. Instead, nouns or noun phrases mostly follow the verb ‘enjoy’
such as ‘enjoy the peace and serenity’, ‘enjoy unlimited visits’ or ‘enjoy waiter service’. An excerpt
of its collocations is shown below in Table 2. Indeed, a keyword list like this is more significant
than the previous wordlist in terms of ESP genre teaching.


Table 2: The partial concordance of the verb ‘enjoy’ in authentic tourist attraction texts
N Concordance
1 …can sit back, relax and enjoy. Enjoy a variety of hot meals…
2 …so you can sit back, relax and enjoy. Enjoy a variety of hot…
3 …A beautiful outdoor terrace to enjoy your meal as well as th…
4 …ilt Study Centre. The Pavilion Enjoy morning coffee, a light…
5 …ne experience Terrace tea room Enjoy light lunches, homemade…
6 …urne House and Garden Explore, enjoy, unwind Restored to its…
7 …come groups and individuals to enjoy the delicious treats we…
8 …ng back 400 years. Golfers can enjoy a leisurely round on th…
9 …hat they used. The White Tower Enjoy the surprising serenity…
10 …wine list. Pay us a visit and enjoy! The Old Joint Stock is…
The wordlists for students’ texts
Again, I calculated how many words in total the students’ texts contain and how many distinct
words exist and then tried to compare the results with the authentic texts (AT). Table 1 indicates
that on average the students used around 2756 distinct words across three versions of their texts
while 6414 distinct words were identified in the AT. Apparently, there are more different words
used in AT than those in the ST; nevertheless, the number of total tokens in AT is much larger than
that in ST. Surprisingly, it is found that in fact the number of DW in every 100 tokens in AT is only
about half of that in ST i.e. 12.62: 20.95. This means that the students used more different or
distinct words than displayed in AT. However, these figures cannot be inferred that the students are
equipped with a strong base of English vocabulary and accordingly they could have more choices
of words in tourist attraction brochures. The fact may be that the students used many of ‘their’
words which are not ‘the’ words used in the AT. Teachers should be cautious with whether or not
students use the ‘right’ words in their writing, as it is these subtle differences of word choices and
constraints that make genres different from one another and look authentic or not.

The 3 versions of key word lists in the students’ texts compared to the authentic texts
Table 1 also demonstrates two types of keywording in ST with reference to BNC (which is shown
in dark shaded rows) and AT (which is shown in light shaded rows). With reference to BNC, there
are 260, 284, and 293 words, which are identified as key words in the three versions of ST
respectively but these words mostly overlap with the key words in AT. It would be more significant
to examine which words are overused and underused by the students in terms of creating an
authentically-flavoured tourist attraction brochure. Hence, I used the ST as the study corpus and the
AT as the reference corpus to locate these words.


In the end, 3 KW lists were generated and I will offer possible reasons to explain why some
words are overused and why some are underused. It is believed that the first reason stems from the
‘contextual differences’ i.e. the cultural factors existing in Taiwan and the UK. Following are some
obvious examples. The students preferred using the words ‘bus’, ‘No.’ (number), ‘highway’, or
‘road’ in the brochures. However, in the UK brochures highway is replaced by ‘motorway’, and
‘road’ is replaced by ‘street’. The address of an tourist attraction is necessary information but ‘No.’
does not appear in printing an address; therefore, instead of ‘No. 1, Hsung-ho Rd….”, the authentic
usage is “1, Hsung-ho street…”. Besides, in the UK a tourist attraction brochure advises visitors
how to get to the tourist attraction by ‘driving’ rather than taking a ‘bus’ due to the longer distance.
Another example of this category is an underused key word ‘house’. It is believed that visiting a
historic house is an attractive activity in the UK but this is not always the same case in Taiwan.
Some underused key words like ‘house’ were generated due to the contextual differences in the
interest of choosing an attraction to visit. After all, cultural factors or community constraints greatly
affect textual conventions and writers need to consider these boundaries while working (Johns,

The second reason is the ‘fossilisation of English learning’, which means in Taiwan ESP
learners, also formerly known as ELT learners, tend to use ‘formal’ English, especially a number of
so-called ‘elegant sentence patterns’ to demonstrate their English proficiency. Therefore, the
patterns like “It is…to…” or the participle construction “Having…., someone…’ make the words
‘it’, ‘is’ or ‘having’ become overused words. These patterns make the brochures sound too formal
and somewhat inauthentic in style, which would create unseen distance from visitors. In other
words, some patterns, which Taiwanese students are used to applying, cannot express the spirit of
hospitality and friendliness; nevertheless, this spirit is exactly the indispensible elements of H&T
industries. A sense of belonging for visitors is crucially important in H&T and appropriate choices
of words can enhance such touch. For example, the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ are much more frequently
used than ‘you’ and ‘your’ in hotel brochures (Yang, 2010a; 2010b). This problematic usage is also
found in this study because students are inclined to use ‘you’ (one of the overused words) instead of
‘our’ (one of the underused words) in the texts. To improve this situation would take much ESP
teachers’ efforts for ‘culture awareness’ can be purposefully and explicitly raised and then fostered
but to change a student’s linguistic habits is not an easy task in contrast. Language teachers are
suggested to conduct a genre-based instruction to handle this problem because a GBI involves
analysing grammar, moves, patterns, styles and lexis required for a certain genre while learners are
composing texts.

Finally, the last reason comes from the users’ ‘unilateral lexical knowledge’, which can
explain most of the overused words in the three keyword lists. This indicates that learners simply
know one side of a word but not the other, or they have limited vocabulary and thus are unable to
choose the right word. They tend to continuously use certain words, which become overused words
then. The following Table 3 compares the different usages of some key words in ST and AT.

Table 3: Different usages of overused & underused key words in ST and AT
Student texts Authentic texts
…can’t miss here.
…how to get here.
…you can do…here.

Here you’ll + Verb. (find, get)…
…how to get here/ there…
…get off at…

…get + prep. (off, away, out of..)..
…get + Adj./p.p. (clear, married, involved, wet,
lost, locked, fit…)
…get 1/ another free…
…you can…

…we (visitors, children) can…
ancient person, # persons, in person,
handicapped person

per person, 1 person free…
(Used to mean any activities, not specified.)
(Specific nouns)
exercise, tour, experience, adventure…(Nouns
are specified)
…you can DIY here…(Used to mean any
experiencing activities, not specified.)

(Specific verbs)
You can operate, experience, touch,
make…(Verbs are specified.)

scenic area (with limited usage)

dining/ play/ picnic/ function/ viewing area
(with various usages)
(referring to colour only)

(referring to grassy land)
different kinds of …
different varieties of…

different + N. (species/ routes/ levels)
You can know…
Do you know….?

Did you know…?
…to know…
VISIT (underused)
..to visit..
(limited usage)

pay …a visit, …for your visit, to visit, and
visit…, …with a visit, a visit to…, visit this…,
please visit…,
WORLD (underused)

…around/on the world… …world heritage/ famous/ class…
…a fascinating/ wild/ spooky/ whole/ early/

It is believed that this situation can also be gradually improved through teacher’s explicit
teaching of vocabulary in class. For the underused words, the teacher can address the varieties of
each word and encourage learners to try using it in a more creative way. With regards to the
overused words, students can be taught how to replace the overused words with other similar words
which may appear either in the wordlist of AT or in the keyword list of AT. For example, rather
than using the verb ‘DIY’ to refer to an action, students can try other more specific words like
‘explore’, ‘discover’, ‘ride’ or ‘learn’.

The evaluation of the three texts
As Table 1 above shows, it seems that in ST the numbers of KW across three versions do not
obviously decrease i.e. 58, 70, 69 and the KW in every 100 DW are 2.14, 2.52 and 2.47.
Apparently, the first time writing generated the fewest KW; however, it cannot be presumed that
the instruction was invalid completely. In fact, the students wrote with fewer words in the first
version than those in their second and third versions. There may be three possible reasons
accounting for this insignificant change. First, it is difficult to change students’ fossilised habits of
overusing the certain words or patterns. Secondly, the students were not given sufficient time to
digest what they were taught and to revise the returned text. Due to the constraint on time, the
students were required to submit their revised version within one week. Perhaps, time pressure
made them only focus on correcting grammatical errors rather than word choices. Besides, for a
writing class the size of 24 students is not small, which makes it difficult for the teacher to instruct
individually and thus the effectiveness is not obvious (Henry & Roseberry, 2007).

Quantitative data above is not the only criterion to measure the students’ progress. In fact, I
also used a qualitative measurement to evaluate their productions as discussed in the research
methodology section i.e. outsider evaluation. The following Table 4 displays the result of
perceptions on the better production among the three texts of the non-Chinese speakers’, over half
of whom are native English speakers as Table 5 shown.


Table 4: The percentages of the non-Chinese speakers’ choices of the better brochure
The 1

The 2

The 3
version Non-Chinese
readers (%)
0 0 8.32 8.32 91.66 91.66 66.66 33.33
Note: *ANR.: authenticity to read, MVV.: motivation to visit, EL1.: English as the 1
language, EL2.: English as the
second/foreign language.
Table 5: The distributions of the non-Chinese readers’ nationalities
English as the 1


UK., USA., South Africa, Australia,
English as the
language (EL2)

Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia*, Singapore*, South Korea,
Philippine*, India*, Japan
Note: *denotes the nations where English is spoken as one of the official languages.

As shown in Table 4, we can see that nearly all the outsiders perceived that the third version
was the best brochure among all in terms of authenticity of reading and motivation to pay a visit.
The reason why one of the second versions was chosen as the better brochure was that the evaluator
regarded it as good as the third one, so I marked one preference in the second column. Hence, it
still can be asserted that the third version was distinguished from the previous two versions among
all the students’ production, and the result confirms that the instruction is effective to some extent
for the word choices were modified gradually across the three versions. After all, with regard to the
purposes of publishing an informative and promotional text for H&T, how to convey correct and
charming information to the potential guests and then raise their motivation is the most crucial. In
their written comments, the evaluators showed their strong interests to read the brochures and high
motivation to visit the tourist attractions, and these responses are exactly what an H&T brochure
aims for and is expected.

Conclusion, Implications and Recommendations
Nowadays, as an international language English has become the main communicative medium for
both native English speakers and non-native English speakers, and it is inevitable that EFL learners
would produce locally-flavoured writings due to the influences of contextual differences. However,
it is still believed that appropriate choices and constraints of technical lexis and structures in a
genre can effectively facilitate communication and thus meet both the writer and readers’
expectations in a professional community. Hence, it would be helpful for ESP learners if word

frequencies and key word lists can be generated in order to identify the essential words, grammar
and patterns used in a special genre.

In this study, 78 English tourist attraction brochures together with 24 students’ self-
designed texts were used as the samples to be analysed with Word Smith. In total, there are 728 key
words (KW) identified in the authentic texts with reference to BNC and these words can play a
significant role in English education for specific purpose in hospitality and tourism because they
are supposed to be the essential words to compose an effective informative and promotional text. In
addition, this study also analysed the ESP learners’ work and achievements in a GBI writing
course. It was found that ESP learners in Taiwan might have different choices of lexis when writing
a specific genre from the ones used in the authentic texts. The likely reasons for this phenomenon
may come from three aspects i.e. contextual differences, fossilisation of English learning, and
unilateral lexical knowledge. Though the results also indicate that the apparent GBI in class
seemingly did not make significant changes on the students’ word choices within a short period of
time, the outsiders’ evaluations all confirm that the last version is the best among all in terms of
authenticity of reading and motivation to visit the place, which achieves the purpose of preparing
an informative and promotional brochure.

Choosing right words and knowing their constraints help construct the authenticity in a
specific genre. The results of this research firstly imply that in each genre there are essential key
words which are frequently used and ESP learners are required to employ these words if they need
to write a specific genre and their readers can only rely on English as a medium. Acquiring these
words can avoid inaccuracy and inauthenticity. Thus, it is hoped that ESP teachers and learners can
pay close attention to the high frequency words and key word lists for these words pinpoint the
authenticity and appropriateness of a particular genre language, which could make them reach the
communicative purposes in their professional community. As Paltridge (2001) argues, genre
analysis provides ESP learners with not only knowledge and skills but an access to socially
powerful forms of language. Furthermore, analysing these lists with the sources learners will read
and write empowers ESP educators to design curriculum, materials and activities, which gives them
a more central role (Hyland, 2004a; 2008).

Indeed, what a GBI classroom aims for is to equip ESP learners with abilities i.e. generic
competence (Bhatia, 2000) to “participate in and respond to new and recurring genres” (Paltridge,
2001, 7). In a word, compared to EGP (English for General Purposes) teaching, it may take

teachers’ more time and patience to design and teach an ESP course but if teachers simply rely on
the methods of teaching EGP to instruct an ESP course, this would truly make the instruction
prescriptive and less effective.

This research is a very preliminary trial of examining a less attended discipline in ESP in
Taiwan but it can serve as a starting point for further researching. For the future studies, it is,
firstly, advised to closely investigate how the key words are used in the texts i.e. concordance. By
looking at its concordance with rhetorical considerations, we may have a clearer idea of what
constitutes a holistic structure of this particular language and why the language is chosen
purposefully and how it is used by expert writers (Johns, 2002). In other words, we will study its
lexis, grammar, sentences and patterns at a broader level. Second, the focus can be placed on
recognising the moves and strategies applied in designing authentic tourist attraction brochures.
This investigation broadens the study from sentence to paragraph level and to the whole
organisation of writing, i.e. from semantics to pragmatics. Not until this stage is achieved can a
thorough ESP writing curriculum be well planned and then be implemented.

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Part of the assorted key words in authentic tourist attraction brochures with reference to BNC

Wen-hsien Yang is assistant professor in the Department of Applied English at National Kaohsiung University of
Hospitality & Tourism, Taiwan. He received his doctorate in ELT from the University of Exeter, UK. His main
research interests lie in the ESP aspects about second language writing, genre analysis and word analysis in specific
texts. He has also published a number of papers on ESP and corpus.
Effectiveness of Student Responses to Teacher Written Feedback: A Study of Thai Graduate
Supong Tangkiengsirisin

This study investigates how graduate students respond to various types of teacher
written feedback including surface-level, clarification-level, and content-level
feedback. Data were obtained from 180 students’ expository compositions, which
were analyzed in terms of categories of feedback delivered to them and the ways they
were revised in response to the teacher’s comments provided. The results revealed
that most of the students completely responded to the teacher commentary and
revised their initial drafts effectively. However, some of the student revisions were
partially complete, or in a few cases there were no revisions in response to the
comments, suggesting that the students did not understand the feedback the teacher
provided or that the teacher’s comments were not clear and effective enough.

Keywords: Teacher written feedback, process-oriented writing, second language writing

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Feedback plays a crucial role in developing students’ writing skills in the process-oriented approach. In
an EFL writing course, feedback can help students improve their content, organization, and grammar.
Students, regardless of age or educational level, tend to rely on feedback to improve their writing
during a revision process. There are a large number of studies conducted with regard to whether and
how feedback helps improve second language writing (e.g. Allwright & Bailey, 1991; Carroll, Swain,
& Roberge, 1992; Ellis, 1994; Gass, 1997; Lightbown & Spada,1990; Long, 1996). In addition, the
effects of feedback on the improvement of writing skills, both at the sentence level and at the discourse
level, have been studied even though the results of these studies are still inconclusive and sometimes
contradictory (e.g. Ferris, 1997; Frantzen, 1995; Semke, 1984; Sheppard, 1992).

Among the various types of feedback on writing, EFL students have shown their preference for
teacher written feedback over the other types of feedback including peer feedback and oral feedback in
conferences (Leki, 1991; Zhang, 1995). Although its contribution to students’ writing development is
still doubtful (Hyland & Hyland, 2006), writing teachers often feel that it is necessary to respond to
student errors, especially grammatical ones. This type of feedback is usually welcome by many ESL
students, particularly those from cultures where highly directive teachers are valued. Concerning its
benefit for students’ writing skill development, Ferris (2002) suggests that teacher feedback
customized to students’ knowledge and experience is a helpful technique for students so that they may
avoid future problems and errors in writing. Reid (1993) suggests that feedback needs to be provided
in enough detail so that students can act and commit to change in their writing. Sommers (1982)
advocates feedback delivery stressing that comments create the motive for revising; without them,
student writers will revise in a “consistently narrow and predictable way” and assume that their writing
communicates successfully (149). Leki (1991) maintains that teacher feedback is very important as
students usually want errors in their writing to be corrected, and they will feel frustrated if no teacher
feedback is provided for their writing. Teacher feedback apparently plays a significant role in
developing student writing although it may not be responsible for long-term language improvement.

In addition, no matter how important or useful teacher feedback is on student writing, it is still
not clear how effectively students can respond to the feedback. There are sometimes mismatches
between the teacher’s expectations about how students should rewrite their compositions and the actual
revision students perform in response to teacher feedback.

