From Textbooks to Teachers' Perspectives: Building Chinese Students' Intercultural Competence through College English Teaching

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peng, zheng
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Middle Tennessee State University
The new Guidelines on College English Teaching of China (2017) specifies that College English content should promote “native culture” and build capacity for intercultural competence (IC) in order for Chinese students to meet the challenges of globalization. To investigate the impact of this 2017 educational policy on learning and teaching, the dissertation, divided into two parts, examined the cultural content of the 2nd and 3rd editions of New Horizon College English textbooks as well as students’ and teachers’ perceptions of IC and culture instruction. The first part addresses how Chinese college English textbooks represent cultural elements. It empirically compares the extent of coverage and the level of cultural material embedded within these two editions of the textbooks in order to determine changes in cultural content in English teaching textbooks in China. The second part investigates the perceptions held by teachers and students concerning of learning materials and teaching methods by administering a pre- and post-test Intercultural Sensitivity Scale (ISS) to 196 first-year university students as well as a questionnaire to 163 College English teachers in China. The results revealed that there has been a great improvement of cultural content in the 3rd edition compared to the 2nd edition in terms of the quantity and level of cultural content, but differences had little impact on improving students’ IC. As for teachers’ awareness and perceptions on culture teaching, 60% of teachers indicated “confident” or “somewhat confident” of integrating culture teaching in college English instruction; however, only a small portion of them teach culture regularly due to limited cultural knowledge and culture teaching methods. The research further reveals three major gaps in culture teaching: The gap between educational policy requirements versus implementation in practice, the gap between teachers’ high theoretical awareness versus low IC sensitivity of cultural content in textbooks, and the gap between teachers’ expressed desire for more cultural knowledge versus the shortage of available in-service training programs. This study has pedagogical implications for English textbook publishers, English teachers, and policy makers not only in China but also in other English as a foreign language (EFL) countries. It will contribute to the development of culturally appropriate College English textbooks by raising awareness of the importance of developing students’ IC and integrating learners’ own culture in language teaching materials. Furthermore, the results could help policy makers formulate appropriate and effective EFL policies in education.
Cross-cultural communication, Cultural literacy, English education in China, English language curriculum, Globalization, Intercultural competence, Educational tests & measurements