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On the Current Graded Teaching Mode of College English

Chen Fang

(Yunyang Teachers’ College, Yunyang, Hubei, China)
Abstract: Graded teaching is an alternative approach to teach college English in Chinese universities, which divides students into classes according to their English level. This paper analyzes the current teaching situation in College English at Yunyang Teachers’ College. The author discusses advantages and disadvantages of the graded teaching mode of college English, and makes some suggestions to improve the graded teaching.
Key words: graded teaching, college English, students-centered

College English is a special course in Chinese universities. Students of non-English major are required to learn the course. Traditionally, students attend the college English classes according to their year level. However, in recent years, due to factors of expanding enrollment of students with wide varieties of language backgrounds, it is obvious that the traditional teaching mode cannot meet the needs of developments of students’ personalities, and can’t meet the needs of different levels of students groups either. The latest version of College English Curriculum Pedagogical Requirements (2004) issued by the State Education Authority advocates "the principles of adhering to classified requirement and graded teaching in accordance with the students’ aptitudes so as to meet the students’ needs of different levels, different requirements and objectives to study". Therefore, the graded teaching is the required method to be implemented in the college English teaching. To adapt the new situation, there is a need to reform college English teaching.
Liang (2004) points out, "How to help students bringing initiative into full play in leaner autonomy has become an important objective in college English teaching, and in a word a teaching mode adapted to learner autonomy must be explored." Further, Liang indicates that through the implementation of graded English teaching for college students, it adapts not only to the need of students from different levels of groups, but also reflects the principle of teaching students according to their merits. This new mode of teaching is based on student-centered education, which intends to make the most of the students better adapt to teaching in colleges.
Advantages of grading teaching
According to my own teaching experience at Yunyang teachers’ college, our teachers have been provided an opportunity to full play our professional knowledge or skills in College English teaching. Graded teaching can not only carry on teaching by combining with the English level of students, but also arrange class lectures according to the teaching characteristics of the teacher, which gives full play to the creativity of teachers. For example, some teachers who are good at the lecture of basic knowledge, can be arranged to teach in the poor foundation class; some teachers who are good at teaching deeper content, can be arranged to teach in the good foundation class where the students have  great abilities to accept the new knowledge. This kind of arrangement is more conducive for the teachers to exert their abilities, more effective for them to control the progress of teaching, and help teachers avoid the influence of expanding the teaching content by the duplication of teaching basic knowledge. It is able to maximize the role of class teaching time, and let the students enjoy more and more high quality teaching resources.
It fulfills the needs of students learning with different English base. The graded teaching mode is the concrete embodiment of work attitude that seeks truth from facts in English teaching. This kind of teaching mode meets the needs of learning the same course by different level students. It can not only mobilize the teaching enthusiasm of the teachers to develop the teaching work more scientifically and orderly, but also mobilize the learning enthusiasm of students to reduce the pressure of students’ English learning by providing students with suitable teaching content and teaching methods (Tian, 2002). Thereby students can make great progress by inverting the learning enthusiasm into learning motivation.
It promotes the thinking and research of English teaching. The graded teaching motivates the teaching positives of teachers, and avoids the teaching problem that is difficult to give consideration to all students of different English levels. Then the teachers can have time to think about the innovation of education and teaching, and improve the teaching level more effectively. Through the developing of graded teaching mode, teachers can also make further consideration and discussion of this kind of teaching mode in the teaching process, so as to promote and strengthen the research of English teaching work.
The problems of the graded teaching
However, we also find some problems of graded teaching. Firstly, it is difficult to implement the teaching standards of different grades. There will be differences of teaching standards in the implementation process after carrying on the graded teaching. Especially in the process of primary class teaching, teachers in general will take the foundation of students as the center to give the lecture, cultivate their language skills, so as to develop students’ learning initiatives and arouse their ability to think independently. In the process of senior class teaching, teachers will take the examination as the dominant factor to arrange teaching for better meeting the needs of students’ English grading test. Therefore, it brings about the problem that is hard for teachers to make teaching standard and implement teaching work according to the teaching plan in the teaching process.
