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Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 29

S uhK ra e c es P re t n f o t oe nT a h r ec pi so o TL BT
S oH S e i o a( u )Ym
Samsung Art and Design Institute

A src bt t a
This small scale case study investigates EFL teachers perceptions of task-based language teaching (TBLT) in South Korea. The study (1) presents an overview of TBLT; (2) investigates EFL teachers views of TBLT in the South Korean context; and (3) addresses issues which need further attention if TBLT is to be adequately implemented in South Korea. In this study, 10 EFL teachers in South Korea were interviewed and asked on their opinions on using TBLT in their classrooms. The findings centered around five themes, the first being positive and the rest being negative: (a) increase in class participation, (b) incompatibility with text-centered exams, (c) time constraints, (d) lack of language proficiency, and (e) lack of support. Based on the findings, suggestions on how to implement TBLT into the South Korean context are addressed as well as areas that need further research. Keywords: Task-based language teaching, task-based materials, EFL curriculum, EFL policy

I nrd cin .It u t o o


Since the mid-1990s the Ministry of Education in South Korea has strongly encouraged its teachers to use communicative and task-based teaching when teaching English (KICE, 2008). The National Curriculum explicitly states English classes are to be student-centered, activity centered and lessons-centered and should be conducted in English (ibid.). However, many public school teachers continue to have teacher-domi-

30 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

nated lessons with explicit text explanations (Nam, 2005). The motivation behind this small scale study was to investigate this contrast between educational policy and classroom practices. This study aims to understand South Korean teachers perceptions of TBLT. It seeks to answer the following questions: (1) How do English teachers in South Korea perceive task-based language teaching? (2) Why do English teachers in South Korea choose to use or not use task-based language teaching in their classes?

I i rtr e iw I t aueR ve .L e
2.1 Definition of TBLT
TBLT is a communicative approach to language teaching, in which tasks are used to facilitate language acquisition (Ellis, 2003; Nunan, 2004). Although there is no single definition of task, most studies agree that the main feature is expressing meaning (Richards & Rodgers, 2001; Ellis, 2003; Nunan, 2004; Long & Robinson 1998; McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007). Bygate, Skehan, and Swain (2001) provide a pedagogical description of task: an activity, susceptible to brief or extended pedagogic intervention, which requires learners to use language, with emphasis on meaning, to attain an objective (p. 11). Nunan (2004) describes a task as a piece of classroom work which involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is principally focused on meaning rather than form. (p. 10). According to Skehan (as cited in Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 65), there are two extremes of tasks: structure oriented tasks and communicatively oriented tasks. The structure oriented approach, also referred to as the weak form of TBLT (Skehan, 2007; McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007), emphasizes the linguistic form, while the communicatively oriented approach, also referred to as the strong form of TBLT (ibid.), emphasizes meaning over form.

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Proponents of TBLT argue that through tasks, learners attention is drawn to linguistic form in the context of meaning, that is, focus on form (McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007). Focus on forms involves analyzing linguistic items out of context and focus on meaning does not involve analysis (Long & Robinson, 1998). With focus on form, communication of meaning is of prime concern and linguistic items are analyzed in the context of meaning (ibid.). Meaning-based activities are done first and are then followed by attention to the linguistic features. Such attention to linguistic analysis in a meaning-based approach is argued to reflect the cognitive learning processes found in real life situations (Richards & Rodgers, 2001; Willis & Willis, 2001) and to facilitate L2 learning (Skehan, 2007; Ellis, 2001). Skehan (2007) explains that the weak form of TBLT facilitates language knowledge (or competence') and performance and the strong form facilitates movement through developmental stages (p. 60). In both cases, tasks promote language learning.

