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主题语境视角下外研版高中英语教材研究

作者:佳作论文网  来源:佳作论文网 日期:2021-11-08 13:01:33 人气:28

Abstract:The textbook is an important carrier for students to learn the basic knowledge of science and culture, and it is the link between students and teachers. Therefore, the scientificity, rationality and interestingness of the textbook content are closely related to students' learning effect, and they also greatly affect students' overall academic level. The English Curriculum Standards for General High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020) points out that it is the general goal of the English curriculum for senior high schools to cultivate students' comprehensive ability to use language, it also puts forward six elements of learning content including thematic context. Therefore, how to choose appropriate teaching materials by combining the curriculum standards and students' characteristics is one of the important factors in English teaching.

In this study, English textbooks 1-5(compulsory) for senior high school students are chosen as the research materials, 500 senior high school students of Grade Three from Yanhe Minzu Senior High School and Songtao Minzu Senior High School in Tongren City, Guizhou Province as the research subjects. The following two research questions are to be specifically explored.

1) What are the distributive characteristics of the themes in senior high school English textbooks?

2) What are the characteristics of the students' interest in the themes of the textbooks?

Through a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the themes in the selected textbooks and the data from the students' questionnaires and interviews, the following conclusions are drawn.

1) The five textbooks of senior high school English textbooks contain 30 themes in total, covering three thematic contexts, namely “Man and Society”, “Man and Oneself” and “Man and Nature”. Among the three thematic contexts, “Man and Society” contains two thematic groups: “Life and Study” and “Being and Doing”, in which 15 themes are involved. “Man and Oneself” contains four thematic groups: “Social Service and Interpersonal Communication”, “Literature, Art and Sports”, “History, Society and Culture”, “Science and Technology”, involving eight themes. “Man and Nature” contains four thematic groups: “Natural Ecology”, “Environmental Protection”, “Disaster Prevention”, “Exploration of the Universe”, which involve seven themes. Therefore, it can be concluded that the distribution of the themes in senior high school English textbooks of FLTRP edition is uneven. The themes related to “Man and Society” accounts for the largest proportion, which is half of the total, and the percentage of the themes of “Man and Oneself” and “Man and Nature” is roughly the same.

2) In terms of the students' interest in the themes, it is mainly reflected in three aspects. Firstly, the themes that senior high school students are most interested in have more connections with their daily life, including a strong sense of times and practical communication, which can arouse the students' interest in learning. The themes that senior high school students are least interested in usually do not fit their daily life. They are relatively professional, abstract, entail profound ideological connotation, and require higher understanding ability, professional knowledge reserve and corresponding life experience. It is difficult to produce emotional resonance with senior high school students. Secondly, as for arts and science students, there are significant differences in their interest in the themes. Specifically speaking, the themes related to social content in which the liberal arts students are interested take up a higher proportion, whereas the themes on science, technology, nature, ecology and exploration of the universe that the science students like account for a higher proportion. In addition, the liberal arts students and science students show significantly different interest in nine themes. Thirdly, there are significantly different interest among the students of different academic levels in seven themes. The students with higher academic level have more extensive thematic interests. The students with medium academic level prefer to the themes which are closely related to themselves, such as the themes on “Life and Study”, “Being and Doing”, “Social Service and Interpersonal Communication”, etc. The students with lower academic level tend to choose themes that are easier to understand, and they have no obvious thematic preference.

Key Words: thematic context; senior high school English textbooks; thematic distribution; thematic interest 

摘 要

教材是学生学习科学文化基础知识的重要载体,是连接学生与教师的纽带, 因此,教材内容的科学性、合理性和趣味性关乎学生的学习效果,也在很大程度 上影响学生的学业水平。《普通高中英语课程标准》(2017 年版 2020 修订版)指 出,培养学生综合运用语言的能力是高中英语课程的总目标,并提出了包含主题 语境在内的六要素学习内容。因此,如何结合课标与学生特点来选择合适的教材 是英语教学的重要因素之一。

本文选取外研版高中英语教材(必修)的五册教材为教材分析材料,以贵州 省铜仁市沿河县沿河民族中学、松桃县松桃民族中学共 500 名高三学生为研究对 象,具体探讨以下两个研究问题:

1)高中英语教材中主题类型及其分布特点是什么?

2) 学生对教材中的主题兴趣特点是什么? 本研究通过对所选教材中的主题分析结果以及对学生的问卷与访谈的数据 结果进行定性定量分析,得出如下结论:

1)外研版高中英语教材的五册教材中主要包含 30 个主题,涵盖了三大主题 语境类型,即“人与社会”、“人与自我”、“人与自然”。其中,“人与社会”包含 2 个主题群,即“生活与学习”与“做人与做事”,涉及 15 个主题。“人与自我” 包含 4 个主题群,即“社会服务与人际沟通”,“文学、艺术与体育”,“历史、社 会 与文化”与“科学与技术”,涉及 8 个主题。“人与自然”包含 4 个主题群, 即“自然生态”,“环境保护”,“灾害防范”与“宇宙探索”,共涉及 7 个主题。 由此可见,外研版高中英语教材中的主题分布并不均衡,“人与社会”相关主题 占比最多,所占比例为总比一半,“人与自我”、“人与自然”有关主题所占比例 不相上下。

