Characteristics Of Open Courses Education Essay

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Guided by the Goal-direction Discourse Analysis Model, the Principle of Goal Direction is employed to analyze goal relation, specific goals and goal system, discourse cohesion, linguistic strategies of teachers and students, power relations and goal realization in the teacher-student interaction.

As to goal relations, both the Chinese course and American course exhibit convergent goal relations in that the goals of the teacher's and students' are compatible. In terms of goal system, the American course shows more complexity than the Chinese one. Interactions serve to fulfill the goals in the lectures and hence, the general goal of the courses. Top-down goal organization patterns are found in interactions initiated by test questions while bottom-up organization patterns maintain students' interest and focus by leading the students step by step to the goal in the recitation that follows it. By focusing on each teacher-student interaction, the American course is more diverse in interactional patterns. Moreover, the interactional discourse is cohesive in that teacher-student interactions reflect or serve the goals in the lectures. In terms of goal strategy, teachers use direct questions and requestives to initiate interaction. By responding to student questions and giving feedback to student answers, they can always shift back to the goals concerned in the lecture. However, students are viewed as passive cooperators because they only respond by either answering teacher questions or raising a question upon the teacher's request. As questioning is the main strategy of interaction initiation, both teacher questions and student questions are coded using the Dialogic Values Scale to reflect the dialogic pulse of the two courses. The Chinese course with its much smaller number of questions actually has a higher dialogic density than the American course. Furthermore, the analysis of goal strategy demonstrates that teachers and students are not equal in classroom interaction. Finally, as to goal realization, the linguistic strategies employed by the teachers and students serve to fulfill their goals in classroom interaction.

The results of this comparative study show that the Principle of Goal Direction can be applied to discourse of classroom interaction. They also provide some useful implications for classroom interaction in music appreciation classrooms. First, music teachers can make the best of classroom interaction to organize his or her teaching according to the general goal of music appreciation. Second, they help music teachers learn about classroom interaction and decide what linguistic strategies to adopt to attain the general goal. Last, by reviewing the students' linguistic strategies, music teachers can set out to create more opportunities for students to express their ideas and get actively involved in music appreciation lectures. What is more, the findings of this study may prove enlightening to teachers of other subjects too.

Keywords: Principle of Goal Direction, classroom interaction, music appreciation, dialogic value

This is a world that is now highly connected by the Internet. Not only can people negotiate business deals via the World Wide Web without traveling across the world but they can also improve themselves academically through watching the online course videos produced by some of the world-renowned universities such as Harvard University, Yale University, Oxford University and many others. This was all made possible back in 2001 when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), known for its leading position in technological research, launched the unprecedented MIT Open Course Ware and provided free online access to 900 courses to teaching institutes, students and self-learners across the world. Up to now, more than 200 world-famous universities have participated in this program. Under the framework of MIT Open Course Ware, a total of 14,000 courses in over 20 different languages are available to Internet users (Gong, 2011). Ever since then, the Internet has become the new carrier of knowledge and made it the truly-shared treasure among mankind. Following the footsteps of MIT, higher education institutes in America, Britain and China have made many of their courses public online. These online open courses not only benefit those who seek self education but also present themselves as valuable resources for research on classroom instruction and thus generate teaching exchange and implications for improving the quality of school education.

1.1 Characteristics of Open Courses

In the early 2010, some voluntary subtitle translating organizations provided many foreign online courses with English-Chinese subtitles, breaking down the language barrier and thus considerably accelerating the sharing of foreign online open courses. Among them, Justice produced by Harvard University and lectured by Michael Sandel can be hailed as a milestone of this sharing process. In this context, it is necessary to define these online open courses as they are very likely to be misunderstood as those of mere evaluative purposes known in the Chinese educational circles. Hereby, the author would like to put forward three characteristics of these online open courses.

There is no charge imposed upon the viewers, no examinations to be held and thus no diplomas to be conferred afterwards, which is quite different from many distance education programs conducted via the Internet.

The videos record the classroom instruction process which is only directed towards students other than those who are to appraise the teaching quality.

Many of the online open courses are introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at different universities.

In addition, as to the openness of these online open courses, Gong Tianran (2011: 143) points out in "Implications of Online Open Courses of Famous American Universities" that the openness goes beyond the openness rendered possible by the Internet and manifests itself in the organization of teaching and learning. "The openness lies in the open atmosphere of cooperative learning, the open-ended way of thinking that allows mutual inspiration and the accepting of various answers and appraisal standards" (ibid).