2.2 TBLT in EFL Contexts


Much of the research on TBLT has been in an ESL context, but it has received an increase in interest from EFL countries in recent years, particularly after attempts to implement communicative language teaching (CLT) have been met with resistance and varying degrees of success (Li, 1998; Bax, 2003; Ellis, 1996; Littlewood, 2007). Nevertheless, implementation of TBLT in EFL contexts has not been without its difficulties. In countries where teacher-fronted classes are the norm, both students and teachers may need some time to adjust to the interactive approach of TBLT, as found in McDonough and Chaikitmongkols (2007) study of a task-based EFL course in Thailand. The teachers in their study were not confident in their ability to implement the course and expressed concerns about having to deal with unanticipated situations and questions, something which is more common in student-centered lessons. The students reported more grammar instruction and target language forms were needed in their task-based course. They also wanted more teacher support and guidance.

32 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

Perceptions of the purpose of task-based learning may also differ. In a study of three EFL primary classes in Turkey, ln, nz, and Yumru (2007) point out that the tasks used in the classes they observed were predominately language practice activities focusing on form rather than meaning. The teachers in their study were aware of the purpose of task-based learning, but used tasks at the end of lessons to present language items because this was expected. Ho and Wong (as cited in Littlewood, 2007, p. 246) also report that approaches such as TBLT, which originates from the West, can be incompatible with public assessment demands and conflict with educational values and traditions in non-western contexts. Despite some problems in implementing TBLT in EFL contexts, these studies also recognize the benefits of the approach and report that teachers and students have generally responded positively. They acknowledge the importance of TBLT in developing learner autonomy and transferable skills (McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007) and providing opportunities for students to practice using English (Ho & Wong, as cited in Littlewood, 2007, p. 246). The use of tasks can also be adapted to review taught linguistic items (ln, nz, & Yumru, 2007). The positive results from these studies look promising, but further research of TBLT in the EFL context is needed for more conclusive results.

2.3 TBLT in South Korea


Research in TBLT in South Korea has increased in recent years, but remains sparse. The research that is available has been at the high school and university level and there is no known research at lower levels, at least to this writer. This lack of research is surprising, particularly since the Ministry of Education in South Korea has been encouraging its public school English teachers to use communicative and task-based instructions in class since the mid-1990s (KICE, 2008). In the 6th National Curriculum (1995-1999), the Ministry of Education has replaced the grammatical-structural syllabus with a communicative syllabus and placed greater importance on the spoken form (Paik, 2005; Yim, 2003; Chang, 2004). In a continual effort to shift from the still prevalent grammar and text oriented English education, the 7th National Curriculum

Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 33

(2000-2006) reiterated the previous curriculums emphasis on spoken English and provided specific guidelines in the structure of the syllabus (Chang, 2002). Nevertheless, teacher-centered classes focused on written form remains common (Nam, 2005). Perhaps more far-reaching than the National Curriculum is the annual Korean Scholastic Aptitude Test (KSAT), the scores from which determine its test takers future education and career opportunities. Since the English section of this high stakes exam does not involve actual direct speaking or writing components, high school teachers are reported to spend little time on developing productive skills (Choi, 2008), even though this is in direct conflict with the communicative and task-based approaches prescribed in the National Curriculum. English high school classes focus almost solely on preparing students for this exam, within which reading comprehension weighs most heavily (ibid.). Teachers are thus pressured by students, parents and school authorities to ignore the mandates of the National Curriculum and teach to the test (Shim & Baik, as cited in Littlewood, 2007, p. 246). The multiple-choice format of the KSAT and other EFL tests is reported to have the negative backwash effect of South Korean students wanting to improve test taking strategies at the expense of gaining genuine language proficiency (Choi, 2008). Not surprisingly, the discrepancy between the guidelines of the National Curriculum and the need to prepare students for the national exams raises issues about how to use a TBLT approach in the South Korean setting. The studies that have examined TBLT in the South Korean context have had mixed results. In her report of South Korean college students reaction to TBLT, Ko (2008) advocates the advantages of its collaborative learning style. However, her research findings show that college students were reluctant to participate in group work. She reports that most English classes at the high school and university level in South Korea are usually teacher-fronted and focus on reading comprehension, grammar, and sentence transformation. The students in her study complained about the large number of tasks and the amount of time required to complete them. They felt that having the teacher directly teach the language points would be a better use of time. Furthermore, the students were unsure they could trust their answers and wanted concrete input from