2)从学生对主题的兴趣特征来看,主要体现在三个方面。第一,学生对不 同的主题的兴趣存在明显差异性。学生们最感兴趣的主题与他们的日常生活有更 多的联系,包括强烈的时代感和实用交际性,这些主题能激发他们的学习兴趣; 他们最不感兴趣的主题与他们的日常生活不相适应,专业性强,比较抽象,包含 着深刻的思想内涵,需要更高的理解能力、专业知识储备和相应的生活经验,很 难与高中生产生情感上的共鸣。第二,文科生与理科生对主题的兴趣度存在显著 差异。文科生所喜欢的主题中社会性内容所占比重较高,和学习者自身生活环境 联系更大;理科生所喜欢的主题中科学、技术、自然、生态、宇宙探索内容所占 比重较高;同时文理科学生对其中9 个主题兴趣度呈现显著差异性。第三,不同 学业水平的学生对 7个主题的兴趣度也存在显著差异。高学业水平的学生主题兴 趣更为广泛,中等学业水平的学生更倾向于生活与学习,做人与做事,社会服务 与人际沟通类等与他们自身关系密切的主题,学业水平较低的学生倾向于选择更 容易理解的主题,并且没有明显的主题偏好。

关键词:主题语境;高中英语教材;主题分布;主题兴趣

摘 要 ............................................................................................................................  iv

List of Tables ..............................................................................................................................................  vi

List of Abbreviation ..................................................................................................................................  vii

Chapter One Introduction .......................................................................................................................  1

1.1      Background of the study ..........................................................................................................  1

1.2      Purpose of the study .................................................................................................................  3

1.3      Significance of the study ..........................................................................................................  3

1.4      Layout of the thesis ...................................................................................................................  3

Chapter Two Literature Review..............................................................................................................  5

2.1      Studies on textbook ..................................................................................................................  5

2.1.1       Definitions of textbook

2.1.2       Studies on textbook evaluation abroad........................................................................

2.1.3       Studies on textbook evaluation at home...................................................................... 7

2.1.4       Studies about the evaluation of English textbooks (FLTRP edition) for senior high

schools............................................................................................................................................. 10

2.2      Studies on interest                    11

2.2.1       Definitions of interest.................................................................................................... 12

2.2.2       Studies on students' thematic interest in English teaching materials                                12

2.3      Studies on context                    14

2.3.1       The development of context theory.............................................................................. 14

2.3.2       Cognitive context                                15

2.3.3       Thematic context                                16

2.3.3.1       Studies on thematic context at home                 18

2.3.3.2       Studies on thematic context abroad                18

2.4      Summary                    19

Chapter Three Methodology ...................................................................................................................  21

3.1      Research questions                    21

3.2      Research methods                    21

3.3      Research subjects                    22

3.4      Research materials                    23 

3.5      Research instruments ................................................................................................................ 23

3.5.1       Questionnaire ................................................................................................................ 23

3.5.1.1       The structure of the questionnaire ................................................................... 23

3.5.1.2       The reliability of the questionnaire................................................................... 24

3.5.1.3       The validity of the questionnaire.....................................................................  24

3.5.2       Interview ....................................................................................................................... 25

3.6      Research procedures .......................................................................................................................... 25

Chapter Four Results and Discussion ...................................................................................................  28

4.1      The distributive characteristics of the themes in the textbooks.............................................. 28

4. 2 The characteristics of the students' interest in the themes......................................................... 34

4.2.1       The differences of the students' interest in different themes ..................................... 34

4.2.2       The differences of thematic interest between liberal arts students and science

4.2.3       The differences of the thematic interest among the students with different academiclevels

4.3      Summary ................................................................................................................................... 55

Chapter Five Conclusion .........................................................................................................................  58

5.1      Major findings of the study ...................................................................................................... 58

5.2      Implications of the study........................................................................................................... 60

5.3      Limitations of the study ........................................................................................................... 62

5.4      Suggestions for future studies .................................................................................................. 62

References ..................................................................................................................................................  62

Appendix I..................................................................................................................................................  68

Appendix II ...............................................................................................................................................  71

Appendix III ..............................................................................................................................................  72 

Chapter One Introduction

This part is an introductory chapter, which presents background, purpose and significance of the research. Besides, the layout of the thesis is described in the last part as well.

1.1    Background of the study

Broadly speaking, teaching materials refer to all the teaching stuff related to the teaching; in a narrow sense, teaching material especially means the textbooks, which is the main basis for the teacher to organize activities. Teachers' understanding of the teaching materials will greatly affects the overall teaching effect. For students, teaching materials are the main carrier of students' learning and the important carrier of students' basic knowledge of science and culture. Teaching materials are the link between students and teachers. Therefore, scientific, rational, and interesting content of teaching materials greatly affect the students' learning effect, and also greatly affects the students' overall academic level.

The English Curriculum Standard for General High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020) issued by the Ministry of Education points out that:

“English course content is the basis for developing students' English core literacy, which contains six elements: thematic context, type of discourse, language knowledge, cultural knowledge, language skills and learning strategies. Thematic context covers Man and Oneself, Man and Society, Man and Nature, which involves humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, etc., providing themes and contexts for disciplinary education” (translation by the author, p. 20).

