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Volume 1 Number 1, Spring 2004, Pages 1-403   

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Learning English Literacy as an Aspect of Social Practice

    Su-Jen Lai

This paper aims to examine students' English language learning as an aspect of social practice. The focus is on two groups of undergraduates who studied in the English Department at a university in Taiwan. The research is ethnographic, combining intensive interviews, observation, and systematic collection and analysis of documents and students' assignments in English. The results reveal that English literacy learning was shaped by the institutional contexts, which include the course contents, the task requirements and the teaching approaches. These students seem to adopt a low-level or a high-level transmission model of learning, depending on the levels of their English language proficiency. Specifically, the process of individual students' learning appears to be dynamic and ongoing culturally embedded in the educational settings in Taiwan. Consequently, the paper proposes that teachers of English as a foreign language should consider the use of an ecological approach to needs analysis and encourage students to take an ethnographic stance towards their language learning. This may assist teachers in designing appropriate curricula and, in the long run, improve the quality of student learning both inside and outside academic institutions.