Review of the literature
Providing teacher written feedback to student writing
Because writing is considered as a complex developmental task and a recursive process, the process
approach focuses more on how a text is crafted through the discovery of meaning than on the
production of error-free sentences or paragraphs. In this approach, written feedback is given to both
content and form during all phases of writing, i.e. from the initial stage during which ideas are
generated to the final stage where the entire discourse is revised. With this method, texts were
improved considerably both in grammar and in content (Fathman & Whalley, 1990).

Teachers can find it less tiring to use online functions for giving feedback to student writing.
With a number of software programs available, teachers can spend less time grading essays. On the
students’ part, they would find feedback from their teachers less intimidating and, on the contrary,
more encouraging with electronic responses that they are more familiar with. Nevertheless, teachers
who are unfamiliar with or unskillful in utilizing computers as instructional media would find this
method threatening and unreliable particularly when having to handle a large number of writing

In the process approach, where students are required to produce multiple drafts, appropriate
comments should be provided during the various stages of writing. Teacher response to a first draft
will be to provide helpful comments on its progress and suggestions as to how it can be improved in
subsequent drafts. For a final draft, comments regarding “what we liked, how we felt about the text,
and what they might do next time if the students are going to write something different” should be
provided (Harmer, 2001: 111). Ferris (2003) suggests that feedback be delivered at intermediate stages
of the writing process because students can improve their writing in subsequent revisions based on the
teacher feedback.

Form-focused feedback in L2 writing
Providing form-focused feedback to L2 writing (either direct or indirect) is a crucial issue regarding
the improvement of student writing. This type of feedback, when delivered at the sentence level, can
be considered a form of meaningful input that helps learners understand better about L2 and deal with
their own language problems (e.g., Bates et al., 1993; Bosher, 1990; Graham, 1987). Because students
usually cannot identify their own errors both in form and meaning, feedback on form, even negative
feedback, may be necessary (Bosher, 1990; Graham, 1987). With teacher feedback, explanations about
their errors, or both, the number of errors that the ESL students made decreased (Leki, 1992).

Explicitness of teacher written feedback
Feedback may be direct with explicit corrections or indirect with advice or suggestions (Ferris, 2002).
These two types of feedback differ mainly in the degree of explicitness of error correction. While the
effects of explicit error correction may be doubtful, implicit feedback (e.g., giving codes, giving
symbols, providing marginal feedback or locating errors) can be employed as an alternative (Semke,
1984). Indirect feedback seems to be more useful as it involves students’ responsibility for their own
learning and more effective in improving their own proficiency than explicit or direct feedback (Ferris
& Hedgcock, 1998).

Research on teacher feedback
Teacher feedback may take one of the two major forms: teacher-student conferences and teacher
written feedback. While the former is less popular due to the time constraints and the large number of
students in writing classes, the latter is far more common as a means of responding to student writing.
Only teacher written feedback will be reviewed and discussed in this section as this type of feedback is
the main focus of this study.

Early studies have revealed some negative effects of L2 teacher written feedback. For instance,
Zamel (1985), in her analysis of L2 teachers’ written comments on students’ essays, found that the
teachers misinterpreted the students’ texts and gave comments in such a way that their subsequent
revised versions became less coherent. In addition, many of the teachers’ comments were vague and
confusing. Cohen (1987), in his investigation of the students’ perceptions of teacher feedback in
relation to their subsequent actions, found that some of the students ignored the teachers’ comments
and that the students had a limited repertoire of strategies to respond to the teachers’ comments.

Another factor that possibly leads to the failure of the teachers’ feedback is the mismatch
between students’ and teachers’ preferences for comments. Cohen (1987) and Cohen and Cavalcanti
(1990) reported that the students wished for more feedback on content than on grammar. Leki (1991)
found that the students strongly wished all their grammatical errors to be marked and corrected by their
teachers even though they showed a growing interest in content and organization. This revealed that
these EFL students had a mistaken notion of equating revisions with correcting surface errors and the
unrealistic expectation for perfect grammar might lead to a lack of improvement in students’ revisions.
Nevertheless, some studies showed that teacher feedback had a positive effect on students’
writing proficiency and resulted in improvement in student writing. EFL students valued teacher
feedback and expected to receive feedback from their teachers (Leki, 1990; Zhang, 1995). Students
also found teacher feedback useful for their revision, and they tended to carefully read their essays and
respond to teacher comments on the initial drafts rather than on the final drafts (Ferris, 1995). Teacher
feedback based on four major criteria: length, type, use of hedges, and text-specificity was also found
to have positive effects on student writing (Ferris, 1997). These teacher comments included limited
grammar feedback, marginal comments which functioned as requests for information or for revision,
and focused text-specific comments that provided clear directions for the revision tasks. In addition,
other feedback techniques that were claimed to be effective include an approach in which teachers had
to provide feedback only on certain aspects of content and form without giving comments on all
written errors or problems (Leki, 1992) and a study in which students were asked to produce written
dialogues in response to the teachers’ comments (Jenkins, 1987).

A comparative study between peer and teacher feedback in English writing classes revealed
that learners passively accepted and used more teacher feedback than peer feedback but did not
necessarily understand its value or significance (Lee, 2008; Zhao, 2010). With regard to students with
learning challenges, a study revealed that teacher written feedback positively affected student
performance and did not harm students' self-esteem (Siewert, 2011).

Revision in the process-oriented writing approach
In the process-oriented approach, writing is seen as a recursive process which consists of prewriting,
writing, and revision. Of all these stages, revision can be regarded as the major and most important
stage of process writing as it is usually through the revising process that student writing can be
improved with the help of various types of feedback. Revision may take place at any point during the
composing process (Flower & Hayes, 1981), where writers generate, reformulate, and refine ideas in
an attempt to discover and approximate intended meanings (Zamel, 1982, 1983). During the revising
stage, writers make both local and global alterations to their texts. These alterations involve both
meaning and content modifications, and grammatical and lexical corrections. Revision can also be
used as an assessment of the writing skills, and the ability to provide written feedback to assess
students’ proficiency contributes to the development of student writing. Revision was utilized as a type
of formative writing assessment to promote pedagogical practices and maximize student learning (Lee,

Teaching EFL writing in Thailand
Even though the process-oriented approach to writing is theoretically popular, its applications in the L2
context are not common and widespread. In Thailand, for instance, many writing classes at the
undergraduate and the graduate levels still rely on the traditional approach to teaching writing, which is
product-oriented and is mainly concerned with form. Only one draft is usually required for grading
without any rewriting. Students’ first drafts are essentially equivalent to their final drafts, and teachers
mainly provide comments on surface features rather than on the content or meaning.
This study contributes to existing research on teacher feedback by investigating how EFL
students revise their writing in response to the teacher’s written comments on both the content level
and the surface level. In particular, it presents the actual revisions the students performed in response
to teacher written feedback on their initial drafts of expository compositions. The feedback was
delivered in the form of comments to improve content, and the organization and coherence of the
students’ compositions, as well as correct the surface-level errors in their writing. Analysis of student
revisions in this study revealed the manners in which the students revised their drafts. The results of
this study mainly respond to the research question: How effectively do the students respond to teacher
written feedback and revise their initial drafts?

The study was conducted with 60 first-year graduate students pursuing a Master’s Degree in English
for Careers at a university in Thailand. All of them were Thai students enrolled in a required writing
course, and their age range was from twenty-three to fifty. They earned previous degrees in various
fields of study, and none of the participants had an overseas education as undergraduates even though
some of them had been working for international organizations.

Procedures and data collection
In this study, the teacher/researcher provided comments on the students’ 180 expository essays
regarding content, organization, word choice, and grammar. The modes of the expository essays were
cause-and-effect, comparison/contrast and classification. The students were required to send their first
drafts to the teacher through e-mail. Subsequently, the teacher gave comments on the drafts and
returned them through e-mail to the owners of the essays for revision. The students sent their rewritten
drafts, which were revised in response to the teacher feedback. In this study, the students were asked to
make only one revision of their initial drafts.

Data analysis
Analysis of teacher written feedback
The data consisted primarily of the students’ initial drafts that had received teacher written feedback.
The teacher written comments in each composition were analyzed in terms of feedback types including
surface-level feedback, clarification-level feedback and content-level feedback (Paltridge et al., 2009).
The students’ revised drafts were subsequently analyzed in terms of the students’ response to the
teacher written feedback provided in their initial drafts.

The three categories of teacher written feedback used in this study and their applications are
presented in table 1.

Table 1 Categories of teacher written feedback and their applications


Surface-level feedback Corrective feedback on word choice and grammar
Comments requesting corrections or alterations to
unclear issues
Content-level feedback Comments focusing on the organization of information
as well as the information itself
Analysis of students’ responses to teacher written feedback
This analysis, which involves the examination of the students’ revisions in response to the teacher
written feedback, was adapted from the analysis of successful and unsuccessful revisions in students’
essays developed by Conrad & Goldstein (1999). Student moves related to the teacher comments were
classified into three types:

Complete response to teacher written commentary (CR) refers to student revision moves that
matched the teacher’s purpose for providing a particular comment. Student moves with this
type of response took several forms, e.g. adding, deleting, substituting, moving words or
phrases, copying a teacher-provided correction and rewriting a sentence or a paragraph.
Partial response to teacher written commentary (PR) refers to student revision moves made
when the student attempted to revise an area commented on, but the revision did not match
the teacher’s purpose in providing the comment.
No response to teacher written commentary (NR) refers to student revision moves that were
made when the student did not revise an area commented on by the teacher. In other words,
the student made no change in his or her revised draft in response to the teacher comment
provided in the initial draft; the student merely copied from the initial draft to the revised

In this study, the analysis of teacher written comments and student moves in response to the teacher
comments was performed by two coders. One of the coders was the researcher himself and the other
coder was a Thai instructor who earned a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from a university in the U.S.
and has taught English at the tertiary level in Thailand for over 20 years. The inter-coder agreement for
the teacher written comments was 91%, and that for the moves in response to the teacher written
comments was 93%

In the present study, different numbers of teacher written comments were provided on students’ initial
drafts. Table 2 shows the number of written comments of each type.

Table 2 Number of written comments in each category
Types of Comments Frequencies (%)
Surface-level feedback 566 (40.1)
Clarification-level feedback 308 (21.9)
Content-level feedback 534 (38)

Total 1,408

The study has also revealed the students’ responses to the teacher written feedback. Table 3 indicates
the number of student moves with complete, partial or no response to the comments.


Surface-level feedback
Clarification-level feedback

Content-level feedback 90.6 7.1 2.3

Responses to Surface-level Feedback (SL)
This type of feedback was the most frequently used in this study with 566 SL comments (40.1%) being
provided. The comments of this type took the form of addition, substitution or deletion of items in
students’ drafts.
Regarding the students’ responses to SL feedback, the data analysis reveals that the complete
response was the most common (98.9%). In most cases of SL feedback, the students copied the
teacher’s corrections, whether they involved addition, substitution or deletion of words or phrases.
There were only a few tokens of partial response and to the teacher’s SL comments in the students’
revised drafts. There was no token of no response for this type of feedback.
SL feedback was offered on the basis of the teacher’s assessment of individual students’
language proficiency and writing abilities. The teacher made a correction or added a word where he
assumed that an individual student was unfamiliar with a certain use of an English word or would be
incapable of correction of a certain error. For instance, in a student’s draft

…some of Thais’ ways of lives are changing and some of good beliefs will be changed based
on cultures.

The teacher added the word “other,” between the words “on” and “cultures,” assuming that the student
was unfamiliar with the use of “other” in her writing to make a contrast between entities. The teacher
did not provide any explanation regarding the addition of “other.”
In addition, the teacher provided correction for the surface errors that were considered minor
and not worth distracting the students while revising their initial drafts with the task of self-correction.
Again, the teacher provided the correction as a target-like model. An example of teacher correction of
a minor error is the teacher correcting a personal pronoun. In the sentence
Since Thai people are adaptable to globalization, we enjoy living among the changes caused.
Table 3 Responses to teacher written feedback




The teacher changed the personal pronoun “we” to “they” to refer to “Thai people” anaphorically This
The teacher changed the personal pronoun “we” to “they” to refer to “Thai people” anaphorically. This
substitution prevented distraction during revision and in this case the teacher believed that the student
would understand why the correction was made.

Responses to Clarification-level feedback (CLL)
A total of 308 CLL comments (21.9%) were provided in this study. The CLL comments consisted of
(1) questions, (2) short phrases, (3) general statements, (4) symbols (such as arrows, circles or question
Based on the data analysis, the students generally made complete revisions in accordance with
the CLL comments (81.2%). However, some of them made partial revisions (14.3%) or no revisions at
all (4.5%). An example of CLL feedback involves the expansion of a student’s ideas to clarify an
argument. The following extract has been taken from a cause-and-effect essay composed by a student.

…..AEON, a financial investor from Japan, is a good example to reflect the globalization.
AEON is well known among the working class workers who work for low wages. Why ??
[Comment: No explanatory comments were offered to this sentence. Instead, the teacher put
the question “why” and double question marks after the sentence.]

In the student’s revised draft, she added a reason to expand and clarify the sentence, explaining why
“AEON is well known among the working class workers who work for low wages”. The revised draft

…..AEON, a financial investor from Japan, is a good example to reflect the globalization.
AEON is well known among the working class workers who work for low wages since this is
the only way for poor people to obtain the cash with fast approval, no guarantor, no
difficulty, and simple documentations.

The teacher used CLL comments to encourage the student to “expand” by giving a reason (See
Halliday, 1994: 324). This type of feedback led to the complete revision of the student’s initial draft,
enhancing paragraph development.

A relatively small number of the student moves had partial response to the CLL comments.
Forty-four comments (14.3%) resulted in revisions that were not completely accurate. In these cases,
the students’ revised drafts suggested that while the students noticed the comments on their initial
drafts and despite their attempt to revise their first drafts in accordance with the comments, their
revision was not successful and did not match the teacher’s purpose in making the comments.

In the following example, the student seemed to understand what she was supposed to do in her
revision, in response to the CLL comment provided at the problematic area. However, in her revised
draft she still had inappropriate use of cohesion. The following extract was taken from a body
paragraph of a cause-and-effect essay.

Another reason of Thai poor economy is corruption. Our country loses a tremendous amount
of money while the national wealth is illegal transformed into individual benefits. It is a
negative image of Thailand. [Comment: What does “it” refer to?]

The teacher circled the personal pronoun “it” and put a question (as shown in the comment) under the
pronoun. However, in the student’s revised version, she changed the pronoun “it” to the demonstrative
reference tie “this”. Hence, her revised draft is

Another reason of Thai poor economy is corruption. Our country loses a tremendous amount
of money while the national wealth is illegal transformed into individual benefits. This is a
negative image of Thailand.

The teacher used the CLL feedback to suggest that the pronoun “it” needed revising, or changing. In
this instance, it is apparent that the student realized that she would need to change the word “it” to
another word. However, her revision was not complete or was partially complete because she used
only the demonstrative pronoun “this,” instead of a complete noun phrase containing a summarizing
noun, to cataphorically refer to the preceding situation. An improved version should be

Another reason of Thai poor economy is corruption. Our country loses a tremendous amount
of money while the national wealth is illegal transformed into individual benefits. This
problem has led to the negative image of Thailand.

This instance suggests that the CLL feedback delivered to the student’s initial draft so that she could
improve her draft might not have been clear enough to help her find the most appropriate cohesive
device to link the revised sentence to the preceding one. Hence, the partial response to the comment.

When student moves had no correspondence to the CLL comments, the students made no
revision in response to the teacher feedback. For example, the teacher gave a CLL comment so that the
student would explain more clearly. The following extract has been taken from a body paragraph of a
classification essay.

Who are these people?
Problem-solving skills are in the second category. I realize that these people can get their
jobs done successfully. I was confronted with the significant problem in my previous firm.
My team was preoccupied with a long term project that could not be completed in one
month. We would be fired if we couldn’t submit our customer’s project by the due date…..

In this case, the student did not make any change to the noun phrase “these people” as she revised her
initial draft. She left it as it was, instead of expanding the phrase by adding more specific information
so that the sentence would read:

I realize that people with these skills can get their jobs done successfully.

To find out why the student made no revision in response to this comment, the teacher asked the
student, and she said she did not know how to revise her writing.

The CLL feedback provided an opportunity for the students to self-correct, and a majority of
cases, the students were able to respond completely to the comments or suggestions. The teacher used
the less specific indications of symbols, questions and brief phrases and statements to direct the
students’ attention towards areas that needed revision. He expected that the students, when receiving
this type of feedback, would know how to correct the errors or enhance cohesion in their writing once
their attention was drawn to them.

