How system level curriculum reform in English language teaching is enacted in a Chinese university

Yu, Aiqin (2016) How system level curriculum reform in English language teaching is enacted in a Chinese university. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (2MB)


This research study examined College English teachers’ perceptions and enactment of a systemic curriculum reform at the classroom level in a Chinese university and the major issues involved in the complex process through an approach of case study. Drawing upon data collected through analysis of documents, semi-structured interviews and classroom observations, the study found that the enactment of China’s systemic College English Curriculum Reform was not a matter of simple implementation but the result of a more complex process which changed the original reform intention. The research, therefore, argues that multi-level challenges intertwined to shape teachers’ individualized classroom instructions. On the one hand, many factors worked together to facilitate teachers’ positive attitudes towards and adherence to the intended changes, such as the direction of national curriculum reform, harmonious workplace culture, teachers’ constructivist beliefs and self-reflection, and students’ feedback. On the other hand, levels of contextual tensions and gaps caused confusions and challenges in the teachers’ actual classroom instructions, such as the inconsistency among the policy strands, gaps between the institutional regulations and the national policy intent, classroom realities, Chinese students’ characteristics and teachers’ English proficiency. Thus, despite teachers’ general endorsement of and positive attitudes towards the proposed changes, they failed to enact them effectively and purposely at the grassroots level. All the teachers in this study experienced some changes in their teaching behaviors, but most of the changes were incremental and context-driven rather than radical and curriculum-oriented as intended.

The findings suggest that the enactment of a top-down curriculum reform is mediated through an interplay of forces and challenges and that the major impetus for how teachers make sense of and enact the reform relates more to the strength of their current values and practices and students’ feedback, rather than the power of external initiatives. Without localized management, a centralized curriculum reform itself is, therefore, insufficient to ensure changes in practices. The research therefore adds our knowledge to the complexities of curriculum enactment and how external initiatives are interpreted and translated by multi-layer policy actors in the context of educational reforms, particularly, in China. The findings also have important implications for the policy makers in revisiting the way they formulate, design and implement future curriculum innovations. The results also provide information to the administrators and the front-line teachers concerning the significance of institutional perspective and teacher agency in interpreting and translating external initiatives, and the complexities involved in the organizational and individual changes.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Gu, Qing
Day, Christopher
Keywords: Curriculum Reform, Education, China, Higher Education, English Language Teaching
Subjects: P Language and literature > PE English
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 37886
Depositing User: Yu, Aiqin
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2017 17:16

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View