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Title: Monolingual teachers' interaction with Chinese students in English as the Medium of Instruction (EMI) science classes : an exploratory study of the foreign high school programs in China
Author: An, Jiangshan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 3455
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This study is situated in a newly emerging English immersion setting in China where an Anglophone high school curriculum is taught by foreign teachers through English only to local Chinese students. These teachers are termed 'monolingual teachers' in the sense that they cannot use students' L1 in their teaching should they wish to. This setting presents a unique and under-researched EMI scenario due to the monolingual teachers' high English proficiency, which is often found lacking with bilingual teachers (e.g., Tan, 2011), and their inability of using students' L1, a resource often resorted to by bilingual teachers (e.g., Probyn, 2001). Underpinned by the constructivist view of teaching science (Brooks & Brooks, 1999) and the Interaction Hypothesis (Long, 1996) in SLA, this study makes an interdisciplinary effort by drawing upon expertise in science education and language education to explore the classroom interaction behaviour and the teachers' and students' beliefs about effective teaching of science and English in this new EMI scenario. 9 schools in China were visited, involving 15 foreign science teachers, and approximately 400 students. Classroom interaction was explored through quantitative and qualitative analysis of 12 parameters of the teacher-whole class interaction in 30 video-recorded lessons. Teachers' beliefs were investigated through a teacher beliefs questionnaire, pre-lesson and post-lesson interviews and general interviews. Students' beliefs were examined through post-lesson interviews and a student beliefs questionnaire. A background questionnaire was also administered on the teachers to understand their past teaching experiences and their qualifications. Results show that while the monolingual teachers held a constructivist view of teaching science and acknowledged the value of interaction for both science and L2 development, their translation of beliefs into practice had limited success. This was demonstrated by the clear teacher dominance in the proportion of the classroom talk and the turn-taking behaviour, difficulties of eliciting linguistically complex output from the students, and a lack of variety of constructivist questioning approaches used. Wait time and teacher nominations, as part of effective teacher questioning, were also used only to a limited degree. Explicit instruction on language had a rather small presence in these lessons, with the meaning of non-technical vocabulary being the main focus without much instruction on the grammatical features commonly found in science texts. The students rarely asked questions and questions involving higher order cognitive thinking were particularly few. Overall the lessons featured common use of single IRF cycles and the extended IRFs often involved repetitions and reformulations of a previous question. The findings of classroom interaction in this study add to the existing literature of EMI classroom interaction through showing that the teachers' high English language proficiency alone is not sufficient in creating a high level of classroom interaction where opportunities of science and language learning could be available. The difficulties of creating an interactive and constructivist classroom in this EMI context could be partly explained by the students' beliefs which featured limited acknowledgement of the constructivist idea of teaching science and a lack of thorough understanding of the value of interaction for science and language learning. The students' lack of English proficiency also emerged as a key reason. Other possible explanations included some teachers' lack of clear understanding of the role of students' substantial output, a lack of EMI training and past EMI teaching experience commonly found among the teachers, and some teachers being rather inexperienced in both L1 and L2 contexts. The difficulties observed in the lessons to move forward conversations also provided evidence of the potential value of L1 to facilitate interaction and build a more constructivist classroom, thus creating more opportunities of science and language learning. This was also supported by the students' own voice, where a strong need of L1 was consistently found for various reasons, including accessing previously learnt science knowledge and everyday life experience, clarifying information among peers, and looking for more information online. However, this need of L1 was not always acknowledged by the teachers. The findings of this study bear several pedagogical implications. First and foremost, teachers' high English proficiency alone does not necessarily lead to a high level of classroom interaction in EMI classes. EMI pedagogy needs to be in place, including the strategies of scaffolding more extensive answers from students, integrating more explicit instruction on language, using a wider range of constructivist questions, providing more wait time and so on. Development of EMI teachers' beliefs on pedagogical issues that are key to the effectiveness of EMI education, e.g., the use of interaction and teacher language awareness, is also particularly crucial to address. A need to bridge the gap between teacher beliefs and student beliefs was also revealed to ensure students are on board with the teachers' practices. These findings also provide potential implications for bilingual EMI teachers.
Supervisor: Macaro, Ernesto ; Childs, Ann Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available