Responses to Content-level feedback (COL)
In the present study, the COL comments were used the second most frequently after the SL feedback.
A total of 534 COL comments (38%) were provided on the students’ initial drafts. This type of
feedback was specifically used to provide an opportunity for the students to resolve problems related to
the organization or content in their writing.

In response to this type of feedback, most of the revisions were complete (90.6%), while only a
few were partially complete (7.1%) and in a few other cases, no response was provided for revision at
all (2.3%).

Some of the COL comments were brief and concise, while others were much longer, usually
explaining a corresponding rule or providing a direction for revision. Some of the COL comments even
combined more than one purpose; for instance, they provided an explanation or a reason for revision
along with a specific direction for revising a particular section of a draft. For example, the teacher
provided the following comment for a student to revise her draft for cohesion between the thesis
statement and the body paragraphs.

The main problem with your organization is that your thesis statement at the end of your
introductory paragraph does not reveal what your body paragraphs will be about
[Identification of a problem]. You need to relate those two areas in your essay. So, when you
rewrite, include the key words from the topic sentences of your body paragraphs in your
thesis statement [Direction for revision]. Your thesis statement will be stronger and clearer if
you use an essay map [Explanation for the need for revision].

The teacher used the COL feedback to help the students to reflect on the comment carefully and
identify how the problematic areas should be resolved during their revision. This would also involve
deleting a sentence or adding another sentence to make the text more coherent.

The COL feedback was utilized to provide opportunities for the students to self-correct. Instead
of providing correction directly, the teacher used this type of feedback, which identified areas for
revisions of material within students’ developmental range.

Most of the student moves (90.6%) had complete response to the COL comments. This
suggests that the teacher’s purpose in using this type of feedback to provide opportunities for self-
correction was fulfilled. The following example illustrates the students’ complete response to the
teacher’s comments.

One effect of globalization is the advancement of communication technology. The
technological revolution has provided a faster way to communicate. Thai people are now able
to keep in touch with the outside world affordably.
[Comments: This paragraph is too short. If you can give some examples to show how Thais
can communicate with the outside world, your paragraph will be better developed. Also,
think about how you can introduce an example.]

In the student’s revised draft, she added three examples introducing the first using the conjunctive
expression “for example” and introducing the last using “moreover”.

One effect of globalization is the advancement of communication technology. The
technological revolution has provided a faster way to communicate. Thai people are now able
to keep in touch with the outside world affordably. For example, real-time online meetings
across the countries are possible via the wireless Internet web camera. Parents can make a
live chat with their children studying in the United States. Moreover, many young people
access the Internet regularly and know what books are now being published in the England or
what top hit songs are in the Billboard chart.

The teacher used COL comments to encourage the student to “elaborate” through apposition (See
Halliday, 1994: 324) using a conjunctive expression (“for example,” in this case) to exemplify her
argument that Thai people are now able to contact the outside world conveniently. In this instance, the
student also used “extension” for positive addition; specifically, she introduced a final example using
the conjunctive expression “moreover”. This COL feedback led to complete revision of the student’s
initial draft and enhanced the use of cohesion, as well as paragraph development.

However, some student moves were found to have partial response to the COL comments. In
these cases, the students’ revised drafts indicated that the students failed to match the teacher’s purpose
in making the comments.

In the following example, an extract from a classification essay, a COL comment was provided
so that the student could revise the topic sentences in her expository essay. In the following extract, the
introductory paragraph is first presented with the last sentence serving as a thesis statement, which
reveals the major topics to be discussed in the subsequent body paragraphs. Then the COL comments
are provided below the introductory paragraph. (The teacher’s purpose in writing the comments here is
to draw the student’s attention to the relationship between the thesis statement and the body
paragraphs.) Following the comments are the first sentences of the body paragraphs of the essay,
presented in the chronological order. However, the topic sentence of each body paragraph does not
reveal the main topic of the paragraph as introduced earlier in the thesis statement, resulting in a lack
of global cohesion in the essay, even though the student used the sequence signals, i.e. first, second and
finally. In the student’s revised draft, the student’s correspondence to the comment was apparently
incomplete; therefore, her revision was still not very effective.

School is the place to educate students and also the place for new technologies. I have been
teaching for more than fifteen years and notice that there are three categories of teachers
when using technologies as criteria. There are teachers who are ready to adapt themselves to
new technologies, teachers who are somewhat ready to do, and teachers who are not ready
for the new technologies. (The last sentence serves as the thesis statement of this essay.)
[Comments: You can make your essay more cohesive by rewriting the topic sentence of each
paragraph. The topic sentences should reiterate the major points presented in the thesis
First, these teachers are usually in their twenties or in the early thirties. Most of them have
knowledge in computer and can operate it effectively…..
Second, these teachers are usually in their late thirties to mid forties. These teachers have
limited knowledge in technologies and computer…..
Finally, these teachers are usually in their late forties to fifties and get used to using
traditional method of teaching such as merely talking and writing on the blackboard or the

In the student’s revised draft, the topic sentence of each paragraph was revised. However, it seemed
that the student did not fully understand how to revise her topic sentences according to the COL
comments provided. Even though she changed the cohesive device used at the beginning of each body
paragraph, she did not add to the topic sentences the major points she included in the thesis statement.
Instead, she simply changed the sequence signals “first,” “second” and “finally” to “for the first
category,” “for the second category” and “for the third category” respectively. Consequently, her
response to the feedback could be considered to be partial and her revision was regarded as being
incomplete and not sufficiently coherent. In fact, the student only changed each sequence signal to a
nominal group signifying sequence using the head noun “category”.

All the above examples show how the teacher delivered feedback on student’s first drafts and
how the students responded to the feedback. In most cases, student revision was successful; in some
instances, unsuccessful revision was performed, or no response was provided.

All of the students in the study used the comments to revise their writing as they moved along from the
beginning to the end of their initial drafts. Regarding the student moves to teacher written feedback, it
appeared in this study that the majority of the teacher comments were responded to with complete
response in three ways:
1. the students copied the teacher’s corrections.
2. the students appropriately added a word, a phrase or a clause.
3. the students appropriately made changes to text.
With regard to the student moves with partial or no response to the commentary, there are several
possible reasons for the mismatch:
1. the students did not understand the teacher comments.
2. the students were not able to change the language or writing using the teacher
3. the students chose not to make a revision.

The teacher written feedback served two main purposes in the present study. First, surface-level
feedback or direct correction was used to provide feedback on the form of the students’ writing with a
specific focus on word choice and grammar. Second, clarification-level feedback and content-level
feedback were used in the form of directions, questions and statements about language usage and
writing conventions to provide both form-focused and content-focused feedback. Feedback delivery
and revision are a type of social interaction that occurs when a teacher provides written feedback on
students’ initial drafts and the students modify their drafts in response to the teacher feedback.

Feedback can provide useful language information to the learner while making connections
between his or her current interlanguage and the second language (Ferris, 2003). Feedback can also
provide metalinguistic information that may raise learners’ consciousness regarding the second
language (Gass, 1997). In addition, when students have opportunities to receive feedback on their
writing, they can analyze language while producing modified output (Swain, 1995). It is evident that
opportunities to modify output are available to any student who makes revisions in response to the
feedback provided through teacher written comments on the content and language usage in student
writing. It can be claimed that students and teachers can negotiate meaning through modifications of
input and output in writing. In other words, when a teacher writes comments on student writing, a
negotiation for meaning is induced, and meaningful input is made comprehensible through
modifications (in the form of expansions, examples, etc.).

Even though the students expected their teacher to give feedback mainly on their grammatical
errors in their first drafts, in general feedback on content, rhetoric, and organization should take
priorities so that the students can develop ideas that they plan to include in their writing more clearly
and accurately and can avoid writing clear, well-organized, but inaccurate ideas (Campbell, 1998).
After providing comments on content, rhetoric, and organization, the teacher can then move on to the
sentence-level problems of grammar, spelling, and mechanics.

Positive results were found in the students’ writing when the students were required to revise
their initial drafts in response to teacher written feedback. These results mirror the results yielded from
some previous studies on teacher feedback, especially error correction, followed by students’ revisions,
concluding that writing accuracy could improve during the revision process subsequent to the students’
receiving feedback (Ferris, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006; Zamel, 1985). A fair amount of empirical
evidence also advocates the positive effects of revision subsequent to feedback delivery on students’
accuracy in their writing “either in a short term or long term” (Fathman & Whalley, 1990; Ferris, 1997;
Chandler, 2003; Ferris & Roberts, 2001).

The findings also reveal that in the students’ revised drafts, errors were reduced most when in
response to corrective feedback. It can be stated that student writing improved most as a result of this
most explicit feedback, which naturally accommodated the students’ revision as they made changes in
accordance with the corrections provided; in many cases they simply copied the teacher’s corrections
on their revised drafts. The results in this study corresponded to Chandler’s (2003) results, concluding
that direct feedback or correction by the teacher was the most effective of the four types of feedback
(correction, underlining and description, description, and underlining in this respective order) provided
to student writing. The superiority of direct feedback over the other feedback types was probably
because it is “the fastest and the easiest way for them (students) to revise” (291).

In response to the teacher written comments, the student moves reflected three types of
response to the purpose of the comments: complete, partial and no response. These responses refer to
the degree to which a student move resulted in a revision that matched the teacher’s purpose in
providing a comment. In this study, the great majority of the student moves responded to the comments
completely. The fact that there were some moves that had partial response to the commentary suggests
that the students consistently put their great efforts in responding to the teacher comments though not
successfully. This, in turn, reflects the students’ perception of the teacher feedback as important and
valuable as in the Thai culture, teachers’ advice or suggestions are mostly expected to be followed.

In this study, the student moves in response to the teacher written comments were similar in
that the students all copied the corrections provided by the teacher into their revised drafts. Moreover,
most of the students seemed to have noticed the comments and made revisions related to the
comments. The appropriately revised output indicated that the student successfully demonstrated
linguistic or rhetorical ability to fulfill the objective of the comment, even though s/he might have
sought assistance from any of the potentially helpful resources. In the few cases where the student
moves had no response to the teacher comments, several reasons can be offered on the basis of the
students’ responses in the questionnaires. First, the student did not understand the comment; second,
the student did not have the related language or writing skill to revise their writing; third, due to time
constraints, the student did not have enough time to revise properly; fourth, they disagreed with the
teacher comments provided; and finally, the teacher comments were unclear or ineffective.
Clearly, the students were able to manipulate the second language in response to the teacher
comments. The findings indicate that the students received a great deal of feedback both on form and
on content, feedback with metalinguistic information, input with requests for clarification and modified
input with expansions. The students’ revised drafts revealed that the students were able to use the input
to modify their writing by making additions, deletions and substitutions with respect to information in
their initial drafts, thereby increasing readability their writing. To accommodate students’ successful
revision, teachers need to pay careful attention to the ways they provide feedback on student writing.
Effective feedback on students’ initial drafts can significantly contribute to their effective revision.
Based on the findings of this study, in most cases, the graduate students were able to make complete or
successful revisions at all levels of feedback provided. They mainly relied on the teacher’s comments
to rewrite or improve their writing in the initial drafts. Even though some of the revisions were not
successful, they showed their attempt to modify their writing in response to the feedback. There were
relatively low incidences where no response was provided due to the students’ inability to make
revisions or to understand feedback.

The research findings of this study suggest several important pedagogical implications. First of
all, the overall research results suggest that feedback and revision can contribute to the improvement of
student writing. Teacher written feedback can provide students with an additional layer of scaffolding
to develop their writing skills, promote accuracy and clear ideas, and develop an understanding of
written genres (Hyland, 2003). In the context of this study, teacher written feedback should be
customized to facilitate students’ revision. In addition, a combination of all types of written comments
should be provided on the basis of the student’s proficiency level and the level of difficulty regarding
the writing problem being addressed. However, there is concern over the amount of feedback provided
on each piece of student writing. That is, an excessive amount of feedback might be overwhelming and
cause confusion to students. Content-level and clarification-level feedback might be delivered for
students’ first revision and surface-level feedback might be provided to accommodate their second
revision, although two or more revisions would consume more of the teacher’s time.

Additionally, revision is an important activity that can help improve student writing and, in
turn, contribute to the development of a better attitude toward L2 writing. Students should be
encouraged to revise and rewrite their essays throughout a writing course so that they will be motivated
enough to become independent EFL writers who can perform self-editing and self-revision later in
their life (e.g. Ferris, 1995). Then, writing would not be only a tedious assignment that EFL/ESL
students are required to complete on a weekly or fortnightly basis or just a piece of material to be
marked and used as part of course evaluation.


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Supong Tangkiengsirisin is an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics at the Language Institute of Thammasat
University, Bangkok, Thailand, where he currently serves as Director. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from
Chulalongkorn University and earned his Ph.D. in English Studies from the University of Nottingham. With over 20 years
of teaching experience at the tertiary level, he has covered a wide range of areas in his teaching including academic writing,
written business communication, English for Specific Purposes, and career-related English skills, both in the undergraduate
and graduate levels. He also specializes in teacher training in Thai contexts with a focus on English teachers’ language
skills and professional development for primary and secondary education. His research interests involve second language
writing, genre analysis, and interlanguage pragmatics. He has compiled course books on English for Health Sciences and
English for Sociology and Anthropology.

Writing Anxiety: EFL Postgraduate Students Writing Research Papers in English
Montarat Rungruangthum
This paper aims to examine the factors that lead to writing anxiety as perceived by EFL
learners and the strategies they use to cope with their anxiety while writing research papers in
English. Four postgraduate students (three Thai and one Chinese) studying in the first-year
international PhD program in Applied Linguistics were asked to submit their research papers
at the end of the course. The Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI)
questionnaire was administered in Weeks 10 and 14 to assess their anxiety levels while they
were writing their papers. A semi-structured interview was used to elicit the causes of writing
anxiety and coping strategies. The results show that the factors causing anxiety about their
writing were: teachers and grading. Leki’s (1995) framework of coping strategies reveal that
these participants frequently used Focusing strategies and Stopping writing when they wrote
research papers in English.

Key words: Writing anxiety, writing research paper, and English as a Foreign

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As English is becoming more dominant as a world language, many higher education institutions use it
as a medium of instruction in their educational programs (Parker, 2010). In Thailand, the number of
government universities which provide international PhD programs has been increasing (Wiriyachitra,
2002). Postgraduate students studying in international programs in Thai universities are required to
write assignments, research papers, and dissertations and to make presentations in English. For
example, at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), postgraduate students of
Applied Linguistics must have at least one publication in an international peer reviewed journal as one
of the graduation requirements (School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut’s University of Technology
Thonburi, 2008). The challenge of writing in English may cause anxiety which is hypothesized to
result in poor-quality written tasks. Therefore, it is very important to study the causes of anxiety as
perceived by EFL learners and investigate how to help them cope with anxiety.

Writing anxiety
Writing anxiety can be defined as “a fear of the writing process that outweighs the projected gain from
the ability to write” (Thompson, 1980, p. 121). The productive skills, such as speaking and writing,
generate anxiety higher than the other language skills (Aydin, 2008; Tsui, 1996). Prior studies on
writing anxiety over the last two decades have been centered on ESL learners, whereas there has been
little information available on how EFL learners perceive anxiety about writing in academic contexts
(Aydin, 2008; Atay & Kurt, 2006; Mat Daud, Mat Daud, & Abu Kassim, 2005). In Thailand, English
writing skills are very important for postgraduate students because they are required to be published in
scholarly publications. Research into problems encountered by non-native students of English writing
research papers has highlighted four broad areas of concern: 1) little awareness of the audience/reader;
2) the amount of time needed for writing; 3) lack of ability in making claims and writing arguments;
and 4) being concerned with vocabulary, structure, and writing style (Cheung, 2010; Flowerdew, 1999:
Gebhard, 1996).

Writing anxiety, as shown in Table 1, can be assessed by using two types of questionnaires:
Writing Apprehension Test (WAT) and Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI). The
former was proposed by Daly and Miller (1975) to measure writing anxiety of ESL learners. However,
this test was originally developed with reference to first language learners (Atay & Kurt, 2006; Cheng
2004; Erkan & Saban, 2011). The latter was developed by Cheng (2004) and has been widely used to
estimate the degree of writing anxiety perceived by ESL and EFL learners. Many research studies on
writing anxiety report that SLWAI has good internal consistency (Atay & Kurt, 2006; Cheng, 2004;
Erkan & Saban, 2011; Oztürk & ÇeÇen, 2007). The SLWAI was therefore chosen for the present study
to examine the degree of anxiety of EFL postgraduate students when they were writing a research
paper in English.

