Exploring Chinese higher vocational college teachers' perceptions of critical reading and teaching critical reading in English
Embargo end date06/06/2023
This thesis reports on an exploration of Chinese higher vocational college teachers’ perceptions of critical reading and teaching critical reading in English. Previous studies have suggested that language teachers’ experience as learners can inform their perceptions of teaching and learning (Borg, 2003, 2006, 2011, 2018, 2019, 2020). There is also evidence to show an interaction between language teacher perception and practice (Barnard & Burns, 2012; Fives & Gill, 2015; Phipps & Borg, 2009; Zheng & Borg, 2014), and prior research points to contextual factors which can determine to what extent language teachers’ perceptions are congruent with their own classroom practices (Borg, 2012; Hos & Kekec, 2014). Informed by past research and based on my own experiences as an English language teacher and a teacher learner, this qualitative study contributes to the existing body of literature on English as a foreign language teacher education by exploring (a) Chinese higher vocational college teachers’ perceptions of reading and teaching reading in English, (b) their perceptions of critical reading and teaching critical reading in English, and (c) how they perceived their perceptions of critical reading influenced their own classroom practices. A sociocultural approach was adopted to understand Chinese higher vocational college teachers’ mind in this study. Aligned with the sociocultural lens, a constructivist-interpretivist view of knowing was employed to explore these teachers’ perceptions through a variety of methods, including questionnaire, professional learning conversation, classroom observation, and reflective practice. The results showed that a skill-based view was a predominant perception of reading and teaching reading in English in China’s vocational contexts, which was coherent with the findings of previous studies. Through a teacher professional learning programme, participants developed a sociocultural understanding of reading and teaching reading in English. Put simply, participants expanded their understandings of reading and teaching reading in English from a skill-based to a social-practice perspective. In a similar vein, participants’ perceptions of criticality broadened, shifting from a dichotomous to a dialectical view. This shift was accompanied by their evolving understandings of critical reading and teaching critical reading in English. That is, critical reading was seen from a pathway to developing critical thinking to an approach to developing learners’ identities as whole persons as critical readers with the capacity of understanding their world interculturally and informed by moral values (Farren, 2020, p. 477). Teaching critical reading in English was understood as a new practice that shifted the focus of teaching from language to developing English reading literacies through the language. Within this shift, a deeper engagement with texts manifested in text analysis and text transformation was acknowledged by participants in this study. At a later stage of the teacher professional learning programme, all participants perceived their understandings of critical reading were congruent with their own classroom practices. This finding was validated via the triangulation of my classroom observation field notes. This study contributes to the current understanding of teacher education in global and local vocational contexts. Within the local context, it adds to insights into the professional learning of teachers who teach English language for general academic purposes in China’s higher vocational colleges. The present study is a pioneer in the exploration of alternative pedagogic strategies for developing English reading literacies in vocational contexts. Methodologically, the teacher professional learning programme in this study has proven to be effective in that it enabled participants to gain a better understanding of theory and practice in relation to language and literacy education. The professional learning conversations facilitated teacher professional learning in this study, indicating that they might be useful tools for the professional development of teachers in similar contexts.