THE 2ND INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF IATEFL CHINA in Tonghua, 2004
TEFL Practice and Reform in China: learning, adapting, succeeding, creating
The beliefs and techniques outlined form the basis of the Fusion approach that we use in all our teaching and training. It is at least as relevant today as it was in 2004.
The Fusion Model: Blending the West and the East in the Contemporary Language Classroom in China
This paper outlines the Fusion model for the teaching and learning of English in a Chinese context. The Fusion is defined as ‘a synergy of selected and evolving contemporary theory and teaching techniques, predicated on the needs of Chinese teachers and learners’. It is based on the belief that such combination leads to more efficient teaching and learning and higher levels of fluency than a single reliance on either the ‘Chinese’ approach or the communicative style. This model, therefore, is intended as a way to make the communicative approach more analytical and memory focused and model based analysis more skills integrated and communicatively effective.
The authors had the opportunity to work with locally recruited teachers in the delivery of the Unitec Certificate in Intensive English Certificate in Beijing and to observe at first hand the teaching of English in local High Schools. This experience of the strengths of the methods used in the Chinese classroom and an appreciation of the challenges faced by teachers as language users and course deliverers lead to the design of a professional development course specifically for Chinese teachers and Chinese contexts. Our model is based on a review of current theory and research, and draws on experiences from and feedback on delivery of teacher development programmes with Chinese teachers in both China and New Zealand.
CLT AND TEACHING AND LEARNING IN CHINA
Holliday (1994) notes that any methodology in English language education needs to be appropriate to the social context within which it is to be used. Contrary to this, Communicative Language Teaching has been promoted throughout Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC) countries, in settings very different from the one where CLT originated. There is now widespread support for the integration of communicative methods with traditional approaches in the teaching of English in countries such as China. Liu (1998) argues that in TESOL training internationally, consideration of differences in socio-economic conditions, educational ideologies and systems are essential but often neglected, and that ‘communicative’ methodologies which may not be very useful in the trainees’ home environment are promoted, while at the same time, tried and tested ‘traditional’ methods are condemned. Hird (1995) points out that aspects of the communicative approach need to be applied selectively and with caution, and that imported, Western teaching methodologies that ignore the local context are unlikely to be successful. While CLT is dependent on an ESL environment, the Chinese EFL setting offers few opportunities for learners to engage in authentic practice situations outside the classroom (ibid.). Ellis (1996) finds assumptions such as “the idea that the Western culture has discovered a language teaching methodology with universal application, and that communicative competence shares the same priority in every society” both inaccurate and misleading, and he also advocates a culturally attuned communicative approach.
THE FUSION MODEL FOR TEACHER DEVELOPMENT FOR CHINA
Our Fusion model for the professional development for Chinese teachers of English has the following key components:
A fusion of techniques that combine the benefits of model based memorizing and analysis, and skills based fluency development
The application of these techniques in the development of the teachers’ own language skills
The development of an awareness of western culture
The Fusion is here defined as a synergy of selected and evolving contemporary theory and teaching techniques, predicated on the needs of Chinese teachers and learners. It is based on our belief that such combination leads to more efficient learning and higher levels of fluency than a single reliance on either of these approaches.
In our courses, contemporary English classes aim to extend the trainees’ proficiency, with a strong focus on communicative skills and fluent and idiomatic language use. Classes provide a relevant learning context for exposure to a range of techniques and activities which trainees will be able to transfer to their own teaching. One difficulty facing practitioners in China is their own limited sociolinguistic knowledge of the English language (Senior & Xu, 2002). An understanding of the target language culture is an indispensable part of language acquisition, and a shortfall in this area leads to lack of confidence in teaching (Liu, 1998). A broader cultural awareness is also essential when using the wider range of instructional materials available in China today. Western culture is accordingly introduced through class content and discussion, and the trainees’ knowledge of international issues is extended.
Through a combination of theory and practice, teaching skills classes provide an increased understanding of key elements of international approaches to language teaching, and ways to combine these with traditional methods of teaching and learning in the Chinese context. Course content includes: techniques for creating and maintaining learners’ interest and motivation; integration of language and skills; and promoting communicative ability and fluency in the teaching of grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading, speaking and writing. During the course, trainees have the opportunity to observe and evaluate model lessons, practise in groups, evaluate their own effectiveness as teachers, and discuss their own teaching and learning in tutorials with the trainer.
The Fusion advocates an approach to teaching which is in close keeping with recent updates to the English National Curriculum for Senior High school (2003) by addressing the objectives of affective attitude, cultural awareness, language knowledge, language skills and learning strategies. This has the ultimate goal of producing motivated, interactively competent, autonomous learners who can meaningfully process the content of the language they encounter in and outside the class to become proficient users of English as an international medium of communication.
Look out for Part 2 of this paper, which will outline
The Teacher's Role
Interest and Interaction
Part 3 will cover ways of addressing Language and Skills development in the Chinese classroom.