Friday, October 30, 2009

Using Theories

Putting together a presentation - suddenly a theory/orientation I didn't really like a whole lot when I first heard about it popped into my head -- "hey, if you use this, it will help prove your point." Theoretical pragmatism: using what works without being religiously devoted to any particular theory.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Critical Pedagogy As Oppression

"I came to realize that my implementation of critical pedagogy without taking into consideration students' goals, needs, and expectations was an imposition of my belief and that it was antithetical to my goal of student empowerment. I recommend that when attempting to implement a pedagogy, teachers should understand the limitations of the pedagogy and adapt to unique implementation challenges each class presents."

Jungmi Kim, "Implementing Critical Pedagogy in an English as a Second Language Writing Classroom"

"WHY DOESN'T THIS FEEL EMPOWERING? Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy" Elisabeth Ellsworth, Harvard Educational Review, Fall 1989 (electronic version not available, but you can read the abstract)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Professor Tony's English Classroom

This site is really interesting. Honestly it looks like there is a ton of stuff here and this could be a really, really interesting site for research on English writing in China. Professor Tony's English Classroom is a site for Chinese students of English writing, and
"its purpose is to provide the best possible help to any and all people here in China that want to improve their English. And the best part of it all is that everything is FREE OF CHARGE!"

Monday, October 05, 2009

TESOL Islamia

I seem to recall this site being down for quite a while, but I stumbled across it again today: TESOL Islamia is a one of few resources that takes the relationship between ESL and religion seriously.

UPDATE: It's down again. Someone needs to get it up and running!

China Holistic English

Up late working on a couple papers due tomorrow -- I see that Niu and Wolff, whose aggressive articles on Chinese EFL teaching (esp. the plight of the native English speaking teacher) have been both enjoyable and upsetting to me over the past few years, are gearing up for a pretty huge push with their whole philosophy over at China Holistic English.

While I'm really happy to see that someone is publishing a desperately needed book -- their forthcoming Teaching EFL in China: What Every Foreign Teacher Should Know Before They Go -- I'm disappointed to see that a) it is not being published by a reputable academic publisher and b) at first glance it does not appear to be substantially revised from the previous articles they have put up on their website.

Niu and Wolff are saying some really important things about a really important sector of global ELT, but their work frequently comes off as recalcitrant and unrealistic. I don't mean to be harsh, but hope their new book(s) will prove to be otherwise.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some data on my SSLW project (Part I)

Looking at the results of my survey "English Writing and Futher Study Abroad."

n = 76 Chinese university students, so this is by no means a huge sample. Also, note that these students are among the "best and brightest" in the entire country -- most of them either scored in the top 100 or so among millions of other students in their province taking the college entrance exam, or performed so well in high school that they were invited to join an honors program at a top university without taking the exam. These are the kinds of students who are almost inevitably going on to grad school.

75% are in their second year of university (although many of those identified this year as their "first" year, because they spent one year at a mainland university before beginning year 1 of a 3-year Bachelors' degree in Hong Kong).

25% currently attend one particular "top 3" university in China, and it is those 19 students I want to focus on in the follow-up interviews. 67% currently attend a university in Hong Kong, and the rest attend other universities in China.

Take a look at this (click for a closer look)

49% are seriously interested in attending grad school in North America, and 42% are "maybe" interested. Only 2 of the 76 students have no interest in studying in North America. (3 are already in grad school there.) Ambitions are high - 91% have some interest.

Surprisingly, 70% of these students had taken an English writing course in college or high school. I suspect this data is skewed by the high number of students in this special mainland-HK program. They are given lots of English instruction in preparation for entering an English-medium university. I don't think I want to emphasize this in my write-up; I will mention who the students are (as above), but this statistic doesn't really seem all that important. (Maybe it is?)

This is interesting, too - click for a closer view.
I asked the students what kind of writing they felt their English classes in the past had prepared them for. As I expected, the highest percentage (58.9%) said standardized English writing tests in China. I was kind of surprised that the next highest number (they could choose more than one) was English for "real-world" uses such as emails and letters -53.4% said that. Writing for foreign standardized tests wasn't too low (42.5%), and the lowest two were writing in English for academic purposes in university in either China or an English-speaking country. Only 34.2% of students felt their English classes had prepared them for the writing they need to do in Chinese universities, and only 32.9% felt prepared for writing in an English-medium university in an English-speaking country.

I'm now reading responses to the question:

In your opinion, is there a difference between the English writing you do (or have done) at your Chinese university and the English writing you would need to do in your future study at a North American University? What, if anything, is the difference?

We'll see what comes up!