Table 1: Studies on writing anxiety
Author(s) Research Focus Data Collection Results
Harris & Grangenett
Graduate students
in U.S.
WAT and a record of
network use
Writing apprehension was
significantly correlated to login
Cheng (2004) EFL students SLWAI The development of SLWAI
Mat Daud, Mat
Daud, & Abu
Kassim (2005)
ESL university
WAT The low proficiency group was
anxious about vocabulary and
language use. By contrast, the
high proficiency group was
worried about content.
Atay & Kurt (2006) ESL prospective
SLWAI and open-
ended questions
Causes of writing anxiety were:
Teachers, past experiences, due
date, inability to organize ideas,
and exams
Öztürk & ÇeÇen
EFL students SLWAI and portfolio Using portfolios to overcome
writing anxiety perceived by EFL
Notes: While “SLWAI” stands for Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory, “WAT” refers to Writing Apprehension

Coping strategies for writing in English
Coping strategies originally referred to “the methods these participants used to approach and complete
the writing tasks assigned them over the course of the semester” (Leki, 1995, p. 240). The present
study attempts to investigate whether the original categorization by Leki could be used to identify how
EFL participants deal with writing anxiety. For non-native speakers of English, writing anxiety may
have a negative effect on their writing performance. It is essential to analyze their coping strategies to
help them become less anxious when writing a research paper in English. It seems an important study
on coping strategies was conducted by Leki (1995), investigating how ESL university students
achieved their written assignments when they were studying in the United States. The data includes
interviews with ESL students over a semester, interviews with their professors, classroom
observations, and examinations were further analyzed using a qualitative approach. According to
Leki’s findings, these ESL students reported ten categories of coping strategies when they needed to
submit their written assignments in English:
1. Clarifying strategies- The participants use these strategies to make sure that they
understand what is required in the written assignment, such as talking to other students
about the assignment.
2. Focusing strategies-The participants use these strategies to concentrate on a written task,
such as rereading the assignment several times, reading books or relevant research articles
to develop their written tasks.
3. Relying on past writing experiences-The participants refer to past writing experiences in
their efforts to accomplish their current writing tasks.
4. Taking advantages of first language/culture-The participants take advantage of being
international students and attempt to incorporate something about their background
knowledge in their written tasks.
5. Using current experience or feedback to adjust strategies-The participants receive current
feedback on their assignments from teachers or friends to guide their work.
6. Looking for models-The participants find examples for their written assignments.
7. Using current or past ESL writing training-The participants may use current or past writing
techniques that they have learned before, such as brainstorming before writing.
8. Accommodating the teacher’s demands-The participants gauge their teacher’s opinions,
purposely suppressing their ideas about their written tasks.
9. Resisting the teacher’s demands- The participants may ignore the guidelines given by the
teacher or fail to do the written assignments.
10. Managing competing demands-The participants are aware of their responsibility in the time
allotted, including managing course loads, managing work load for a specific course,
regulating the amount of investment made in a specific assignment, and managing the
demands of life.
Since some postgraduate students in Thailand have to publish in a scholarly publication in an
international refereed journal, the challenge of writing in English may cause anxiety and may affect
their written tasks. The coping strategies used by EFL learners were included in the present study to
help them deal with the anxiety of writing their research papers in English. This paper, therefore,
investigates the factors leading to writing anxiety and the strategies that EFL learners in Thailand
frequently used when writing a research paper in English. The research questions addressed were as
(1) What factors contributed to writing anxiety of EFL postgraduate students while writing their
research papers?
(2) What strategies did the EFL postgraduate students use to cope with their anxiety while
writing their research papers?

Research methodology
Participants in the present study were four EFL postgraduate students who were studying in the first-
year international PhD program of Applied Linguistics at King Mongkut’s University of Technology
Thonburi (KMUTT), Thailand. All participants, as shown in Table 2, enrolled in the course Theories in
Language Learning (TLL) and were assigned to submit a research paper in English based on their
interests at the end of the course. Since these EFL participants had never written a research article in
English before, this task was completely new to them. It was predicted that the participants might
encounter a certain degree of anxiety while writing a research paper although they had high English
language proficiency and passed the university language test (or had at least a 6.5 IELTS score). In this
paper, the participants’ names are replaced by pseudonyms and permission was obtained from each
participant for collection and publication of the research data.

Table 2: Participants’ profile
Ping Suda Ying Chai
Nationality Chinese Thai Thai Thai
Gender Female Female Female Male
Age 34 30 28 24
Writing research paper in English Never Never Never Never
Passed language test /6.5 IELTS score Yes Yes Yes Yes

Research instruments
Two research instruments were utilized to investigate the writing anxiety and the coping strategies
used by the EFL participants while they were writing their research papers: the Second Language
Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI) and semi-structured interviews.

The Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI), the latest version, was proposed by
Cheng (2004) initially to assess the degree of writing anxiety individuals feel when writing in a second
language. The SLWAI consists of 22 items, all of which are answered on a five-point Likert scale from
“strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. Many studies have reported the effectiveness of this
questionnaire in terms of reliability and validity (Atay & Kurt, 2006; Cheng, 2004; Öztürk & ÇeÇen,
2007; Guo & Fan, 2009) and can be used to determine writing anxiety levels perceived by either ESL
or EFL learners (Cheng, 2004; Guo& Fan, 2009). Consequently, the SLWAI was employed in the
current study to establish the level of writing anxiety at three levels: low anxiety, moderate anxiety and
high anxiety.

A semi-structured interview was used to gather information on the nature of the anxiety caused
by writing a research paper in English and the coping strategies used by EFL participants. The
participants’ responses in these interviews enabled the current researcher to understand the
participants’ experiences of being anxious and the contexts of English writing. These EFL participants
were then asked to: 1) report the progress of writing their research paper; 2) specify their writing
difficulties and reasons for feeling anxious; and 3) identify the coping strategies they used when they
were writing a research paper in English.

Data collection
The data collection on writing anxiety was conducted in the second semester of 2008 when four EFL
participants were in the first-year of the international PhD program at King Mongkut’s University of
Technology Thonburi, Thailand. The SLWAI was administered to investigate changes in writing
anxiety. For the semi-structured interviews, each participant was informed about the research purposes,
procedures and confidentiality. They then signed a consent form before the data collection. Each
participant was individually interviewed in English in the final week to elicit his/her experiences of
being anxious and to avoid any influences from the other participants (Rubin & Rubin, 1995). The
semi-structured interview lasted for 10-20 minutes. They were also asked to report their causes of
anxiety and coping strategies that they used while they were writing a research paper.

Analysis of second language writing anxiety inventory (SLWAI)
The data obtained from the SLWAI revealed the anxiety levels when these participants were writing
research papers. The writing anxiety level can be divided into three levels based on the total score of
the questionnaire (the total score = 110): low anxiety (equal to or lower than 58), average anxiety
(ranging from 59 to 82), and high anxiety (equal to or higher than 83) (Atay & Kurt, 2006, p. 5). Table
3 indicates that there was a slight change in writing anxiety from week 10 to week 14. Only Chai, the
male participant, was able to decrease his anxiety significantly when writing a research paper in

Table 3: Writing anxiety level
Week 10
Anxiety level
Week 14
Anxiety Level
Ping 55 Low anxiety 57 Low anxiety
Suda 50 Low anxiety 48 Low anxiety
Ying 52 Low anxiety 58 Low anxiety
Chai 57 Low anxiety 53 Low anxiety

The results of the SLWAI, as summarized in Table 4, show that these EFL participants did not
display avoidance behavior in using English while writing a research paper (Items 5, 6, and 21). Some
items (3, 9, 14 and 20) point to the fact that these participants had no strong feelings about having their
writing task evaluated or graded by teachers. In addition, these participants did not report any physical

or emotional changes as shown in items 2, 6, 8, 11, and 13 while they were writing a research paper in

Table 4: Interpretation of SLWAI
Week 10
Week 14
1. While writing in English, I am not nervous at all.
4.25 Strongly agree 2.75 No strong feeling
2. I feel my heart pounding when I write English
compositions under time constraints.
2.75 No strong feeling 2.00 Disagree
3. While writing English compositions, I feel worried
and uneasy if I know they will be evaluated.
3.00 No strong feeling 2.75 No strong feeling
4. I often choose to write down my thoughts in
4.25 Strongly agree 3.50 Agree
5. I usually do my best to avoid writing English
1.00 Strongly disagree 1.50 Strongly disagree
6. My mind often goes blank when I start to work
on an English composition.
1.50 Strongly disagree 1.50 Strongly disagree
7. I don’t worry that my English compositions are a
lot worse than others.
2.50 Disagree 3.25 No strong feeling
8. I tremble or perspire when I write English
compositions that are a lot worse than others.
3.00 No strong feeling 2.50 Strongly disagree
9. If my English composition is to be evaluated, I
would worry about getting a very poor grade.
3.25 No strong feeling 2.75 No strong feeling
10. I do my best to avoid situations in which I have
to write English.
1.25 Strongly disagree 1.50 Strongly disagree
11. My thoughts become jumbled when I write
English compositions under time constraints.
2.25 Disagree 1.75 Strongly disagree
12. Unless I have no choice, I would not use English
to write compositions.
1.25 Strongly disagree 1.50 Strongly disagree
13. I often feel panic when I write English
compositions under time constraints.
2.25 Disagree 2.75 No strong feeling
14. I am afraid that the other students would deride
my English composition if they read it.
3.00 No strong feeling 3.25 No strong feeling
15. I freeze up when unexpectedly asked to write
English compositions.
2.50 Disagree 1.50 Strongly disagree
16. I would do my best to excuse myself if asked to
write English compositions.
1.50 Strongly disagree 3.00 No strong feeling
17. I don’t worry at all about what other people
would think of my English compositions.
3.25 No strong feeling 3.75 Agree
18. I usually seek every possible chance to write
English compositions outside of class.
4.00 Agree 2.50 Disagree
19. I usually feel my whole body rigid and tense
when I write English compositions.
1.50 Strongly disagree 1.75 Strongly disagree
20. I am afraid of my English composition being
chosen as a sample for discussion in class.
1.75 Strongly disagree 2.50 Disagree
21. I am not afraid at all that my English
compositions would be rated as very poor.
3.25 No strong feeling 3.00 No strong feeling
22. Whenever possible, I would use English to write
4.50 Strongly agree 4.25 Strongly agree
Notes: (1.00-1.80 = Strongly disagree; 1.81-2.60 = Disagree; 2.61-3.40 = No strong feeling; 3.41-4.20 = Agree; 4.21-5.0
= Strongly Agree)
Analysis of factors leading to writing anxiety
The responses obtained from the semi-structured interview were analyzed based on the investigation
by Atay & Kurt (2006) to describe how each EFL participant felt about a writing task that they had
never done before. The first and second interview questions aimed at finding the difficulties perceived
by these participants while they were writing a research paper. The results, as shown in Table 5, reveal
that frequent problems with writing a research paper in English were presenting ideas and text
organization. Suda also added that she was very anxious because she had no background in language
learning theories. Only Ping, the Chinese participant, reported that selecting technical terms used for
writing research paper was very difficult since previous researchers and practitioners might interpret
key terms differently.

Table 5: Writing difficulties of EFL learners
Ping Suda Ying Chai
Inability to present ideas -- 9 9 9
Inability to organize written texts 9 -- 9 9
Lack of background knowledge -- 9 -- --
Choosing technical terms 9 -- -- --

Table 6 also shows that writing anxiety was generated by grading and teachers. Ying and Chai
were anxious about time limits because they held part-time jobs as university teachers. Two
participants, Ping and Suda, mentioned that they wanted to achieve their self-expectations, namely,
trying to write a good research paper for scholarly publication.

Table 6: Causes of writing anxiety
Ping Suda Ying Chai
Teachers -- 9 9 9
Time limits -- -- 9 9
Grade/Evaluation 9 9 -- 9

Self expectation 9 9 -- --

Analysis of coping strategies
The participants were asked to report what they did when they were anxious about writing this
research paper in English. The interview data were then transcribed and analyzed based on Leki’s
framework of ESL coping strategies for writing (1995). Table 7 provides a summary of coping
strategies used by EFL postgraduate students in this study. The results show that the strategies these
EFL participants frequently used were focusing strategies and stopping writing. Both Suda and Ying
reported using talking with friends to get moral support and to find out what the others were doing.
Table 7: Coping strategies used by the four EFL participants
Coping Strategies Participants Transcription
1.Clarifiying Strategies  
2. Focusing Strategies Suda:


“When I have any difficulties, I will read and read more. I read and try
absorb try to understand it”

“I will stop and go to read more about it”

“Maybe reread anything that related to my study but when I’m anxious. I
cannot do my work”
3. Relying on past writing
4. Taking advantage of first
5. Using current experience or
Ping: “… I stop and keep thinking and get feedback from my teacher on the first
6. Looking for models  
7. Using current or past ESL
writing training
8. Accommodating teacher’s
9. Resisting teacher’s
10. Managing competing
11. Other(s)
x Stopping writing research

x Talking with friends



“If it is too much for me, I ignore it. I cannot pay attention to it. So I have to
leave it for a while”.

“So I like to ask the other what they are doing but it does not mean I want to
compare but I don’t like getting behind. If I know my friends have done a lot
of things, I will have anxiety because it helps me to catch up”

“I stop. If I cannot write, sometimes we need to stop because your ideas are
not available”.

“…go to consult also talk to my friends. We cannot finish early”.

“The first thing I do when I’m anxious. I will stop doing this project and
doing something else if I have time.”

“Stop doing it for a while is good but I can’t because it’s already close to the
due date. Sometimes I share feeling with the others.”

“Rest. Take a rest, stop doing it for a while but actually you cannot forget it
because it will haunt you”
Analysis of overall results
In the present study, the overall picture shows that there was a mismatch between the SLWAI results
and the interview data. These EFL participants were not concerned with English writing and their
written tasks being evaluated by teachers. The participants’ responses, conversely, describe the causes
of writing anxiety (e.g. teachers and grading) and the writing difficulties (e.g. inability to present ideas
and text organization) that they had encountered when writing a research paper in English. The
mismatched data obtained from the SLWAI and semi-structured interviews will be discussed in the
following section.

Discussion and Conclusion
This preliminary study attempted to find out the level of writing anxiety perceived by EFL
postgraduate students and coping strategies that they used when writing research papers in English.
The results show that all the participants had low anxiety when they were writing their research papers,
and there was a slight change in writing anxiety level between weeks 10 and 14. On some items in the
SLWAI, these participants had no strong feelings when their written tasks were evaluated or compared
with others. The data obtained from the semi-structured interviews, however, reveal that the factors
leading to writing anxiety were teachers and grading. One possible explanation is that all the first-year
postgraduate students were required to earn a GPA of 3.25 or higher to avoid academic probation. For
the writing difficulties, these EFL participants reported that they worried about how to organize written
texts and how to present their ideas in the research papers. Previous studies on English writing (e.g.
Atay & Kurt, 2006; Cheung, 2010; Flowerdew, 1999) also point out that non-native speakers of
English have problems with word choice, grammatical structures, and less facility of expression when
writing a research paper in English.

The results of coping strategies used by EFL postgraduate students reveal that they used
focusing strategies and using current experience or feedback strategy to guide them in writing a
research paper in English. Other strategies used by EFL learners were to stop writing and to talk with
their friends. These two new categories of coping strategies may be added to Leki’s original
framework (1995). However, the limitation is that the original categorization was based on how non-
native speakers of English achieved their written tasks, whereas the present study focused on ways to
help them manage their anxiety when writing research papers in English.

The overall results of the current study show the mismatched findings between the SLWAI and
the semi-structured interview. The questionnaire used in this study did not provide adequate
information on their worries and writing experiences. For example, the participants reported that they
had no strong feeling of being evaluated by teachers. In contrast, the data from the semi-structured
interview enabled the researcher to verify the results obtained from the questionnaires and to illustrate
a comprehensive understanding of the analyzed data and the contexts of what factors contributed to
writing anxiety as perceived by the EFL learners and how they dealt with anxiety when writing a
research paper in English.

As a final note, I may say that the study was limited by the small number of participants;
therefore, the results may not be representative of all EFL learners. The coping strategies should be
followed up in a real-time situation when participants are doing written tasks. Further studies on
coping strategies for English writing should take research methodology and the analysis framework
into account because they may influence the whole procedure of data collection and data analysis.

I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this research study.
My thanks also go to the postgraduate students studying in the PhD. program of Applied Linguistics at
King Monkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) for participating in this study.


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Aydin, S. (2008). An investigation on the language anxiety and fear of negative evaluation among
Turkish EFL learners. Asian EFL Journal, 31(1), 1-35.

Cheng, Y. S. (2004). A measure of second language writing anxiety: Scale development and
preliminary validation. Journal of Second Language Writing, 13, 313-335.

Cheung, Y. L. (2010). First publications in refereed English journals: Difficulties, coping
strategies, and recommendations for student training. System, 38(1), 134-141.

Daly, J. A., & Miller, M. D. (1975). The empirical development of an instrument of writing
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self-efficacy in writing, and attitudes towards writing: A correlational study in Turkish tertiary-
level EFL. Asian EFL Journal, 12, 164-192

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development and methodology guide. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

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anxiety: Cause or effect? Malaysian Journal of ELT Research, 1, 1-19.