34 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

the teacher after their discussions. Ko suggests adapting TBLT to the local South Korean context, so that lessons contain both a student and teacher-centered element, reducing the number of tasks, and allowing enough time for both the students and teachers to get familiar with the approach. Park (1999) acknowledges the importance of activities involving negotiation of meaning. However, he questions its usefulness in EFL settings where written test results are more important than communicative ability. As mentioned earlier, English tests results in South Korea have a significant role in its test takers educational and work opportunities (Choi, 2008). Park (1999) argues that in South Korea there may be little motivation to improve ones productive skills. Even English teachers reported they lacked spoken English and avoided using it in class (Li, 1998). To deal with the deficiency in spoken English, Lee (2006) suggests using L1 with task-based lessons. In her study with high school students, the students reported feeling that they lacked the English proficiency to complete the tasks and to interact in groups. She points out the usefulness in using the mother tongue to negotiate, check understanding and compare answers in task-based lessons. Other constraints include large class size, large amount of textbook material that needs to be covered in class, and lack of authentic material (Choi, 2000). With regards to tasks in South Korean high school English textbooks, Jeon (2005) reports that the task-based material reflected a communicative approach to language learning in accordance with the regulations of the 7th National Curriculum. However, his data show that about 80% of tasks are completed individually, and only 15% are done in pairs and 5% in small groups. With such a large number of tasks to be completed individually, Jeons data do not support his claims that the textbooks reflect a communicative approach.

I.Meh d I I to
3.1 Subjects
Ten participants were involved in this small scale case study. They

Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 35

were experienced ELT teachers doing their masters in an ELT related field. They were all native speakers of Korean with an intermediate to advanced level of English proficiency. They ranged from the ages of 25 and 36. Their teaching experience varied from 1 to 8.5 years, with an average of over 5 years. Eight of them had experience teaching at a public school in South Korea, with three of them at a middle school, three at a high school, and another two at both. Two of the participants had taught elementary and middle school students at a private language institute, and one had taught at a middle school and a private language institute. TABLE 1 Background of survey participants
Partici Sex pant Type of school 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Teaching experience Grade/type of class and length of time F Private lg school TOEFL (6M) Middle school Various (6M) F Middle school G2 & G3 (4Y) High school G3 (1.5Y) G1 (3.5Y), G2 (4Y), M High school G3 (4Y) F Private lg school Gr, GE, TOEIC (2.5Y) F Middle school G1 (3Y), G2 (1Y) High school G1 (6M) G1 (1Y), G2 (4Y), F Middle school G3 (2Y) F High school G1 (1Y), G3 (5.5Y) Standard of students Average Average Above average Average Above average Average Average Average Average Total years 1 5.5 8 2.5 4.5 7 6.5 5 8.5 2.5

Below average/Average Gr, R&W (1.5Y), R, S&L Average/Above F Private lg school (1.5Y), iBT TOEFL (2Y) average F High school G1 (8Y), G3 (6M) Above average G1 (1Y), G2 (1Y), Below average F Middle school G3 (6M)

In South Korea, there are 3 grades in middle school and in high school. The American equivalent would be grade 7, 8, and 9 for middle school and grade 10, 11, and 12 for high school. (lg = language, G = grade, GE = general English, Gr = grammar, R = reading, W = writing, S = Speaking, L = listening)

