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Peter Clements NILE MAPDLE Pronunciation materials

Pronunciation materials in an A2/B1


level British Council Adult General
English course in Thailand – do they
meet the needs of the learners?

Candidate: Peter Clements

Words: 15,709

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Contents

1. Overview ............................................................................................................................... 4
2. Specific focus ........................................................................................................................ 5
2.1 The product ................................................................................................................................... 5
2.2 The phonological component ....................................................................................................... 6
2.2a The phonological component – design principles .................................................................. 6
3. Literature review ................................................................................................................. 8
3.1 Research vs. tradition ................................................................................................................... 8
3.2 EIL, the Lingua Franca Core and models of pronunciation ........................................................... 9
3.3 Pronunciation priorities .............................................................................................................. 12
3.3a What? .................................................................................................................................... 12
3.3b How? ..................................................................................................................................... 14
3.3c Integration vs. isolation ......................................................................................................... 14
3.3d Noticing ................................................................................................................................. 15
3.3e Practice and the myClass format .......................................................................................... 15
3.3f Comments on overall staging ................................................................................................ 16
4. Research design .................................................................................................................. 19
4.1 Approach to design ..................................................................................................................... 19
4.2 Structure ..................................................................................................................................... 19
4.3 Analysis of syllabus map ............................................................................................................. 20
4.4 Teaching materials ...................................................................................................................... 21
4.5 Questionnaires ............................................................................................................................ 22
4.5a Questions .............................................................................................................................. 24
4.6 Further design considerations and limitations ........................................................................... 25
4.6a Institutional constraints ........................................................................................................ 25
4.6b Construct validity .................................................................................................................. 26
4.6c Triangulation ......................................................................................................................... 28
5. Analysis ............................................................................................................................... 30
5.1 Syllabus map and teaching materials.......................................................................................... 30
5.1a Intonation.............................................................................................................................. 31
5.1b Instructional stages ............................................................................................................... 32
5.1c Sentence stress...................................................................................................................... 36
5.2 Questionnaires ............................................................................................................................ 36
5.2a Student questionnaire .......................................................................................................... 37
5.2b Teacher questionnaire .......................................................................................................... 40

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5.3 Current syllabus related to the literature ................................................................................... 47


5.3a EIL .......................................................................................................................................... 47
5.3b Practice stages ...................................................................................................................... 47
5.3c Noticing tasks ........................................................................................................................ 48
5.3d Hierarchy of skills .................................................................................................................. 48
6. Findings and suggestions ................................................................................................... 49
6.1 Positive feedback for the myClass syllabus................................................................................. 49
6.2 Suggestions for syllabus amendments based on findings .......................................................... 50
6.2a Inclusion of segmental phonology ........................................................................................ 50
6.2b Add greater variety ............................................................................................................... 51
6.2c Clarity on receptive / productive focus ................................................................................. 52
6.2d More consistent staging and more practice ......................................................................... 53
6.2e Teacher notes........................................................................................................................ 54
6.2f Summary of recommendations for enhancing the myClass pronunciation component ...... 54
7. Conclusion .......................................................................................................................... 55
8. Bibliography ....................................................................................................................... 56
8.1 Other references / self-references ............................................................................................. 59
9. Appendices .......................................................................................................................... 60
I) MAPDLE Module in Materials Development, Assignment 1
II) myClass syllabus map for the Pre-intermediate syllabus
III) Raw data for analysis of materials and syllabus map
IV) Raw data from student questionnaire responses
V) Raw data from teacher questionnaire responses
VI) List of questions used for the student questionnaire, including Thai translation
VII) List of questions used for the teacher questionnaire

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1. Overview
This research-based project evaluates a set of pronunciation materials from a pre-intermediate
(A2/B1 level) course taught at British Council, Srinakarin, Thailand. The purpose of the
research is to answer the following question:

• Do the pronunciation materials meet the needs of our adult learners?

Learner needs are defined/established in two ways:

1. Through feedback from the learners themselves

2. Through feedback from teachers on what they perceive learner needs to be, and
whether they feel the pronunciation materials meet these needs

In addition to focusing on the suitability of the materials for learners, two subsidiary research
questions have also been addressed:

• Are the materials designed in a principled way, with an approach underpinned by


research and theory?
• Do teachers feel that the materials offer enough support for teachers delivering the
pronunciation component?

The research takes an exploratory approach, with further questions arising during data
analysis.

For this study, data has been gathered from the following sources:

• The myClass syllabus map for ‘Pre-intermediate (B1.1)’ level.

• A review of student-facing pronunciation materials and teacher notes

• A learner questionnaire

• A teacher questionnaire

This research may have an impact on curriculum development for the product under analysis.
The British Council are currently undertaking an evaluation of the product, and this specific
focus may offer suggestions for the enhancement of the pronunciation component of the
syllabus. However, the research is not designed solely to identify faults – it may provide
evidence that the current pronunciation-based provision offered in the course is, in fact,

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suitable for the learners and already addresses their needs. The timeframe for the research is
restricted so that it can be used as input for the evaluation of the global product.

2. Specific focus

2.1 The product


The research focuses on a British Council product called myClass, an in-house General
English product for adult learners. It is a standardised, regional product which is delivered in
the following countries:

Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea (Republic), Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong
Kong, Myanmar.

In recent years, myClass has expanded to other regions, with adapted versions produced for
markets in Mexico and various countries in Eastern Europe. myClass follows a non-linear,
functional/notional syllabus. The non-linear nature of the course is one of its selling points –
students are given flexibility to take lessons in any order and can attend classes whenever is
suitable. However, this non-linear aspect does lead to tension between the course structure
and the need for coverage of language and skills points at each level. Whereas following a
coursebook might give the students a clear sequence to their learning and possibly a sense of
progression, the myClass structure relies on students to opt for classes which will provide
them with the coverage they need. While this does afford learners a fair amount of autonomy,
it does not guarantee that they are acquiring a full range of knowledge and skills needed to
progress with their learning. It is, however, worth mentioning that following a coursebook
may not help learners achieve comprehensive coverage either – in the sense that merely
following a linear approach does not guarantee effective acquisition and in fact is contrary to
what we know about interlanguage development (for discussion see Jordan, 2018). A full
summary of the myClass pedagogical approach can be found in my Materials Development
main assignment (see appendix i).

While an evaluation of instructional materials for all myClass lessons would be very
worthwhile, with the product having 120 lessons for each of its four levels such an evaluation
would be beyond the scope of this project. Instead, the research focuses specifically on
materials for the teaching and learning of pronunciation at one level of the course. I will

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refrain from making generalisations about the phonological component of the course across
all levels as this is a micro-analysis of one level only.

2.2 The phonological component


The rationale for myClass states that there is ‘a strong focus on phonology’ in the syllabus,
which almost exclusively focuses on speaking and listening rather than reading and writing.
Developing speaking confidence is a major selling point of the product, and the pronunciation
component is promoted strongly at the point of sale. In Adult Product Team meetings, sales
staff have reported that ‘the fact that there is a pronunciation focus in every class is really
important for customers [learners]’. In one centre, attendance at additional free classes in
support of myClass (called myClub) were nearly 3 times the average when the topic related
to pronunciation.

A standard myClass lesson flow:

2.2a The phonological component – design principles


As is evident from a typical myClass lesson flow, phonology plays a prominent role in the
myClass product. A pronunciation stage is included in every lesson, which should last
between 10 and 20 minutes. This stage addresses a key phonological feature appearing in the
target language for each lesson. Features addressed are usually suprasegmental, including
intonation, sentence stress, linking and assimilation.

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The principles behind selecting suitable pronunciation tasks to include in the myClass
syllabus could be described as organic. In many instances, the materials writer (rather than
the syllabus designer or content manager) would decide on a suitable phonological focus
based on salient features of the target language or predictable language output. Some
guidance was given from the content team – for example, writers should avoid repetition of a
pronunciation point within each thematic block of four lessons. The materials writers for the
product in its first iteration (and for most subsequent iterations) were practising teachers at
British Council centres in the region. Questions could be raised about how principled this
approach was, and also about the writing expertise and motivation of the teachers. Practising
teachers may bring relevant knowledge and experience to the writing process, particularly in
relation to the regional and local contexts of the learners. However, this does not guarantee
that all practising teachers will apply a suitable framework or approach when writing.

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3. Literature review

3.1 Research vs. tradition


The pedagogical underpinning of myClass is generally unclear and the only framework of
reference for the pronunciation component would be loose alignment to the CEFR through
can-do statements. However, we can presuppose that the pronunciation component aligns
with research-based trends arising from the communicative approach rather than taking a
traditional approach to pronunciation instruction – simply based on current pedagogical
trends:

Scarcella and Oxford (1994), summarised in Wei (2006:9)

This review is not concerned with the historical evolution of pronunciation instruction (e.g.
reform, intuitive-imitative, cognitive, etc) as the syllabus has been devised within a modern,
research-based paradigm. The aim is to explore various design considerations for the
pronunciation syllabus in relation to SLA theory and research.

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3.2 EIL, the Lingua Franca Core and models of pronunciation


The notion of EIL and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) was popularised by Jennifer Jenkins
in the early 2000s, although frameworks for an international English pronunciation had been
put forward by Quirk (1981) and Gimson (1978) prior to this (see Jenkins 2000 for
discussion). Jenkins’ own framework (e.g. 2000, 2002, 2011), the Lingua Franca Core (LFC),
outlined a series of pronunciation features which were considered essential for learners to
acquire in order to ensure they would be understood using English in a global context. This
concept of mutual intelligibility within a global setting shifts the emphasis away from
communication in English with native speakers, and towards more realistic and commonplace
interactions that global English users may encounter. While an ELF framework would focus
mainly on producing these ‘core’ features, teaching other non-core features may still be
worthwhile – mainly for receptive purposes (e.g. Gilakjani 2012, Hancock 2018, Zoghbor
2010).

Jenkins (in Walker 2010:143) summarises the LFC as the following:

‘Essentially, then, the Lingua Franca Core consists of: most consonant sounds; vowel length
(but not quality) distinctions; absence of word-initial and -medial consonant deletion; and
nuclear stress. For ELF, all the rest is in the realm of ‘non-core’.’

However, Jenkins had previously elaborated on these core features in more detail, as in this
figure from 2002:

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While the LFC may provide some guidance on suitable priorities for a pronunciation
syllabus, it is worth stressing that the model is not without its critics. Wells (2005:4) is
particularly critical of the LFC, summarising Jenkins’ stance as follows:

The Lingua Franca Core (LFC) approach can be represented … as saying that we should
ignore the parts of English that NNSs tend to get wrong. If we applied similar proposals not
to phonetics but to grammar, it would arguably mean ignoring such difficult matters as the
articles (coffee—a coffee—the coffee), the number system (singular vs. plural, dog vs. dogs),
the distinction between countable [C] and uncountable [U] (so that we could happily talk of
informations and furnitures)…

Patsko (2018 in correspondence) defends the LFC by citing its purpose as the following:

‘The LFC is not a monolithic model and will, of course, not be relevant to *everybody’s*
goals; it’s simply a small set of repertoire features, based on careful research and

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observation of communication between L2 users of English, which a speaker can draw on *if
and when required* in order to facilitate intelligibility.’