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students. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies, 3(2), 218–236.

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Montarat Rungruangthum is a PhD. candidate in Applied Linguistics at King Mongkut’s University of Technology
Thonburi, under the program Strategic Scholarships for Frontier Research Network. Her research interests are linguistics
and social psychology. Currently, she is conducting research on cyber deception by Thai internet users. She can be reached
at lect.montarat@gmail.com
Chinese School Teachers’ and Teacher Trainers’ Perceptions of Culture Teaching in ELT:
A Case Study in Xinjiang
Han Hui
This paper investigates the perceptions of secondary school teachers and teacher
trainers from Normal Universities and Teacher Training Colleges in Xinjiang
Province of culture teaching in English language teaching (ELT): How they define
culture; what they think the objectives of culture teaching are; and, how important
they view culture teaching in ELT. The findings show that the teachers define
culture in a very broad sense, such as traditions and beliefs, while the teacher trainers
think that literature is a major channel to expose students to foreign cultures and tend
to adopt an elevated form of Culture in the classroom (Culture with a big C). The
study also reveals the teachers’ and trainers’ positive attitudes towards the integration
of cultural information in their application, and their understanding of culture
teaching objectives in the language classroom.

Key words: Culture teaching, English Language teaching, teachers’ perceptions,
cultural awareness, curriculum
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In 1999, the Ministry of Education in China released an Action Plan for Rejuvenating Education in the
Century. This is an overall guiding and operational plan for national educational development in
China. Its implementation required a new round of reforms in the English curriculum for primary and
secondary schools, and the implementation of these reforms commenced in 2001.
One of the goals in the renewed English curriculum for secondary education is to develop
students’ cultural/intercultural awareness and communicative competence. The new emphasis on a
cultural dimension in language teaching is a demanding challenge for school teachers because this was
the first time that cultural awareness was introduced as one of the language teaching and learning
objects into the English curriculum. Within this new change, I will begin my discussion with previous
research on this issue and then have a look at teachers’ perceptions on this new dimension in language

Previous research
The introduction of a cultural dimension into foreign language teaching has a long tradition in Europe
but became an explicit focus in curriculum documents of the reforming processes in many countries in
the 1990s. Because of this new emphasis, Byram & Risager (1999) explored teachers’ views about
cultural dimensions and their effect, as reported by teachers, on secondary school students’ perceptions
of other cultures. As one dimension of their investigation, these researchers used a questionnaire to
elicit definitions of culture from teachers and analyzed their definitions using a grid with two
dimensions: thematic (such as a way of life/objective structure/norms and values/art and literature) and
societal level (such as international, national, group, individual) (Byram & Risager 1999: 105). Their
findings showed that teachers’ understandings of the concept ‘culture’ concentrated on national culture
with little attention being paid to aspects of culture beyond those already found in textbooks. The
definitions provided by teachers appeared to be lacking in the depth and complexity necessary for
language teaching. When teachers were then interviewed the researchers were interested in
interpretations of cultural dimensions in language teaching, and they concluded that teachers were
often frustrated in their attempts to treat the cultural dimension seriously because of pressures to
produce measurable results and to focus on linguistic competence.

In Mexico, Ryan (1994) also explored the relationship between foreign language teachers’
perceptions of culture and their instructional behavior. Ryan categorized their culture definitions into
six basic beliefs in accordance with Keesing‘s categories of meaning: (1) culture is knowledge gained
through reading; (2) culture is institutions which should be analyzed; (3) culture is the daily way of
life; (4) culture is transmitted from one generation to another; (5) culture means having a critical
attitude toward the world; (6) culture is lived and experienced. During her observations, Ryan analyzed
how teachers handled information about English-speaking cultures. Linguistic analysis and practice
dominated instruction and culture aspects and linguistic practice were carefully distinguished (Ryan,
1994). She reported that insertion of information about the target culture was done in several ways. In
addition to the three ways reported in Byram & Risager (1999) (culture anecdotes, facts and artifacts)
Ryan identified another two forms: cross-cultural comparisons between native culture and foreign
culture; and “brief, encapsulated cultural statements often seen as talking off the subject” (p. 231). On
the basis of these findings Ryan drew the conclusion that there is “some degree of relation between
teachers’ filters [definitions] and corresponding teacher behavior” (p. 231). For example, if a teacher’s
filter was “culture is the daily way of life”, he/she may instruct students with cultural anecdotes based
on her/his own personal experiences. Ryan thus found that in general teachers are teaching culture as
facts, rather than for cultural understanding and intercultural competence, a finding which is important
in shedding light on how teachers are teaching about culture.

Another international survey of teachers’ perceptions of cultural teaching in language teaching
was conducted in 2001 by researchers of CULTNET (Sercu, et al, 2005), a network of researchers on
intercultural competence in foreign language education, involving foreign language teachers in seven
countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, Mexico, Greece, Spain and Sweden. The aim was to define the
mainstream of attitudes to the cultural dimension of language teaching among ordinary teachers. Their
findings show that teachers think that ‘teaching culture is as important as teaching foreign language’
and they express their willingness to teach culture and intercultural dimensions. Most teachers agreed
that the more students know about foreign cultures, the more students are tolerant, an idea which is
closely linked to their interest in teaching culture but teachers from Bulgaria, German, and Mexico
hesitated to take a clear stand on whether they thought language and culture could be taught in an
integrated way.
In what seems to be the only study in China, Lessard-Clouston (1996a) conducted a case study
of 16 Chinese EFL teachers' views of culture in both their EFL learning (during a summer intensive
EFL teacher training programme) and teaching (at the lower secondary school level). The participating
teachers/learners were interviewed towards the end of their programme. The study showed that
teachers, when asked about culture and language, gave very broad definitions that included all aspects
of daily life, and said they taught culture both explicitly and implicitly in their classes (ibid). The
findings also revealed teachers’ major support for the role of culture in their EFL learning and the need
for a greater understanding of how to incorporate culture into their own EFL classes. Teachers think
that more efforts should be made to have culture incorporated more explicitly into EFL curriculum.

This body of literature was based on investigations conducted in different countries where
teachers’ concepts about culture teaching varied. The amount of research is overall still small and
except for the small scale study by Lessard-Clouston, there is no empirical research done on Chinese
teachers’ perceptions of culture teaching in ELT in China especially at the secondary education level.
This present study serves as an empirical first step to investigate school teachers’ beliefs concerning
culture teaching in ELT in China in more detail with a different research methodology and
complements Lessard-Clouston’s study in terms of not only investigating teachers’ perceptions of
culture teaching but also their understanding of culture teaching objectives.

Cultural teaching: Concepts in the language curriculum in China
The new English curriculum issued in 2001 has five parts concerning English educational goals
structured in a circle to indicate the relationship of each to the others, to illustrate how they
interconnect and suggest the richness embodied in human language. The five parts are: (1)Language
knowledge which includes phonetics, vocabulary, grammar, functions and topics; (2) language skills:
listening, speaking, reading and writing; (3) cultural awareness which includes cultural knowledge,
cultural understanding and awareness/ability in intercultural communication; (4) learning strategies
which includes the following types: Cognitive, monitory, communicative, and ‘resourceful and
emotional strategies’; (5) emotion and attitude, which includes motivation/interest, self-confidence ,
willpower, cooperation, concept of motherland and world vision. (See diagram indicating English
language teaching objectives in China below).

As is clear from the diagram shown above, comprehensive language competence is the central
part. The surrounding five instructional fields are to service this central purpose. Language skills and
language knowledge are two basic instruction goals and no matter how different the curriculum is
developed each time, these two always remain as essentials. Students can acquire knowledge of a
foreign language through its vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, topic and etc…. Using them can
help improve language knowledge. And listening, speaking, reading and writing are four basic
language skills, in which effective communication occurs. Most communication takes place by this
means. They are the solid foundation in basic linguistic competence.

The teaching objectives in culture first officially appeared in the written form in the new
English Curriculum. The introduction of the section on cultural awareness explains the rationale in
English teaching as follows:
The language contains abundant cultural contents. In foreign language teaching, culture
teaching means to teach students history, geography, local customs, traditional custom, life
style, literature art, norms of behaviour, concepts of values, etc. of a target language. Getting
in touch with and understanding cultures of English speaking countries are beneficial to the
comprehension and usages of English; this is also helpful in acquiring a deeper
understanding of our own cultures, and good for the development of learners’ world view. In
teaching, teachers should consider students’ age and their cognitive abilities, expanding the
contents and the scope of the cultural knowledge gradually. At the beginning stage of
learning English, students should be made interested in the culture in which the language is
being taught. Cultural knowledge in English teaching should be closely linked to students’
daily life and what they have learnt about the similarities and differences existing in the
culture will stimulate their interest in English learning. At the higher stage, the scope and
coverage of cultures should be expanded so that students will broaden their view, and
develop sensitivity to the similarities and difference of our own and others’ culture with the
aim of developing students’ intercultural competence (China’s English Curriculum
Standards (CECS), 2001, p. 21, author’s translation).

It is thus clear that the latest national curriculum accentuates the need to teach cultural
knowledge and to raise students’ awareness of English speaking cultures and that it takes the view that
an awareness of target-language culture can help students compare their own and others’ culture so as
to develop students’ intercultural competence. To achieve this goal, there are three attainments
concerning cultural awareness linked to year level and age level. Attainment 2 is for pupils of primary
school (ages 9-11). Attainment 5 (ages 12-15) and Attainment 8 (ages 16-18) are set respectively for
the students of junior and senior secondary school.

As a consequence of these developments at national level, school teachers of English in
Xinjiang, a culturally diverse region in the North-West of China, find themselves caught in a new
situation. They are the actual figures that shape the possible positive/negative outcomes of including
cultural information in their teaching. Therefore, against this background of curriculum reform, the
purpose of this study is to investigate school teachers’ perceptions of teaching culture and cultural
awareness in ELT focusing on the following questions:
x How do teachers understand/define culture?
x What are teachers’ understandings of the objectives of culture teaching in ELT?
x In teachers’ views, is it necessary to integrate culture into ELT?
These three questions are to be investigated as the overriding and overall aim of this study with
my intention to find out school teachers’ perceptions of cultural teaching and their current practices in
English classroom so as to provide a general picture of the current situation in language teaching in
Xinjiang, Northwest part of China.
The study was conducted in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the most culturally diverse province
in China. The participants in the study were full-time lower secondary school English teachers and
teacher trainers who worked in Normal Universities and Teacher Training Colleges to train those who
would become teachers in secondary schools. Most of them with at least 10 years of teaching
experience on average. They were teaching 11-20 hours per week at the time they participated in the
study. In terms of their education background, ninety percent of them had received a teaching
certificate after teacher training from a college. Ten percent of the participants had BA degree and a
teaching certificate.

Six hundred copies of the survey with consent form and official approval were distributed to
school teachers and some teacher trainers in different parts of Xinjiang at the end of the 2007 academic
year. Subjects were randomly chosen from 126 schools in five large prefectures in addition to the
capital city of Xinjiang. 463 out of 600 possible participants completed the questionnaire with a return
rate of 77%. The 463 participants included 400 school teachers from schools in Xinjiang and 63
teacher trainers from universities in the capital city, Urumuqi. The purpose of the survey of teacher
trainers was to see if there would be any difference between trainers and teachers.

The survey which consisted of 27 questions was used with the intention of eliciting a wide
range of information, and this article reports only a small part of the results, including comparisons of
teachers’ views with those of teacher trainers. Three types of information have been extracted: 1) How
ELT teachers define culture, 2) teachers’ attitudes towards the necessity of cultural teaching in ELT,
and 3) teachers’ perceptions of culture teaching objectives in ELT. As for the third question on culture
teaching objectives, some items were borrowed from the CULTNET survey as will be indicated later
in the discussion section.

Findings and discussion
ELT Teachers’ definitions of culture
The teachers were given an open-ended question asking “Which part of the culture(s), do you think, is
most interesting in teaching about English language countries, in other words, how do you perceive the
concept of culture?” The answers provided by teachers cover a wide range of cultural aspects to
include almost all aspect of the life of a people, and therefore the first stage was to group similar
phrases or words of their answers together into certain categories expecting to get a general impression
of teachers’ understanding of culture; to see if there is any common ground in their views; to use this
classification as a means of quantifying the responses for easy analytic reference later. Such a
categorization does not suggest that the concept of culture can be divided into a number of categories
on a theoretical level. The classification is simply an operational instrument to get an overview of
some important dimensions which are being dealt with. Thus, each definition can be placed in a
number of categories in order to present the richness of the data; rather than a reduction into one
category, which would destroy the value of this kind of qualitative data as pointed out by Byram &
Risager (1999). Based on respondents’ answers, a total of nine categories were created:
1. Culture understood as a way of life or habits—daily life, life style, living conditions,
routines, hobbies, etc.
2. Culture understood as tradition, folklore and customs—local conditions & customs and
moral standards, communicative rites, social protocols, social conventions, popular
practices, etc.
3. Culture understood as history, geography, —all cultural activities in human society,
historical events, famous people, etc. and some references to the historical development of
words, proverbs, idiomatic usages, slang
4. Culture understood as products of all kinds—literature, art, music, architecture, films, etc.
5. Culture understood as values, beliefs and behavior—behavior patterns, ways of
talking/expressing oneself, interpersonal relationship, religious beliefs, etc.
6. Culture understood as education—British /American education
7. Culture understood as political and economic systems
8. Culture understood as science, technology, and environment
9. Others—irrelevant and uncertain responses.

Each answer from informants was attributed to one or more of these categories and, in this way,
I have 738 definitions in my corpora from the school teachers, and 112 from the teacher trainers. The
nine categories are presented on a horizontal dimension in Table 1. The figures are total responses for
each category. The percentage figures are percentages of the total of responses in all categories 1-9.

Table 1: Categorization of teachers’ definitions of culture
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 sum


It is evident from the table above that both school teachers and teacher trainers ranked
culture as traditions and customs (29.1 and 22.4%) high as shown in category 2. ‘History and
geography’ has a relatively high preference for both groups (22% and 25%) in Category 3,
indicating their understanding that to know a culture of a country is first to know the geographical
shape of this country and its history. Their understanding of culture as daily life, living habits in
category 1 is presented by 15.2% and 9.9% respectively, and is the next main category for teachers
but not for trainers. Culture is more literature-, art-, and music-oriented (12.5%) for teacher trainers
than for school teachers (4.2%). This may be due to the fact that teacher trainers may think literature
can serve as a major channel to get to know foreign cultures while school teachers may think this is
not close to children’s lives.

Surprisingly, only 9/1.2% of the school teachers and none of the teacher trainers defined
culture as values and beliefs in category 5. The reason behind why neither group defines culture in
this way is not certain. It may also indicate that the concepts of social norms, beliefs and values are
too abstract to understand. Or it may be possibly speculated that they are not clear about what the
purpose of acquiring a foreign language is, for examinations, or for communication. If they think in
terms of communication, they may not understand what role values, norms and social behaviours
play in the communication. They seem to believe the target language they are teaching should be
linked with history, geography, traditions, customs, etc rather than the understanding of culture as
values, norms and people’s behaviors, which are the deepest part of culture (Prosser, 1978).
There are limited numbers of respondents from school teachers (7.1%) and even smaller
numbers of teacher trainers (2.6%) who understand culture as the education system (in Category 6).
As for understanding culture as a political system and economy in category 7, both groups of school
teachers and teacher trainers comprise a quite low percentage 6.5% and 8%, which could be due to
the possibility that both groups think ‘culture’ is more related to the traditions and history evolved or
passed down from generation to generation and therefore more permanent, while politics and
economy are more contemporary focused issues and more temporary.

Category 8 is about science, technology and environment to which both groups give hardly
any attention as part of their understanding of culture: (1.6% and 0.9%). This is not surprising
because this part of culture is not within traditional concepts of understanding culture among
Chinese people. Furthermore this kind of cultural information doesn’t appear in the textbooks. It is
not likely to make any connection for teachers with ‘culture’.

In summary, from the wide-ranging perceptions of ‘culture’ from teachers and teacher
trainers it could be seen that the concepts of culture which popped into teacher’ minds are first
traditions and customs, second history and geography, third the way of people’s daily life, which
thus can be considered as leading concepts of their understanding of culture .
In addition, we should note that some teachers said they thought Anglo-American culture should be
taught together with Chinese traditional culture, while others focused on cultural differences
between our own and other cultures by a comparative approach in order to reach better
understanding of our own culture through the viewpoint of others, as is indeed recommended in the
curriculum document analysed above.

It is important to point out that some teachers failed to answer the question or misunderstood
the question; some expressed their uncertainty and dilemma, and some felt very confused about
what to say when they were asked to do so (these responses were placed in category 9). It must be
admitted that to formulate a definition of culture is very difficult for teachers in a short time in a
coherent way especially when they lack training on this aspect of language teaching, but in this way,
like Byram and Risgaer (1999), it was hoped to analyse the unreflective perceptions on which
teachers based their daily activities in the classroom.