36 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

3.2 Procedures
The data in this research paper are from semi-structured interviews with ten participants. An initial list of interview questions was made and used in a pilot interview. The questions began with broad general questions and narrowed down to more specific ones to avoid being too direct and leading, while also putting the participants at ease early on the interview (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). The interview questions were clear, open-ended and non-directive to allow participants to answer freely and to avoid influencing their responses (Mackey & Gass, 2005). A sample list of questions can be found in Appendix 1. An email was sent to the 89 students attending the masters program, requesting volunteers to participate in the research. Sixteen responded, but only ten interviews were used in this study. All sixteen respondents were interviewed, but five of the interviews were discarded as the participants did not have adequate teaching experience to be able to answer the questions. The other participants had at least one year of teaching experience with the same set of either middle school or high school students in a classroom setting for at least one term. The recording for one interview was lost and the data from that interview was not included in this research. As the participants first language was Korean, they were told to feel free to use their mother tongue or code-switch whenever they wanted so as to not be linguistically disadvantaged or reduce the quality of the data they provided. However, all of them chose to speak in English. To make the participants as comfortable as possible the interviews were carried out in the familiar setting of their classrooms (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). The interviews were semi-structured and conducted in a systematic and consistent order. This allowed the interviewer to guide the conversation, and to probe further, digress, and clarify answers (Mackey & Gass, 2005). All the interviews, which lasted an average of 21 minutes, were recorded and transcribed verbatim to allow repetitive listening and in depth analysis. The data and participants remained confidential and were assigned a non-recognizable identification number. Only the researcher had access to the data, but participants were given the option

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to verify it at any time. Due to the nonrandom selection of interviews and the limited scope and depth of the interviews, the data in this research report assignment does not necessarily adequately reflect the views of all EFL teachers in South Korea. They are only the opinions of those ten participants, but they may resonate with the views of others. After conducting all the interviews, the data was analyzed. An inductive approach was taken in which general themes emerged from the data rather than being predefined and tested beforehand (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). However, data from the pilot interview and my prior knowledge about TBLT and the Korean education system provided some awareness of the issues that may be addressed. Recurrent themes and salient comments emerged from the data analysis. Each transcript was analyzed to identify sections that pertained to these themes. Data from the different participants were pooled and analyzed further. This disassembling and reassembling of the data allowed me to identify evidence that could support or disconfirm some theories (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). The data and categories were then reanalyzed and refined by grouping related themes and renaming them. These themes were then further reanalyzed and regrouped into five themes as shown in Table 2. The number of times the participants referred to these new themes in the interviews was recorded.

I.R s l V e ut s
All ten South Korean teachers were familiar with TBLT, at least at the theoretical level, having studied it on their MA program. Five participants had experience using the approach, of which four held very positive views. The other five participants had not used the approach, but two intended to when they returned to their workplace. Analysis of the data revealed that the teachers views on implementing TBLT in their classrooms centered around five themes, the first being positive and the rest being negative: (a) increase in class participation, (b) incompatibility with text-centered exams, (c) time constraints, (d) lack of language proficiency, and (e) lack of support. The following

38 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

sections present the findings related to each category.

4.1 Increase in Participation


Although only half of the teachers have experience using a task-based approach in their classrooms, nine out of ten of them believed it would increase class participation. They reported that low motivation and a passive attitude were serious problems in their classes. They believed having students work together to complete tasks would get them interested and actively involved. Teachers who have used the approach reported that their passive students became passionate and excited with task-based activities. They commented that through TBLT, the students were able to use language, rather than learn about it. One teacher saw TBLT as a solution to teaching multi-level classes with 30 to 35 students, which are typical of South Korean public schools. The approach allows students to be individually involved in what would otherwise be teacher-fronted whole group activities.
For the large group, its very effective because I cannot cover all the contents in one class. By giving them some tasks related to the content, it can be very helpful for them to participate in the content... In the large class and in the South Korean public school environment, many of the students cannot have the chance to do something in the class, but TBLT, I think is just one solution for those environments. So naturally, the students can have the time and opportunity to do something in the class. (Teacher #10)

The teachers associated TBLT with students having greater confidence in speaking in English and a more positive attitude towards learning English. They saw the approach as a way to increase student participation and apply what was learned in class.

