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Interpreting English language and literacy in China: EFL practitioner perspectives

He, Yuanqian (2018) Interpreting English language and literacy in China: EFL practitioner perspectives. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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English as a foreign language has been studied as a compulsory subject by all senior high school students in China since the early 1980s. However, little research has delved into how English foreign language literacy (L2 literacy) is understood by teachers and students nor how it has been enacted in classrooms. This study aims to add to the research in this area by building an understanding of senior high school English teachers’ perceptions of L2 literacy and presenting a picture of their teaching practices. This study also gave voice to students who shared their experiences and perceptions of how foreign language teaching was enacted in their classrooms.

A phenomenological case study design was utilised. Drawn from interviews and classroom observations with six English teachers as well as focus-group interviews with students in two case schools, the data provided a comprehensive perspective of current L2 literacy teaching and learning in both school contexts. The picture was enriched by an analysis of the curriculum documentation and the textbooks.

This study aimed to answer the questions regarding Chinese EFL teachers’ perceptions of L2 literacy and their teaching practice. The collected data however indicated that in attempting to answer the questions it actually raised more questions that I have been unable to answer. The teacher participants’ perspectives of L2 literacy differed from the prevailing views or practice on literacy and L2 literacy in western literature (e.g. Luke & Freebody, 2000; Kress, 2003; Gee, 2008; Cope & Kalantzis, 2009), in spite of official curriculum documentation having some parallels with western perspectives. The traditional Chinese beliefs and practices with respect to literacy development continue to shape the teachers’ perceptions and practices of English teaching and learning. Moreover, the findings of this study identified tensions between what were expected of students’ L2 literacy development and what actually occurred in the classroom due to the social, cultural and historical contexts in China.

Given my background as a school EFL teacher in China and the experience of conducting academic study in Australia, this study was not only about the investigation of the teachers in case study schools but also a reflection of myself. Based on the findings of the study and my self-reflection, a number of recommendations were provided for EFL teachers, schools, policy makers as well as those who have an intention to study in a country where English is the medium of instruction and socialization.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Norris, Lindy, Glass, Christine and Thompson, Greg
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