1.2 Purpose and Significance of the Study

Many Chinese researchers voiced their opinions on online open courses of those world-reputed universities. Through a detailed analysis of classroom control behavior of teachers and students exemplified by the course of What Is the Right Thing to Do, Wang Jian, Lv Jinhe and He Yang (2011) point out that classroom teaching is not a goose-feeding process and that questions should be asked according to the syllabus so as to initiate discussions among students and motivate them to learn and think independently. In "Research on Teaching Activities and Modes in Online Open Courses of Foreign Universities," Wang and Li (2012) believe that teachers should establish an interactive teaching environment where interactions are arranged according to the goals of a certain course and encourage students to express their ideas. Gong (2011: 143) observes in detail that "after the professor has lectured on a particular knowledge point, he or she will interact with the students" to gain feedback on the previous teaching and adjust to improve the teaching quality. Therefore, these researchers have all noticed the importance of teacher-student interaction in classroom and felt strongly about drawing useful implications from those online open courses abroad. This makes a comparative study of classroom interaction quite necessary in order to offer a thorough understanding of how interaction works in classroom teaching and what Chinese universities can actually learn and improve.

Furthermore, it is of great importance to point out that the teacher-student interaction in classroom is goal directed. Anderson and Burns (1989: 8) define teaching as "an interpersonal, interactive activity, typically involving verbal communication, which is undertaken for the purpose of helping one or more students learn or change the ways in which they can or will behave." The participation of teachers and students is no longer at random as they are both expected to work according to the aims and goals set forth in the curriculum. Moreover, "it is not possible for the teacher or the students to exceed the boundaries of the curriculum and the degrees of freedom are dictated by the curriculum" (Kansanen,1999: 88). Therefore, classroom interaction, as a crucial part of classroom discourse, is often carefully arranged by the teacher to promote the learning of the students and fulfill the aims and goals set forth for a particular course.

Additionally, many Chinese universities have launched the course of Music Appreciation in accord with the national guideline on the quality-oriented education. It stipulates that a qualified graduate with a university degree should not only be politically qualified, knowledgeable in relevant disciplines, but also possess some aesthetic abilities. In recent years, universities of engineering, liberal arts and natural sciences have been required to carry out arts education for the purpose of developing all-round talents. Therefore, in this study, two open courses on music appreciation, Entering the World of Symphonies produced by South China University of Technology and Listening to Music by Yale University, have been chosen as the subjects of the comparative study and the interactional periods between the teachers and the students have been analyzed using the Principle of Goal Direction.

The Principle of Goal Direction formulated by Liao Meizhen (2005) is a theory that has been utilized to explain human discourses, and a Goal Direction model of discourse model was thus developed to analyze both discourse in institutional settings and daily conversations. However, this model has been mostly employed to analyze forensic discourse. Some other studies have adopted it to analyze job interviews and dialogues between characters in literary works. The present study thus attempts to expand the applicability of the Principle of Goal Direction.

To sum up, the comparative study of classroom interaction in Chinese and American music appreciation courses from a goal-directed perspective complements the findings of previous researches on classroom interaction and music education as part of the quality-oriented education from a different angle. It aims to provide some useful implications for both teachers and students in the course of Music Appreciation conducted in Chinese universities as well as those in other courses. At the same time, it serves as an attempt to generalize the applicability of the Principle of Goal Direction in classroom interaction.

1.3 Research Topics of the Study

The research of this comparative study explores similarities and differences in classroom interaction between Chinese and American open courses on music appreciation for non-music majors. Guided by the Goal-direction discourse analysis model, the author employs the Principle of Goal Direction to conduct analysis in goal relation, specific goals and goal system and moves on to discuss discourse cohesion, linguistic strategies of both teachers and students, power relations and goal realization in the teacher-student interaction. In this way, the similarities and differences will be presented in a clear manner. The author will summarize the goal analysis with a comment on goal realization of classroom interaction and the similarities and differences between the two open courses.

1.4 Selection of Courses

The courses of music appreciation stand out among the many open courses online such as history, literature, politics, physics, economics and so on because they focus on appreciating different genres of music and exchanging opinions with each other. That is to say, they are relatively richer in interactional sequences. In this case, the teacher in class plays the role of an organizer other than simply a lecturer. Generally speaking, he or she is supposed to make a brief introduction to a particular genre of music to the students, play some music of this genre and interact with them through asking questions or other ways so that opinions can be exchanged and better appreciation guidance will be provided by the teacher. Therefore, it is safe to remark that teacher-student interaction in the classroom of music appreciation is a very common occurrence.