4.2 Incompatibility with Text-Centered Exams


All ten teachers reported that the text-centered exam structure was a large constraint in using TBLT, the most important being the annual Korean Scholastic Aptitude Test, of which the English section does

Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 39

not involve any direct speaking or writing components. They reported that their school tests modeled the KSATs multiple choice format and text-focused content to help prepare their students for the national exam. All the teachers felt that the pressure and expectation to get their students ready for these crucial tests overrode the need to work on their English proficiency. This can be seen in this teachers response:
The problem is I want to teach communication, but we have to teach grammar and vocabulary. If the KSAT tested communication skill, it would be good, but it doesnt. [On the test], we just have to figure out what the better answer is. (Teacher #4)

The teachers repetitively expressed the importance of helping their students achieve higher grades and better scores. By complaining that they could not use TBLT because of the test format, the teachers had the underlying belief that the approach would not be appropriate in preparing their students for the test. One private language school teacher stated that they had more pressure to improve their students test scores than regular school teachers because their students were paying customers and were there specifically to get better grades. TABLE 2 Reported benefits and difficulties in implementing tBLT
Initial Categories Final Categories No. of mentions1) 9 Benefits Opportunities to use English Increase in participation Positive attitude towards studying English Application to real life

Difficulties Education system Incompatibility with assessment Incompatibility with text-centered exams 10 Incompatibility with the textbook Lack of time to veer from curriculum Time constraints 8 Lack of time to use tasks based approach Large, multi-leveled classes Teachers Lack of language proficiency Lack of language proficiency 10

40 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

Inexperience with TBLT Not convinced TBLT is a good approach Students Lack on language proficiency Lack of need for English Preference for traditional teaching style Parents, bosses, and colleagues Lack of support Resistance from parents and bosses Resistance from colleagues

4.3 Time Constraints


Another recurrent theme was lack of time. Eight of the teachers complained that they had a full curriculum which allowed for few diversions. For each lesson they had to cover a large amount of information and the teachers struggled to get through it all. To maximize the limited class time, the teachers felt a teacher-fronted approach was much more efficient. The collaborative nature of a task-based approach required time for students to discuss and work together. Many viewed it as time consuming. One teacher complained I do not have enough time to cover all the content that I am required to cover within the given time (Teacher #7). Another teacher stated:
The important thing is efficiency. I know its my lame excuse, but I have to teach a lot of things. I have to convey that information, that amount of information. (Teacher #9)

The teachers also reported that they were too busy to prepare additional tasks to incorporate in their lessons. They reported the national textbooks were not suitable for TBLT and if they wanted to make their lessons more task-based, they would have to make additional material.
With the textbook, teachers have to develop tasks. Its not task-based designed...The teacher has to invest more time and at the same time, finish the course and have them assessed...Its hard to balance the task and the regular curriculum. (Teacher #5) 1) The maximum number of mentions possible for each of categories is 10.

Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 41

The Ministry of Education has made great attempts to promote task based language learning in English education. However, the curriculum requires a large amount of information to be covered, making it difficult to use collaborate and student centered forms of learning, such as TBLT. Furthermore, the view that the government approved textbooks are inappropriate for TBLT indicates that policy makers need to take greater care in how they implement educational policies.

4.4 Lack of Language Proficiency


All the teachers cited lack of speaking proficiency as a major problem, either on the part of the students, themselves, or both. Although the teachers were taking graduate level courses in English, they themselves felt they lacked the communicative and strategic competence to conduct their classes in English. Even very proficient speakers expressed a lack of confidence in speaking in front of their students in English. As TBLT requires collaborative group work to complete the tasks, some teachers felt their students language ability was too low for such an approach and questioned its effectiveness.
It would be very helpful for advanced learners but for [the] average student, I doubt its effectiveness because [for] TBLT... proficiency is a requisite... But for beginners, its a bit indirect. For beginners teacher should be explicit. (Teacher #2)

These teachers who voiced concerns about the students being either too low to use TBLT tended to be those who did not have much experience with the approach. Other teachers reported that their students preferred the traditional teacher-centered approach where the teachers taught in Korean.
Even though they learned that kind of lesson using TBLT, [the students] really wanted to repeat that class using [the] traditional method. (Teacher #1)

Perceived lack of language proficiency for both the teachers and the students were large constraints for using TBLT.