This ‘opt in, opt out’ disclaimer somewhat discredits the model for the purpose of guiding a
syllabus. Furthermore, the research basis of the LFC is far from comprehensive and at times,
claims (in the original literature from Jenkins 2000) are contradictory or not backed up with
evidence. Perhaps the best example of this is that Jenkins claims that word stress is
unteachable, yet acquiring nuclear stress is critical. With these two inextricably linked,
Jenkins suggests that general guidelines on word stress should be offered to learners, yet also
states that the rules are too complicated to be taught. These ambiguities do limit the
application of the LFC for pedagogical purposes, though this is not to say that all Jenkins’s
suggestions should be dismissed. In the case of myClass, at least some focus on segmental
phonology could be considered, not least as its importance for productive and receptive
purposes is backed up by research (beyond Jenkins’s research, see Zielinski 2006; Gilakjani
2012, etc).

Both Wells (op. cit.) and Szpyra-Kozlowska (2015) stress that the goal of pronunciation
instruction for learners is an important consideration – in this instance the learners reported a
desire to acquire native-like speaking ability. While this is probably unattainable, an
emphasis on ‘World Englishes’ or global varieties of English may not be desirable from the
learners’ perspectives. Indeed, Szpyra-Kozlowska (op. cit.) concedes that both ELF and
traditional EFL pronunciation instruction are extremes and likely to be inadequate in most
contexts. Listening and pronunciation are inextricably linked, and models of pronunciation in
many traditional EFL materials adopt what Cauldwell (2013) terms as the ‘careful speech
model’. Cauldwell’s distinction between the ‘rule-governed and tidy’ nature of most listening
models compared with the ‘unruly and messy’ nature of spontaneous speech somewhat
undermines the emphasis in myClass on features of connected speech. When learners are
identifying these suprasegmental features in rather carefully constructed models there are
arguably only contrived benefits, and the lack of accent variety in myClass audio recordings
is far from authentic. With this in mind, some focus on spontaneous speech and decoding
speech streams (primarily for receptive, ‘understanding’ purposes) could be beneficial.

Szpyra-Kozlowska’s (op. cit.) proposal of using Native English as a Lingua Franca (NELF) is
a straightforward way of justifying a native speaker model of pronunciation. She suggests
that varieties of native English should be used as the benchmark which learners should seek

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to attain, simply due to the ease of availability, clarity and comfortable intelligibility of native
speaker accents. A glance at phonological variations across varieties of English listed by
McKay (2002) provides a contrastive case in point. Szpyra-Kozlowska accuses ELF
advocates of being ‘anti-native speaker’ and suggests that varieties of English such as RP can
be divorced from aspects of prestige, and cultural / political superiority (referring to High
German as an example). Phillipson (1992) and Pennycook (1994) have both argued that
preferences for native speaker models are part of a broader, institutionalised rhetoric of
linguistic imperialism, which has led to (and maintains) the global dominance of English.
This suggests that native speaker varieties of English are the cultural or political property of
those in power. Although this may be true, I feel Szpyra-Kozlowska’s perspective is equally
valid. It is often learners themselves who state a preference for native-speaker models.
Learners need a native speaker model in order to attain a native-like accent. Whether their
desire is bound up in prestige or not, it would seem rather perverse to deny them this – after
all, the course is designed to meet learner needs.

3.3 Pronunciation priorities


3.3a What?
There are alternatives to Jenkins’ LFC, such as the Jenner’s common core (1989) and
Gibert’s ‘Six Pronunciation Priorities for beginning students’ (2001). While some of these are
below pre-intermediate level (e.g. decoding print), Gilbert’s summarised points of focus align
somewhat with those of Jenkins:

1. Sound distinctions that convey information about grammar

2. The rhythmic effects of syllable number and variable vowel length

3. Intonational highlighting of the most important word.

(Gilbert 2001:5)

Rather than focusing on various ‘one size fits all’ approaches like the above, contrastive
analysis may be a logical way forward. Walker (2001:2) highlights that the alternative to
broader priorities is to ‘follow the goals previously determined by the contrastive analysis of
the phonologies of both English and the learner’s L1’. The benefits of this, as stated by
Walker, include:

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‘a) the total workload required of teacher and learner is now greatly reduced;

b) the new goals are more achievable both in terms of teaching and learning.’

Wells (op. cit.) also suggests that contrastive analysis is worth exploiting. From experience, I
feel contrastive analysis is a beneficial practice for pronunciation instruction. There are
certainly areas of segmental pronunciation which I would have given too much time to in
class had I not acquired a basic knowledge of learners’ L1, and I have observed teachers
focusing on features of pronunciation which would be known to Thai learners (e.g.
distinctions between long and short vowels). However, although contrastive analysis may
have its merits, it is perhaps less relevant here, as myClass is a regional product. It would be
hard to incorporate content based on contrastive analysis that would be relevant in all 15
countries where the product is used. It might be feasible, though, to adopt some local
variation in the materials to accommodate the direct needs of learners in each context.
Example foci for Thai learners (from both experience and as listed by Wei & Zhou 2002)
may include epenthesis and omission of plural ‘s’ – both difficulties resulting from patterns in
the learners’ L1.

It seems, according to Hancock (op. cit.), that pronunciation priorities have already been
established. This illustration, very much in line with LFC theory, suggests the essential
features of pronunciation to focus on teaching for production, and those which may be more
beneficial for receptive purposes:

With this in mind, the lack of focus on phoneme distinctions in the myClass syllabus is a
glaring omission.

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3.3b How?
Hancock goes on to point out that there should be more focus on process rather than product
in pronunciation teaching. In fact, the same is true here for the focus on priorities – we do not
just need to focus on what needs to be taught but on how it is taught. Darcy et al (in Lee, Jang
and Plonsky, 2015) have stated, however, that there appears to be no consensus on the what,
when and how of pronunciation teaching. Research into teaching intonation for question
forms by Thompson (1995) provides a good example of how pronunciation can become
inaccurate when it is made ‘teachable’. Generalised rules such as ‘falling intonation for Wh-
questions, rising intonation for YES/NO questions’ proved to be rather inaccurate based on
Thompson’s data. Nevertheless, this rule in commonplace in coursebooks and pronunciation
materials (including myClass materials).

Dalton and Seidlhofer’s (1994) guidance book for teachers avoids all discussion on priorities
apart from a fleeting reference to the importance of intelligibility, instead focusing on how to
explain and teach various pronunciation features. Two aspects they draw attention to are the
importance of introducing language (and a pronunciation focus) based on meaningful
interaction, and the importance of tasks for ‘noticing’.

3.3c Integration vs. isolation


The organic nature of myClass, where a pronunciation focus is often drawn out from target
structures, means that language is rarely (if at all) introduced solely to illustrate a
pronunciation point. The emphasis on suprasegmental features facilitates this – Celce-Murcia
(1987) and Dalton and Seidlhofer (1994) both stress that introducing language in isolation
solely for the purpose of pronunciation is outdated and commonplace when dealing with
segmental features (tasks including minimal pairs, tongue twisters, etc). There are ways to
integrate the teaching of segments into more contextualised utterances (e.g. Morley 1992;
Boyer 2001), which should be a consideration should the myClass content be developed to
include phoneme distinctions. However, it is worth considering whether learners at pre-
intermediate level will have already developed awareness of phoneme distinctions, thus
whether integrating segmental tasks may better suit the Elementary syllabus.

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3.3d Noticing
The Noticing Hypothesis from Schmidt (1990) is a largely accepted yet somewhat ambiguous
theory of SLA. Materials writers such as Tomlinson (2013:12-15) point out that language
acquisition is facilitated by, among other things, ‘noticing how the L2 is used’. Tomlinson
elaborates:

The more a learner pays willing attention (either deliberately and consciously or incidentally
and subconsciously) to a feature of the language the more the brain is likely to notice that
feature as salient in subsequent input…

However, the author goes on to highlight that there is still debate as to whether we acquire an
L2 best through implicit mental processing or through conscious attention. Whichever
interface model is advocated would be likely to have an impact on how we define ‘noticing’ –
whether we are talking about incidental noticing or noticing through conscious effort
(Schmidt, 1990). This is certainly a flaw in past research into noticing and ELT materials. For
example, Tomlinson (op. cit.) analysed a range of popular coursebooks, finding
inconsistencies in the inclusion of noticing tasks across all skills. He did not, however, refer
to what exactly constituted a ‘noticing task’, making the findings ambiguous.

3.3e Practice and the myClass format


The lack of a practice stage in 30% of the pronunciation sections is perhaps an area of
development for the materials, although this is debatable. The need for practice here is largely
dependent on the overall structure and outcome of the lesson, which claims to adhere to a
task-based methodology (as mentioned in 4.6b, lessons actually appear to be task-supported).
Long (2015) would be likely to define myClass as still following a covert linguistic syllabus
(notional-functional) in which focused tasks are actually used as a production stage in a
typical PPP framework. The linguistic element of myClass fits well with what Skehan (in
Long op.cit.) would describe as ‘structure-trapping’, and which Long (ibid) summarises as
follows:

Role-playing a job interview, for example, not because job interviews in the L2 were target
tasks for the group of learners but because they provided opportunities for practicing
question forms… (2015:6)

Given that the syllabus loosely aligns to the CEFR framework, this is not a surprise –
structure trapping at least provides a tangible hook upon which to base assessment. Teachers
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have certainly picked up on this, with myClass having been described informally on more
than one occasion by teachers as ‘glorified PPP’. The issue of whether myClass is wrongly
packaged is rather arbitrary, and can be left to teachers to debate. However, the way the
implied structure of a myClass lesson plays out in class has a direct impact on the learners, so
is worth exploring.

The tasks that support language input in each myClass roughly fit the criteria for a ‘focused
task’ as defined by Cunningham (in Ellis 2009). It is ‘designed to provide opportunities for
communicating using some specific linguistic feature’, using some language function with
accompanying (relevant) pronunciation features. There is primarily a focus on meaning, there
is usually a ‘gap’, and there is a clear, non-linguistic outcome. However, the key to learners
realising that there is a gap in their knowledge or ability to complete a task is their initial
reliance on their own linguistic and non-linguistic resources. This, as Cunningham (ibid)
stresses, is why the target features of linguistic input are kept implicit. Recognising (one
could say ‘noticing’) the gap is what drives language input in a focused task – yet in myClass
there is an explicit focus on linguistic features.

The final task of a myClass lesson is better termed a ‘situational language exercise’, as
learners are aware of the feature they are to produce. Widdowson (2003, in Ellis op.cit.)
suggests that a task-supported approach may lead to ‘encoded usage rather than purposeful
use’, though does not claim that a task-based approach has more pedagogical value and
suggests there are benefits to both.