There are mainly three reasons for the author to have chosen Entering the World of Symphonies of Southern China University of Technology and Listening to Music of Yale University. First of all, the two courses are both oriented towards music appreciation, i.e. teaching non-music majors how to listen to and appreciate music. As to the chosen Chinese open course, "the aim of the course (Entering the World of Symphonies) is to enable students to feel the charm of symphonies and acquire some knowledge of the related cultures and to enlighten them via music appreciation from a historical and theoretical point of view so as to improve their cultural taste..." ("Entering the World of Symphonies," 2012). As to the chosen American open course, Listening to Music, like other open Yale courses, is an introductory one taught by a distinguished scholar. "This course fosters the development of aural skills that lead to an understanding of Western music." ("Listening to Music," 2012). The professor introduces to the students many different genres of musical styles from classical music to blues.

In addition, the two courses have a similar organization of classroom teaching. Recitation, music playing and teacher-student interaction are common. The videos of the two courses show the viewers these three structural parts rather than the teacher recitation alone. As to the Chinese course, the on-site symphony playing forms part of the teaching content. This is realized by the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra at South China University of Technology. Before and after some music played, the professor will give an explanation for better appreciation. Central to this comparative study is the teacher-student interaction in each episode. On the other hand, Listening to Music also contains much music playing in the classroom which is mostly realized by the CD player and a piano. Additionally, there is a projector and a small blackboard for the professor to explain the teaching items involved in the music for the purpose of better appreciation. Furthermore, the professor and the students interact a lot in the classroom. Besides, Listening to Music has a required textbook written by the professor of the course. Occasionally, the professor invites guest artists to share their music experience with the students. For the present purpose, however, it should be noted that only the verbal interaction between the teacher and the students will be described and analyzed in the comparative study.

1.5 Data Collection and Research Method

All the research data were obtained from the videos of Entering the World of Symphonies and Listening to Music which are available on the Internet. All the videos were observed and interpretive notes were made. The Chinese open course consists of 13 episodes or lectures while the American open course contains 23 episodes. For the comparative research, the author selected the first 13 episodes of the latter course. It is important to note that the first 13 lectures bear the three aforementioned structural parts, i.e. teacher recitation, music playing and teacher-student interaction, and focus on teaching music basics and appreciating music.

The verbal data from the videos serve as primary sources of data. They were analyzed interpretively with a focus on teacher-student interactions and questioning in classroom. The summary of each episode available on the homepages of these two open courses provides useful additional information about the teaching goals and the classroom context. The interactional discourse was analyzed on the basis of the content of the talk, type of utterance, type of thinking associated with students' responses and interactional patterns based on the Principle of Goal Direction. In addition, the dialogic value of each question and dialogic density of each episode were calculated on the basis of the work of Martin Nystrand and the other co-authors. The interactional discourse in the Chinese open course was all transcribed by the author while that of the American course was obtained from the Internet and checked by the author through watching the videos.

The focal unit of analysis is the typical interaction pattern known as IRF (initiation-response-feedback) and other variations detected in the two courses. At the micro-level, the initiation, response, feedback and other variable moves in each interactional pattern were taken a close look at, especially teacher questions and student questions. At the macro-level, as there are usually more than one interactional pattern in one lecture, the author also studied the relationships between them and how they work together to ensure the fulfillment of the teaching goals of a certain lecture and thus finally contribute to the purpose of the whole course. All the analyses were conducted on the basis of the Principle of Goal Direction.

1.6 Organization of the Thesis

The whole thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter One is an overall introduction to the background and basic characteristics of online open courses of world-famous universities, purpose and significance and research topics of the study, selection of the courses, data collection and research methodology and a brief introduction of the organization of the thesis.

Chapter Two mainly presents some previous studies on classroom interaction, the Principle of Goal Direction and education for non-music majors. In the end, the author points out the innovative point of this thesis.

Chapter Three elaborates the theoretical framework of the thesis in light of the Principle of Goal Direction and the Dialogic Values Scale formulated by Martin Nystrand and the others. In addition, the author explains the concepts involved in the study which are drawn from the work of Mikhail Bakhtin.

Chapter Four is the goal analysis of all the interactional periods between teachers and students in the two courses. In this part, the specific analysis under the Goal Direction discourse model is carried out.

Chapter Five gives a summary of the findings and the implications of the present study on teaching music appreciation for non-music majors and ends with a note on the limitations of the study.

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