||Challenges and Opportunities in Business English Writing Tasks for Taiwanese Technical College Students: A Sociocultural Perspective
||Department of English
business English writing
||長久以來，商務英文寫作能力一直被視為台灣應用英語專修生在職場上不可或缺之語言能力。然而，從事商務英文寫作任務所涉及之多重認知需求，對尚未有商務職場經驗之技職院校生而言，似乎是挑戰重重。本研究奠基於社會文化理論，首先期於對當前台灣技職校院教學環境提供一個更豐富之瞭解，次則藉以探索以社會文化理論為本之任務式教學法，能否在這些技職院校生從事商務英文寫作任務時，有效地促使其發展出高階智識能力。本研究採用多重方法之研究法(a multimetod approach)來進行，這些方法包括：(1)分四階段進行之問卷調查法、(2)與共同授課之業師訪談法、(3)學生在四種情境下寫作作品分析、以及(4)學生個別訪談。如研究發現所示，社會文化觀點可以對台灣持續變動之技職院校專業英語教學環境提供一個宏觀之視野。在微觀方面，以社會文化理論為本之任務式教學法，則能藉由不同型態之「社會性介入」(social mediation)，有效涵蓋處於不同「最近發展區」(ZPD)之技職院校生其寬廣之學習需求。透過謹慎設計之任務循環，將「物件調節」(object-regulation)、「他人調節」(other-regulation)、以及學習者「自我調節」(self-regulation) 之理念融入教學活動中，研究中之技職院校生因此能在其從事商務英文寫作任務時發展出個人之高階智識能力。本研究雖受限於行動研究及個案研究之本質，研究發現中所衍生出來之通則，對其他專業英文學習環境依然適用，特別是師生雙方對於共同建構多重認知能力之學習法持有高度熱忱者。
||Business English writing ability has long been regarded as an indispensable workplace language skill for applied English majors in Taiwan. However, the multiple cognitive demands involved in taking on business writing tasks seemed to pose various challenges for the pre-experience technical college students in the study. The study was grounded in socialtultual theory (SCT), first to provide an enriched understanding of the current teaching and learning context of technical institutions in Taiwan, and then to explore whether an SCT-informed, task-based teaching approach could effectively facilitate these college students’ higher mental capabilities in engaging in business English writing tasks. A multimethod approach was taken to conduct the study, which included (1) questionnaire surveys at four various learning stages, (2) an interview with the industry teacher who co-taught a course with the researcher, (3) students’ written productions at four various conditions, and (4) interviews with students on their individual ESP development. As the findings showed, a sociocultural perspective could provide a macro-level insight into the ever-changing ESP teaching and learning context of technical universities and colleges in Taiwan. At the micro-level, an SCT-informed, task-based teaching approach could effectively accommodate the wide-ranging needs of the college learners who were at different zones of proximal development (ZPDs) through various types of social mediation. By following a carefully designed task cycle which integrates object-regulation, other-regulation, and the learner’s self-regulation into the pedagogical activities, the college learners in the study seemed to have been able to develop their higher mental capabilities when engaging in business English writing tasks. Even though the study was limited by its nature both as an action research and a case study, the implications resulting from the findings can be generalized to other ESP learning contexts where the teacher and learners are interested in collaboratively constructing learners’ multiple cognitive abilities.
||TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chinese Abstract ii
English Abstract iii
Table of Contents iv
List of Tables viii
List of Figures ix
List of Appendices x
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1
1.1 Background and Motivation 3
1.2 Statement of the Problem 5
1.3 Purpose of the Study 7
1.4 Research Questions 8
1.5 Significance of the Study 9
1.6 Definition of Key Terms 10
CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 13
2.1 Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Development 13
2.1.1 Origin of sociocultural theory and its core constructs 14
2.1.2 Tasks in sociocultural SLA and Activity Theory 18
2.2 A Sociocultural Perspective on Needs Analysis in ESP 21
2.2.1 Needs analysis in ESP course design 21
2.2.2 What might be lacking in needs analysis from a SCT perspective? 22
2.2.3 Learners’ lacks in light of their varied ZPDs 24
2.3 Business English Writing Tasks and ESP Development 25
2.3.1 Why using tasks to mediate learners' ESP development? 26
2.3.2 Task implementation procedures 28
2.3.3 Assessing ESP development through tasks 36
2.4 Approaches to the Teaching of Business English Writing 39
2.4.1 Traditional teaching approaches in the ESP literature 40
2.4.2 What can we learn from second language writing pedagogy? 41
2.4.3 Alternative teaching approaches with different pedagogical foci 43
2.4.4 A task-based approach 46
2.5 Summary 47
CHAPTER THREE: METHOD 48
3.1 The Pilot Study 48
3.1.1 Participants and the context description 48
3.1.2 Methods and procedures 49
A. Baseline writing samples by the participants 50
B. A mini-questionnaire survey on the participants 51
C. Pre-writing context analysis 52
D. Opening and closing sentences writing practice 52
E. A questionnaire survey on the three classes of the four-year college program 53
3.1.3 Preliminary results and implications of the pilot study 53
A. Results from the writing samples 55
B. Results from the mini-questionnaire survey 57
C. Results from the pre-writing context analysis 59
D. Results from the opening and closing sentences writing practice 59
E. Results from the questionnaire survey on the three classes of the four-year college program 60
3.1.4 Summary 62
3.2 The Main Study 64
3.2.1 Description of the Context 65
A. Regulations for graduation requirements 65
B. First-year’s execution of the graduation requirement 66
C. Second-year’s execution of the graduation requirement 66
D. Third-year’s execution of the graduation requirement 67
E. Three different classes of students with a team of instructors 68
3.2.2 Theoretical Framework 69
3.2.3 Participants 74
3.2.4 Instruments 76
A. Questionnaire surveys on the students 76
B. Interview with the industry teacher 77
C. Students’ written productions 77
D. Interviews with the students 78
3.2.5 Procedures 78
A. The procedure taken for the four questionnaire survey on the students 78
B. Interview procedure taken with the industry teacher 79
C. The procedure taken for collecting the Students’ written productions 80
D. Interview procedure taken with the students 82
3.2.6 Scoring method and criteria 84
3.2.7 Data Collection and Data Analysis 85
CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS 86
4.1 Needs analysis and the students’ perspective as reflected from the questionnaire results collected at various stages 86
4.1.1 Results from the pre-course questionnaire survey 86
4.1.2 Results from the mid-term questionnaire survey 89
4.1.3 Results from the post-course questionnaire survey 90
4.1.4 Results from the post-certification-test survey 92
4.1.5 Summary of the four questionnaire results 95
4.2 Responses from the interview with the industry teacher 96
4.3 Analysis on the students’ written productions at various stages 103
4.3.1 Analysis on the written productions delivered at the mid-term exam 103
4.3.2 Analysis on the written productions delivered at the final exam 105
4.3.3 Analysis on the written productions delivered at the certification test 106
4.3.4 Analysis on the written productions delivered two months after the certification test 108
4.3.5 Analyses on the writing development across various phases 109
4.3.6 Summary of the results from the students’ written productions 114
4.4 Students' individual ESP development as reported in the interviews 114
4.5 Summary 129
CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSION 132
5.1 Discussions 133
5.2 Pedagogical Implications 142
5.3 Limitations of the Study 146
5.4 Suggestions for Future Research 147
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Criteria Used in the Study for Grading a Business Writing Task 54
Table 2 Phases and Conditions for the Students' Written Productions 81
Table 3 Analysis with One-sample Test on the Mid-term Questionnaire Results 90
Table 4 Analysis with One-sample Test on the Post-course Questionnaire Results 91
Table 5 Analysis with One-sample Test on the Post-certification-test
Questionnaire Results 93
Table 6 Mean Scores of Mid-term Writing Test by the Whole Class 104
Table 7 Mean Scores of Mid-term Writing Test by the Three Classes 105
Table 8 Mean Scores of the Writing Test on Final Exam by the Three Classes 106
Table 9 Mean Scores of the Writing Task on the Certification Test by the
Two Raters 107
Table 10 Mean Scores of the Writing Task on the Post-Certification Test by
The Two Raters 108
Table 11 List of Analyses on the Writing Performances across Continuous Phases 110
Table 12 Writing Development from the Mid-term Exam to Final Exam 111
Table 13 Paired Samples Test on the Scores by the Researcher on the
Certification Test and the Post-Certification Test 112
Table 14 Paired Samples Test on the Scores by the Industry Teacher on the
Certification Test and the Post-Certification Test 113
Table 15 Distribution of the Students' Grades on the Certification Test 115
Table 16 General Information about the Student Interviewees 117
Table 17 Positive Responses to the Group-based Learning Experience 118
Table 18 Negative Responses to the Group-based Learning Experience 119
Table 19 Special Notes the Student Interviewees 120
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1 Pre-task activity 72
Figure 2 A Writing Task Cycle at the During-Task Phase 73
Figure 3 A Sociocultural Perspective on the ESP Teaching and Learning
Context in the Technical Education in Taiwan 146
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