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Volume 8 Number 2, Summer 2011, Pages 1-210   

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Learning English tensesTthrough the Theory of Variation

    Tong Siu Yin Annie

The appropriate use of tenses has long been an area of concern for many secondary school students of English as a second language in Hong Kong. This paper reports on a series of cyclical research lessons conducted with five classes of Secondary Two (Grade 8) students in Hong Kong. The teachers designed the lessons in ways that allowed the students to discern, through variation, the critical features of the appropriate use of past tense and present perfect tense in descriptive texts. Observation and evidence from interviews and comparison between pre- and post-test results suggest that the research lessons helped the students to learn effectively. At the same time, teachers benefitted from the collaborative reflections and investigations, as well as applying the Theory of Variation proposed by Marton and Booth (1997), suggesting that this model of professional practice may have broad application in teacher development programmes.

Keywords: theory of variation, tense aspects, critical features, research cycles, collaborative reflections