3.3f Comments on overall staging


It is surprising how few researchers and theorists have outlined the key stages of a
pronunciation sequence. Resource books abound which offer useful class materials
accompanied by procedural information about how to deliver the material. However, most of
these lack a description of why the activities are delivered in a certain way. Gerard Kelly’s
well-known guidance book ‘How to teach… Pronunciation’ (2001) is the perfect example
here. Kelly makes this statement:

‘The fact that pronunciation tends to suffer from neglect may not be due to teachers lacking
interest in the subject but rather to a feeling of doubt as to how to teach it’ (2001:13).

However, the advice that Kelly (ibid) offers amounts to merely providing a series of
suggested techniques (backchaining, drilling, etc). Kelly’s guidance is loose at best (see
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comments on drills and noticing, 2001:15) – and offers no real insight into the purpose of
certain approaches and why these work better than others. It is certainly worth considering
that the CELTA-qualified teacher may be operating at Kelly’s level. CELTA courses outline
typical frameworks for receptive skills, task-based or systems-based lessons, without
providing much input regarding why certain staging is followed, the purpose of each stage
and whether there are any alternatives to each approach. Teachers may often lack the time,
motivation or even interest to ask reflective questions such as ‘How are my lesson stages
actually contributing to learning?’ The so called ‘TEFL cookbooks’ with ready-to-use
activities (e.g. Pronunciation Games, Hancock 1995) do little to encourage such reflection –
but teacher development depends on it.

Teacher feedback suggests that they would like more details on how to teach certain aspects
of pronunciation, and staging is integral to this. Furthermore, if teachers are to deliver
pronunciation sections without giving much critical consideration to how these stages have
been structured, surely it is preferable that this content is devised in a consistent and
pedagogically sound way. This is so as to do the teachers’ job for them, and as mentioned in
Appendix I, this approach fits with a deficiency view of materials (Allwright, 1981).

Celce-Murcia (op. cit.) provides one example of how a pronunciation lesson (rather than a
stage) should be structured:

1. Analysis – possibly including teacher description and visual illustrations of how a feature
is produced

2. Listening discrimination

3. Controlled practice

4. Guided practice and feedback – including structured but communicative tasks

5. Communicative practice and feedback

Analysing a feature of pronunciation and providing explicit instruction from the outset does
not fit the myClass approach. Celce-Murcia herself concedes that this stage is optional, and if
it were omitted, then the staging could follow a more inductive approach.

Hancock (2018:2) suggests that the goal of pronunciation input should be to equip learners
‘to take their place in a global speech community in which English is a principle lingua
franca’. With this in mind, he outlines a hierarchy of pronunciation skills. This places

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interaction at the forefront, in particular the need to accommodate – modify pronunciation to


ensure mutual intelligibility with your interlocutor. Again, this is very much in line with
suggestions from Jenkins (2000), Giles and Powesland (1997) and so on:

This model appears to be a good rationale for developing pronunciation skills. Hancock
suggests one benefit is that ‘many traditional approaches and materials will remain
appropriate’.

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4. Research design
This section describes the approach taken to designing the research, and addresses some
considerations/issues that arose during this process.

4.1 Approach to design


The initial approach to this research was planned using the research planning matrix outlined
by Cohen et al (2005). The model is perhaps best suited to larger scale research and
encourages the researcher to explore the interplay between respondent, researcher and
recipient in detail – not all of which was directly relevant for this small study. Many of the
considerations mentioned in this section have arisen directly from addressing the 30 questions
outlined in this matrix, which I personally think is essential for anyone planning research of
this kind.

4.2 Structure
I decided to use a mixed methods approach for this research. Nunan (1991) outlines a series
of research paradigms, and the bulk of this research follows this approach:

(from Nunan 1991:6)

There are also elements of qualitative, descriptive analysis. Analysis of the syllabus map is
largely quantitative, although statistical analysis of such data sets (e.g. correlations) is not
needed; this would be more useful if examining the relationship between variables or
behavioural data – I am concerned more with gaining a general insight so descriptive
methods suffice. Trends in the data were established and interpretive analysis undertaken.
However, analysis of the student-facing teaching materials mainly involved taking field
notes. Some categorisation of these materials was undertaken which could provide
quantitative data, but the exploratory approach to the analysis means that potential categories
were not defined prior to analysing the data – I preferred to take an inductive approach as I
feel it allows for greater flexibility and is more grounded.

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Similarly, the data gathered from teacher and student surveys is largely quantitative (using
Likert scales), although optional comment boxes provide some more qualitative, explanatory
data.

4.3 Analysis of syllabus map


My initial thoughts on approaching this analysis were more deductive. I considered that a
worthwhile approach might be to do the following:

1. review a range of theory and research into effective planning and delivery of pronunciation
teaching. This would include reviewing which content should be taught and how
pronunciation input should be staged.

2. create checklists related to certain frameworks and approaches; analyse the data based on
how well they conform to/address the approaches suggested

3. decide whether the materials are aligned appropriately with established pedagogical
principles, and discuss any changes that could be made to enhance such alignment

I realised that this would not be the best approach. The syllabus had not been created with a
particular framework for teaching pronunciation in mind, so it seems inevitable that it would
not align with anything in particular. Establishing some general patterns from the data
without applying a particular framework seemed like a better approach. The difference is
mainly one of perspective. Analysing the content that is already in place is more productive,
and suggesting that changes could be made to align the phonology component more closely
to a framework suggests the need for refinement or enhancement. But analysing the data
against a pedagogical framework that it was not intended to follow almost presumes that
major changes should be made or that the component should be overhauled. My rationale
here was not to approach the materials in a reactive manner, as many of our teachers do. This
leads to generalisations (‘There’s too much of this, not enough of that, the whole approach is
wrong’). This is not constructive or respectful to the content team, and it is unlikely to lead to
change which is realistic and manageable.

With this in mind, analysis of the syllabus map usually began with a simple exploratory
question:

• Does the pronunciation component address a range of different phonological features?

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Each lesson was then categorised based on the general pronunciation point focused on during
the pronunciation stage (e.g. intonation, sentence stress, word stress, etc). Such features were
kept more general rather than specific, for example a focus on ‘intonation’ rather than ‘the
attitudinal function of intonation’.

From there, further questions arose based on previous analysis. For example, where there
were a range of lessons focusing on intonation:

• Do activities relating to intonation focus on a variety of intonation functions?

These stages often required further reading. In the above instance, I referred to literature such
as Cruttenden (1970) and Jesenska (2001) to better understand the various functions of
intonation – categorisation of the data then followed based on information from the literature.

4.4 Teaching materials


A similar approach was undertaken when making field notes on the student-facing materials
and teacher notes. On occasions, it made more sense to explore data using an open question.
For example, one question relating to teacher’s notes was:

• What support is provided in the teacher’s notes to help teachers deliver the
pronunciation point?

Again, this approach was purposeful. On the one hand, one could refer to literature and
devise a ‘checklist for effective teacher notes’. Based solely on my own teaching and writing
experience, I could have put forward a range of desirable criteria such as procedural
information, answer keys, concise explanation of a teaching point to enhance teachers’
subject knowledge, etc. However, it cannot be assumed that ‘one size fits all’.

The level of experience of teachers at the British Council varies, but it is on the more
experienced side. The minimum requirement for a new teacher is 2 years post-CELTA
experience, so we are never writing materials that are designed for a teacher with no post-
CELTA experience – in fact, the average experience of teachers across our centres would be
around 8 years, with many holding a Delta or Masters qualification. Therefore, it is difficult
to make assumptions about what makes good teaching notes.

Consider this quote from the materials writer John Hughes (2016):

“as a general rule – [teachers] won’t complain if the notes contain more ideas than they need”

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This claim is hard to validate. It does not seem to be based on research, and may well be
context- and experience-dependent. It seemed far more useful to categorise the teacher notes
based on patterns that emerge in field notes, pick out trends, and assess these against teacher
feedback in the comments given through the teacher questionnaire.

4.5 Questionnaires
There are advantages and disadvantages to using questionnaires as a research tool. These are
summarised well by Brown (1997, in Griffee 2012):

Questionnaires – benefits Questionnaires – drawbacks


• Participants report data themselves • Low response rates
• Convenience • Self-administering nature may effect
• Anonymity validity
• Easy to mix close/open ended items • They must be self-explanatory
• Reusability • Location of respondent is unknown
• Flexibility and could affect validity

(adapted from Griffee 2012)

Convenience is one of the major benefits of this approach, not least given the institutional
constraints placed on the research (see 3.6). The questionnaires were designed using Survey
Monkey, a common online survey tool used in market research. This avoids the need for
paper-based questionnaires and makes data collection far more efficient. There are some
limitations to Survey Monkey. respondents can complete the questionnaire in a flexible
location – while this may benefit them, it means respondents can be assessed or assisted.
Survey Monkey generally prevents erroneous responses or omitted information, although the
formatting of some questions on a mobile device makes correction rather cumbersome and
could lead to frustration. Nevertheless, it was a convenient tool to use for this study.

The fact that the questionnaires are reusable is another clear benefit; given that this is a
micro-analysis, it would be useful for centres around the region to undertake similar analysis
and the method facilitates this. Regarding the items in the questionnaire, a mix of open/closed
items is ideal in this instance, as it makes more extended responses optional. As a researcher,

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it would be better to gather more qualitative, explanatory data, but this should not be enforced
(see 3.5a).

Regarding drawbacks, the location where respondents complete the questionnaire is fairly
fixed (in the classroom, before or after class begins). There are restrictions in how the
questionnaire can be administered and promoted (see 3.6), and therefore the location is likely
to remain the same. There are drawbacks to this – students may begin the task prior to a
lesson but leave it unfinished if class starts, or not wish to undertake the questionnaire during
a short break between classes. Such issues are unavoidable, especially for a questionnaire
relying on voluntary participation.

Given that participation was voluntary, there were clear concerns with regard to sample size –
particularly with the questionnaire for learners. Brown (2001) points out that it is hard to
establish what sample size would allow for generalisability, and this clearly depends on the
number of participants. There are 183 myClass students at British Council Srinakarin at the
time of writing, 73 of whom attend the pre-intermediate course. Griffee (2012) offers the
following guidelines on adequate sample sizes:

(in Griffee, 2012:61)

myClass would be considered a language programme, so a sample size of 50% of participants


could be deemed adequate. Therefore, with 73 learners, the optimum sample size should be
around 37 respondents. The aim was to get as close to this figure as possible, but this very
much depended on the willingness of the learners.

Participation was also voluntary for the teacher survey. There are 10 teachers at our centre,
and it was likely that all would participate. In the hope of gaining richer feedback, the survey
was opened up to teachers at centres across Bangkok, as they are teaching the same product.
There are close to 50 teachers across the city who are regularly teaching the product, although
many are hourly paid (part-time) and might not respond to requests for participation. With

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this in mind, a number close to 20 could be deemed an adequate sample. In both instances,
the ideal would be full participation from teachers and students, but it would have been
unrealistic to expect this without further support from the organisation.

