AN IMPLEMENTATION STUDY OF THE ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM POLICIES IN THE CHINESE TERTIARY CONTEXT

| July 28, 2009
Title
AN IMPLEMENTATION STUDY OF THE ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE CURRICULUM POLICIES IN THE CHINESE TERTIARY CONTEXT

Author
HONG WANG
Queen s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Abstract
This study explores the implementation of the mandatory national college English curriculum within a Chinese tertiary context. Using a mixed methods approach, I conducted the study by engaging three groups of participants. I interviewed four national policymakers in terms of syllabi, textbooks, and tests to identify the intended curriculum. I interviewed six departmental administrators to determine their perceptions of the national language policies and their roles in ensuring the implementation of these policies. I conducted surveys to discover 248 teachers perceptions of the intended curriculum and uncovered the factors affecting their implementation activities in the classroom. By observing two teachers classrooms and through follow-up interviews, I also examined how the language policies were being interpreted at the grass-roots level.
The findings revealed a discrepancy between policymakers and administrators and between policymakers intentions and teachers implementation. Policymakers designed general, open-ended, and abstract policies to offer local universities and teachers some flexibility and autonomy when they put those policies into practice. However, administrators as intermediary individuals between policymakers and implementers apparently interpreted the open-endedness of the curriculum policies differently than the policymakers had intended. Instead of using the built-in flexibility to tailor methods of helping students gain proficiency, they placed their emphasis on only one outcome—students good scores on the national English test. They also failed to support their teachers in understanding the policies by not providing necessary resources to help them implement the policies fully.
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Furthermore, the research uncovered five external and internal factors as significant predictors of teachers implementation: resource support, teaching methods (communicative language teaching and grammar-translation method), teaching experience, language proficiency, and professional development needs. Classroom observations and interviews revealed that teachers failed to implement what was expected from policymakers in the classroom. Rather, they conducted teaching based on the classroom and political reality. Their factors were mainly student factors and the departmental factor. The implications of this study point to the importance of the intermediaries, the department heads, in both providing the necessary pressure (motivation) and support (resources) necessary for the implementation to occur.

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Category: Thesis