By studying the above English curriculum standard, it is found that the related chapters of the thematic context are listed separately in the course content, thus showing the particularity and the importance of the themes.

Strawson (1964) believes that “themes are things that are immediately followed and expressed by both sides of the conversation in the passage” (p. 97). Students' learning and application of phonetics, vocabulary, grammar and other knowledge is centered on the theme. Different students pay attention to different themes. Only broad and rich themes can motivate students to actively participate in the learning process. It is suggested that the English curriculum standard should be learning-centered and student-centered, with emphasis on the integrity of learning activities, and then the curriculum content and English learning activity process should be guided by the theme.

Xia &Yang (2018) propose that “knowledge and skills, attitude and values are the aspects that must be considered when constructing course content, and the discussion and the analysis of themes are the reflection of attitude and values” (p. 38).

Zhang & Li (2010) point out that “relevant studies have shown that people tend to show full enthusiasm and participation in activities they are interested in, which can further promote the individual's desire to explore the activities” (p. 25).

Therefore, as long as students are provided with the corresponding factors for interest development and change, such as providing students with English textbooks of the thematic context they are interested in and satisfying their external situational interest in English learning, it is possible to promote the development of their internal individual interest in English learning. In other words, only themes that students are interested in have a chance to arouse the students' awareness of English learning actively as much as possible, and finally complete the planning of the English curriculum standards for students. The thematic context that different students pay attention to is bound to be different. Therefore, the feature of the thematic context of the textbook should be one of the elements that must be considered by the compilers and researchers of English textbooks. However, whether the thematic arrangement in the current Senior High School English Textbooks of the FLTRP edition can meet the interest needs of most senior high school students or not and what factors may lead to different thematic demands deserve further research.

The literature shows that the research on the analysis and evaluation of Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition) mostly focuses on the theoretical level. The number of empirical studies focusing on the textbook is much fewer, more scholars are comparing the PEP edition and FLTRP edition in various aspects. However, the studies on analysis and evaluation of Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition) are seldom found, let alone anything of the analysis from the perspective of a thematic context. Therefore, it is easy to infer the importance of the analysis and evaluation of English teaching materials, as well as the necessity of teaching material analysis in terms of thematic context. Through literature review, we can also find that it is a relatively new research direction to analyze Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition). Therefore, this study will start from the angle of the learner's thematic context, and analyze whether the choice of students will be different between liberal arts and science students and among different academic levels of the students, to fill the gap about this aspect and enrich the research content of the analysis and evaluation on Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition).

1.2    Purpose of the study

Based on the investigation of 500 senior high school students, this study aims to explore the thematic distributive characteristics of Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition), including the distributive characteristics of thematic context, the characteristics of senior high school students' interest in FLTRP edition and the influence of different variables (liberal arts students and science students, different academic levels of the students) on the students' selection of thematic context, to provide relevant suggestions for textbook compilers and teachers to arrange and select themes properly and rationally.

1.3    Significance of the study

The significance of the study is to be presented in terms of theory as well as practice.

Theoretically speaking, most of the current research in China focuses on English textbooks on the whole or other different aspects. Besides, there is little analysis on senior high school English Textbooks from the perspective of learners' thematic context. Based on previous studies, this study will make the research from a new angle, that is under the guidance of context theory and cognitive context theory, making the research of Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition) under different variables so as to push the analysis of English teaching into further deep microcosmic field.

Practically speaking, this research can provide the teachers and compliers with a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of the students' interests and preferences about the thematic context of English textbooks. It is conducive for high school teachers to make full use of textbooks and help them create useful teaching situations to restructure and reconstruct curriculum resources, participate in English classroom learning effectively, and finally promote the progress of English teaching and English learning to a certain extent.

1.4    Layout of the thesis

This thesis includes five chapters.

Chapter One depicts a brief introduction to the background, purpose and significance of the research.

Chapter Two gives an overview of the existing literature related to this research, including definitions about textbooks, context and interest of the students, and previous studies at home and abroad. In addition, studies about the theoretical framework and a summary are included.

Chapter Three concentrates on the methodology of the study, consisting of research questions, research methods, research subjects and materials, etc.

Chapter Four focuses on the presentation of statistical results as well as the corresponding discussion. The distributive characteristics of the themes in the FLTRP edition and characteristics of the students' interest in the themes will be displayed in various forms. The influence of different variables on the students' thematic interests will be discussed in detail.

Chapter Five gives a conclusion of the study, including the major findings, implications and limitations of the study. Besides, future recommendations of studies are proposed. 

Chapter Two Literature Review

This chapter includes a brief review of the existing literature, which contains the studies that have been accomplished about textbooks and context respectively. For the former, textbook evaluation, students' interest in textbooks and the current situation of senior high school English textbooks are included. For the latter, context theory and cognitive context are described.

2.1    Studies on textbook

The definition of “textbook” is briefly given in this section, as well as the evaluation of the textbooks at home and abroad. Besides, studies about students' interest in textbooks and the current situation of senior high school English textbooks are presented in this section.