4.5a Questions
The questionnaire featured a mix of closed and open questions to gather a broader range of
data. The open questions, which were simply comment boxes for respondents to explain or
elaborate on their closed choices, were all optional. This was decided in respect to participant
time (and to avoid fatigue). The closed, gradable questions all used Likert scales to gather
opinions.

LaMarca (2011) states that a Likert scale is a useful way to measure a respondent’s degree of
agreement without forcing them into a binary ‘Yes/No’ choice. It is also a well-known
method that is versatile and quick to administer. In this instance, questions using Likert scales
also guaranteed quantifiable data. There are some drawbacks to this method – LaMarca also
points out that just as with two-alternative forced choice responses, there is a limit to possible
responses. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that respondents tend to avoid ‘extremes’ in
such scales. However, the Likert scale seems a more informative choice than a simple
‘agree/disagree’ statement – not least as a respondent may feel the need to justify their
answer in the comments should they opt for a choice that suggests a caveat (e.g. ‘Somewhat
agree’). The rank order of Likert scales also provides researchers with more differentiated
data.

In order to ensure the suitability of the questionnaire, it was piloted by two respondents, who
offered informal feedback. SurveyMonkey allows for ease of piloting, response and data
analysis. Although SurveyMonkey allows those piloting a questionnaire to add comments and
amendments, respondents preferred to share these verbally due to time restrictions. The need
to pilot this questionnaire was particularly important as this study was a one-off – there was
no opportunity to refine methods and no longitudinal focus, so I had to get it right first time.

After the pilot some questions were amended due to them being potentially leading. Some
questions were also deleted as they were repetitive – this drastically reduced the length of the
student questionnaire, which possibly helped to increase the sample size. In total, there were
22 questions in the student questionnaire, divided into four sections: General Information,

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Your pronunciation goals, Pronunciation in myClass lessons, and Features of pronunciation.


(See appendix x for the list of questions.)

The teacher questionnaire was more substantial. There were 27 questions across six sections:
General Information, Pronunciation and you, Your beliefs about teaching pronunciation,
Pronunciation stages in myClass Pre-intermediate, Teaching practice, and Teacher notes.

One technical issue with the student questionnaire was translation. It is easy to assume that
providing questions in the students’ L1 would help with validation; however, this may not be
the case. Widdowson and Voller (1991, in Griffee 2012) suggest that valid translation is
almost impossible, and that certain EFL teaching concepts would lack a valid translation. The
questionnaire was translated anyway, on the basis that it might encourage greater
participation, and technical language was kept to a minimum. Where metalanguage was used,
it was replaced with more student-friendly terms which students may have come across (e.g.
‘linking’ instead of ‘liaison’). A native Thai speaker with B2 level English (and experience of
teaching English) undertook the translation. This lack of total competence in both languages
is a design weakness, but resources were limited.

4.6 Further design considerations and limitations


There were two major issues to overcome when approaching this research: institutional
constraints and construct validity.

4.6a Institutional constraints


Although this research was permitted by my institution, it had not been requested. The British
Council were already undertaking an evaluation of the myClass syllabus, which included
gaining feedback from all stakeholders along with input from external consultants. As a
teacher and someone involved in devising materials for the syllabus, I was encouraged to
offer feedback as part of this evaluation. This only involved completing a short (10-item)
questionnaire, with half of the questions being open items to which a response was optional.
Our student (or customer) satisfaction survey was also due to be administered and would
follow a similar structure. The data from these questionnaires is often supported with
explanatory data gathered through focus groups, although this did not happen as it had done
during previous evaluations – perhaps due to lack of resources.

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Input from external consultants aside, I felt from a teacher’s perspective that the approach to
this product evaluation was perhaps too general. For example, the content team had
highlighted the need to improve the phonology component of the course prior to this
evaluation – yet no questions related directly to this component in the global teacher survey.
It seemed there was definitely scope for more specific research, especially given the lack of
focus groups. The content team agreed that this would be worthwhile, although it would need
to be conducted in a fairly short timeframe to have an impact. However, the major constraint
related to data collection.

With teachers and students already having been asked for general feedback, the organisation
did not want ‘feedback overkill’. Further requests for feedback through questionnaires may
result in affective issues such as questionnaire fatigue, which as Dörnyei (2007) highlights,
may have a bearing on reliability. One option might have been to conduct the focus groups
with teachers and students; however, resources to conduct these were not available.
Furthermore, unless teachers were encouraged to attend such a focus group as part of an
INSETT quota, attendance may be low and data not generalizable. Also, relying on students
to attend a focused feedback session is difficult without some form of incentive. It would be
likely to result in more highly-motivated students attending, again having an impact on the
validity of the data.

A compromise was found between researcher and respondents, on the basis that data gathered
would certainly be of interest. Requesting feedback from teachers and students on a purely
optional basis, without using any bulk mail requests through the British Council (text
messages/emails to all students, etc) was permitted. Most participants were thus gathered
through word-of-mouth and personal requests. Overall, it is likely that this had a major
impact on sample size, but it allowed the research to be successfully undertaken within
institutional constraints.

4.6b Construct validity


Nunan (1991:15) defines a construct as ‘a psychological quality, such as intelligence,
motivation or aptitude… that we cannot directly observe but we assume to exist in order to
explain behaviour that we can observe (e.g. speaking ability…)’. A construct such as, say,
motivation, can be hard to define. Nunan makes it clear that researchers need to ensure that if

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their research relies on constructs, their definition must be clear and accessible to an outside
observer.

The overarching aim of the research is for curriculum development. The issue being
addressed is whether the current phonological component of myClass pre-intermediate…

• meets learner needs


• has a clear and consistent pedagogical approach

‘Learner needs’
The issue of ‘learner needs’ is not black and white. Nunan talks of a programme evaluation
for curriculum development as being an ‘ongoing needs assessment’, but in practice this
involves interplay between learners and teachers. For example, there may be a complete
mismatch between what learners want, what they think they need, what teachers think they
need and what they actually need (based on assessment).

Without more time, a longitudinal study assessing learner progress is not feasible.
Furthermore, it would arguably lack validity. One form of data collection, for example, might
be case studies of specific learners. These could chart their needs before the course, assess
their progress and establish how well these needs were met. However, with myClass
following a non-linear model and learners allowed to select themes and topics of direct
interest or relevance to them, the construct of progress itself is skewed.

A learner could opt to use almost two-thirds of their learning credits (forty out of sixty 1.5
hour classes) on lessons that focus on developing intonation skills. On the one hand,
assessing their progress related to this skill would show whether their choice has been
justified. On the other hand, this approach would assume that 60 hours of study (or the 15
minutes within each hour that is set aside for phonology input) is sufficient to grasp the
nuances of syntactical, attitudinal, and other forms of intonation function – if, that is, we are
expecting to see progress. In reality, a learner might also undertake various self-study tasks to
aid them with the topic. The fact, then, that their progress cannot be measured reliably by
studying the myClass course alone in that instance would be a difficult variable to control.
Self-study in turn may be influenced by level of motivation, adding a further construct which
may be hard to define.

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‘Pedagogical approach’
Defining a clear pedagogical approach is another area where the study could be blurred. The
rationale for the myClass syllabus does mention the pedagogical underpinning of the product
in brief – and mostly in a series of loosely defined (or undefined) key terms. We understand
the product to take a ‘task-based’ approach following a ‘functional-notional syllabus’.. These
terms are valid descriptions but, just like the idea of a ‘construct’, not all these terms are
objective. Discussion among teachers in staffrooms and during INSETTs has led to debate
about our use of the term ‘task-based’ as opposed to ‘task-supported’ – a key distinction
made in the work of Long (2015).

This research is concerned with only one component of the syllabus. There is no document
available which outlines a clear rationale behind the pronunciation component of the course.
This may suggest that the component was defined in a rather loose, organic fashion.
However, we cannot assume that means it lacks a pedagogical underpinning. myClass was
written by experienced teachers and content writers who may have been skilled in devising
materials based on well-established approaches. Unfortunately, there is no information
available with regard to each writer’s approach. Therefore, it seems logical to take an
inductive approach to analysis (Chambers, 1982 in Nunan 1991) and undertake some
exploratory research into the syllabus to see whether any underlying principles of the
pronunciation component become apparent.

4.6c Triangulation
Considering these issues with validity, triangulation is important. According to Griffee (op.
cit.), gathering data from a range of sources lowers subjective bias, which is particularly
important in single-observer studies. For this study, two forms of triangulation are used. First,
triangulation of method – using a range of data collection methods (analysis of trends within
the syllabus, feedback questionnaires for teachers and learners). Secondly, using multiple
theories to interpret data from the syllabus – what Griffee (ibid) terms theory/ perspective
triangulation.

The inductive approach to syllabus analysis means that data is not directly analysed with one
pedagogical approach in mind. For example, the syllabus could be analysed in relation to how
well it addresses Jenner’s (1989) list of ‘pronunciation priorities’ (consonantal inventory,
vowel quantity, syllabic structure, syllabic values, etc). However, this would assume that

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Jenner’s theory is pedagogically sound. That may be the case, but there are other pedagogical
views; Celce-Murcia (1987) offers useful guidance on staging of phonology tasks; Cauldwell
(2013) highlights the need to focus on ‘phonology for listening’ and the inclusion of decoding
tasks – even divergence from teaching the ‘careful-speech model’ of listening (note: our
pronunciation input is based on language introduced through listening texts); Jenkins (e.g.
2000) proposes a syllabus which prioritises phonological features based on whether or not
attaining that feature would hinder intelligibility – primarily in the context of English as a
Lingua Franca (ELF). By analysing the data based on a range of theoretical perspectives,
suggestions for curriculum development (if needed) may be less biased. The knock-on effect,
however, is that suggestions may seem contradictory or seem too piecemeal.

Researchers such as Dörnyei (2007) are strong advocates of triangulation, but the approach is
not without its critics. McFee 1992, (in Griffee op. cit.) points out that the use of mixed
methods when gathering data from a range of sources can make it difficult to establish
whether we are actually analysing the same thing. This is a fair point in relation to this study
– although it does not seem to take into account required changes to a method (for example
translation) which allow for ‘perspective triangulation’.

The quantitative analysis of the syllabus component seeks to establish whether the approach
to syllabus design is principled. This is supported by field notes (qualitative/quantitative) on
teaching materials. Feedback from learners through a questionnaire (a mix of Likert scale
items and open items) aimed to establish whether the syllabus meets learner needs. A
questionnaire for teachers sought to establish whether they feel the syllabus meets learner
needs, whether the resources offer enough support for teachers, and whether they feel the
approaches used are effective/principled. There is a broad range of data without following a
more qualitative route (focus groups, observations of the product being delivered) which
might lack validity due to lack of honesty and depth from teachers, and lack of objectivity
from the researcher. However, while each method of data collection does aim to address the
fundamental question of whether the pronunciation component is suitable, it does so with a
focus on different perspectives focusing on different aspects of the component.

For example, data could show that despite the course materials following a clear and sound
pedagogical approach, teacher feedback suggests this is not the case. In this instance, it might
be that the approach deemed as ‘principled’ by the researcher was actually deemed
ineffective by teachers, making both research and practice seem rather subjective.

