Cultural Contexts and Situated Possibilities in the Teaching of Second Language Writing

Oct. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education 61(4): 364-375.( September/October 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Drawing on the theory of situated learning and teacher knowledge as situated, the authors have examined the ways in which two L2 writing teachers in Hong Kong perceived and responded to the possibilities for learning how to write in their culture­specific contexts of work.
The two teachers in the study were introduced to the process pedagogy with a general understanding that it allowed students to revise their writing with input from their peers and teachers before submitting it to the teacher for grading.
This shift from the absolute authority of the teacher to the sharing of authority by the students challenged a deeply rooted belief in Chinese culture, among both students and teachers.

Research Methodology
The study was undertaken as a follow­up to a large­scale study on good practices in L2 teaching conducted in 2003-2004 in eleven secondary schools in Hong Kong. The aim of the follow­up study was to examine in greater detail the strategies used by these two teachers and how they were developed.
The study involved classroom observations as well as interviews with teachers and twelve students, six from each teacher, on good practices in L2 teaching.

Context of the Study
Rosemary and Shirley, who are both experienced ESL teachers, were invited to participate in the follow­up study. Both teachers are ethnic Chinese who were brought up and educated to tertiary level in Hong Kong.


The findings of this study show that both Rosemary and Shirley skillfully developed pedagogical strategies to exploit opportunities for learning that were rooted in the cultural traditions they shared with their students and the micro­cultures in the classroom that they co­constructed with them. The teachers' skillful and sensitive exploitation of these possibilities created a rich environment for learning.

Most importantly, the study shows that the pedagogical choices made by the two teachers were not dictated by cultural prejudices about particular pedagogical approaches or about their students but by the single most important concern of helping students learn.

The authors suggest that teacher education programs should provide ample opportunities for teachers to gain a deep understanding of local cultures and to explore opportunities for student learning that build on such cultural traditions.

Updated: Sep. 27, 2011