2.1.1    Definitions of textbook

As for the definition of teaching material, it can be divided into two categories: broad sense and narrow sense. In the broad sense, Zhang (2011) points out that the teaching material is applied to teaching, providing the teachers and the students beneficial textbooks and supporting materials, including activity manual, guidance books, exercise papers, self-study examination paper books, newspapers and magazines and other reading materials, audio and video materials, radio and television, multimedia courseware and teaching material, etc. Cheng and Sun (2011) also put forward similar concepts. Cao (2006) assumes that in a narrow sense, textbooks refer to the materials or means that are used by teachers and students in school teaching and help students improve their knowledge, cultivate their skills, language learning or develop their communicative competence.

Excellent teaching materials can greatly improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Zhang (2001) holds that “for learners, excellent teaching materials have rich layers. For teachers, excellent textbooks can help them exert their initiative and creativity in teaching” (p. 63). Meanwhile, Cheng and Sun (2011) state that “excellent teaching materials can help them better organize the teaching process and fully display the educational wit in the teaching process” (p. 19). From the above two scholars' opinions, it is easy to find out the advantage of excellent teaching materials. Therefore, the importance of analyzing textbooks stands prominent.

2.1.2    Studies on textbook evaluation abroad

The evaluation research of foreign English teaching materials literarily emerged in the 1960s and became active around 1980. Seaton (1982) proposes “detailed rules for the comprehensive evaluation of teaching materials, which are used to evaluate them item by item, one of the criteria is whether the theme is interesting or not” (p.135). Grant (1987) thinks that the evaluation of textbooks can be divided into three levels, the first level is initial evaluation, the second level is detailed evaluation, and the third level is in-use evaluation. Grant maintains that students' interest, the difficulty of textbooks, the practicality of teaching, and the availability of teaching aids should be preliminarily evaluated in the initial evaluation. The detailed evaluation contains three questionnaires about the evaluation of teaching materials, to use the questionnaire to evaluate teaching materials. Finally, practical evaluation can be carried out in the concrete practice of teaching. Breen and Candlin (1987) combine textbook evaluation with students' learning and teachers' classroom teaching, fully considering learners' interests, cognitive styles and needs, and presents that teachers are no longer the only evaluators of textbooks, and students can also act as evaluators.

The evaluation of textbooks in this period is detailed in the way of evaluation, with clear levels, which can provide clear evaluation principles and methods. In terms of content, it takes into account the needs of the syllabus, teaching objectives, quality of language materials, factors of teachers and learners, etc., and all the factors will be considered by combining learners' interests with textbooks.

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Since the 1990s, the field of textbook analysis and evaluation has been expanding to the micro-level. Harmer (1991) reviews the teaching materials according to the needs of learners and teachers and he believes that teaching materials should provide vivid and interesting materials and themes to relieve teachers' pressure of lesson preparation and help students make self-study by themselves. Cunningsworth (1995) proposes holistic impression evaluation and in-depth evaluation, the concept of in-depth evaluation is to evaluate whether the themes, teaching strategies and contents used in language teaching are interesting, systematic, scientific or not. If the materials in the textbooks are not interesting and relevant, they will lose the users. Ur (1996) presents a list of evaluation items for foreign language teaching materials, believing that “the evaluation of teaching materials is based on themes, phonetics, grammar, vocabulary, grading and ordering of structures, culture and teaching concepts that learners are interested in” (p. 185). Tomlinson (1988) attaches great importance to learner factors, including interest and learning style, and provides the construction method of the textbook framework based on practice, encouraging researchers, teachers and textbook writers to compile more practical textbooks for language learners based on a rich knowledge of different fields and disciplines. McDonough and Shaw (2003) evaluate the teaching materials from the perspective of external evaluation and internal evaluation, while the external evaluation mainly evaluates the design of the teaching materials from the aspects of cover publicity, introduction, catalogue; internal evaluation verifies whether the textbook author evaluates the textbook according to the above external evaluation contents, one of the contents of internal evaluation is whether the content of the textbook can stimulate the interest of teachers and learners.

To summarize, foreign research on textbooks is early and thorough, and the evaluation criteria and basis put forward by various scholars in terms of evaluative methods and contents are widely accepted, which lays a good foundation for the later research of scholars. However, few studies on the theme of textbooks and the degree of interest in teaching objects.

2.1.3    Studies on textbook evaluation at home

With the development of China's economy and society, and the integration of Chinese and Western cultures, people's awareness of English learning is increasing, and domestic experts and scholars have made more extensive and deeper researches into English teaching materials. For example, Qian (1995) firstly introduces Hutchinson and Waters' (1987) evaluation list of professional English teaching materials (p. 18), which provides a reference for the subsequent scholars' studies of English teaching materials. Professor Wang (2006) makes a special introduction to Tomlinson (1998) on the evaluation criteria and specific evaluation items of teaching materials in her book English Teaching Methods. Professor He (2001) recommends a detailed evaluation method of English teaching materials by Sheldon (1987) in Foreign Language Syllabus, Teaching Materials, Classroom Teaching Design and Evaluation. Cheng (2011), in his book English Teaching Material Analysis and Design, aiming at the teaching material of external evaluation, specifically introduces Grant's (1987) three questionnaires about how to choose teaching material and whether the three questionnaires suitable for the teachers and students and syllabus and exam respectively. In Theory and Practice of Modern Foreign Language Curriculum Design, Xia (2003) refers to the steps of Ur (1996) on the design of textbook evaluative form and questionnaire. The above scholars' introductions have promoted the evaluation of English teaching materials for domestic scholars. The introduction of the above scholars greatly promotes the spread of the research results, research viewpoints and research ideas of the international textbook evaluation in China, which provides great help for Chinese scholars to make further research on the evaluation of English textbooks.