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Furthermore, if learners consider the syllabus to be suitable anyway, then views of the
researcher and the teachers may not be important. In this study, it is clear that the concept of
‘suitability’ is, again, something of a construct – what it means to a teacher, learner and
researcher is different. Changes to the method of data collection are would be necessary if we
wanted to explore ‘suitability’ from a range of perspectives, as a questionnaire suitable for a
teacher might not be appropriate/accessible for a learner. However, I do not see this as
invalidating the findings – it is more an opportunity to explore the interplay between
researcher, teacher and learners’ perspectives. The difficulty, however, might be establishing
whose perspective should carry greater weight (if any). As suggested, just because we are
giving the learners what they want, research might suggest that this is not what they need.

5. Analysis

5.1 Syllabus map and teaching materials


Overall, the data shows that intonation and sentence stress together feature in over half the
pronunciation tasks in the syllabus. Weak forms and contractions combine to account for
20% of the remaining tasks, and word stress is also fairly prominent (13%). In line with the
rationale for the syllabus, segmental features of pronunciation are almost non-existent.
Features such as linking sounds, elision and assimilation appear to be under-represented in
the syllabus – combined, they account for only 8% of activities. Regarding categorisation,
one could consider contractions and elision to be parts of the same category (i.e. reduction
strategies). However, the categories were chosen in order to best represent the spread of
features covered; the prevalence of tasks relating to contractions meant it warranted its own
category.

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Summary of pronunciation tasks in Pre-


intermediate myClass syllabus
2%
1% 2%

5%
8% 5% Pausing
Linking sounds
12% Weak forms
13% Intonation
Sentence stress
Word stress
Contractions
Elision
27% Segmental
25%
Assimilation

The spread of tasks across pronunciation features seems skewed. However, the categories
above are somewhat general, and further analysis shows greater variation.

5.1a Intonation
There are 35 intonation tasks in the syllabus, but the functions of intonation they cover vary.
Theorists differ on how to categorise the functions of intonation, although three typical
functions are often mentioned – those of attitude, discourse and grammar/syntax (e.g.
Cruttenden op. cit., Roach 1991, Jesenska op. cit., etc). With myClass focusing more on
functional language than specific grammatical structures, it is necessary to consider a means
of categorising intonation which accommodates these functions. Grice and Baumann (2007),
include ‘speech acts’ as a distinct function of intonation, suggesting that intonation patterns
vary based on the ‘communicative illocutionary act’ (e.g. request, promise, apology, etc).
This function is useful in the context of myClass.

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Types of intonation task in the Pre-


intermediate myClass syllabus
14
12
10 Syntactic function
8 Attitudinal function
6 Illocutionary acts
4 Information structure
2
0

The graph shows what appears to be considerable variation in the intonation tasks covered
within the syllabus. One third of the intonation tasks relate directly to target language centred
on illocutionary acts (making suggestions, apologising, etc). Tasks including a focus on
attitudinal function also tend to focus on enhancing the success of an interaction (mainly
intonation for sounding interested/expressing interest). However, over half the tasks related to
attitudinal function focus on ways to sound polite. There is only one task focusing on
information structure (i.e. discourse function), which looks at intonation patterns for reading
lists. Almost all the tasks focusing on syntactic (grammatical) function cover intonation
patterns for question forms.

It is clear that while the intonation tasks are generally varied in function, the focus within
grammatical and attitudinal functions appears repetitive. However, in practice this repetition
may appear worse in the data than it is in practice. In order to complete the pre-intermediate
level course a learner needs to complete 60 lessons. With the syllabus including 108 lessons,
that means a learner need study only 56% of the available syllabus. In that case, a learner
may encounter only half of the available lessons that include the grammatical function of
intonation as a pronunciation point. That would equate to practising intonation patterns for
question forms only six times across a 60-lesson course. This does not appear to be excessive,
although it would be the learners’ choice whether they wish to study this more.

5.1b Instructional stages


The most revealing data from the syllabus relates to the instructional approach used for the
pronunciation tasks. Each myClass lesson includes a listening text. This is usually a model

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for a functional, real-world style task that the learners perform. Target language to help
learners complete the task is usually embedded in the listening text. Once this language has
been identified and understood by the learners, they identify certain phonological features of
the language through a pronunciation task.

The staging of this pronunciation task typically involves listening to extracts from the
listening text (or the teacher’s model), identifying salient pronunciation features of the target
language with guidance, and undertaking controlled practice of these features. Controlled
practice typically consists of rehearsing the target language with the modelled pronunciation,
although it does sometimes include a more substantial controlled task. If a pronunciation task
does not include this controlled practice stage, then the first time learners will be expected to
produce the target language with the modelled pronunciation features would be during the
final task.

The staging of each pronunciation task in the syllabus was analysed based on rubrics on each
student-facing handout. An example of one rubric is as follows:

This is an example of a ‘Listen-indentify-practise’ staging of a pronunciation task. Each task


within the syllabus was categorised based on the stages it contained.

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Frequency of task staging type in pronunciation


tasks (myClass pre-intermediate)
45
40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0

The data shows that the ‘Listen-identify-practise’ staging of a task was by far the most
common (based on handout rubrics only). From a teaching perspective, it is important for
learners to undertake some form of controlled practice of pronunciation points before
undertaking the final task so they are better prepared – it would seem that the most common
staging for these lessons supports this notion.

However, again there are inconsistencies. The ‘listen-identify’ staging pattern was the second
most frequently used approach in the materials. This means that nearly a quarter of the
overall syllabus (23 lessons) includes a pronunciation task in which learners may lack the
opportunity to undertake controlled practice of the target pronunciation feature. The number
of lessons without any practice pronunciation stage in total is 32, or 30% of the syllabus.
Lessons including tasks on weak forms (44%) and word stress (50%) were those to most
frequently omit a practice stage.

The findings based on handout rubrics can only be substantiated if teachers are not given
guidance on lesson staging in the teacher notes. It may be the case that the handout itself does

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not include the entire procedure for each stage, and teachers are given further procedural or
technical information through the notes on how to deliver the stage. With this in mind, an
analysis of content in the teacher notes was also undertaken.

Handout Handout
All lessons All lessons without without
Findings from YES NO practice stage practice stage
teacher notes YES NO
Procedure 37% 63% 34.1% 65.9%
outlined?
Pronunciation 23.1% 76.9% 19.5% 80.5%
point explained?
Answers 77.8% 22.2% 92.7% 7.3%
provided?
Controlled 14.8% 85.2% 12.2% 87.8%
practice?
Extension/optional 13.9% 86.1% 9.8% 90.2%
suggestions?

Analysis of teacher notes format for all lessons, and for lessons without a practice stage
mentioned in the handout rubric.

Analysis showed that while 70% of all pronunciation tasks had some mention of a practice
stage on the handout, only 14.8% of lessons gave any information on practice stages in the
teacher notes. Furthermore, only 12.2% of the lessons with a practice stage mentioned in the
rubric had some form of information about a practice task in the teacher notes. This suggests
that there are inconsistencies in the staging of pronunciation tasks across the lessons.

Other data from the teacher notes showed that the notes were most likely to include either
answers for the tasks (77.8%) or some procedural information for teachers (37%); however,
the latter was far from comprehensive.

It is common for coursebooks to include information which may help the teacher develop
their subject knowledge. Short explanations of pronunciation points are often provided for
teachers, as they are with grammar activities, which explain any rules or patterns with clarity.
It was found that such explanations appeared in only 23.1% of pronunciation tasks. It may be
the case that experienced teachers may require more support or instruction to help them teach
the target pronunciation point. However, without this the materials are assuming a great deal
about teacher knowledge.

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5.1c Sentence stress


There are 32 lessons that include a focus on sentence stress. From an analysis of the guidance
in the teacher notes, many of these tasks seem to lack support. It is frequent for the only
guidance available to the teacher to be suggested answers, such as this example from Lesson
P013:

(The underlined words are those that should be stressed)

A majority of the suggested answers tend to focus mainly on a general sentence stress pattern
- stressing content words and leaving function words unstressed, and there is no guidance on
primary vs. secondary stress. However, no lessons explain this general rule – many instruct
the teacher to stress key words for ‘emphasis’ or ‘effect’, without much elaboration. Even
when further description is given, it is often short. Guidance in Lesson P004 is a clear
example of this, which was provided without suggested answers:

5.2 Questionnaires
Despite the aforementioned constraints on data collection, the student questionnaire almost
reached the representative sample size. It gathered 29 respondents, nearly achieving the target
of 36. However, this only represents 38% of myClass pre-intermediate students at the branch,
and is just 80% of the target sample size. Although generalisations can be drawn from the
findings, one should be aware that the data is not wholly representative. Regarding the
teacher survey, the target of 20 respondents was met, with all teachers at the Srinakarin
branch participating (besides those involved in the pilot).

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5.2a Student questionnaire


Q2. Approximate number of lessons studied
Answer Choices Responses
1-10 27.59% 8
11-20 13.79% 4
21-30 31.03% 9
41-50 13.79% 4
51-60 6.90% 2
61+ 6.90% 2

Ideally, responses would have been gathered from students with more experience of studying
myClass. Were the sample size larger, answers from students who had studied between 1-10
lessons would have been discounted in the final analysis; while their opinions are still valued,
the responses may distort the data for some questions. For example, if a learner has studied
only two lessons, they may not be able to judge whether these stages are relevant to their
needs overall. With this in mind, some data has been analysed omitting students who have
studied 10 lessons or fewer.

Strongly Disagree Neither Agree Strongly


disagree disagree agree
nor
agree
Q3. When I speak English I 7.14% 0.00% 3.57% 53.57% 35.71%
want to sound like a native
speaker
Q4. I don’t mind how my 0.00% 14.29% 50.00% 32.14% 3.57%
accent sounds, as long as
people can understand me
Q5. I need to speak English in 3.57% 0.00% 17.86% 67.86% 10.71%
an international context, with
native and non-native speakers
Q6. It is important to study 3.85% 0.00% 3.85% 50.00% 42.31%
pronunciation in class
Q7. The pronunciation stages 3.85% 0.00% 19.23% 53.85% 23.08%
in myClass are relevant to my
needs
Q8. We often practise the 3.85% 3.85% 26.92% 46.15% 19.23%
same feature of pronunciation
during class
Q9. There is too much time 3.85% 50.00% 42.31% 3.85% 0.00%
spent on pronunciation during
class
Q10. We have enough 0.00% 15.38% 23.08% 53.85% 7.69%
opportunity in each lesson to

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practise the pronunciation


rules we have learnt
Q11. I understand the 0.00% 3.85% 19.23% 69.23% 7.69%
pronunciation rules that are
explained in class
Q12. Teachers always teach 0.00% 3.85% 23.08% 57.69% 15.38%
the pronunciation stages in a
myClass
Q13. The pronunciation stages 0.00% 3.85% 11.54% 57.69% 26.92%
in myClass are interesting

The data above is based on 28 responses for questions 3-6 and 23 responses for questions 7-
13. This reduced sample size limits the significance of the findings.

Pronunciation goals
It is a widely held opinion among respondents that when they speak English they wish to
sound like a native speaker, with 90% of all respondents at least agreeing with the statement
in Q3. This points towards a perception of prestige with regard to native speaker accent,
though it is not supported by responses to Q4, where only 15% of respondents disagreed that
accent was unimportant as long as a speaker was intelligible. As expected, nearly 80% of
respondents highlighted a need to use English in an international context with native and non-
native speakers. This purpose for learning, coupled with attitudes towards acquiring a native
speaker accent, could imply a desire for upward convergence when using English in a global
context (see accommodation theory in Giles and Powesland op. cit.). Strong agreement
among respondents that pronunciation instruction is important in the classroom could also
imply that learners truly value a native speaker pronunciation model.

Pronunciation in myClass
Overall, student perception of the current pronunciation component is positive. There is much
agreement that the component on the whole is relevant to learner needs (77%), and
interesting (85%). These findings are similar based only on data from myClass students
studying over 10 lessons – in fact there is stronger agreement regarding the relevance of this
component among those who have studied the course for longer (36% compared with 23%).
Teacher delivery of the component is also viewed positively – learners mostly agree that
instruction is clear (76%), adequate time is spent on this stage (53%) and that teachers do
generally teach this stage of the lesson (73%). This latter finding, however, does also suggest
that some teachers omit these stages. This is worth exploring in relation to the teacher
questionnaire.

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Learners generally feel that they are given adequate practice of the target pronunciation
during class time (60%) although this finding is not compelling, with under 8% strongly
agreeing. This figure is roughly the same when omitting the data from newer students. There
were very few open responses from students, although one comment did relate to the lack of
practice.

Nearly two-thirds of learners felt that there was too much repetition in the materials – that the
same pronunciation feature was practised too often. This figure rises to nearly three-quarters
(73%) among those who have studied more than 10 lessons.

The largely positive findings perhaps seem less compelling due to the research design. As La
Marca (2011) points out, there may be a tendency to avoid extreme answers. However, this is
why the data above reports the percentages as a sum of the trend towards agreement or
disagreement. The findings do generally suggest that students are satisfied with this
component, but improvements could certainly be made to the variety of materials and the
amount of practice time allowed for the target pronunciation during the lesson.

What I don't I understand I understand I understand I don't


is this? understand this a little bit this quite well this very well need more
this at all help with
this

Word stress 0.00% 0.00% 30.43% 52.17% 17.39% 0.00%


Sentence 0.00% 8.70% 30.43% 47.83% 13.04% 0.00%
stress
Contractions 0.00% 8.70% 43.48% 30.43% 17.39% 0.00%
Weak forms 0.00% 4.35% 43.48% 39.13% 13.04% 0.00%
Pausing 0.00% 8.70% 30.43% 39.13% 21.74% 0.00%
Linking 0.00% 4.35% 39.13% 34.78% 17.39% 4.35%
sounds
Intonation 0.00% 4.35% 26.09% 52.17% 13.04% 4.35%

Features of pronunciation
The pattern of responses in students’ self-assessment of competence was fairly similar.
Questionnaire fatigue may have played a part at this stage, and I would question the
reliability of this pattern. However, one interesting point to notice is that perceived
understanding of sentence stress and intonation was higher than other features. Analysis of
the syllabus shows that these two features make up a combined 52% of all pronunciation foci
across the syllabus. Better understanding of these features could correlate with their
prevalence in the syllabus, although this could only be confirmed through individual analysis

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of lessons undertaken by each learner. This is not possible as the questionnaire was
undertaken anonymously.

Even if the data could be considered reliable, the consistency here does not give an insight
into specific areas for improvement or development with regard to content or learner
competence.

5.2b Teacher questionnaire


Q1. Teaching experience (years)
Answer Choices Responses
0-2 0.00% 0
3-5 10.00% 2
6-9 0.00% 0
10+ 90.00% 18

Q2. Teaching qualifications (select one)


Answer Choices Responses
CertTESOL/CELTA or equivalent 25.00% 5
DipTESOL/DELTA or equivalent 30.00% 6
Masters (relevant to teaching) 5.00% 1
Diploma and Masters 40.00% 8
Other (e.g. PGCE, BEd) 0.00% 0

In general, respondents to the teaching questionnaire were at the more experienced end of the
academic staff at our centres. This may have had an impact on responses related to subject
knowledge and teaching of various pronunciation features. With this in mind, a comparison
between more and less qualified teachers (rather than more or less experienced) was
undertaken for Q3.

Q3. In your opinion, please rate your competence in teaching these features of
pronunciation.
What is not not that neither quite very
it??? competent competent competent competent competent
at all nor
incompetent
the 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 21.05% 42.11% 36.84%
individual
sounds of
English
word stress 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 5.26% 52.63% 42.11%

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sentence 0.00% 0.00% 5.26% 21.05% 42.11% 31.58%


stress
intonation 0.00% 0.00% 10.53% 21.05% 52.63% 15.79%
linking 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 15.79% 47.37% 36.84%
sounds
weak 0.00% 0.00% 5.26% 10.53% 42.11% 42.11%
sounds
contractions 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 5.26% 36.84% 57.89%
elision 10.53% 0.00% 0.00% 10.53% 47.37% 31.58%
assimilation 10.53% 0.00% 5.26% 5.26% 47.37% 31.58%

The general level of competency as self-reported by teachers was high for all features of
pronunciation. The only variance between experienced and less experienced teachers was in
competence in teaching the individual sounds of English. The syllabus map shows that this
feature is rarely covered in the myClass syllabus, and less experienced teachers mainly
responded ‘neither competent nor incompetent’ for this feature.

For most features of pronunciation over 78% of teachers reported being either ‘quite
competent’ or ‘very competent’ at teaching each skill. The only two features where under
three-quarters of teachers reported this level of competence were intonation (68%) and
sentence stress (74%). This difference is not hugely significant; nevertheless it is an
interesting finding. It appears that while students feel they have a better understanding of
these pronunciation features, teachers actually feel less competent in teaching them.

Beliefs about pronunciation / Pronunciation stages in myClass


Strongly Disagree Neither Agree Strongly
disagreed agree agree
nor
disagree
Q4. We should spend time in 0.00% 5.26% 21.05% 63.16% 10.53%
class teaching learners how
to pronounce the individual
sounds of English correctly.
Q5. Being able to produce 0.00% 0.00% 36.84% 57.89% 5.26%
natural, connected speech in
English is a realistic goal for
our learners

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Q6. Practising patterns of 0.00% 10.53% 57.89% 31.58% 0.00%


connected speech is more
important for our learners
than practising individual
sounds
Q7. Pronunciation should not 15.79% 42.11% 26.32% 15.79% 0.00%
be taught in every lesson
Q8. Pronunciation is an 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 63.16% 36.84%
important area to study for
our learners
Q9. The pronunciation tasks 15.79% 57.89% 15.79% 10.53% 0.00%
in myClass are varied
Q10. My learners value the 0.00% 5.26% 36.84% 57.89% 0.00%
pronunciation stages in
myClass
Q11. Overall, the 10.53% 31.58% 36.84% 21.05% 0.00%
pronunciation tasks in
myClass pre-intermediate
are well-structured
Q12. Overall, the 10.53% 21.05% 42.11% 21.05% 5.26%
pronunciation stages in
myClass give learners
enough practice of the target
pronunciation

Teacher responses to some of the questions above support areas for development highlighted
by learners. For example, 73% of teachers disagree that the pronunciation tasks in myClass
are varied (Q9), supporting the finding that two-thirds of learners feel the tasks could be more
varied. Teacher’s responses suggest that the learners value pronunciation stages in myClass
(albeit tentatively) and that this is an important area of study, and they generally feel that
pronunciation should be taught in every lesson. However, learners report that these stages are
not always taught. This highlights a mismatch between beliefs and practice among teachers.
Open comments explore this further:

The newest iteration of myClass materials seems to have more varied


pronunciation activities but if you teach a lot of lessons at the same level
you soon start to feel that the tasks and the pron focus are quite
repetitive…

There seems little variety in approach to PRON, and I think learners often
have a sense that they have 'done this already' – this may be for good
reason but I think if a PRON element is to exist in every lesson, which it

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probably isn't – certainly for higher levels – then a variety of approaches


and less focus on word stress / schwa would be desirable…

Teacher beliefs about segmental versus suprasegmental features of pronunciation suggest that
they would welcome increased focus on teaching individual sounds of English. There is clear
agreement that time should be spent in class addressing individual sounds, although the
wording of the question means we cannot assume that this time relates to explicit instruction.
However, with teachers neither agreeing nor disagreeing that dealing with connected speech
should take precedence over the teaching of individual sounds, this could suggest that
teachers feel segmental features are also important to address within the syllabus.

Teacher responses regarding the structure and staging of the pronunciation component are not
reassuring from a design perspective. Overall, only around a quarter of teachers feel that
learners get enough practice of target pronunciation within a lesson, and only 20% of teachers
feel that these stages are well structured. Open comments from teachers elaborate on these
points:

More materials for practising the feature of pronunciation would be


beneficial without providing Ss with written words e.g. use more
pictures…

They often comprise of having students repeating decontextualised


utterances that haven't been focused on for form, meaning and
appropriateness…

…some activities use the full audio, which is too long to focus on
pronunciation….

There needs to be more recognition of the fact that pronunciation is as


much a listening skill (bottom-up/decoding) as it is a speaking skill…

My teaching practice (myClass)


Strongly Disagree Neither Agree Strongly
disagree agree agree
nor
disagree
Q14. I make sure that 0.00% 0.00% 21.05% 57.89% 21.05%
learners understand why a
pronunciation feature is
important to learn about

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Q15. I always teach the 5.26% 15.79% 15.79% 36.84% 26.32%


pronunciation stage in a
myClass lesson
Q16. I often have to 5.26% 26.32% 26.32% 36.84% 5.26%
supplement the pronunciation
stages with further resources
Q17. I often refer to 10.53% 52.63% 26.32% 10.53% 0.00%
information in reference
books/online to help me
understand what I’m teaching
Q18. I think the 0.00% 0.00% 15.79% 68.42% 15.79%
pronunciation stages are an
important part of myClass
Q19. The myClass approach 10.53% 15.79% 68.42% 5.26% 0.00%
to teaching pronunciation is
effective

There is a danger in relying on self-reported data from teachers: it is fair to say that, when
feeling challenged, teachers may answer questions from the perspective of what they should
do, rather than reflect on their actual practice. Some questions (such as Q14 and Q15)
inevitably lead teachers in this direction. It is interesting that over 20% of respondents admit
to not always teaching the pronunciation stages. Such honesty is refreshing, and if we are to
consider that some teachers may be on the defensive when answering this question, the true
figure may in fact be higher. However, there may be more to why some teachers are omitting
these stages, which is highlighted by this open response to Q19:

Some of these questions are difficult to answer. e.g. Having a pronunciation


section in a lesson is not an approach to teaching pronunciation per se. I
have observed different teachers approach the same pronunciation section
in very different ways.

