A case study based inquiry into the adoption and adaptation of communicative language teaching in Chinese universities


The aim of this study is to investigate the extent to which Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is adopted and/or adapted by Chinese tertiary teachers of English with the experience of teacher education overseas. It employs a case study approach in order to explore the extent to which CLT is compatible with the Chinese EFL context at tertiary level. Twenty-three informants in four institutions participated in this study (including two participating in the pilot study). Classroom observation and semi-structured interview were adopted as instruments for data collection. By looking into the teaching beliefs and actual practice of the target group, an attempt was made to reveal their general conceptions of CLT and their perceptions of good language teaching beyond CLT, as well as to identify the factors conceived as constraints on CLT implementation in the local context. In addition, through observation, an effort was made to explore the extent to which CLT was adopted and adapted in real teaching practice. Adjustments made by the participants to facilitate adoption of the approach were particularly focused on, as well as the extent to which intercultural experience contributed to effective teaching. The main findings suggest that the CLT is seen as important by nearly all the informants in terms of its effectiveness and contributions, potential usefulness and complexity. Although constraints on CLT implementation were both mentioned and observed, ‘communicative ideas’ were found to be widely reflected in the teaching practice of the majority of the participants. The findings show that great attention is paid to learners as they are nowadays greatly involved in different teaching phases (pre-teaching, while-teaching and after-teaching). There exists a tendency of eclecticism in the teaching practices of many informants and the phenomenon of what is termed a ‘seeming-communicative’ approach is reflected in some participants’ ways of teaching due to a recognition of the fundamental importance of the learning skills of recitation and memorization. The experience of teacher education overseas is generally considered as conducive to enhancing practitioners’ intercultural competence and critical thinking -- two factors identified as essential prerequisites for CLT implementation and seeking of appropriate methodology. The findings give rise to discussion of three major problems in relation to interpreting CLT as an appropriate approach in Chinese EFL teaching context. These problems are essentialism, overgeneralization and labeling. The prevalence of these problems confirms that there is a need to understand CLT and its appropriateness in different cultural contexts from an anti-essentialist perspective

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