Zhou (1996) believes that “teaching materials should be based on the latest teaching theories, consistent with the syllabus, and meet the needs of learners. The selection of teaching materials should be interesting, authentic and practical” (p. 60). Shu and Zhuang (1996) put forward some principles of material selection in the evaluation of teaching materials, and argue that the materials selected in the teaching materials should be interesting and diverse, the selected materials should be able to help students learn easily and happily, and the diverse themes in the materials can meet the requirements of different students. Gao (2002) proposes five criteria for the evaluation of teaching materials. The third criterion deals with the law of learner cognition and psychological development. This criterion evaluates whether the textbook can arouse learners' interest and curiosity. It shows that interest as a cognitive factor is also a factor that should be considered in the textbook evaluation. Qiao (2002) also believes that “evaluation of a set of teaching materials should be carried out from two aspects. One is the macro design, that is, the overall structure of the textbook; the second is the micro design, that is, the specific design details of the textbook” (p. 75). Luo (2005) thinks that interesting materials should be selected in the compilation of foreign language textbooks for primary and secondary schools in China. Taking into account the interest differences of the students of different ages, these materials can stimulate learners' interest in learning. These scholars have proposed that whether textbooks can stimulate students' interest is an important factor that should be considered in the course of a textbook evaluation.

The English Curriculum Standard for General Senior High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020) also points out that textbooks should stimulate students' interest in learning, broaden their horizons and their way of thinking. Therefore, it is easy to find out that learners' interest is an aspect that should not be ignored in the course of textbook evaluation. Cheng and Sun (2011) come up with that how to evaluate the excellence of teaching materials depends on the attractiveness of teaching materials. Attractive teaching materials can stimulate learners' curiosity, improve their interest and enthusiasm for learning and attract their attention. Teaching materials that learners fondle admiringly could quickly stimulate students' learning motivation and enthusiasm, to improve the efficiency of English learning. One of the characteristics of an attractive textbook is the freshness of the theme, diversity of the content, aesthetics of the broad and interest of the content. The themes in the textbook should be those that can stimulate learners' interest, and it depends on whether the material makes the learner feel familiar. Hidi (2000) also points out that interest is an important factor that can cause an individual's intrinsically motivated behavior. All the above scholars believe that the evaluation of textbooks should start from the perspective of human beings or meet the requirements of curriculum standards.

Yu, Fan and Li (2008) take senior English teaching materials in the study as the research object, investigating the degree of interest on Chinese non-English major college students to the teaching material, examine the themes of college students are interest in, meanwhile, study the male and female learners and differences in choosing a theme of high academic level college students and low academic level ones, the research shows that the themes most students interested in are closely linked with their daily life; the themes they are not interested in are more serious in content. Chu (2012) studies the compatibility of three sets of college English textbooks with learners' thematic interests and analyzes the types of themes that learners like and dislike, as well as the interests of males and females. Li's (2006) research indicates that learners prefer themes such as love, friendship, education, career, health, entertainment, and they are less interested in negative themes that reflect the dark side of society. There is a significant difference in thematic interest between male and female learners, while there is no significant difference between students with higher academic performance and those with lower academic performance.

In conclusion, the analysis and evaluation of English textbooks in China started relatively late, but in the current active textbook market situation, the relevant theoretical and empirical research is gradually booming. Chinese scholars generally believe that in terms of evaluation standards, the compilation of teaching materials should take full account of students' personality development and needs, and should be based on the reasonable and scientific arrangement of teaching materials according to the requirements of curriculum standards. In addition to arousing the interest of learners, the cognitive level of learners and the differences among students should be fully considered. However, on the whole, the number of research papers published by Chinese scholars about the context of textbook themes still accounts for a small proportion. Most of the researches mainly focus on the gender of learners and high- level academic learners and low-level academic learners. This study will make a deeper analysis from the perspective of liberal arts and science students and four-level academic level learners, to provide relevant references and suggestions for textbook compilers and textbook users.

2.1.4    Studies about the evaluation of English textbooks (FLTRP edition) for senior high schools

As CNKI indicates, there are few studies on textbooks published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (FLTRP). Most research mainly focuses on the comparison of textbooks published by different publishers in the same era. For example, Chen (2017) compares textbooks published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press and People's Education Press from the perspective of reading comparative analysis. Liu (2016) compares and analyzes the FLTRP edition, PEP edition and the Chongqing University edition of the textbooks based on the instructions of the corpus of high school English textbooks. Secondly, there are also comparisons between the old and the new versions. For example, Huang (2020) takes Compulsory Course 1 as an example to make a comparison between the new version and the old version of high school English textbooks. Thirdly, to make the analysis and evaluation from the perspective of culture, such as Xue (2016) focuses on whether the type of arrangement and distribution of high school English teaching material culture place emphasis on cultivating students' intercultural communicative awareness. In addition to the above research, studies have been conducted from the aspects of how to interact the Chinese culture with the teaching materials on PEP edition, advantages and disadvantages of FLTRP edition textbooks and their usages, regional appropriateness of the English textbooks published abroad employing questionnaires and interviews and so on.