It appears here that the respondent is hinting at teacher agency, and suggesting that teachers
adapt or alter these pronunciation sections when planning (Q16 suggests this is fairly
common, and is legitimate) – it follows that they are then not exactly teaching the
pronunciation stage as the materials intend, which may have a bearing on their response to
Q15. This teacher’s perception that pronunciation sections of a myClass lesson do not follow
an inherent approach in themselves is valid, but could be seen as critical of the materials. For
example, the sequence of activities in a global coursebook it is often staged to follow a
particular framework (for example PPP). The fact that a similar staging framework or
approach is not identifiable to a myClass teacher could suggest a number of things: lack of

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engagement with the material on the teachers’ part, poor materials design, preference for an
alternative approach. Even so, it is the researcher rather than the teacher who is at fault here –
Q19 was clearly deemed awkward or ambiguous.

Q17 is an interesting finding, with only 10% of teachers seeking additional support with
regard to the subject knowledge required to teach pronunciation stages. On the one hand,
questionnaire respondents were mainly experienced teachers – one could assume that their
subject knowledge is already strong, and the self-reported data in Q3 supports this. However,
given that one quarter of respondents were less experienced teachers, it is interesting to map
the general trend that teachers are not autonomously seeking support. Teachers are not
restricted to only reference materials or online support in developing their subject knowledge
– asking a more experienced teacher in the staffroom for help would be an equally valid
approach. However, one cannot assume that teachers will seek such opportunities
autonomously. A mediating resource for teachers in enhancing subject knowledge of
pronunciation features could be the myClass Teacher Notes.

Teacher Notes
Strongly Disagree Neither Agree Strongly
disagree agree agree
nor
disagree
Q21. I often use the teacher 21.05% 10.53% 5.26% 52.63% 10.53%
notes when planning /
delivering the pronunciation
stage of a myClass lesson
Q22. Overall, there is enough 15.79% 31.58% 31.58% 10.53% 10.53%
procedural information for
pronunciation stages in the
teacher notes

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Q23. Teachers need more 0.00% 21.05% 31.58% 42.11% 5.26%


guidance in the notes on how
to teach particular features of
pronunciation (e.g. how to
mark word stress)
Q24. Teachers need more 0.00% 5.26% 21.05% 63.16% 10.53%
explanation/details in the notes
about the aspect of
pronunciation they are
teaching (e.g. definitions of
terminology like assimilation,
elision, contractions, etc)
Q25. The answers in teacher 5.26% 36.84% 36.84% 21.05% 0.00%
notes for the pronunciation
stages are accurate

Overall, teachers seem to agree that the teacher notes could be enhanced to address gaps in
teacher subject knowledge (Q24). Nearly half of the respondents also feel that there could be
more procedural knowledge in the notes (Q22). Just under half of teachers feel that more
advice about techniques for teaching pronunciation features could be provided. Given
previous responses, it could be assumed that experienced teachers feel such techniques may
offer support for less experienced teachers – some open comments suggest this:

Many novice teachers don't understand the feature they are teaching…

There may be some teachers who are not comfortable with teaching
pronunciation so maybe some suggestions of how to teach them or an
activity idea where students can quickly practise them might be
beneficial…

There are questions for many regarding the accuracy of the answer keys, again this is
explained in the open comments:

Intonation/sentence stress answers can often be quite subjective…

I think more teacher's notes may be helpful – but inaccuracy has often been
a real problem…

All of the above may be variables which affect the response to Q21. Despite the potential for
the Teacher Notes to be a valuable resource, only 62% of teachers actually refer to them.
Lack of engagement with this resource is likely to correlate with the lack of comprehensive
and accurate content it offers.

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5.3 Current syllabus related to the literature


There are some points worth noting when the analysis is related back to the literature review.

5.3a EIL
Nearly 80% of students that answered they are learning English for use in an international
context with native and non-native speakers (Q5), while 88% said their goal was to sound
like a native speaker. In hindsight, the wording of this question appears leading.
Nevertheless, there is a strong suggestion that students favour and value a native-speaker
model, aligning more with the ideas of Szpyra-Kozlowska (op. cit.).

Teachers show willingness to include a greater variety of accents:

The materials are often too brief, incorrect (e.g. intonation) and do not take into account
accents, world englishes or culture [sic]

However, listening models are unlikely to change, especially given a majority of learners
prefer the current model.

5.3b Practice stages


The lack of a practice stage in 30% of the pronunciation sections is perhaps an area of
development for the materials, although this is debatable. The final task in a myClass lesson
is, to adapt Cunningham’s (in Ellis 2009) wording, ‘a situational pronunciation exercise’ –
providing learners actually make use of the target language during a task. However, as a task-
supported approach usually adheres to a PPP methodology, it does appear that a controlled
practice stage in this traditional framework is missing from 30% of the resources. It is worth
noting that many practice stages that do appear in the syllabus are rather simple – involving
repetition of target phrases (this is fairly isolated practice).

It should be noted here, as some teachers pointed out in the questionnaire, that the approach
outlined in the materials may not be the approach to practice taken by teachers. The
pronunciation stages last for around 15 minutes, but we don’t know whether teachers
integrate the target language for practice at other stages of the lesson. Without the resources
to observe each teacher, we have to assume that the lesson materials represent a core,

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suggested approach to pronunciation input. With this in mind, practice within the
pronunciation stages should definitely be enhanced.

5.3c Noticing tasks


Within myClass, the task staging analysis reveals clear and fairly consistent use of conscious
noticing tasks (termed ‘identify’). Close to 90% of pronunciation sections include a conscious
noticing stage, in which learners are instructed to identify or listen for particular
pronunciation features. This is certainly an area of strength in the current materials and
reflects positively when compared to the findings from coursebooks mentioned by Tomlinson
(op. cit.).

5.3d Hierarchy of skills


The most commonplace ‘listen, identify, practice’ staging of a pronunciation stage (40
lessons) fits roughly in Hancock’s (2018) ‘copy’ category. Arguably, the pronunciation
stages which include some kind of ‘explanation’ stage along with noticing (e.g. explain –
listen – identify, 5 lessons) may have more receptive benefits and fall into the ‘analyse’
category. The freer production of target pronunciation features during a final task appears to
be a leap at times – ensuring that learners get some form of controlled practice beyond simply
repeating (‘copy’) would serve as a stepping stone here. Overall, it appears that more
explanation and practice for each pronunciation stage may help learners move beyond simply
noticing and copying a feature, to understanding it. As for higher order skills such as
accommodation – I am not sure that is a key consideration for the learners just yet. At pre-
intermediate level the learners’ repertoire and control of pronunciation features is still at a
lower stage of development and accommodation may be an over-ambitious target.

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6. Findings and suggestions

6.1 Positive feedback for the myClass syllabus


As mentioned at the outset, this research was not designed only to critique myClass. I feel
this is particularly important to emphasise in the case of a product such as this, which was
devised primarily by practitioners rather than qualified, experienced and professional
materials writers. Feedback and analysis have revealed a number of positives with regard to
the pronunciation component of the product. With experts such as Kelly (op. cit.)
highlighting the doubt some teachers face when it comes to the teaching of pronunciation, it
is a credit to the skills of British Council teachers that their work has resulted in a fairly
consistent and teachable product, which received good feedback from the small sample of
students in this study. Positives included the following:

• Learners highlighted that they were generally happy with the overall content of the
pronunciation component of the syllabus. They felt it was relevant to their needs, and
overall, teachers felt that their students valued the pronunciation focus in myClass.

• Materials include a broad range of phonology features covering 2 out of 3 essential/


core areas of pronunciation focus highlighted by researchers and methodologists. The
omission of the third component, phoneme discrimination, was out of the teacher-
writers’ hands – thus does not reflect negatively on them.

• Certain pedagogical tasks employed by teacher-writers, such as noticing stages, are


underpinned by research findings. Whether teachers are aware of this or not, it seems
either knowledge or intuition on the part of the teachers has at times proved effective.

• Learners report marginally better competence in recognising and producing


phonological features which appear prominently in the myClass syllabus. While the
contribution of the syllabus to such improvement may be broad and variable, this is
nevertheless an interesting correlation.

• Teachers themselves appear (in some cases) to be aware of improvements that need to
be made to the product. The may not be surprising, but it is interesting that teacher
feedback is often supported by findings from the syllabus, materials, and comments
from learners. There could be scope here for identifying and utilising those teachers
who have made astute observations about the materials, as they could be well placed
to make necessary changes.
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This is a snapshot of positives taken from the research. It is also interesting that based on self-
reported data, teachers themselves appear confident with regard to subject knowledge related
to phonology. If future observations back this up, this could be further motivation for the
content team to make use of teacher expertise in adapting materials where necessary.

6.2 Suggestions for syllabus amendments based on findings


The data gathered from a range of sources has certainly proven interesting, and there are
some clear patterns. It should be stressed that sample sizes were small in the student
questionnaire, and so findings may not be generalizable. However, suggestions can be made
based on learner feedback when further data offers evidence to support the data from
students.

6.2a Inclusion of segmental phonology


Although not mentioned by the learners, teachers did highlight that a focus on teaching both
segmental and suprasegmental features of phonology would be beneficial. Theory,
particularly the LFC, also suggests that a segmental focus may benefit the learners. The
question of how to go about this is complicated, as myClass is a regional product. Contrastive
analyses between English and the L1 of the different myClass learner nationalities could be
broad-based – to save time and go for an inclusive method, teaching all the sounds of English
(rather than those which learners specially find tough) may be the most practical approach,
with teachers spending more or less time on certain sounds as required. In this case,
supplementary summaries of common learner pronunciation difficulties based on L1, or
teacher training sessions to ensure clarity on this, would be advisable.

Teachers and researchers are divided on whether to introduce learners to the phonemic chart.
Consider this interesting summary of opinions from ‘How to teach…phonemic script’ (OUP):

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My personal belief is that the phonemic chart is useful visual representation of the English
sound system, and if introduced to learners in the early stages of study, can be of great benefit
– not least for self-study. My suggestion therefore would be the following:

- Integrate a focus on teaching the individual sounds of English into the myClass syllabus.

- Include the gradual teaching of the phonemic chart (from individual sounds, to pairs of
sounds, consonant blends and whole syllables or words), but do so at Elementary level. This
will equip learners with necessary skills in phonemic discrimination in preparation to
progress through the levels.

From a practical standpoint, learners who begin their studies at pre-intermediate level would
miss out on such input. A series of review/study skills lessons as a preparatory unit for pre-
intermediate study, which include covering the basics of the phonemic chart, may be a
workaround.

Whichever approach is taken to integrating tasks related to segmental phonology into the
syllabus, research stresses that measures should be taken to ensure these features are
contextualised rather than (as with a traditional approach) isolated (see 3.3c).

