How do we teach English under the waves of innovation?
: Discovering perceptions of English learning and teaching in China and the UK

  • Xuezi Han

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In response to a growing amount of Chinese students pursuing higher education abroad influenced by the rapid economic, social and cultural development in China, this study explores Chinese Second Language (L2) learners and teachers’ perceptions of English Language Teaching (ELT) from secondary school level through tertiary level. English language education has experienced extensive reforms and development, however, Chinese students’ voices reflecting their English learning experience are not positioned as key consideration throughout these learning stages. In this case, this study discusses L2 learners and teachers’ experience of transitions in ELT throughout different learning stages and perceptions of intercultural knowledge embedded within ELT, uncovering English learning difficulties via self-assessment, digging deeply about L2 learners and teachers’ feedback about group work, learner autonomy, exams and interaction between students and teachers. By prioritizing learners and teachers’ feedback and hearing their voices, this study draws upon large-scale data derived from semi-structured individual and group interviews, surveys and focus groups collected over a period of 20 months’ data fieldwork in China and the UK. Responses were gathered from 500 high school students and qualitative interviews with 80 Chinese undergraduates, postgraduates and teachers in Chinese and UK universities in order to build the bridge between learning and teaching perspectives. In this study, survey and interview data is analysed to examine more specifically, Chinese undergraduates and postgraduates who are currently studying in UK universities, with particular reference to international students’ psychological and sociocultural adaptation within their visited country education systems. Specifically, key findings of this research reveal the unbalanced and unequal distribution of ELT education resources between developed and less developed regions, which closely related to students’ attitudes and awareness of output (writing and speaking) practices and access to intercultural knowledge. The influences of Confucianism and traditional Chinese learning culture on Chinese students’ English language learning, which lead to students’ fear of making mistakes and losing face. The directional and leading role of exams throughout Chinese students’ English learning journey and students’ highlights of exam strategies and memorization. The findings from this study help to shed light on how English language policies directly and indirectly influence ELT development in China.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAisling O'Boyle (Supervisor) & Katrina Lloyd (Supervisor)

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