This study aimed to investigate how tertiary TEFL teacher education students‟ evaluative language competence can be extended through explicit teaching of linguistic descriptions of resources for expressing attitudinal meanings in English. In particular, it sought to determine how tertiary TEFL courses informed by the Appraisal framework (Martin & White, 2005) and text-based pedagogy (Feez & De Silva Joyce, 2012) can be designed and implemented to improve students‟ evaluative language competence. It also aimed to examine how such courses can extend students‟ evaluative language repertoires, and how students can discuss their understanding and use of the language of evaluation using their metaknowledge of Appraisal.
In pursuit of these aims, I implemented over two fifteen-week interventions explicit teaching of evaluative resources, focusing on Attitude and Graduation within Appraisal to the same group of TEFL first-year teacher education students at Quy Nhon University, Vietnam. The explicit teaching of Attitude and Graduation followed the teaching sequences using the teaching-learning model I adapted based on integrating the Scaffolding interaction cycle (Martin & Rose, 2005) into the text-based cycle of teaching and learning (Feez & De Silva Joyce, 2012). I also adopted Appraisal as the coding scheme and the UAM Corpus Tool developed by Michael O‟Donnell (2013) as an electronic linguistics annotation tool for investigating affordances of Attitude and Graduation resources in reading texts and in students‟ writing.
The study found that before the interventions, the students from both intervention and non-intervention groups had similar limited repertoires for evaluation expressions, which were reflected through their repetition of a restricted number of different instantiations for Attitude and frequent use of basic isolated grammatical items for Graduation. After the interventions, however, there was a significant development of the intervention students (IS) compared to the non-intervention students (NS) in Attitude and Graduation deployment. The IS employed not only more numerous different instantiations for Attitude, but also a more diverse range of semantic infusion, grammatical and lexical items for Graduation. More importantly, these IS could provide linguistic descriptions of some Appraisal aspects and employ their metaknowledge of Appraisal to talk about the development of their own deployment of Attitude and Graduation across the writing tests. Of particular interest is the impressive improvement of the low achieving IS to approximate the performance of the high achieving IS and even to overtake the performance of the high achieving NS.
This empirical study has made a professional innovation to teaching pedagogies in that it adapted the teaching-learning model for explicit teaching of evaluation based on combining the Scaffolding interaction cycle (Martin & Rose, 2005) and the text-based cycle of teaching and learning (Feez & De Silva Joyce, 2012). It also has important professional implications in fundamental aspects of TEFL such as shifts in policies, professional development, teaching practices, English textbook design and English test assessment in the context of teaching and learning EFL in Vietnam. In terms of policy shift, it raises a call for review of several aspects of TEFL such as current teaching practices, curriculum, resources and teachers‟ expertise. With regard to professional development, it alerts university English teacher educators and practising teachers of English to be aware of the necessity to equip themselves with knowledge about English language and update with relevant pedagogical approaches in their lifelong professional development. In relation to English textbook design, evaluative language was found to be inadequately attended to in Solutions Intermediate and Solutions Upper-Intermediate (Falla & Davies, 2013a, 2013b), the textbooks of English being used in most tertiary institutions in Vietnam. The compensatory additional resources provided in the intervention can serve to inform curriculum designers and textbook editors of the need to incorporate intentionally selected reading texts and thoughtfully designed activities with the aim to make evaluative language more explicit. Regarding English language teaching, the study indicated the poor repertoires of evaluation expressions of even advanced students of English in Vietnam, and it demonstrated that the restricted repertoires of the students could be developed through implementing the courses I designed with various activities to engage students such as multimodal texts and video recording of student improvised drama and their reflective review of their work on the videos. In terms of assessment of English, the study draws attention to the need for test designers to include evaluative language within assessment criteria and make it an explicit requirement in designated test questions. These implications are expected to bridge the gap between teaching-learning experience in the English classroom, criteria in English assessment tests, and real-life English language demands.