Author Identifiers

Meina Luo
ORCID: 0000-0003-1885-2810

Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Susan Main

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Graeme Lock

Field of Research Code

13, 1302

Abstract

The English curriculum standards in China have shifted towards cultivating core competencies in students’ English language to incorporate a more constructivist approach than was used previously. This has posed challenges for Chinese English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) teachers because it is necessary for them to hold the requisite knowledge and skills themselves before they can cultivate students’ core competencies. English reading plays an important role in facilitating students’ acquisition of these core competencies. Thus, there is a need to ensure that Chinese EFL teachers have the knowledge and skills to align with the curriculum changes and evidence based teaching practices that support reading development. A wealth of literature has documented that teachers’ knowledge and beliefs influence their instructional practices. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore Chinese primary school EFL teachers’ knowledge and beliefs concerning effective teaching of English reading in the Chinese context, and how these relate to their instructional practices.

The methodology of this research focused on a constructivist epistemology with interpretivism as the theoretical perspective. A case study design was selected, using a mixed methods approach, with case study teachers drawn from 262 survey participants who were teaching English in public primary schools in Zhejiang Province, China. Three teachers from two schools located in the suburban areas of Zhejiang volunteered to participate in the qualitative phase of the research. The survey results provided broad contextual information for the case studies; the interviews, classroom observations and document analysis revealed the case study teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and instructional practices.

The findings from this research indicated a preference for a skills perspective in English reading instruction by the majority of the survey participants, including the case study teachers. The case study teachers identified pedagogy, teaching materials, a supportive environment, motivation and the status of English as a school subject as key components in effective English reading instruction, but did not perceive their own knowledge and beliefs as influential on their practices. This research identified a number of effective instructional practices highlighting teacher led-activities, including the use of explicit instruction with frequent modelling and scaffolding, first language with multiple purposes, strategies to motivate students to learn, and integration of contemporary technology in reading instruction. In particular, teacher-led explicit instruction was among the repertoire of pedagogical content knowledge held by the case study teachers. However, the findings from this research also indicated that knowledge of the basic language constructs related to literacy acquisition was generally insufficient among all participating teachers, thereby hindering the case study teachers’ use of metalanguage as a tool for instruction. Overall, the case study teachers’ reading instruction tended to converge with their beliefs, but there were also a considerable number of inconsistencies in their knowledge, beliefs, instruction and evidence-based teaching practices. It was found that the dynamic interplay and mutual influence between teachers’ knowledge, beliefs and teaching practices was mediated by the EFL context, including curriculum mandates, school context and teacher education.

This research calls for teachers to examine and reflect on their knowledge and beliefs in daily teaching practices, continue to value what succeeds from the traditional Confucian teaching approach, and simultaneously incorporate current evidence-based teaching practices—for example, highlighting teachers’ essential role in using explicit instruction of key components of English reading and improving teacher knowledge. It is recommended that policy development, practices of EFL reading instruction, and preservice and in-service EFL teacher development programs in China consider incorporating teachers’ knowledge and beliefs to improve the effectiveness of English language pedagogy.

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Access to Chapters 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of this thesis - is restricted by author's request

Available for download on Sunday, January 14, 2024

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