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Authenticity in ELT Task Design: A Case Study of an ESP Project-Based Learning Module

By Lai Kun Choi


Authenticity has been viewed as an important issue for ELT and particularly for ESP in creating a communicative language environment (e.g. Breen 1997; Lee 1995; Mishan 2005; Dudley-Evan and St John 1998; Harding 2007) – in order that learners are exposed to ‘real English’ with ‘intrinsically communicative quality’ (Lee 1995) and rehearse the real-world target communication tasks they will have to perform in their future workplace (Nunan 2004:20). This echoes what is advocated in the current Hong Kong educational reform curriculum documents. This thesis explores the theoretical and practical issues concerning the notion of authenticity through a case study of a project-based learning (PBL) module in an ESP curriculum in the context of a Hong Kong vocational institution, and derives from the research findings a 3-level authenticity model applicable for ELT/ESP task design.\ud This thesis has drawn on Bachman’s (1990) dual notion of authenticity in conjunction with Halliday’s triad construct of context of situation (Halliday 1978) as a conceptual framework for the characterization of the authenticity manifested in the PBL task series under investigation. In the light of Bachman’s dual notion of authenticity (that for a task to be authentic, it has to achieve both situational and interactional authenticity), the present study, on the one hand, examines the design features of the case PBL tasks through documentary analysis of the project brief and semi-structured interviews with practitioners in the specific purpose field to ascertain the extent to which the designed tasks are situationally authentic, while on the other hand, investigates the authenticity of the learners’ interaction with the task features (i.e. the interactional authenticity) by eliciting the learners' accounts of their engagement with the tasks through retrospective focus group interviews, in conjunction with an analysis of the discourses produced by the learners in performing the tasks. The research findings show that task design is essentially the construction of a Context of Situation (CoS) which realizes situational authenticity of two different levels. An investigation into the interactional authenticity reveals both authentic and unauthentic aspects of the learners’ interaction with the constructed CoS, which has in turn shed light on a third level of authenticity to be added to the CoS model applicable for ELT/ESP task design

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/9065

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