42 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

4.5 Lack of support


Six teachers also reported experiencing resistance from parents, bosses, and colleagues. Four of the five who had experience using TBLT reported that they had encountered this as a problem, while the other two hypothesized that this would be a problem. The teachers complained that when they used tasks and activities, parents of students and bosses criticized their teaching methods because they felt that they were not teaching. Those teaching at a private language institute reported that their bosses, taking a business-like approach rather than an educational one, were said to have the interests of the parents in mind and not education per se. One teacher described her experience as follows:
My boss doesnt like [TBLT]...In my [private language institute], theyve installed CCTV, so they can see what the students are doing. For example, during the group work, students move around. For them, it looks like theyre playing...And the parents, when the students go back home and the parents ask what theyve done, the students say something exciting. The parents feel sometimes theyre playing. (Teacher #8)

Keeping the parents and bosses happy often meant taking a teaching approach that involved a transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the students. Many of the teachers expressed frustration at the situation, but did not know how to resolve the problem. The teachers also expressed resistance from fellow colleagues who did not use such an approach. This sometimes resulted in relational tension. As one teacher stated:
I have to work with another colleague for my grade. If my colleagues dont agree with teaching English with TBLT, that can be one of the problems because they want to do the same thing...If my students like my approach much more than theirs, they might complain. (Teacher #6)

When probed further, the teachers expressed that because they were generally younger and less experienced than their colleagues, and it was difficult for them to suggest using new approaches. They alluded that older teachers were less open to change, especially since they

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tended to be less proficient in English. A more common concern from colleagues was the noise from TBLT lessons.
In Korean classroom sentiment, tranquility is very important not to bother other classes. Sometimes students got uncontrollable delving into what theyre doing. Sometimes they shout This is not the answer. This must be the answer. There are around 7 groups, sometimes 8 groups, so it can be very noisy. During the summer time it was very difficult for me to control their noise level.... Sometimes the other teachers complained Whats wrong with this class? (Teacher #3)

Again all the teachers reported that the older, more senior teachers tended to be the ones who complained about their noisyclasses. Because most were unable to control the noise level of their classes, they gave up on using a TBLT approach. Data from the interviews revealed that, in general, the teachers thought that TBLT would be an effective way to involve students in the class and they would like to use the approach. However, obstacles, including TBLTs incompatibility with tests and lack of time, language ability and support are large deterrents. Although the obstacles make it difficult to implement TBLT, six of the ten teachers intend to use the approach in future classes.

V mpiain n Lmi t n .I l t sa d i t i s c o ao
The findings reported in this research paper may have implications for the implementation of TBLT in other EFL contexts. Many policymakers and practitioners in different countries acknowledge the benefits of a task-based approach, but have similar difficulties in implementing it. To help in the smooth implementation of TBLT in South Korea, attention should be given to the issues below.

5.1 Assessment Reform


Exam scores in South Korea are of immense importance in determin-

44 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

ing ones future education and career opportunities. The preoccupation with high test scores has resulted in a dismissal of teaching approaches, such as TBLT, which are not seen to help improve test results. Policy makers must realize the contradictions of the educational policies and form of assessments. Without a radical change in its assessment methods, teachers will be hard pressed to do anything but teach to the test. Currently, many high stake school exams in South Korea follow the KSAT multiple-choice format, of which reading and listening items carry the heaviest weight. Of the fifty items on the English section of the KSAT, there are only four indirect speaking items and one to two indirect writing items (Choi, 2008). It is essential to include a spoken component to the KSAT and other high stake exams in South Korea if teachers are expected to use TBLT, which focus on oral communication and collaboration, in their classrooms. Without such changes, the mandates of the National Curriculum are nullified. Teachers will continue to be pressured by students, parents and school authorities to ignore the mandates of the National Curriculum and teach to the test (Shim & Baik, as cited in Littlewood, 2007, p. 246).