Teachers’ attitudes towards importance of cultural teaching in ELT
Teachers and teacher trainers were asked “Are your students interested in learning culture(s) of
English speaking countries?” and “Are you interested in teaching culture(s) of English speaking
countries?”. The first question, focusing again on teachers’ perspectives, gives us an indirect account
of students’ curiosity towards cultural learning. The second question tells us about teachers
themselves and their own attitudes towards cultural teaching. Responses were on a five-point scale:
“very interested, interested, uncertain, less interested and not interested”. In the analysis “very
interested” and “interested” were combined to show positive attitudes towards the culture teaching
and “less interested” and “not interested” were combined to indicate the negative attitudes towards
this issue, leaving “undecided” unchanged. The results obtained from these two questions are
presented in Table 2 below:

Table 2: Students’ and teachers’ and teacher trainers’ interest in culture learning and teaching
Interest in Teachers Teacher
1 276 71.5 58 92.1
2 73 18.7 5 7.9
3 40 10.3
Total 389 100 63 100
1 326 83.8 59 93.7
2 45 11.6 3 4.8
3 18 4.6 1 1.5
Total 389 100 63 100
Notes: 1=Very interested; 2=Undecided, 3=Not interested; F= Frequency; P=percentage
It can be seen that both from teachers’ and teacher trainers’ experience of teaching in the
classroom, a large majority of teachers (276/71.5%) and trainers (58/92.1%) say that their students
are interested in learning cultures of English speaking countries. Teachers (326/83.8%) and trainers
(59/93.7%) themselves are also interested in teaching cultures in language teaching. For teachers
themselves this may be due to the fact that teachers have received the new curriculum training, as
indicated in another question from the survey. The concept of ‘cultural awareness’ was introduced
as we said above for the first time into the English curriculum in 2001. As a result teachers are sure
to have got some understanding of the integration of language teaching with cultural teaching and
Table 2: Students’ and teachers’ and teacher trainers’ interest in culture learning and teaching
gradually realized the importance of raising students’ cultural awareness in language teaching. As
for why students are curious about the foreign cultures and what is their motivation in learning
language in terms of culture, it is very hard to speculate, but would be an interesting topic for further

The data also show that there are some teachers (73/18.7%) and trainers (5/7.9%) who are
not sure whether their students have any interest in cultural learning or not, and about one in ten
teachers–but not trainers–are not clear whether they themselves (40/10.3%) are interested in
teaching foreign cultures. The uncertain and even negative opinion towards this new dimension of
language teaching among a small minority of teachers could be regarded as normal and acceptable.
Teachers can’t be expected to digest the new concept just with a few training courses to reach a
common ground of understanding towards this rather complicated issue of culture teaching.

In order to get further understanding of teachers’/trainers’ general opinions about cultural
teaching, another question was introduced (Q3) ‘Do you think culture teaching is important in
English teaching’, again using a five-point scale: ‘Very important, important, undecided, less
important and not important.’ ‘Very important’ and ‘important’ were combined to indicate teachers’
positive attitude towards culture teaching and ‘less important and not important’ to indicate
teachers’ negative attitudes towards this issue. The neutral one ‘undecided’ was kept as it is. The
results are shown in the Table 3 below.
Table 3: Teachers’ trainers’ opinion on the importance of culture teaching
Q3 Teachers Teacher trainers
1 323 83 58 92
2 28 7.2 4 6.4
3 38 9.8 1 1.6
Total 389 100 63 100
Notes: 1= important; 2=Undecided; 3= Not important F=frequency; P=percentage

The results show that a high percentage of both teachers (323/83%) and trainers (58/92%)
have positive opinions about the cultural dimension of language teaching and only less than one out

of ten feel uncertain about it and/or they think that it is not important. Therefore it is evident that
teachers/trainers on the whole show great interest in teaching culture in language teaching as seen
above, and as seen here they believe in the significance of the cultural dimension of language
teaching. The concept of ‘cultural awareness’ which appeared in the curriculum seems to have
exerted some influence on teachers’ thinking.

In the fourth question, the teachers/trainers were asked if it is necessary to integrate culture
teaching into ELT, again using a five-point scale: ‘Very necessary, necessary, undecided, less
necessary and not necessary.’ The same way is used combining ‘Very necessary and necessary’
together to indicate teachers’ positive attitudes towards the cultural teaching and ‘less necessary and
not necessary’ to indicate teachers’ negative attitudes towards this issue. The result is presented as

Table 4: Necessity of integrating culture teaching into ELT
Q4 Teachers Teacher trainers
1 195 50.1 50 82.5
2 122 31.4 9 14.3
3 72 18.5 4 3.2
Total 389 100.0 63 100.
Notes: 1= necessary, 2=undecided, 3= not necessary, F=frequency, P=percentage

The results reveal that half of the teachers (195/50.1%) said that it is necessary to integrate
culture into ELT while there is still another half who felt uncertain or disagreed if we combine the
uncertainty and negative attitude together (194/49.9%). This implies that the idea of “integration” of
culture teaching with language teaching seems difficult. Although the importance of teaching culture
is clearly recognized as we saw in the previous section, the notion of integration is not. It can be
speculated that they did not give the same strength to the notion of integration because they do not
know how this is to be done, or because they believe this will have some detrimental effect on their
language teaching. In fact, teachers still emphasise language knowledge and grammar and allocate
only 10 percent of the time to culture teaching (data from elsewhere in the questionnaire). One
reason for this has been that language teachers in general– and also in China– are more interested in
the practical aspects of communication. Language teachers often treat culture as supplementary or
incidental to “the real task” (Fantini, 1997). Another reason is that the cultural dimension is not
included much in the National University Entrance Examination and this is probably why teachers
do not take the trouble to integrate what is not tested. Teachers’ performance is evaluated mainly
through the passing rate of National Entrance Examination.

As for teacher trainers, a substantial majority (50/82.5%) showed a positive attitude towards
integration of culture and language teaching. The reason for this is probably that college teachers do
not have the pressure of struggling for a pass rate of Entrance Examination compared with school

In short, from the results obtained from Q 3 and 4, it can be seen that most teachers/trainers
are interested in teaching culture and their students are also interested in learning culture. The
importance of teaching culture in language classroom is acknowledged by the majority of teachers.
Referring to the integration of culture/language teaching, however, teachers and trainers held a
variety of opinions.

Teachers’ perception of the objectives of culture teaching
Another aspect of the questionnaire investigated teachers and trainers’ thoughts about their teaching
objectives. Since the majority of teachers/trainers think that it is important and necessary to teach
culture in ELT, what objectives of culture teaching teachers perceive, needs to be investigated. A list
of 11 items was suggested within the cultural dimension and teachers were invited to indicate ones
which best represent their opinion. The first four items are borrowed from the CULTNET project
(Sercu et al, 2005), and the last seven are taken from the new English Chinese curriculum (See
appendix 1). The scale ranges from ‘very important, important, undecided, and less important to not
important.’ The means for each statement were calculated with ‘Very important’ being scored as 1
and ‘Not important’ scored as 5. The lower the mean therefore the more importance was attached to
the objective. Since all scores were below 3, it is clear that all the objectives were considered
important to some degree. Our analysis therefore focuses on the degree of importance and not the
fact that any objective was considered unimportant or even ‘undecided’.

The list of 11 cultural teaching objectives appeared in the questionnaire in random order. The
table below has been rearranged according to four aspects: General objectives, skills dimension, the
knowledge dimension and attitudinal dimension. The analysis will follow the four dimensions:

Table 5: Culture teaching objectives in four dimensions
General objectives of cultural teaching
Q5h Make language teaching more interesting and motivating.
Q5i Widen students’ horizons on the world.
Q5f Promote increased understanding of students’ own culture
Skills dimension
Q5g Promote the ability to handle intercultural contact situations.
Q5j Promote students’ ability to evaluate and their sensitivity to different cultures.
Q5k Promote students’ awareness of similarities and differences between English
speaking countries.
Knowledge dimension
Q5a Provide information about the history, geography and political system of the
foreign culture(s).
Q5b Provide information about daily life and routines
Q5c Provide information about shared values and beliefs.
Q5d Provide experiences with a rich variety of cultural expressions (literature,
music, theatre, film, etc.).
Attitudinal dimension
Q5e Develop attitudes of acceptance and tolerance towards other peoples and

Table 6: Result of Culture teaching objectives in four dimensions in rank order
School teachers (p = 389) Teacher trainers (p = 63)

. 744


Notes: N = Number including this objective in their response–some respondents did not categorise all objectives); M =
Mean ranging between 0.00 and 5.00.; SD = Standard deviation

It is interesting to discover that both school teachers and teacher trainers shared very similar
understanding about culture teaching objectives. They both ranked items h, i, f, the general
objectives of culture teaching, at the top of the list. The belief that culture teaching can make
language teaching more interesting and motivating and culture teaching can widen students’ horizon
on the world was supported by school teachers (M. 1.63 ; M.1.65,) and by teacher trainers (M.1.59;
M.1.72). They also agree that learning about students’ own culture is important (M.1.75; M.1.73).
These three items (Q5-h, i, f) are taken from China’s English Curriculum Standards (CECS). This
shows that teachers/trainers give their preference to general culture teaching objectives.

As for the skill dimension of culture teaching, there are three regrouped skills related to
culture teaching seen in Table 5. It can be seen that both school teachers and teacher trainers
believed that a very important objective of culture teaching is to promote students’ ability to handle
intercultural contact situations: Q5-g borrowed from CULTNET was ranked nearly at the same
place by both groups. The result is surprising because this idea ‘intercultural’ is fairly new in

secondary language education and also because students do not have much chance of intercultural
contacts. Therefore, it may be that they think culture teaching could contribute to communication,
could help students learn to communicate with people from different cultural background if they
have opportunities for well-equipped preparation in their language education.

Another interesting finding is that school teachers and teacher trainers place the objective of
promoting students’ awareness of similarities and differences of English speaking countries (Q5-k)
in the middle (M.2.07; M 1.89), then there is a gap to the next score on (Q5–j) for the teachers but
not for the trainers. They thus seem to hold different views about promoting students’ ability to be
sensitive to different cultures (M.2.13, M.1.97). School teachers gave this a higher score, meaning
that it was less important for them. The possible reason might be that school teachers may think their
students have fewer chances of contact or first-hand experiences with foreign cultures. Students
need their teachers’s help to tell or to compare different cultures with their own in order to develop
their sensitivity to other different cultures while trainers may think the ability to be sensitive to other
cultures is more important. These two objectives (Q5-k, j) are already designated in the new

Regarding the knowledge dimension, school teachers put a priority on ‘provide information
of daily life and routines’ higher (Q5-b, M 1.88) while teacher trainers believed that ‘to provide
experiences with a rich variety of cultural expressions (literature, music, theatre and film etc.) (Q5-d,
M1.85) is more important. The former is focusing on ‘small c culture’ while the latter is on ‘big C
culture’ (Stern, 1992). The implications of this result could be threefold. First, teachers may be
familiar with this part of culture and they may feel confident to teach it. Second, teachers would
possibly link cultural information of daily life with something ‘close to students’ life,’ ‘something
students may be interested in,’ ‘something which may be within student’s cognitive domain’
expressed by them when asked to define what culture is. Third, the contents concerning small c
culture appear more often than big C culture in the textbook, which suggests the knowledge of small
c culture could be possibly used more in daily communication with people of different cultures,
especially in secondary language education. However, teacher trainers still think literature, music
and art, etc. are the channels to learn culture in language teaching. This also implies that there is a
disconnection between teacher training courses and teachers’ practice in the classroom. It also
suggests that teacher trainers may themselves lack the training on the new curriculum and there are
many changes of teaching concepts they are not very clear about.

It is surprising to discover that both school teachers and teacher trainers put Q5-a and Q5-c at
the bottom of the list concerning information about the history, geography, political system and
values and beliefs. This suggests that teachers are not very interested in teaching the big C culture
about foreign history and geography. This ranking is very interesting when looking at the definitions
of culture above where teachers put history and geography quite high next to daily life and customs.
Here, when they are asked to define the objectives of culture teaching, they seem to give less
support to it. This shows clearly that the knowledge they favour in practice–despite their theoretical
concepts of culture–is ‘providing information about daily life and routines’ rather more than big C
culture, implying the objectives should be linked to the development of students’ ability in

The knowledge of ‘providing shared values and beliefs’ (Q5-c) is placed last among the
eleven culture teaching objectives, which corresponds to what respondents said when asked to
define their understanding of the culture. It is difficult to speculate about the reason why
teachers/trainers do not support this objective and this will be a topic to be investigated in future.

As far as the attitudinal dimension (Q5-e) is concerned, teachers and trainers agree on
ranking and put it in the eighth and seventh places, respectively, which shows that they are
becoming aware that developing students’ attitudes to accept and tolerate other peoples and cultures
are highly important in language teaching. This attitude is considered the foundation of intercultural
competence in language teaching aims, to develop learners as intercultural speakers or mediators
(Byram, 2002), which is regretfully not designated in the new English curriculum. Therefore, it is
reasonable for teachers/trainers not to strongly support this objective, which may be a bit far from
their understanding of cultural teaching.

In summary, in this part, the teachers’ perceptions of cultural teaching objectives have been
examined and we noticed that the teachers are, broadly speaking, inclined to emphasise the overall
objectives of cultural teaching. Major interests are centered on students, and the purpose of teaching
culture understood by teachers/trainers is to raise and maintain learners’ lasting interest and
motivation in language education and to widen their world view through the language the students
are learning. It is encouraging that the skills dimension is better supported than the knowledge
dimension by teachers, which gives a hint of conceptualization changing from the traditionally
knowledge-based, cultural information-input to skills-orientation at least theoretically.

However there are some divergences between teachers and teacher trainers which raises
questions about cultural teaching objectives set in the curriculum for secondary education and the
development of teacher training programmes in this aspect, i.e., that there seems to be some
disparity between the two.

Regarding teachers’ understanding of culture, the study shows that teachers give a very extensive
definition of culture but mainly focus on small c culture like ‘traditions and customs,’ and ‘the way of
people’s life,’ which may be close to students’ lives and interest them. However, teacher trainers think
that literature is a major channel to get to know foreign cultures because literature courses are offered
at the university level. It also reveals that, in practice, both teachers and trainers are not much
interested in teaching the big C culture about foreign history, geography and political systems although
conceptually they regard this as a composition of culture. There clearly exists a gap between practice
and theory in terms of culture teaching and culture understanding. Nevertheless, their attitudes towards
cultural teaching are positive. They perceive the cultural teaching objectives more in terms of general
teaching objectives: Promoting students’ motivation and sustain their interest in learning English,
widen students’ horizon by means of cultural teaching.

This study was an effort to investigate teachers’ and trainers perceptions of culture teaching in
ELT in a Chinese context. However, although we have established a basic knowledge about teachers
and trainers, it is in the nature of the research that it has triggered more questions. Considering the
limitations of sample size and instrumentation of the current study, the researcher would like to suggest
that a future study is needed to cover a large representation of the population including follow-up
interviews which were not possible in this project. Future research can also be designed to explore how
classroom teachers translate their objectives for cultural learning into practice and the nature of the
relationship between teachers’ instruction of culture in the foreign language classroom and students’
development of intercultural competence. Given the limited number of cultural studies in China, there
is an urgent need for future research in the Chinese context.

I am grateful for Professor Michael Byram’s comments on this article.


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dimension of language. The Language Teacher, 27(9), 123-138.

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England: Multilingual Matters.

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jiaoyu de jueding [Decision on deepening educational reform and promoting quality education].
Beijing, People’s Educational Press.

Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fantini, A. E. (1997). New ways in teaching culture. New York: TESOL.

Gannon, M. J. (2001). Understanding global cultures: Metaphorical journeys through
23 nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching. New York: Oxford
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and teaching: A case study. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 9(3), 220-225.

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[Regulations on continuing education for primary and secondary teachers]. Beijing .
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[Plan for implementing the project of continuing education for primary and secondary
teachers], Beijing.

Ministry of Education (2001). Jiaoyubu guanyu shiwu qijian jiaoshi jiaoyu gaige yu
fazhan de yijian [Directive on reforming and developing teacher education in the 10th five-year
period]. Beijing .

Pennycook. A. (1989). The concept of method, interested knowledge, and the politics
of language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 23(4), 589-618.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Prosser, M., & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding learning and teaching: The experience in
higher education. London: St. Edmundsbury Press.

Ryan, P. M. (1994). Foreign language teachers' perceptions of culture and
classroom: A case study. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press.

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Danish and British teachers' professional self-concepts and teaching practices
compared. Evaluation and Research in Education, 16, 50-165.

