Issue 2: Reflections on the Guangzhou tour to the Institute of English Language Education of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) and the English School attached to GDUFS

By Eddy LI (LED Year 4, 2007-2008) & Prof. Eunice TANG

With the support from the Faculty of Education, eighteen Year 3 and Year 4 students from the Bachelor of Education (Language Education) Programme went for a four-day academic and professional visit to Guangzhou from 26 December 2007 to 29 December 2007. During the stay at the English School attached to Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS), our students observed different English classes ranging from Primary One to Senior Secondary Three. Seminars with local teachers were held to exchange views on education systems and English language teaching. On top of this, our students were offered the opportunities to observe how English teachers were trained at the Institute of English Language Education, GDUFS.

The four-day visit was really substantial. Our days were fully packed with class observation, seminars, teaching demonstration, discussion and other activities. We had breakfast as early as at 6:45 in the morning and finished the day as late as at 8:30 in the evening. Although we were so tired in these 4 days, we all found the trip valuable and beneficial to our personal and professional growth. We found their English classes as well as the subsequent discussion with the local student-teachers enjoyable.

Guangzhou Trip

Lesson Demonstration

English teaching in the Chinese classroom

On 1st February 2008, a post Guangzhou Sharing Session was held with the participation of the Faculty staff members and peers. We watched video clips of the tour and we shared our personal reflections on our observation. A number of insightful remarks are extracted below.

“The Guangzhou teachers told us that the school decided to use Hong Kong textbooks “Elect” because of the level of difficulty. In their opinion, English textbooks published in Hong Kong were more difficult than those in China and therefore students may benefit more from this more challenging input. However, we think that there are differences in terms of classroom practices and teaching beliefs in these two places. It is impossible to transfer the philosophy of English teaching from the Hong Kong context into the mainland context. Not only is it hard for teachers to adapt their usual teaching methods and routines to the new teaching material; students may also find it difficult to adjust their learning habits accordingly.” (By Anique, Carl, Mandy & Maria)

“It may be argued that it is more efficient to use the first language to give instructions in the foreign language classroom. However, this will also discourage students from using English. The teacher should use English inside classroom and set a good example for the students. If the students cannot understand the instructions, the teacher can use paralinguistic cues to help convey the meaning to the students. By using English consistently in the classroom, the students will not rely on the teacher to do translation and they will be more active in listening to what the teacher says.” (By Carrie, Chloe, Iris & William)

“Students were sitting in single rows with their own large desks and drawers. It was comfortable and relaxing as they could have their own space and personal belongings. Arranging students sitting in single rows could avoid students chatting and playing with their neighbors as they were separated. However, such setting failed to create a suitable environment for students to develop interpersonal skills as it would be difficult for them to communicate among themselves. It was observed that pair work or group work were rare in the classroom.” (By Amy, Carlos, Carmen & Sharon)

“From the lessons observed, direct translation from English to Chinese was preferred as a means of teaching vocabulary, probably to save time because of tight teaching schedule. Beside this, it was observed that the amount of Chinese used was related to the proficiency levels of students. This phenomenon inspired us to think about the role of mother tongue in L2 education. Although the amount of Chinese used by the teachers may have a correlation with students’ English proficiency, teachers can enhance students’ motivation and production of the target language through offering adequate and diverse pre-tasks of different types of inputs, to meet students’ levels, interest and needs. With that, it is believed that students will be motivated to take part in the discussion and will be able to share their thoughts in English in the listening activity” (By Anita & Carol)

“Student-teachers in China seemed to receive a more “experience-based” training. In the sharing session, we were informed that they started to do classroom teaching as early as they were in the first year of university; while, for us, we have our 4-week teaching practice in the third year preceded by two years of equipping ourselves with the ELT theories and methodologies. The main difference is that student-teachers in Mainland try out teaching before learning the relevant pedagogy.” (By Eddy, Ingrid, Jenny & Kalok)

On behalf of all the participants, I would like to express our gratefulness to Prof. Eunice TANG and Prof. Cecilia CHUN for initiating the idea, setting up the link, leading us through the preparation and organizing process, and supporting us throughout the whole activity.

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