Teaching or being taught: the experience of foreign teachers in China

Zhu, Manting
Nelson, Frances
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

The research recorded in this thesis examined the experience of eight foreign teachers who have taken up residence in China as teachers of oral English language. The study grew out of my reflections on my own challenging, yet rewarding, journey as an international student in New Zealand, and aimed to investigate and unfold the reality of foreigners living and working experience under the influence of traditional Chinese culture, specifically in Pan Yu district, Guang Zhou City, Guang Dong Province. I was interested to find the cultural differences that the teachers struggled to accept or understand. I wondered whether the foreign teachers would reshape their personal beliefs and values, especially about teaching, because of the cultural differences they encountered in China. A sample of eight foreign teachers, from Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand, took part in semi-structured interviews in which I hoped to capture critical incidents in their inter-cultural experience. I was also able to undertake two observations of classroom practice. The data collected was then analysed using Boyatzis' (1998) system of thematic analysis. The research found that participants had similar experiences during their residence in China. For instance, the majority of participants showed a long period of cultural adoption and they all defined their experience as challenging. All participants refused to reshape their moral beliefs about teaching in response to traditional Chinese culture, but that they all, to some extent, eventually adjusted to a Chinese way of thinking. However, issues that direct connected to their own cultural heritage remained unchanged. An interpretation of the findings was that perhaps, on one hand, while the environment and cultural difference initiated various forms of difficulties, on the other hand, participants are trying to reset their personal limits. Most likely, their desire to introduce their Chinese students to a different style of learning convinced them to hold on to personal beliefs about effective teaching and learning, hoping to pass this on to a new generation of Chinese. My research, however, focused on only very small proportion of foreign teachers in China. Further research should be pursued with an expanded focus, to find the potential of the implementation of cultural awareness programmes and support groups for foreigner.

Chinese education system , Foreign teachers of English , Cultural differences , Intercultural experiences , Hofstede , Pan Yu District
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