Secondly, it is more difficult to manage class. The teaching activities we usually take are to teach in the natural classes which are arranged as the basic unit by the department. However, the graded English teaching mode breaks down the original class and formulates the new graded class according to the English level of each student. This kind of teaching mode brings out some difficulties in class management, especially for the students who are lack of self learning awareness. Under such kind of class management, the students will lose ability of self-controlling. And teachers have to not only engage in class teaching but also spend some effort and time in class management. This is a kind of time waste which badly affects the whole effect of class teaching.
Thirdly, there will be difficulties of examination and evaluation mechanism. In accordance with the classification of graded teaching mode, students of the same class are basically at the same level. There will not be much difficulty in arranging the examination. But there are different foundations among students from different classes, and some of the differences may be more obvious. If we use a unified standard for the examination assessment, it will lead to a result that students from poor foundation class will get lower marks, and it will be more difficult for many students to reach the basic qualified level. If we adopt the different standard of papers for evaluation, it will violate the principle of the examination, and it will be unfair to the course examination.
Lastly, it is difficult for some students to adapt their psychology to the graded English teaching. After investigation, some students feel the great pressure about the graded English teaching (Liu 2009). Students who are in the high-level class will lose their advantages and self-confidence in English learning. Other students who are in the low-level class may feel more psychological pressure, even negative psychological interiority, and they may have a negative and aversion attitude to English learning. It will lead to negative effects for graded teaching.
The solutions of the problem
Strengthening the teacher training
The teacher is the core element of the teaching work. The implementation situation of graded English teaching is very close to the adaptation degree of the teacher to the graded teaching mode. Graded teaching has changed the teaching activity of original class, and teachers must adapt to the needs of class teaching. Thus we have to strengthen the adaptation and training of teachers about graded English teaching mode (Huang 2004). Especially in the context of popularization education in colleges, the basics of students have great difference. Some teachers have the resenting mood to the distribution of the class, and they aren’t willing to teach poor foundation students. The main reason is that they feel difficult to develop the teaching activities in low-level classes. So it is necessary to strengthen teachers training.
Perfecting the teaching management and student management
It will be more difficult for teaching management and students’ management to break on the teaching activities of the original class. Teachers should arrange a great amount of teaching content in the class teaching, and they still have the responsibility of class management. But they can not spend too much time in class management with this kind of teaching mode. The counselor and tutor can’t deep into the class management either. There will be a vacuum in the class management, and everyone is unable to carry out the effective management. Therefore, we should study and discuss in-depth on the class management under the graded teaching mode, take advantage of the comprehensive strength of teacher, counselor, tutor and staffs of department, and explore class management measures to adapt to this kind of teaching mode.
Strengthening students’ correct understanding and guiding of graded teaching
According to the function and significance of graded teaching, we should strengthen the publicity and correct understanding and guiding of students. In the process of class distribution, we are able to distribute the class according to the students' English level; on the other hand, we should respect students' willingness appropriately. In the face of most college students, the individual factors are very complex, and the general teaching mode is very difficult to meet the needs of every student. Especially it’s very important to respect for the personal wishes of some strong self-esteem students. This kind of students generally have good learning attitude. If we give the full respect of their own will, they will fully recognize the importance of graded teaching to enhance their English level and improve their learning enthusiasm.
In summary, English graded teaching develops the reform of teaching mode according to the current characteristics of colleges. After the practice of these years, it has been reflecting its positive role in teaching, but it’s still necessary to discuss further to mature and perfect the mode of graded English teaching.
Huang, Z. (2004). Discussion on college English grouping teaching innovation (In Chinese). China University Teaching, 8, 17-19.
Liang, Z. (2004). IBPEL - Exploration A New Model in College English Teaching. Journal of the Foreign Language World. 3, 8-13.
Liu, Y., Zhu, Z. & Chang, H. (2009). New attempt of college English grouping teaching innovation (In Chinese). Foreign Language World, 4, 23-29.
The Higher Education Department of the Ministry. (2004). College English Curriculum Pedagogical Requirements. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Educational Press.
Tian, H. & Guo, J. (2002). Design and Practice of College English Course Reform in BUAA. Journal of Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, 1, 54-58.