Managing Change in English Language Teaching through a Journey of Learning: A Case Study from China

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 4, pages 437 – 445.
(November 2010).

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The New Standard English Curriculum in China (2000) (the new curriculum) had a leading role in national curriculum reforms. The new curriculum aims at improving the development of learners' abilities to communicate in English through interactive learner-centred approaches to the language teaching-learning process.

With the introduction of the new curriculum, all students from Year 3 upwards in primary schools start to learn English. Hence, teachers moving into the new curriculum need a reasonable degree of target language proficiency; they need to acquire a fair degree of autonomy in classroom decision-making; they need to cope with local constraints.

This article takes the case of Tuha Petroleum Foreign Language School (THPFLS) in Xinjiang, China as an example. The article examines the process of implementing the Curriculum at this school.

The article describes the work the school has done, and the problems which it encountered.
In line with the new curriculum, all teachers were required to transform their views on teaching. The teachers were also required to give more importance to students' ability to use the language, and to study modern language theory to change their teaching methods etc. They had to be versatile, namely, be able to sing, act, draw stick figures, and use multi-media teaching techniques.

Strictly measured by these curriculum criteria, more than three-fourths of them were under-qualified. The teachers participated in a methodology course consisted of one lesson per week for one semester leading up to a three-week teaching practice in a local school. In the first year of implementing the new curriculum, the teachers' motivation was not high without an increase in pay, but the costs were high with loss of free time and added feelings of insecurity.


Teacher trainers in China move into teaching training for practical programmes of training the teachers, which are not available yet. TEFL trainers in China are mainly from two sources: academics from the university and experienced teachers from primary or secondary schools.
One possible solution is to initiate trainers' training nationwide and regionwide. However, it is difficult to enable those trainers to have a diverse TEFL training background, representing academics and practitioners at home and in English-speaking countries.


The author concludes that the new curriculum has placed teachers at the centre of the innovation in the shift from knowledge transmission to whole person education. In conforming to the new ideas teachers have to give up some techniques with which they are at ease.

However while in many parts of the world the main concern of teacher education has moved from training to development, the task of a teacher educator in China is twofold: at one level it is to address teachers' immediate needs such as the ability to teach English in the target language. At another level it is to help teachers make sense of the current curriculum innovation.

Updated: Apr. 14, 2011