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Understanding Chinese EFL Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in the Textbook-Based Classroom

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Xiaodong Zhang

Textbooks have long been considered a pivotal learning and teaching resource in classrooms. However, there is a paucity of research on how teachers use textbooks in relation to their beliefs, with analytic methods in such studies mainly restrained to content-based thematic analysis. To this end, from the perspectives of Halliday’s (1994) systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and Vygostky’s (1978) socio-cultural theory (SCT), this book explores how a Chinese college English teacher acts upon his beliefs and uses textbooks to mediate his students’ English learning in his classroom.

Drawing on constructs of the SFL-based appraisal and speech function as well as interview excerpts, the study reveals that in the textbook-based classroom the Chinese college English teacher acts upon his beliefs that are constructed by diverse contextual factors. Implications of this study include using SFL and SCT to explore educators’ beliefs and practices and also providing effective teacher education for Chinese college English instructors to reshape their beliefs so that they are better prepared to use textbooks in classrooms.

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1. Introduction

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1.   Introduction

Since China opened its doors to the world in the 1980s, the demand for English language users has been on the rise. As a result, English has become the privileged primary foreign language at the tertiary level of Chinese education. To guide the teaching of college English1, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued English teaching standards and has been revising them since the 1980s. The latest version of national standards for college English teaching, the College English Curriculum Requirements (henceforth CECR), came out in 2007.

Different from previous standards, the latest CECR puts balanced emphasis on speaking, writing, listening, and reading. In particular, they state that the objective of college English teaching should be to focus on “enabling learners to communicate in future study, work, and social interactions” (Chinese Ministry of Education 2007: 1) in the verbal mode (i.e. writing and reading) and the spoken mode (i.e. listening and speaking). That is, college English teaching at the tertiary level in China is expected to develop learners’ knowledge of language use in context, which includes teaching both the form and contextually embedded meanings of the English language (Halliday 1994).

Echoing the CECR’s focus on students’ knowledge of language use in context, the latest College English Test2 (henceforth CET) implemented by the Chinese Ministry of Education also tests students’ knowledge of English language use through listening, speaking, reading, writing, and translation. The CET consists of two leveled tests: the CET...

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