5.2 Adapt not Adopt


Although the understanding of education is changing in South Korea, it is still viewed more as a process of accumulating knowledge and less as a process of constructing and using knowledge. The focus of teaching is often not in getting students to create, construct or apply knowledge, but in transmitting authoritative knowledge from teacher to students in an efficient and effective manner. This view of the learning process and the role between teacher and student is contrary to the ideologies behind TBLT (Ellis, 2003). Such socio-cultural differences need to be carefully recognized and accounted for before trying to implement practices originating from different cultures (Bax, 1995, 2003; Hu, 2002). As the culture of learning in South Korea conflicts with the student-centered, collaborative-interactive approach of TBLT, it should be adapted to the local context, not adopted. Policy makers and practitioners alike should take an ideological attitude to teaching. Coleman

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(1996) describes an ideological attitude as one which recognizes socio-cultural differences and does not transplant teaching approaches from one context to another. Failure to recognize these differences may result in tissue rejection (Holliday, 1992), in which methodologies which were successful in context are rejected in another. Careful study of the local needs and context is necessary to ensure an appropriate methodology is applied and not simply transferred from one context to another (Bax, 1995). Littlewoods (2007) five category framework for TBLT would be appropriate in gradually introducing the approach in South Korea. His framework is as follows:
...a continuum from activities which focus on discrete forms with no attention to meaning, through activities in which there is still focus on form but meaning and communication are also important, to activities in which the focus is clearly on the communication of meanings (p. 247).

Within this framework, teachers in South Korea can start with non-communicative learning tasks and pre-communicative language practice and build progressively towards more meaning-oriented communication. Teachers should also pay heed to Carlesss (2004) suggestion to adapt their lessons to fit their own abilities, beliefs, and experience; as well as the context and the socio-cultural environment. TABLE 3 Framework for tBLT (Littlewood, 2007)
Non-communicat Form-focused (grammar exercises, substitution drills, pronunciation drills) ive learning Pre-communicati Focus on language, but oriented towards meaning (questionve language and-answer practice to which everyone knows the answer) practice Predictable range of language, but used to convey inCommunicative formation (activities in which recently taught language use language practice to exchange information or conduct a survey amongst their classmates)

46 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

Structured communication Authentic communication

Focus on meaning, but structured to cope with existing language resources (complex information-exchange activities, structured role-playing tasks) Meaning-oriented, focus on communication of messages, language forms unpredictable (problem-solving, content-based tasks, large-scale projects)

5.3 Teacher Training


Teachers who have little or no experience using TBLT may be reluctant to use the approach, especially since there is greater risk in losing face and being unable to handle students questions. Teachers should therefore be supported through encouragement from their workplace. Colleagues and bosses should acknowledge the benefits of TBLT, be supportive of the teachers efforts and be tolerant of constructive noise. Furthermore, teachers should be provided opportunities to attend teacher training programs with qualified instructors and consultants (Li, 1998). The education should include special training for teaching young learners (Nunan, 2003) as well as a component where teachers can not only learn theories, but also practice them in classroom settings. This training should also include a language skills component which emphasizes speaking and listening skills (Li, 1998) to help build the teachers confidence in speaking in English.

V.R c mme d t n n I lme tt n I eo n ai sa d mpe nai o o


As in many countries, the South Korean Ministry of Education hopes to improve its populations English proficiency, particularly in speaking. Its attempts to do this by encouraging communicative and task based instruction in the classroom and shifting from the prevalent teacher-fronted grammar and text oriented English education has proven to be difficult despite fourteen years passing since first prescribing the approaches. If the Ministry of Education hopes to have teachers implement the task-based approach, the socio-cultural context of South Korea as a whole needs to be accounted for, of which English assessment is perhaps the most important. Policy makers and teachers in South

Soo Ha (Sue) Yim 47

Korea need to take an eclectic approach rather than adopt a ready-made approach. The mentality that approaches can be indiscriminately transplanted from one context to another will most likely lead to rejection of those approaches (cf. Hu, 2002; Bax, 1995, 2003). When implementing TBLT in the South Korean context, teachers should localize and modify the approach so that it reflects their own pedagogical beliefs and meets the needs of their particular students. They should also be encouraged and supported at their workplaces to attempt new teaching practices and provided with any necessary training and further education.