In a word, there are little piece of research on the analysis and evaluation of senior high school English textbooks from the perspective of thematic context. Most researches focus on the comparison between textbooks, the evaluation of textbooks themselves and different perspectives of research. This fails to comprehensively and objectively analyze and evaluate senior high school English textbooks from the perspective of thematic interest. Consequently, this paper intends to fill in the gap about this aspect by researching the characteristics of themes and its arrangement, to enrich relevant researches on the analysis and evaluation of senior high school English textbooks.

2.2    Studies on interest

Studies about students' interest in textbooks are reviewed in this section, mainly including the definition of interest, students' thematic interest selection of English teaching materials.

2.2.1    Definitions of interest

Interest belongs to non-intelligent factors, which mainly include the situation category and individual category. Interest is the psychological tendency of people to know something or engage in some activities. It is based on the need to know and explore external things, and it is an important motivation to promote people to know things and explore the truth. Interest has a direct interest and indirect interest. As for the concept of interest, different scholars interpret it from different perspectives. Schiefele (1996) analyzes the research on interest and finds that the definition of interest varies from internal motivation, theme-related emotion, attitude to cognitive motivation, liking, or curiosity. Ainley (1994) deems that interest refers to new things that are novel, unknown and confusing, which is a representative cognitive style of psychological tendency. Zhang (2000) holds that “interest refers to the psychological process in which individuals generate and realize their psychological expectations due to their desire to understand things and explore the truth in the interaction with the environment” (p. 27). Xia (2002) et al. reckon that “interest refers to people's conscious tendency to seek knowledge and explore things based on certain needs, and is the intrinsic motivation of individual activities. Interest makes individuals pay more long-term attention to activities” (p. 58). Li (2011) points out that interest has a positive impact on people's understanding and activities, but it is not necessarily conducive to improving the quality and effect of work. Interest has social constraints, different historical conditions, different social environments, their interest will have different characteristics. Therefore, for learners, active interest in learning is twice the result with half the effort.

The purpose of this paper is to study whether the subject context in the textbook can stimulate students' interest, combined with the above scholars' definition of interest, so interest is defined as “a positive psychological tendency to repeatedly engage in activities related to a certain content.” This thesis will explore the students' interest in the themes of textbooks from different academic levels and students of liberal arts and science.

2.2.2    Studies on students' thematic interest in English teaching materials

Baldwin (1985) studies the influence of learners' existing cognitive level on the change of reading ability. Schiefele (1996) tries to explain the relationship between thematic interest and learners' existing knowledge level, accumulated experience and texts. In the study of Atricia and Teresa (1998), it finds that the original knowledge level has no significant or no influence on the differences in L2 reading among learners. Lee and Pulido (2017) explore the influence of thematic interest under L2 level factors on L2 reading vocabulary acquisition, and the results show that there is certain relationship between thematic interest and L2 level.

Based on the test results of 107 students reading on two different articles, Schiefele (1996) concludes that thematic interest can effectively predict the quality level that learners may form in the process of reading. Patricia and Teresa (1998) study the test results of second language reading comprehension of 104 students and points out that “learners with different academic levels had significant differences in second language reading learning” (p. 285).

Ingrid (2007) proposes specific themes from the perspective of geography. What themes students are more interested in, what differences in thematic preferences among students of different ages are. Based on a survey of 333 German senior high school students aged 17 to 19, the results show that the themes the students are most interested in are those related to human and natural destruction, such as “earthquakes” and “climate change”, while young people prefer to themes such as “individual”, “society” and “social responsibility”.

To some extent, the above several scholars have studied the influence of thematic interest on learners' academic performance, students' favorite thematic categories, text recall, hypertext reading process, and vocabulary memory. The results show that for students with normal learning ability, thematic interest has a positive effect on their learning. This indicates the differences in the learners' interest in the themes in the textbooks to be studied in this paper have some practical significance, and it is also a feasible scheme to evaluate the textbooks from the perspective of the degree of learners' interest in themes.

Based on the above research by foreign scholars, it can be concluded that the research on interest in textbook themes has lasted for a long time and have covered a 

wide scope. However, there are few studies on English language teaching, so further research is needed to be taken into the relevant variables.

2.3    Studies on context

This research is mainly conducted under the guidance of some context theories.

2.3.1    The development of context theory

As an important concept of pragmatics, the term “context” is first proposed by Malinowski (1923) and situational context is distinguished from cultural context. However, Malinowski fails to make a more systematic theoretical interpretation. Firth (1957) absorbs Malinowski's viewpoint and then constructs the context theory, which points out the direction of the further development of context theory research.