6.2b Add greater variety


Learners and teachers agreed that the materials can be quite repetitive. There were not many
open comments about which features appear repeatedly; however, analysis of the syllabus
map helped to establish this. It is clear that intonation and weak forms feature prominently in
the materials. Research suggests that the (over-)emphasis on weak forms is perhaps
misplaced (Jenkins (2000) and Hancock (2018) suggest that this feature is non-core). While
the research here is not conclusive, the data shows that this feature is taught in 1 out of 4

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myClass lessons. With this in mind, reducing the amount of stages that focus on weak forms,
in favour of increased segmental focused tasks, may be advisable.

Intonation is another prominent feature of the syllabus; however, this is a broad area. The
focus on this area could be deemed adequate, but there is perhaps insufficient variety. There
is too much focus on the same area of syntactic function – question forms. While it is clear
that repetition seems more salient for teachers compared to learners, further variety here may
be welcome. One suggestion might be to focus on grammatical intonation in tone boundaries
to remove ambiguity, as this feature is not covered in the syllabus. Even a focus on
distinguishing utterance types (exclamation, statement, question) by their intonation patterns
may be useful for sensitising learners to these patterns. Theory does suggest, however, that
certain features of intonation may be unteachable – Jenkins (2000) suggests this is
particularly true of attitudinal function, so the content team may wish to review the
effectiveness or ‘teachability’ of these tasks in the syllabus (see Thompson in 3.3b).

6.2c Clarity on receptive / productive focus


myClass pronunciation stages often include the systematic or explicit teaching of a non-core
pronunciation feature (e.g. weak forms, linking, etc) which, according to some research, is
unteachable, inconsequential, or even a hindrance to mutual intelligibility (see 3.3b).
However, this does not mean that addressing this feature is wrong. It may be that the purpose
of developing it is to improve receptive competence rather than production. If this is the case,
it may be better to relocate certain tasks into the listening rather than the pronunciation
component. Making it a feature of the pronunciation stage could imply that learners are
expected to produce it freely during the final task. As research points out, this may be
unrealistic – especially with features such as weak forms and sentence stress, perhaps even
word stress according to Jenkins (2000). In open comments, one teacher did suggest the need
to focus on decoding, and certain tasks in the syllabus are more clearly aligned with
‘phonology for listening’ tasks outlined by Cauldwell (2013) – albeit adopting a ‘careful
speech’ model. Based on this analysis, it is recommended that pronunciation tasks are always
based on purposeful and realistic production goals, and that tasks focusing on understanding
rather than being understood are incorporated under the heading of ‘Listening’ in the
handouts. The implication of this would be that unless more receptive focused pronunciation
tasks are replaced with a productive focus in each lesson, students will not be expected to
complete a pronunciation stage in every lesson.

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6.2d More consistent staging and more practice


The need to include more practice activities for the pronunciation materials is clear. Over a
third of learner responses suggested that the amount of practice in pronunciation stages is
inadequate. Only a quarter of teachers feel that these stages offer enough practice. Analysis of
the materials shows that over 85% of lessons do not have a practice task that goes beyond the
‘copy’ category outlined by Hancock (2018). It is strongly recommended that the content
team make this a priority. This recommendation is based on the fact that myClass lessons do
seem to follow a PPP format (despite management and marketing suggesting otherwise).
Pronunciation stages appear to be at minimum a presentation-practice type structure so as to
best prepare learners for the overall production stage. The content team’s decision to follow a
structure-trapping, ‘situational language exercise’ format could be questioned and a more
fundamental suggestion might be to overhaul this. However, this is well beyond the scope of
this research and highly unlikely to happen, and therefore we should aim to look at more
realistic approaches to enhancing the current offer.

Analysis of teaching materials showed that 30% of all lessons did not include any practice at
all – that is, not even highly formulaic drilling or ‘read each sentence’ repetition tasks. The
most manageable approach to enhancing the component would be to ensure that each handout
includes a rubric on the handout or in the teacher notes instructing learners to practise the
target pronunciation feature (even if that is simply by repeating the phrases). Ideally, the
enhancement of this section would be far less superficial – supplementary practice materials
could be provided for each lesson which encourage contextualised practice of the target
feature. Pooling such supplementary resources at a local or regional level may again be
another workaround, but a preference would be for the materials themselves to be enhanced
by the content team.

Regarding the overall structure of pronunciation tasks, the review from Hancock (2018)
seems to suggest that the stage aims with a pronunciation activity focus primarily on lower
order skills. It is not clear exactly how accommodation-focused activities could be integrated
into the syllabus, or exactly what they would be. Were funds available, seeking consultation
on this matter might be worthwhile.

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6.2e Teacher notes


The self-reported competency of teachers in delivering the pronunciation component suggests
that support in the teacher notes might not be necessary. However, most teacher-respondents
had a decade or more of teaching experience. There were open suggestions made to include
more information in the notes to help less experienced teachers to develop their subject
knowledge and learn how to teach a particular pronunciation feature (Q23, Q24) This may be
useful as the levels of experience of new teachers in the future are unpredictable.. Teachers
also highlight inconsistencies or inaccuracies with answer keys, which is a clear area for
improvement. It is recommended that a full review of the teacher notes for this section is
undertaken, as content in some teacher notes was very brief or unclear.

6.2f Summary of recommendations for enhancing the myClass pronunciation component


Content
• Integrate tasks related to segmental phonology into the syllabus at all levels.
Include the systematic teaching of the phonemic chart in the Elementary level
syllabus, and review tasks on this at other levels
• Add more variety to pronunciation stages. In particular, reducing input on less
‘teachable’ features such as sentence stress and weak forms, and input that appears
repetitive, such as broadening the range of activities related to syntactic function
Staging
• Ensure that each pronunciation stage offers learners an adequate level of practice.
At the very least, ensure each lesson guides learners to ‘notice and copy’ target
features. Preferably, include supplementary resources for contextualised practice of
the target feature, moving towards the ‘modify’ category of high order skills
outlined by Hancock (2018)
Teacher support
• Provide clear guidance on contrasts between English and learner L1 in each
country. Offer teachers training related to this, and encourage them to prioritise
areas of difficulty for learners (particularly segmental) based on contrastive analysis
• Ensure all answer keys are updated and accurate
• Enhance the teacher notes – go into greater depth to help less experienced teachers

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develop their subject knowledge and expand their understanding of how to teach
various pronunciation features. Ensure that teachers are not only skilled in using a
range of techniques, but aware of effective staging for pronunciation input and
practice.

7. Conclusion
This research aimed to establish whether the pronunciation materials in myClass Pre-
intermediate met learner needs, were designed in a principled manner, and offered enough
support for teachers. Despite some constraints and low sample sizes, effective triangulation of
the data has revealed interesting and informative patterns. Put simply, the current materials
do meet learner needs, based primarily on what the learners themselves perceive their needs
to be. Data from teachers and analysis of the syllabus design reveal that some changes can be
made to enhance the pronunciation component. However, it must also be stressed that the
analysis has revealed many positives related to the current materials. On the question of
whether there is enough support for teachers delivering the pronunciation stage, analysis and
teacher feedback are clear – the teacher notes are certainly an area of development for the
product.

Broader questions could be asked of the myClass syllabus, such as why there is a mismatch
between how the approach is defined (task-based) and what it actually is (essentially PPP).
However, these are beyond the scope of this assignment. The organisation is unlikely to make
wholesale changes to the product due to the costs involved and previous investment in the
myClass brand. Therefore, any suggested enhancements to the product must be realistic and
manageable. I believe the suggestions made here match these criteria.

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8. Bibliography
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NSW: Boyer Education.

Cauldwell, R. (2013). Phonology for Listening: Teaching the speech stream. Birmingham,
UK: Speech in Action

Celce-Murcia, M. (1987). Teaching pronunciation as communication. Current perspectives


on pronunciation, 1, 12.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2002). Research methods in education. London:
Routledge.

Cruttenden, A. (1970). On the so-called grammatical function of intonation. Phonetica, 21(3),


182-192.

Dalton, C., & Seidlhofer, B. (1994). Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics: Quantitative, qualitative, and


mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2009). Task‐based language teaching: Sorting out the


misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), 221-246.

Fraser, H. (1999). ESL pronunciation teaching: Could it be more effective? Australian


Language Matters, 7(4), 4-8

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JOURNAL OF LANGUAGE TEACHING AND RESEARCH VOL. 1, NO. 1

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Giles, H., & Powesland, P. (1997). Accommodation theory. In Sociolinguistics (pp. 232-239).
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Hancock, M. (1995). Pronunciation games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hancock, M. (2018). Pronunciation teaching post-ELF. Accessed via:


http://hancockmcdonald.com/sites/hancockmcdonald.com/files/file-
downloads/Post%20ELF.pdf

Hughes, J & Clandfield, L. (2016). Ten tips for writing effective rubrics in your materials.
Modern English Teacher, 25(3)

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Jenner, B. (1989). Teaching pronunciation: The common core. Speak Out, 4, 2-4.

Jenkins, J. (1998). Which pronunciation norms and models for English as an international
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Roach, P. (1991). English Phonetics and Phonology 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge
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linguistics, 11(2), 129-158.

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Approach Bristol: Multilingual Matters

Thompson, S (1995) Teaching intonation on questions. ELTJ 49/3

Tomlinson, B. (2013). Developing materials for language teaching. (2nd ed). London:
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Walker, R. (2001) Pronunciation priorities, the Lingua Franca Core, and monolingual groups.
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Walker, R. (2010). Teaching the pronunciation of English as a lingua franca (Vol. 345).
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Wei, Y & Zhou, Y. (2002). Insights into English Pronunciation Problems of Thai Students.
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Wei, M. (2006). A Literature Review on Strategies for Teaching Pronunciation. Accessed


via: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED491566

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Przedlacka (Eds.), (pp. 101-110).

Zielinski, B. (2006). The intelligibility cocktail: An interaction between speaker and listener
ingredients. Open access from
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Zoghbor, W.S. (2010), The Effectiveness of the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) in Improving the
Perceived Intelligibility and Perceived Comprehensibility of Arab Learners at Post-
Secondary Level . University of Leicester Doctoral Thesis.

8.1 Other references / self-references

How to teach… phonemic script (OUP) accessed via:


https://ihconference.wikispaces.com/file/view/neint_teacherdev06.pdf
Correspondence with Laura Patsko: https://eltplanning.com/2018/07/27/pronunciation-
priorities/

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9. Appendices
Appendices are provided as supporting documents
I) MAPDLE Module in Materials Development, Assignment 1
This assignment, about the development of a myClass unit of materials for Elementary level,
includes further information on the myClass syllabus and rationale behind the materials
design as a whole. It is provided for orientation purposes if necessary.
II) myClass syllabus map for the Pre-intermediate syllabus
This includes exact details of the myClass syllabus as provided by the content team.
III) Raw data for analysis of materials and syllabus map
Excel file. This includes maps for other levels.
IV) Raw data from student questionnaire responses
Excel file, in autoformat as downloaded via Survey Monkey
V) Raw data from teacher questionnaire responses
Excel file, in autoformat as downloaded via Survey Monkey
VI) List of questions used for the student questionnaire, including Thai translation
VII) List of questions used for the teacher questionnaire

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