Investigating the effectiveness of English for occupational purpose (EOP) training: Corporate programs in China

Qing XIE

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Workplace programs for English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) training represent a corporate investment in language skills enhancement and human capital development. However, there is a lack of empirical research on the effectiveness of these programs in the Chinese context. This thesis investigates the training effectiveness of EOP programs in Chinese workplaces. The key research questions are “How effective are EOP training programs in preparing employees for global business communication in the workplace context?” and “What factors contribute to or hinder the effectiveness of EOP training programs in the workplace context?”. The thesis examines a range of training effectiveness variables such as intended outcomes, unintended outcomes, difficulties in learning/workplace English use, sustainability of learner autonomy, international business communication performance, and sustainable livelihoods. The study also identifies the factors that facilitate or hinder effective learning outcomes for workplace EOP training programs and explores the potential benefits of these programs. This investigation makes use of theories from a range of fields including ESP (English for Specific Purposes), TESOL, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), lifelong learning, adult education, employability skills development, communicative competence development, workplace language and literacy training, workplace training and learning, and training program evaluation. Based on the synthesized theories and the evaluation models, an evaluation framework of EOP programs in the workplace is constructed for the first time. The research methods used in this study include qualitative interviews with representatives of multinationals in China, i.e. Hong Kong and mainland China, surveys with working adults and business background study in stage one, and case studies in mainland China in stage two. The case studies employ research instruments such as qualitative interviews, learner surveys, learner self-assessments, participant observation, workplace observation, trainer reflection, material evaluation and document study to answer the research questions from varied perspectives. The first stage findings show that the challenges faced by workplace EOP training programs include irregular use of workplace English use, uneven training demand, difficulties with program implementation in the workplace, problems in meeting business specific learning needs or performance goals, and inadequate qualifications of workplace EOP trainers. The characteristics of effective workplace EOP training courses are summarized under three themes, the identification of workplace English learning needs, the development of effective training programs based on those needs and the provision of adequate resources and support. The second stage of the study further applies the evaluation framework to investigate the effectiveness of three corporate EOP programs in mainland China. The findings show that these EOP training programs have effectively prepared employees to engage in international business communication upon completion of the courses. The self-assessment results show that all three programs enabled the participants to reach an intermediate level of language ability. Substantial long-term progress is difficult to identify as there are many factors which influence the training participants5 success in developing workplace communicative competence development. These factors include class size, language environment and the learner’s commitment to the learning process. There have been individual successful cases in which the training participants excelled in international business communication performance. In addition, a model for workplace EOP training program development and implementation in the Chinese context has been constructed. This model is replicable for use in future studies. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • MACLEAN, Rupert, Supervisor
  • ADAMSON, Robert Damian, Supervisor
  • GAN, Zhengdong, Supervisor
Award date23 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • English language -- Study and teaching -- Chinese speakers
  • Occupational training
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2014


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