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Bridging Belief Gaps in ELT Teacher
Education in Cross-cultural Settings
by Qing Gu
- 2

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 classroom.

View of British Specialists


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 about
'good' teaching performance.
Issue 3 - Chinese teachers learn methodology from British specialists.
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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