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An international investigation. Clevedon: Multiligual Matters.

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University Press.

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[Reform teacher education to develop specialist teachers]. Retrieved from

Q3 What do you understand by ‘culture teaching’ in English
teaching context?






Promote the ability to handle intercultural contact situations.

Provide experiences with a rich variety of cultural expressions (literature,
music, theatre, film, etc.).

Provide information about shared values and beliefs.

Develop attitudes of acceptance and tolerance towards other peoples and

Provide information about daily life and routines

Provide information about the history, geography and political system of
the foreign culture(s).

Promote increased understanding of students’ own culture.

Make language teaching more interesting and motivating.

Widen students’ horizons on the world.

Promote students’ ability to evaluate and their sensitivity to different

Promote students’ awareness of similarities and differences of English
speaking countries.

Han Hui is a professor in the School of Foreign Languages of Zhejiang Agricultural and Forestry University, Donghu
Campus. She has taught English at college level for 25 years. She obtained her PhD from Durham University, UK. Her
research interests are in teacher education; English education and intercultural studies. She has published over 20 papers in
academic journals. She can be reached at hanhellen@163.com.


Corpora and Emerging Technology for ELT
Wirote Aroonmanakun

The use of corpora can contribute to language learning in both implicit and explicit
ways. Corpora have been introduced in language teaching as another approach to
teaching language. Data-driven learning views language learning as a kind of
research process in which students are expected to discover the knowledge
themselves. In Thailand, though corpora are not widely used in ELT, in many
universities corpus-based research, such as move analysis on academic writing,
experiments on the use of concordance and corpora in ELT, the creation of Thai
learner English corpora, errors and performance analysis of Thai learners on
prepositions and collocations is now active.

The use of concordance and corpora is an example of how current technology can be
applied to ELT. Other innovations, such as Blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Skype, and
smart phones, have also been studied to explore their use in ELT. With the rapid
growth of technology, language learning is no longer restricted to the same old
learning environment. It is our duty as teachers to help strengthen students' linguistic
ability by seeking and adapting new innovations for language learning.

Keywords: Corpora, ELT, emerging technology

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1. Introduction
Teaching English is an important job in this time of globalization. But despite many efforts and many
years in English language learning, a lot of Thai students still do not feel that they are competent
enough in English. This is the basic problem of ELT that has been talked about publicly in Thailand.
There is as yet no best solution to this problem. This paper is an attempt to understand the problem and
explore what could be an option for improving the teaching of English in Thailand.

Teaching English or any language is different from teaching other subjects like linguistics,
physics, or mathematics. For other subjects, teaching is about conveying the information in that
subject. Teachers can go on with their lectures or discussions without worrying whether students pay
much attention in class, as long as those students have sufficient knowledge to pass the final exam or
can conduct their own research. Teaching English cannot be done in the same way as teaching physics
or linguistics because learning a language is not solely about acquiring knowledge. Language is about
communication. Whether someone is good in English can be determined from his or her performance,
or language proficiency.

That may be the reason why we can see a lot of teaching techniques being used to encourage
students to participate in class. That is why we can see a lot of research focusing on the different
effects of techniques or methods for teaching English and a lot of research focusing on task-based
language teaching to improve students' language skills by creating tasks that facilitate collaborative
interaction. That is what many English language teachers are doing here in Thailand. But with different
cultural backgrounds, teachers have to be aware that some techniques or methods may not suit Thai
learners. So, it is not as easy as adopting any techniques or methods that work well in the West and
expecting the same result here. Getting Thai learners to participate in communicative tasks might be
difficult because Thai learners are not as articulate as Western learners. Moreover, Thai learners at the
present time may behave differently from students in the past. That is why each teacher has to find a
way of teaching effectively.

Nevertheless, we cannot deny that learning a language is also learning linguistic knowledge
of the language. Some researchers have been talking about the correlation between language
proficiency and metalinguistic knowledge, which is described in Roehr (2008, p. 174) as “learners’
ability to correct, describe, and explain L2 errors.” So, teaching English is not entirely about getting
students involved in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. We have to be certain that they can use
the language properly and that they have metalinguistic knowledge and are able to correct and explain

The question is how we are going to provide them with the metalinguistic knowledge. We
can tell them explicitly what the knowledge is. But it does not guarantee that we can teach them all the
linguistic knowledge and that they would be able to learn it all. What we should do is to teach them
how to acquire or understand language on their own. One way to do that is to use corpora and
computer technology in language teaching.

2. Corpora in ELT
Corpora have been extensively used in language teaching. In fact, corpora are widely used in other
fields of study. In natural language processing, they are primarily used in training a computer to
understand certain phenomena of a language via a statistical model and process the language based on
that statistical information. In lexicography, corpora are certainly the source of knowledge for
extracting words and meanings. In linguistics, corpora are like evidence of language uses that linguists
examine to answer linguistic research questions. In translation studies, parallel corpora are used for
studying characteristics of translated languages, which are regarded as translational norms (Baker,
1993, p.246). In language teaching, both native corpora and learner corpora are very useful resources
for language teaching.

The corpus is defined as “a collection of pieces of language text in electronic form, selected
according to external criteria to represent, as far as possible, a language or language variety as a source
of data for linguistic research” (Sinclair, 2005, p. 23). Since a corpus is a large collection of language
data, we need some tools in exploring the data. Basic information that we can get from any corpus is
the frequency of usages, samples of authentic uses, and the tendency that certain words will co-occur
with certain words, or what we call collocation. There are a number of tools that we can use to explore
a corpus. The basic tool is concordance software such as AntConc, MonoConc, WordSmith. Some
tools, such as ConcGram (Greaves, 2009), Word Sketch (Kilgarriff et al., 2004), are more delicate and
designed for more advanced users.

Figure 1 is an example of a screen from the concordance software AntConc. We can see the
list of files in the corpus we are using, the total tokens of words and word types, the list of words and
their frequency, which can be sorted by frequency or by word form. Figure 2 displays concordance in
the form of keyword in context, where we can sort the list of occurrences by the right or left context.
Usually, concordance software also has a function to display collocates of the keyword, which are
determined by some statistical methods.

Figure 1: AntConc displaying word frequency list

Figure 2: AntConc displaying concordance output

In ELT, some think that the use of corpora leads to a new approach for language learning
called data-driven learning (Johns 1991, 2002), or what some people call a “corpus-informed”
approach, which is a kind of discovery learning. In this approach, students are encouraged to explore
corpora or authentic language data, and generalize knowledge from the corpus. They will act like a
researcher seeking to know more about the language they learn on their own. This is a change to
inductive learning. To explore the corpus, a basic computational tool like concordance is required.
Students can search for samples of usage of a keyword or phrase. The software will extract the data
and display them in the form of the keyword in contexts (KWIC) so that the users can easily manage
the data by sorting contexts on the right or the left side of the keyword. Presenting language in this way
will make the learners easily see patterns of usage. They can see which words are likely to collocate
with the keyword.

For this approach to work, students have to be trained and have some experience in
interpreting concordance output. Whether this is possible for students in general is still a question. But
some people, such as Bernardini (2004), believe that it works well at least from her experience in
teaching English for advanced learners at the undergraduate level. She found the results to be positive.
Her students were shown how to use the British National Corpus and other corpora. Then they were
asked to carry out a project initiated by themselves. At the end, the results and strategies used in their
search were brought into discussion in class. The students were also able to come up with suggestions
for further studies as a result from exploring the corpora. Besides Bernardini (2004), others such as
Cobb (1997) and Gavioli (2005) also support this corpus-driven method.

However, others do not believe that this new approach is going to happen any time soon
because it requires dramatic changes for both teachers and students. Teachers will no longer be the
source of knowledge. They will become like a coach while students will have to do more work on their
own. Some students may prefer spoon-feeding in the same old way. Some teachers may not feel
comfortable because they do not know all the answers in advance. They will have to accept the fact
that by exploring real data, students may encounter some usages that the teacher may not be able to
explain immediately in class.

Therefore, another group of people think that corpora should not be employed directly in ELT,
but they should be used as a resource for language teaching. A corpus can provide us with useful
information about the language that we can use in teaching as a source of knowledge. We can use the
corpus to help answer specific questions about certain words, phrases, or structures. We can use the
corpus to spot the problems of learners by doing error analysis on a learner corpus. We can know
better what should be the priority in teaching when we compare the learners’ performances and the
natives’ performances.

Corpora have been used for producing better references in ELT. English dictionaries
nowadays are mainly based on corpora larger than hundreds of millions of words. Many grammar and
course books are also constructed on a corpus basis.

When we explore both native and learner corpora, we can come up with ideas of what the
syllabus should be. One idea is to emphasize top frequency words, which is known as lexical syllabus.
The idea was introduced in 1950 and the General Service List (West, 1953) is produced on the basis of
this idea. In addition, corpora can be used for preparing materials that suit a task or assignment.
Examples of exercises created from concordance outputs are shown in Figures 3-4.

Figure 3: A gap-filling exercise (Mallikamas, 1999, p.8)

Figure 4: An exercise on polysemy (Mallikamas, 1999, p.9)

Whether the use of corpora in ELT is corpus-driven or corpus-based, it has led language
teachers to realize the importance of lexical and phraseological units in language teaching (See
Meunier & Granger, 2008). Corpora are now widely used in ELT worldwide and it is now easier to
work with corpora. There are many corpora that can be accessed online. For example, at the website
http://corpus.byu.edu, we can search many English corpora, e.g. the British National Corpus and the
Corpus of American English. Besides using corpora created from collecting texts that meet the criteria,
some have started using the web as a corpus. WebCorp (http://www.webcorp.org.uk/) is a site where
we can search for a keyword using search engines like Google or Alta Vista, with results being
displayed in concordance format.

3. Research on Corpora in Thailand
In Thailand, although the use of corpora in ELT is not widely employed, there are a number of
significant movements going on in many universities. There is research on ESP using specialized
corpora like the work of Kanoksilapatham (2007) at Silapakorn University on move analysis of
scientific texts, and the work of Getkham (2010) at the National Institute of Development
Administration on multidimensional analysis of applied linguistics articles. Some research has
explored the effects of corpora and concordance in the classroom, such as Sripicharn (2003, 2004) at
Thammasart University, Sarawit (2008) at Naresuan University, and Supatranont (2005) at
Rajamangala Lanna. While not all of them find the effects to be statistically significant, the use of
concordance in the classroom received positive responses from their students.

At Chulalongkorn University, corpora related to ELT were created and placed online. The
first one is the Thai learner English corpus, a collection of essays written by undergraduate students
from two universities, Chulalongkorn and Thammasart universities. It can be accessed at the site
http://ling.arts.chula.ac.th/TLE/. Another corpus that might be useful for ELT is the English-Thai
parallel corpus, which is a collection of translations of novels from English to Thai. This can be
accessed at http://ling.arts.chula.ac.th/ParaConc/. With the use of these corpora, research focusing on
Thai learners’ performances can be more easily analyzed and compared with those of native speakers.
For example, Mallikamas et al. (2010) use a learner corpus to study collocation errors. Aroonmanakun
(2007) analyzes Thai learners’ use of prepositions. These are only some examples of corpora research
in Thailand.

Using corpora and computer tools, such as concordance, is just one example of how
technology can play a part in ELT. The use of technology has been known as CALL (computer
assisted language learning). The benefits of using computer-aided learning are that students can learn
at their own speed; they can learn in an environment that is friendly to them; and, they will feel less
embarrassed when making mistakes. But the use of technology is not independent from approaches in
ELT. Many researchers have been using emerging technology in task-based language teaching
(TBLT). Thomas & Reinders’ Task-based language learning and teaching with technology (2010) is a
good example of the combination of CALL and TBLT.

4. Using emerging technology for ELT
Many English language teachers have already tried using emerging technology in their teaching. Some
explore YouTube (Terantino 2011), Google (Chinnery 2008), web blogs (Reagin 2004), and Facebook
(Blattner & Fiori 2009; Donmus 2010). YouTube is a good source for finding video materials for
teaching. Using video clips in ELT is not new. Terantino (2011) suggested that using YouTube could
shift the focus from learning alone to learning with enjoyment. Students will learn without realizing
that they are learning through YouTube activities. In addition, students can find a lot of videos for
foreign language learning on YouTube. They can learn not only the language but cultural information.
One task can be letting students publish their activities on YouTube.

Chinnery (2008) wrote about GALL or Google-Assisted Language Learning. He presented
various ways that Google can be used to learn a language. He talked about the different information we
can get from Google. For example, for the word “coffee,” we can get the correct spelling if we mistype
it. We can get content information for the word from the search result. We can use the wildcard
character *, e.g. “I drink * coffee,” to search for possible words that can occur in the position of *. We
can search for the synonyms of a word by using “~” in front of the word.
For example, when
searching “~car ~accident,” we get results like “car crash,” “traffic accident,” and “traffic safety.” We
can use Google Trend to find out how the keyword has been searched in different countries. This could

This feature is called synonym search by Google. But the results can be related words rather than synonyms.
be useful when we want to introduce students to cultural differences. With all these facilities, Chinnery
suggests that Google can be used like CALL, naming it Google-Assisted Language Learning. In fact, if
we explore Google in detail, we can see that it can be used in many ways for ELT. With the advanced
search option, we can limit the search to a specific region, or a specific domain. Then, we can see the
number of different hits from different search settings. This is another way to look at cultural
differences through language uses. Moreover, with the introduction of Google translation, although the
results of translation into Thai may not be good, it is interesting to bring the results into class and learn
English through this activity.

Facebook is, of course, one of the most popular social media now. With 500 million users in
, it is one of the biggest social networks. Facebook is used to share information among friends in
the social network. Friends in the network will be notified of profile changes, new wall postings, new
photos, new videos, etc. A group can be created for people who share the same interest. It can be an
open or restricted group. This kind of utility would be useful for sharing class information. Thus, it is
not surprising to find that many teachers are now using Facebook for their classes. Blattner and Fiori
(2009) have pointed out the potential of Facebook, especially the ability to create groups, as a useful
means for pedagogical practice. They suggest that we use this group feature for creating a community
of learners. The teacher can create a group for a particular class. Or their students can join groups
devoted to language learning. This would help them realize the possibilities of e-learning that are
already there, and foster the habit of learning on their own. Using Facebook is not new for students
since they are already using it to communicate and play games with their friends. What we could do is
merely to direct them to academic possibilities. Blattner & Fiori (2009) also emphasize the use of
Facebook to raise students’ socio-pragmatic competence and promote cross-cultural communication
because students can communicate with students of other languages worldwide. Thus, activities on
Facebook can help raise their pragmatic awareness as well as practice genuine communication. An
interesting introduction to Facebook for ELT can be found on Youtube at


From this video introduction, we can see that besides using Facebook for sharing
information, there are some applications that might be useful for education. For example, the
application CiteMe could be used to search and display the bibliography of a book in different style
formats. Word Challenge is a game for creating possible words from given letters. This is an example
of the concept of educational games through the use of Facebook. The concept of edutainment or using
games in learning is discussed in Donmus (2010). He talks about another learning environment called
game-based learning environment. This refers to games designed for educational purposes. He argues
that learning through a game-based environment would certainly attract students’ attention and
increase their motivation and their retention. Game-based education nowadays is no longer a matter of
a single user playing against a computer, but it can be a collaboration of many users through the
internet. Finally, he encourages more research studies to be done on the effects of educational games
on foreign language learning through social networks like Facebook.

There are many possibilities of using Facebook. Besides creating a group for the class and
communicating within the group, we can also introduce students to other groups related to learning
English, or we can ask them to find a Facebook group that is useful for learning English. Therefore, we
let them join a group and at the end they report to us their activities and what they have learnt from the

5. Conclusion
It can be concluded that corpora and these emerging technologies are being used more widely in ELT.
Whether it is really a new approach or a new way of teaching foreign languages effectively is
something English language teachers have to find out if they decide to adopt these technologies.
Actually, many teachers worldwide already enjoy using these technologies in their classes. Indeed,
there are some groups and websites devoted to this use of technology (See useful resources).

However, some teachers may not want to be involved because they do not feel comfortable
with the use of technology. The idea of technology affecting education is not something new. Every
time new technology is invented, people always expect that there will be some dramatic changes in
education. Take the radio and television as examples. When they were first introduced, people thought
that they would bring education directly inside our living rooms. But it did not turn out that way.
Mostly radio and television have been used for entertainment and their content is controlled and
created for commercial purposes. However, with the use of the internet right now, things are quite
different. It is more difficult to control the internet than radio or television. And the most important
thing that we have to be aware of is that technology is changing very rapidly. As we all know, recently
cutting edge technology can quickly become old and obsolete. Like it or not, new technology is going
to be in our life in our education. If we are going to retire in a few years, we may not have to worry
much. But if we still have ten more years in teaching, we are going to teach young students who are
more familiar with technology than us. They are what Prensky (2001) called “digital natives.” They
start using technology like smart phones or iPad when they are in primary school.