Halliday, as the pioneer of systemic functional linguistics, combines the former two theories and puts forward his unique theory of context. To better reflect the influence of context on language use, Halliday, according to Gregory and Carroll's point of view, re-generalizes the situational context which determines language features as follows: (1) field of discourse; (2) tenor of discourse;(3) mode of discourse. In short, the three features refer to what is the content of the speech, what kind of people talk to, and what way people speak. Halliday combines context, language form, and meaning of utterance to make the language better. On the one hand, a certain situational context corresponds to a corresponding linguistic form; on the other hand, the linguistic form reflects and constructs context and produces meaning in the new context, forming a development chain from context linguistic form to discourse meaning. From the previous understanding of meaning, it is inseparable from the description process of context to the interpretation process of how context affects meaning.

The development of context theory highlights the practicability of context theory. Hu (2008) and Sun (2012) make a review of context theory. Hu discusses the sociolinguistic origins of systemic functional linguistics, Sun (2012) compares the context models of Halliday with van Dijk, and points out that the context properties of systemic functional linguistics focus on the usage of language, the dynamic and cognitive nature of context that is embodied in the inner part of the language system, 14and context is a general and abstract type.

Halliday (1978) once repeatedly stresses the importance of the three variables of context, namely, the field, tenor and mode, to reasonably predict the meaning characteristics of texts closely related to a context. Liao (2000), Shang (2002), Xiong (2011), Shi (2016), and other scholars, by researching and teaching practice, find that learners can grasp the meaning of texts more quickly in language teaching materials if they make full use of context. Gao and He (2015) point out that the analysis of context theory is an important link in the register analysis of specific texts. Wang and Xin (2017) and Wu (2014) also point out that systemic functional linguistics (SFL) attaches great importance to the role of context in discourse. Therefore, this study's analysis of Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition) from the perspective of learners' thematic interest just needs context theory as the theoretical foundation.

2.3.2    Cognitive context

Since the 1980s, cognitive science has developed rapidly. Linguists have begun to study linguistics from the perspective of cognition, and cognitive linguistics has gradually developed. Cognitive context comes into being in the context of cognitive linguistics and attracts people's attention. Langacker (1987) holds that, from the perspective of cognitive grammar, the production of language units is based on context, and the context described by semantics is the cognitive domain. Xie (2008) contends that in cognitive linguistics, both meaning and grammar depend on conceptualization, that is, the process of concept formation, which also involves contextual factors. According to cognitive linguistics, context is not an objective existence, but a psychological representation. Ringer and Schmid (1996) insist that it is closely related to people's cognitive ability and psychological experience, and plays a certain role in the construction of the organizational system of language structure. Cognitive context is a kind of psychological construction. Liu (2006) proposes that the process of cognition is to combine cognitive units in the form of a conceptual network in a human brain. Xiong (2008) considers that the connotation of cognitive context refers to the structured, systematic and logical encyclopedic knowledge used in the process of language use and discourse understanding. In the book In Relevance: Cognition and Communication, Sperber and Wilson (2008) propose that logical information, encyclopedic information, and lexical information stored in long-term memory constitute cognitive context.

Through the above different scholars' interpretation of cognitive context, we can conclude that cognitive context is a conceptual or schematized knowledge structure state in which logical information, encyclopedic information and lexical information are perceived and stored in mind through information processing and psychological construction. Chen (2011) also refers that only when language enters the brain of a cognitive subject can it be understood and applied as a matter of fact.

2.3.3    Thematic context

The English Curriculum Standards for General High Schools (2017edition revised in 2020) proposes the implementation of “six elements of theme-led integrated English view of learning activities” (p. 20). English learning activities integrated by the six elements meaning refer to a series of comprehensive, relevant, and practical English learning activities under the guidance of thematic meaning, which enable students to promote their language knowledge learning in the process of analyzing and solving problems based on their existing knowledge and relying on different types of discourse Language skills development, cultural connotation understanding, multiple thinking development, value orientation judgment and learning strategy application. The English Curriculum Standards for General high schools (2017 edition revised in 2020) puts forward three thematic contexts — “Man and Oneself”,“Man and Society”,“Man and Nature”, involving 10 thematic groups, and these thematic groups totally involve 32 requirements in details. The theme “Man and Oneself” includes two thematic groups of “Life and Learning” and “Being and Doing”. “Man and Society” includes four thematic groups, namely “Social Service and Interpersonal Communication”, “Literature, Art and Sports”, “History, Society and Culture” and “Science and Technology”. “Man and Nature” includes four thematic groups of “Natural Ecology”, “Environmental Protection”, “Disaster Prevention” and “Space Exploration”. All thematic contexts should include the category of Chinese and foreign culture. Not only does the thematic context regulate the scope of language knowledge and cultural knowledge, but also provides a meaningful context for language learning; meanwhile, it also permeates emotions, attitudes and values organically. Teachers should realize that the depth of students' understanding to thematic context and discourse could directly affect their level of thinking development and language learning effectiveness. The English curriculum should regard the exploration of the meaning of the theme as the central task of teaching and learning, integrate the learning content, and guide the comprehensive development of students' language ability, cultural awareness, thinking quality and learning ability.

