Confucius, constructivism and the impact of continuing professional development on teachers of English in China

Viv Edwards and Daguo Li 
This paper covers the impact of continuing professional development in China. 

The writers conclude that the recognition of English as an essential element in the modernisation of China, together with the growing awareness of the weaknesses of traditional approaches to the teaching of the language, has opened up new spaces for dialogue concerning pedagogy and professional practice.

The paper is free to download.



Submitted by semason on Wed, 01/04/2012 - 15:56

Although I can relate to some of the results of the research in this project (e.g. the finding that actively involving the students' participation in school classes produced more fruitful learning than 'an expository, teacher-centred pedagogical approach', or the mention of conversation and use of English in daily activity), I feel that the report rather strongly emphasised the student-centred approach, as if there should be little place for a teacher's authority. I actually dislike the comparative lack of respect for authority and other people in UK culture, after growing up for 14 years in Malaysia and Singapore in the '70s-'80s, where there was respect for 'right' and 'wrong' and I enjoyed secondary school life much more than in Scotland, where the pupils' autonomous expectancy was higher and respect for others rather low. In the orderly school life of Singapore, life was not particularly restricted or boring, and there was much less peer pressure. It may have been rather over-competitive, the learning and atmosphere were less self-centred than when I later attended an academy in Scotland, and subjects were learned more for exam marks than for interest, and a friend from China has informed me that the pressure for this latter learning characteristic in the Chinese schools is even stronger, as certain subjects are given more value in points.

Although I agree that enjoying English in class is likely to result in learning much more than listening to a lecture about it, a university lecturer has told me that students from countries of more traditional learning methods (i.e. where authority of teachers is acknowledged) tend to know their mathematics much better than those from Scotland.

In my short-term English-teaching team trips to China as a native-speaker (in a Municipality-of-Chongqing Middle School & in a Shaanxi Province University), it was a pleasure to teach well-behaved students (although of course not their basic English), and despite the Chinese cultural reluctance to speak up publicly in class, in Scotland I have later found adult students from Bangladesh to be much less familiar with class participation (e.g. answering open questions) than Chinese or European students. I therefore feel that the interpretation of results in this report are rather strong, and that although the Chinese methods of English teaching could indeed benefit significantly from modernisation, that need not necessarily be to quite the extent as suggested by the quotes in the report, and other countries could gain greatly from it too.

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight