Bridging Belief Gaps
in ELT Teacher
Education in Cross-cultural Settings
by Qing Gu
There are shared views between British
and Chinese ELT teachers on the general advantages provided
by CLT, such as learner autonomy, its meeting of learners'
needs, its cultivation of students' abilities to use the language
in real-life situations. Such shared views provide common
ground on which the two groups, despite their different sociocultural
backgrounds, may work together towards a shared goal.
The critical belief gap between the British
teacher trainers and the Chinese teachers of English appears
to lie in their interpretations and understandings of the
local context and its impact on language teaching and learning.
The following two quotations from the Chinese respondents
interviewed in the author's fieldwork reveal the local voice.
"The British specialists should think
about the cultural appropriacy of the methodology he/she proposes.
They need to work out what CLT is like in the Chinese context.
If they don't know much about our own context and abstractly
sell their theories, I would not listen or use them at all.
… We should like to work with experts who think for
us and who understand and know our expectations."
(Non-case study participant 1)
"It is very important for the British Council to
consider someone's ability to adapt themselves to the local
context when they select specialists to work in developing
countries. They should be able to adjust themselves to the
context in developing countries."
(Non-case study participant 2)
A questionnaire survey was made of Chinese teachers of English
who were involved in the Sino-British ELT projects. The data
gathered confirm the attitude identified in the interview
work. Figure 2 below shows that only 31% of Chinese respondents
think British specialists are experts in Chinese classrooms.
In contrast, 99% of Chinese respondents would like British
teacher trainers to work collaboratively with them on the
implementation of ELT innovations and change in the local
Figure 2: Teachers holding positive attitudes towards each
of the five issues
Key: Issues 1 to 5 range from left to right side of the graph
Issue 1 - British specialists are experts in Chinese classrooms.
Issue 2 - British and Chinese teachers have different ideas
'good' teaching performance.
Issue 3 - Chinese teachers learn methodology from British
Issue 4 - British specialists and Chinese teachers should
work together on ELT innovations.
Issue 5 - British specialists respect Chinese teachers' experience.
Feiman-Nemser and Floden (1986) introduce the notion of the
cultures of teaching to highlight the beliefs about
appropriate ways of acting on the job of teaching as well
as the knowledge that enables teachers to do their work. They
illustrate a common thesis - 'the cultures of teaching are
shaped by the contexts of teaching' (1986: 515). A prominent
issue addressed by both the interview and questionnaire work
is that of cultural sensitivity. Below the surface impression
of shared views between the Chinese and British teachers lies
a marked difference in their perceptions of the local teaching
and learning context. Because British specialists and Chinese
teachers come from different teaching cultures, their perception
of appropriate classroom behaviour usually differs. It is
of crucial importance for external change agents, in this
case the British teacher trainers, to assess the cultural
appropriateness or compatibility of innovations with recipients'
- Chinese teachers' current practices (Markee 1997: 13) and
be ready to make changes if necessary.
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