Peng, Ying (2011) The New Teaching Requirements and the Influence of Assessment: A Case Study of College English Reform in China. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

College English reform is one of the main elements in the drive to improve the quality of higher education in China so that it meets the country’s social and economic needs. This thesis focuses on three key aspects of the reforms: the new emphasis on speaking skills and communicative competence; the new learner-centred teaching model; and the influence (or washback effect) of the reformed College English Test. The research investigates the responses of teachers and students to the reforms and the factors influencing their attitudes. The aim is to contribute towards a fuller understanding of the impact of the reforms and generate recommendations for making them more effective.

The research consists of a case study of one of the 180 pilot centres for College English reform in China. A mixed methodology has been adopted, combining both quantitative and qualitative research. The data are drawn from 20 hours of observation of classroom teaching, 397 questionnaires (46 completed by teachers and 351 by students) and 15 in-depth interviews (13 with students and two with teachers). Since the university under investigation offers an International English course (ITE) to some students as an alternative to College English (CE), both courses have been studied. This comparative element has proved important, since in many ways ITE has been more successful than CE in responding to the New Teaching Requirements.

As a snapshot of the response to the College English reforms at a particular Chinese university at a particular moment in time, this research provides fresh insights into the obstacles facing attempts to develop students’ speaking skills, the continuing influence of textbooks and exams on teachers’ practice and students’ attitudes, the reluctance of many students to become autonomous learners, and the continuing assumption that it is the teacher’s task to control all key aspects of the learning process.

Final_Thesis_11-05-12.pdf - Accepted Version
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