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


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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3. Underlying Theories of the Study


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3.   Underlying Theories of the Study

This chapter includes four sections that show and justify the conceptual framework of the study. The first section demonstrates how SFL and SCT as language and learning theories inform this exploration of a textbook-based language learning classroom. The second section discusses how the SFL-based speech function provides a discourse perspective on teachers’ textbook use while the third section shows how the SFL-based appraisal system from a discourse perspective illuminates teachers’ beliefs. The last section is a summary of this chapter.

3.1   Learning to Use Language: A Systemic Functional Perspective

Many scholars have highlighted the importance of developing language learners’ contextual use of language (e.g. Bachman/Palmer 1982; Canale/Swain 1980; Hymes 1972; Savignon 1983, 2002; see also Laughlin/Wain/Schmidgall 2015 for a review). Many countries that offer English as a foreign or second language have been following this trend to meet the challenges of this globalized world. For example, to counteract its overemphasis on language form in English language teaching, China has been pushing its attention toward cultivating EFL learners that can flexibly use language in different settings. The emphasis on fostering students’ knowledge of language use in context is also reflected in China’s latest College English Curriculum Standards (Chinese Ministry of Education 2007), which underscore the demands on college English teachers in training such language users to facilitate China’s emergence in this globalized economic world.

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