In the classroom guided by the thematic meaning, teachers should create a context closely related to the thematic meaning, fully excavate the cultural information carried by a specific theme and develop the key points of students' thinking quality. Based on the exploration of the thematic meaning, to solve problems, teachers should integrate the learning and development of language knowledge and language skills, and establish a close relationship between the specific theme and students' life. It encourages students to learn and use the language, and explores the language meaning and cultural connotation, especially through the discussion of different views, to improve students' ability of identification and judgment. At the same time, through the comparison of Chinese and foreign cultures, we can cultivate students' logical thinking and critical thinking, and guide them to construct a multicultural perspective. In the design of thematic inquiry activities, we should pay attention to stimulate students' interest in participating in activities, mobilize students' existing experiences based on the theme, help students construct and improve the new knowledge structure, and deepen the understanding of the theme. Through a series of comprehensive and relevant language learning and thinking activities, we can cultivate students' ability of language understanding and expression, promote students' in-depth study of topics, help them speak new concepts, experience different lives, enrich life experiences and thinking mode, establish correct world outlook, outlook on life and values, and realize the unity of knowledge and practice. Xia and Yang (2018) indicate that teachers should guide students to think seriously about the three themes and their internal relations with these themes in practice.

Based on The English Curriculum Standard for General High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020), this thesis studies the themes of FLTRP edition for high schools from two perspectives: the distributive characteristics of the themes and the characteristics of liberal arts and science students' interest in the themes.

2.3.3.1    Studies on thematic context at home

Since the proposition of thematic context, a great many domestic scholars have brought up various views from different aspects, such as Li (2020) presents that the overall design of primary school English classroom context teaching strategies can help to explore the meaning of text themes; Xing and Zhang (2019) put forward theme-based integrated teaching is conducive to the application of real language and the effective improvement of the review of English textbooks in Grade Three. Besides, some other scholars propose their views from grammar teaching, reading, writing, lexis, etc. It is easy to find that it has become a research focus among English teachers and scholars.

Therefore, it's quite necessary and meaningful to take research from the perspective thematic context.

2.3.3.2    Studies on thematic context abroad

Ercetin (2010) studies the influence of learners' interest in themes in the process of text recall and hypertext reading, whose research shows that “thematic interest has an important influence on the existing text, and strong thematic interest promotes the recall of more themes” (p. 245). Endo(2010)researches the influence of thematic interest on vocabulary memory of students with normal and deficient reading ability in Grade Three. Students with normal reading ability have better vocabulary memory in reading that is interesting, but there is no difference in vocabulary memory whether they are interested in the theme or not.

To some extent, the above several scholars have studied the influence of thematic interest on learners' academic performance, students' favorite thematic categories, text recall, hypertext reading process and vocabulary memory. The results show that for students with normal learning ability, thematic interest has a positive effect on their learning. This indicates the differences in the learners' interest in the themes of the textbooks to be studied in this paper have some practical significance, and it is also a

feasible scheme to evaluate the textbooks from the perspective of the degree of learners' interest in themes.

To sum up, foreign researches on textbooks are early and thorough, and the evaluation criteria and basis put forward by various scholars in terms of evaluation methods and contents are widely accepted, which lays a good foundation for the later studies of scholars. However, there are few studies on the theme of textbooks and the degree of interest in teaching objects, therefore, further related research needs to be carried out.

2.4    Summary

In the English Curriculum Standard for General High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020), it is pointed out that the specific goal of the English curriculum for general high schools is to cultivate and develop students' language ability, cultural awareness, thinking quality, learning ability and other disciplinary core qualities after receiving English education in senior high schools. The objectives of language competence include the integrated usage of existing language knowledge in normal and specific contexts, the understanding of spoken and written texts, the recognition of appropriate means of expression, and the effective use of spoken and written language to express meaning and to communicate with others. By the end of finishing high school, students should reach level 3 of English disciplinary core literacy, that is, learners can skillfully use existing English language knowledge in common contexts, accurately understand the meaning and information of discourse, infer the intention, emotion, attitude and value orientation of the author, refine and expand the thematic meaning. Therefore, choosing suitable themes for learners is the key to teaching.

Cheng (2011) proposes that the selection of language materials in textbooks should be representative, authentic and humanistic. Representativeness means that language materials should be grammatically simple, central, most commonly used and most representative. Authenticity means that the selected thematic material should be authentic material that people will use in practice. Cunningsworth (1995) points out that real language and themes can better arouse students' interest, motivate students' learning enthusiasm and stimulate learners' learning motivation. Alao, Shu et al. (2004) take a questionnaire survey into some teachers and students of English majors to understand the role of teachers and students in the process of foreign language learning. The survey results show that communicative themes are popular. That is to say, themes with strong communication will make learners more interested in foreign language learning.

All in all, we can see that there are few studies on the publication of English textbooks at home and abroad, and even fewer researches on the thematic analysis of English textbooks, especially the researches on high school English textbooks based on the context theory and cognitive theory. Besides, studies are hardly conducted to probe into the specific causes of students' interest in textbooks from a thematic perspective. The English Curriculum Standard for General High Schools (2017 edition revised in 2020) points out that appropriate themes are conducive to English teaching, the development of students' language skills, the deepening of students' cognition, the promotion of diverse thinking, the optimization of learning strategies, the improvement of learning efficiency, and the implementation of curriculum objectives. Therefore, this study aims to study the Senior High School English Textbooks (FLTRP edition) from the perspective of the distributive characteristics of the themes as well as the students' interest in themes.

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