Some schools have started using iPad in their education. Whether its use will help children in
learning, we do not yet know. But we know for sure that these kids are growing up equipped with
technological abilities. Their way of life is different from ours. They will not enjoy going to classes in
the same old environment we used to. A lot of teachers have been complaining that students nowadays
are not like them. They do not pay attention to the class. Their attention span is quite short. They talk a
lot in class. We used to silence them by keeping them busy writing down notes from slides. That no
longer works. They can get all the content on a slide by taking a picture with their smart phones.
Maybe we have to admit that we are going to see increasingly more students with different lifestyles.
We have to understand how they grow up.

According to Prensky (2001), “Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast.
They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the
opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive
on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to ‘serious’ work” (p.1).

Therefore, the problem of education may not be because those kids are less intelligent than
older generations, but maybe the education system itself cannot adjust to the changing environment.
So, perhaps it is not about how to make them behave like students in the past. Maybe it is about how to
adjust the learning environment to fit their habits. We have to follow technology not because we are
crazy about it or because it attracts students, but because the world is changing very fast and we should
use what the students are familiar with when teaching them. If we browse through the web, we can see
lot of information out there that we can use in teaching language. Corpora and concordance tools are
one thing. But with the advances in Artificial Intelligence technology, we can easily use speech
synthesis, speech recognition, or even machine translation, as well. Language teaching is no longer
constrained in the small classroom. We can extend it and bring the world into our class. Teaching
language should not be boring. It should be fun and enjoyable for both students and teachers. If we are
not trying to understand and adapt to the changing world, maybe the problem is not that students at this
time are worse than students in our time. The problem may lie in us who cannot deal with the changing
world. And we may be the real problem of education.

This work is supported by The National Research University Project of CHE (HS1153A) and by
Chulalongkorn University Centenary Academic Development Project.


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Useful resources

AntConc http://www.antlab.sci.waseda.ac.jp/antconc_index.html

Drive belonging and http://www.edumorphology.com/wp-

Facebook Strategies for the Classroom Discussions.

Facebook for ELT

Teaching English through technology.

Technology in English language teaching.

Using YouTube for vocabulary development.

YouTube in the Classroom!

Associate Professor Dr. Wirote Aroonmanakun chairs the department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn
University. His research interest is on corpus linguistics and computational linguistics. He is now taking a major part in the
Thai National Corpus development project. It is aimed to creating a large general Thai corpus which is comparable to the
British national Corpus. He is also creating other corpora, such as English-Thai parallel corpus, Thai Learner English
corpus. As for research on computational linguistics, he had developed basic tools for Thai language processing, such as
Thai syllable segmentation, Thai word segmentation, Thai romanization, Thai grapheme-to-phoneme. He is now working
on Thai named entity recognition and Thai compound noun extraction, which will be implemented as a part of tagger for
Thai National Corpus project.

Contributed by
He loved to run - the best little runner in the neighbourhood. He could outdo his two older
brothers; they were fast, but he always took the lead. And he could skate as fast as he could run - even
faster. His first skates were second-hand bob skates, tied tightly with thin leather straps across the
toes and behind the ankles of his brown boots. He had just turned eight and was lucky enough at his
own birthday party to get the one piece of cake with the nickel wrapped in waxed paper. That was
enough money to buy 12 marshmallow strawberry candies and some Juicy Fruit gum.
April: the awakening of spring when robins return, streams fill with trout, and pussy willows
announce the lengthening of days and the sun’s increasing warmth. The lad donned his rubber boots
and skipped up the train tracks to gather these lovely sprigs for a neighbour. He heard the train
whistle and carefully placed his only penny on the track. When it was flattened he admired the
transformation made by the tons of steel as he felt the warmth of the reformed object in his small
hand. Soon, he too, would be transformed. The pussy willows were across the ditch, and he gathered
a small bundle and took them to his friend.
He had one more task to do: deliver a grocery order for his employer who paid him 10 cents
each week. It was a big job and a lot of money for the young lad. He loved his job. His employers
loved him too. They would send him a dozen red roses a few days later.
When his work for the day was finished, he went next door to a school chum’s house. As they
sat on the front steps the lad proudly showed his friend the flattened piece of copper. They looked
toward the street and saw a horse drawn wagon - small wheels in the front, big wheels at the back.
The horse was doing the work for the six-year-old driver. It was Thursday after five o’clock. The lad
decided to enjoy his first horse-and-buggy adventure. Climbing onto the back of the wagon and fac-
ing in the opposite direction was a common thrill for neighbourhood boys.
He hurried to the moving wagon, put his right foot on the axle, and grabbed the small handle
on the side. His rubber boots were slippery and the axle was greasy. The fierce wooden spokes
reached out and grabbed his leg, pulling it to the centre of the wheel. His school chum ran quickly
and released the lad’s left foot he had automatically raised to free himself. But it was too late for the
lad’s right leg. He grasped the small brass handle with supernatural strength and screamed, “Help!
Help!” His leg, held firmly by the steel-like spokes, had no choice but to follow the motion of the
wheel - around and around and around. The young driver whipped the horse to stop it, but in its
confusion the animal pulled while the lad continued to scream for help. When he could hold on no
longer, he fell onto the unpaved street. The wagon was still moving. The leg had been completely
severed at the knee, and the red gravel was now embedded in his back and attached to his mangled
limb. All strength was lost and the air continued to echo his cries for help. A passerby grabbed the
horse’s bridle and brought it to a halt.
A training centre for military soldiers was located near the accident scene and a sergeant heard
the horrifying screams, jumped the fence and placed the lad, with help from another trainee, onto the
fresh blades of spring grass. A neighbour offered a clean sheet, and the green, red and white colours
became the background where the injured lad lay.
A crowd gathered. The lad felt no pain now for he was in shock. His body’s defence mecha-
nism caused total numbness where the limb had been severed. His Dad ran to the awful scene when
summoned by the lad’s school chum. As the lad repeatedly cried, “Daddy, am I going to die?” he saw
the big tears roll down his father’s cheeks as his dad assured him he would not let him die. The ambu-
lance was called but it never came. One man, having seen the gory sight, refused to take the lad in his
car for fear of blood stains which would be difficult or impossible to remove. He quickly drove away.
The lad lay there for what seemed to be an eternity – waiting – waiting, and waiting. And the
crowd grew bigger – waiting, and waiting. A chauffeur-driven lady was shocked when she realized
the reason for the crowd that had formed a semicircle around the exhausted bleeding lad. “To hell
with the blood” she said. “Get the kid into the back seat and to the hospital before he bleeds to death”.
Carefully his dad and the soldiers lay him onto the covered seat. Holding his head with tender
and trembling hands, his dad tried to comfort him, reassuring him that all would be well. An orderly
was waiting when they reached the hospital, and the lad was carefully transferred from the car onto a
gurney and wheeled into a small ante room. The lad begged for water but was unable to drink when
it was offered. He was conscious the hour he had to wait to be admitted – waiting until his father’s
landlord came to the hospital to guarantee the administrator that he would cover all costs if the boy’s
dad could not. The landlord did not hesitate.
A mask was placed over the lad’s face, he saw stars, and his head pounded until darkness
came. He was asleep. It was well after eight o’clock. His dad’s blood type was a perfect match and
the transfusion was direct as father and son lay side by side during the operation, one giving life, the
other, receiving. The doctor finished the amputation. The lad was deeply asleep. He slept as though
he would never awaken.
The attending nurse that Thursday had also been the nurse when the lad was born in the house
adjacent to the accident scene. Eight years later it was her face he saw when he awakened. “Hi,” he
whispered, “where is my leg?”
“Go back to sleep, dear,” she said calmly. “Go back to sleep”.
The pain was excruciating in the following days. The lad could feel his toes, but they were not
there. Only a heavily wrapped stump-like object was under the raised sheet.
When he was ready to go home, his dad carried him ever so gently over his shoulder. He wore
the new blue housecoat and smiled at the nurse who carried his roses. The journey home was the
same route he had travelled 10 days before, only in the opposite direction. His mother wept when
she kissed him. His oldest brother gave him a brand new wrist watch purchased from his paper route
earnings. The other brother was afraid to see what his sibling would look like so he did not appear
for the homecoming. And his five-year-old sister gently kissed him before he was carried upstairs to
his bedroom. He was home.
The lad often dreams of running and jumping and skating and soaring through the air on a
pillow of soft white pussy willows and red roses – a flattened penny in one hand, and a silver nickel
in the other. The dream is always the same. It is a beautiful dream.
“April’s a lovely lady
She wears a golden crown.
She rides in a golden carriage
When she comes up to town.”
-Thomas Dunhill-

has degrees in Biology, English and Education from the University of
New Brunswick in Fredericton and Acadia University in Nova Scotia. He also has earned educational diplo-
mas from Harvard University in the USA and Manchester University in the UK.
Jerry has experience as a marine biologist, educator at the Elementary and Senior Secondary levels, School
Supervisor of Student Services and University lecturer. He is an accomplished pianist and has a certificate in
piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto. He is also a well-known artist in water-
Now retired, Jerry enjoys playing music, painting, journal writing and travelling. He is presently planning
his fourth visit to Southeast Asian countries. He lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, with his wife.
They have four adult children.
Thomas Hoy
Stephen Conlon, Chaos in the Classroom, Bangkok, Assumption University Press, 2009, 459 pages.
ISBN 978-974-615-300-3

Stephen Conlon begins this collection of loosely related essays in an unusual way. Instead of the
conventional device of setting the tone of a book with one or two epigrams, Conlon goes over the
top with 20 pages of them. There are comments on the nature of language and chaos from a range of
luminaries as varied as Karl Marx, Izaak Walton, Yukio Mishima, Agatha Christie and Aristophanes,
to name just a few. It’s an interesting way to start the collection but I would suggest one addition that
might more precisely capture the problems that social science and applied linguistics has in dealing
with the messiness of language. The quote is from Alfred Jarry, the proto-surrealist famous for two
things: firstly, his iconoclastic play Pere Ubu , which caused a riot at its first performance and whose
eponymous anti-hero was inspired by the chaos in Jarry’s high school classroom, and secondly,
for his invention of pataphysics, “the science of imaginary solutions”. “Imagine the perplexity,”
says Jarry in his Doctor Faustroll, “of a man outside time and space, who has lost his watch, and his
measuring rod, and his tuning fork.” In his own way, Conlon is offering “imaginary solutions” to the
teaching of language and he questions the value of the measuring devices that determine the ques-
tions and hence the solutions that much applied linguistics offers. Instead, he proposes that we draw
on unmeasurables such as art, beauty, literature, soul, quality, experience, and intuition and challenge
students with the best language that we can muster.
With a title like Chaos in the Classroom, one might expect a diatribe against the current
mess which language education is in and some handy hints on how to restore order, purpose and
predictability. But it’s not that at all. According to Conlon, we need more chaos in the classroom not
less. Chaos is proposed as not only the negative absence of order but also as a source of creativity
and ideas and as a counterweight against “scientism” and the sterility and triviality of the social sci-
ence paradigm which increasingly dominates language teaching. Under this paradigm, teachers and
their experience, intuition, creativity, humours, knowledge and appreciation of their students and
students’ voices and cultures is subordinated to the distant and superior researcher whose work or-
ganizes linguistic knowledge in “clearly organized packets” of “useful information” which are then
given to students in a linear and progressive way which provides predictable and testable results. But
all too often the predictability and testability that applied linguistics provides makes our courses nar-
row, trivial and boring. Conlon makes what I feel are a couple of very necessary points. Firstly, that
“Quantitative Analysis can make reality more striking to administrators and more palatable. It can
make clear the need for change, but it is not so good at identifying what changes or what problems
may be encountered in implementing changes” (p.41) and secondly, a point that we all too often for-
get, “Theories and models are starting points for understanding the world, not explanations that can
replace the world” (p. 226). He puts this in another way in an essay on Jane Austen: “when we start
with an assumption that what we see, or in the case of language, what we read or hear, is ordered,
then that is precisely what we try to see and we keep on trying until we actually think that we see it”
(p.361). In the same vein, he criticizes the circular proofs that researchers offer for theoretical con-
cepts such as Chomskyan grammar as used in ESL classrooms.
The book is a collection of essays and Conlon explains in his introductory piece why the
essay is his preferred form and why it should be reclaimed as a legitimate and necessary form of
academic writing. The essay fosters the critical spirit, raises questions rather than offering dogmatic
certainties, and, of central importance for language teachers, it values and develops the personal
voice. These values are a thread that runs through the book.
Humanism is generally seen as a largely Western invention and Asian autocrats such as Lee
Kuan Yew with their notions of “Democracy with Asian values” and proponents of things such as
“Thai-style democracy” with its firm guiding hand from above probably contribute to this percep-
tion. But in essays on “Classroom Research in the Thai Context” and “The Liberal Arts in Asia”,
Conlon argues for the importance of developing a cultural awareness that would recognize and tap
into a humanistic tradition that he sees as already existing – but largely ignored by the ESL com-
munity - in Asian cultures as well as the West. But in doing this he does not denigrate the cultural
traditions of the West. Indeed, one of the most enjoyable features of the book is its erudite allusions
to and engagement with many strands of both Western and Asian cultural history and thought. His
essay on “Student voices” links these different traditions. It asks us to recognize and work with the
ways in which students speak and listen in Asian cultures rather than simply trying to impose a for-
eign model on them. This attention must go beyond teaching micro-skills or research that gathers
data on the acquisition of these micro-skills in a way that tells a narrow and trivial story. Conlon
believes in teaching as an art and we need to use art as a complement to good science: “If we are
going to teach this art, then I believe it should be through fostering a profound humanistic milieu…
Against the seriousness of those who speak in the voice of science, we need to balance the comic, or
at least light-hearted, voices of art” (p. 187). We need to find the “beauty” of student voices that are
“screaming to be heard”.
One of the most promising ways of using art in the ESL classroom is through literature. The
dialogic and polyphonic voices of literature, its richness and complexity and its “difficulty” offer an
antidote to the monologic “simplicity” of the textbook. Conlon is particularly astute in noticing that
in learning a second language we are doing literary things – we engage in play-acting, we pretend
that we can do something we cannot yet do, we try to harness our inner voice, we play with language,
and as in literature we suspend disbelief so that we can believe in our use of the language or in the
story we are reading. Conlon is Dean of the Graduate School of English at Assumption University
and has nurtured a remarkable and apparently successful program started by his colleague William
Denmark. The program, described in the essay “Voices out of nowhere”, asked not particularly ad-
vanced students to write novels in groups about the things that really interested them, their own lives
and communities rather than the more traditional ESL literature class that gives students a simpli-
fied (for simplified, read gutted) classic text that has no particular relevance or interest to them. The
students have published these works and presented them at conferences and they have been used in
other classes for discussions. Most importantly, as English is being increasingly thought of as Eng-
lishes, “The English they would learn was their own” (p.261), their responsibility and their creation.
Other essays deal with a chaotic range of subjects: chaos theory and its educational and linguistic im-
plications, academia as a theme park, Jane Austen and D.H. Lawrence, and the sources of creativity.
It’s a big and messy book, sometimes verging perhaps on a woolly sentimentality, sometimes wan-
dering off in random directions. But nevertheless, it does some systematic thinking about the uses of
art and the personal voice in the language classroom and it is written with a very informed, strongly
opinionated and deeply engaging voice. I am sure I’ll return to it from time to time for entertainment
and inspiration.
At my previous university there was a course assessment form that asked the students to as-
sess courses as to whether the information presented by the “instructor” was “clear”, “practical”,
and “useful”. The form irked me. I always thought that these terms defined education and language
itself in very narrow and prejudicial terms. First, we have the instructor not the teacher. An instructor
by definition knows how to tell someone how to successfully perform a more or less simple mechani-
cal task. Attach Part A to Part B. Fold Part C as shown in Fig. 3. The correct answer to the question
is D. And so on. A teacher on the other hand might leave the students with questions and ask them to
devise their own solutions. A good teacher is an artist and performer and thinker not just a technical
adviser. As well as asking about clarity, practicality and utility, we could legitimately ask the students
if the teacher had given them ideas and information which was “challenging”, “difficult” and even
“puzzling” or “unclear” and still give the teacher a good assessment if they rated highly on these
responses. In these essays, Conlon is all of these things at times but teachers and other readers who
are not just interested in what the business manuals call “efficient and effective” communication, the
sort of sterile, narrow, supposedly practical stuff that seems to be made for robots not humans, might
turn to this volume for these qualities.

holds a doctorate in comparative literature from La Trobe University in Australia and is currently a lecturer
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÷ĈèñŞòĀÖùăä êæćðçāèĄ 12121
čæò÷ĀíæŞ 0-2564-3105-11
čæòùāò 0-2564-3119

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