R frn e eee c s
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Coleman, H. (1996). Autonomy and ideology in English language classroom. In H. Coleman (Ed.), Society and the language classroom (pp.1-15). Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. Ellis, G. (1996). How culturally appropriate is the communicative approach? ELT Journal 50(3), 213-218. Ellis, R. (2001). Introduction: Investigating form-focused instruction. Language Learning, 51(Supple.1), 1-46. Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holliday, A. (1992). Tissue rejection and informal order in ELT projects. Applied Linguistics, 13(4), 403-424. Hu, G. (2002). Potential cultural resistance to pedagogical imports: The case of communicative language teaching in China. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 15(2), 93-105. ln, G., nz, J., & Yumru, H. (2007). Teachers and learners perceptions of tasks: Objectives and outcomes. Journal of Theory and Practice in Education, 3(1), 60-68. Jeon, I.(2005). An analysis of task-based materials and performance: Focused on Korean highschool English textbooks. English Teaching, 60(2), 87-109. Nam, J. (2005). Perceptions of Korean college students and teachers about communication-based English instruction: Evaluation of a college EFL curriculum in south korea. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Dept. of Philosophy, Ohio State University. Ko, M. (2008). Korean college students and a teacher-participants reactions to TBLT. English Teaching, 63(3), 25-43. Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Teaching Methods: Changing Tracks, Challenging Trends. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 59-81. Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation. (2008). The National School Curriculum: English. Seoul: Author. Downloaded from http://www.kice.re.kr/upload/article/10260/1225389324576_06_ English(Final).pdf on November 12, 2008. Lee, M. (2006). The effect of L1 on task-based foreign language learning of Korean learners. Foreign Languages Education 13(2), 257-282. Li, D. (1998). Its always more difficult than you plan and image: Teachers perceived difficulties in introducing the communicative

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approach in South Korea. TESOL Quarterly, 32(4), 677-703. Littlewood, W. (2007). Communicative and task-based language teaching in East Asian classrooms. Language Teaching, 40(3), 243-249. Long, M., & Robinson, P. (1998). Focus on form: Theory, research, and practice. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on Form in Classroom Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mackey, A. & Gass, S. (2005). Second Language Research: Methodology and Design. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. McDonough, K. & Chaikitmongkol, W. (2007). Teachers and Learners Reactions to a Task-Based EFL Course in Thailand. TESOL Quarterly, 41(1), 107-132. Nunan, D. (2003). The impact of English as a global language on educational policies and practices in the Asia-pacific region. TESOL Quarterly, 37(4), 589-613. Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based language teaching. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Paik, J. (2005). Managing Change: The Sociocultural Implications of the Early English Language (EEL) Policy in South Korea. Un published PhD Thesis. Dept. of Philosophy, University of Illinois. Park, M. (1999). Task-based interaction in Korean EFL classrooms. English Language Teaching, 10(2), 79-101. Richards, J. & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching: A Description and Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Skehan, P. (2007). Task research and language teaching: reciprocal relationships. In S. Fotos & H. Nassaji (Eds.), Form-focused Instruction and Teaching Education: Studies in Honor of Rod Ellis (pp.55-69). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Willis, D. & Willis, J. (2001). Task-based language learning. In R. Carter & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (pp.173-179). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Yim, S. (2003). Globalization and National Identity: English Language Textbooks of Korea. Unpublished Phd Thesis. Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences, New York University.

50 South Korean Teachers Perceptions of TBLT

Sue Yim
Samsung Art and Design Institute sooha.yim@samsung.com

Received: 2009. 11.20. Peer reviewed: 2009. 12. 05. Accepted: 2009. 12. 12.