A Critical Ethnography of 'Westerners' Teaching English in China: Shanghaied in Shanghai

A Critical Ethnography of 'Westerners' Teaching English in China: Shanghaied in Shanghai

Phiona Stanley

Language: English

Pages: 289

ISBN: 1138701076

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Tens of thousands of Western 'teachers', many of whom would not be considered teachers elsewhere, are employed to teach English in public and private education in China. Little has previously been known, except anecdotally, about their experiences, about the effect they have on education in the context, or on students' perceptions of 'the West' that result from this contact.

This book is an ethnographic study of Westerners' lived experiences teaching English in Shanghai, China. It is based on three years of groundbreaking research into the pre-service training, classroom practices, personal identities and motives, and local socially constructed roles of a group of 'backpacker teachers' from the UK, the USA and Canada. It is a study that goes beyond the classroom, addressing broader questions about the sociology, and politics, of transnational education and China's evolving relationship with the outside world.




















language meaningfully as opposed to learning about language or manipulating language form. Thirdly, CLT takes a ‘communicative approach’ to classroom teaching, including, for example, pair work 22  English teaching in China and group work activities in which students negotiate meaning and produce language output. Lightbown and Spada (1999: 141–149) cite research supporting a weak CLT approach, and conclude (152) that: [F]orm-focused instruction and corrective feedback provided within the

and Henfry (2006: 253) describe the dominant, majority Han Chinese as practising Orientalism within China in their (con)quest to dominate through reductionism China’s non-Han people. The anti-Chinese protests in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008–2009 and the self-immolations of Tibetans in Sichuan and elsewhere in 2011–2012 highlighted the resultant tensions within China’s (contested) borders. Fairbank’s second myth, of China’s imagined superiority, is discussed by Gries (2005: 42), who gives examples

neo-colonial exploiters of developingworld students, imposing their cultures and generally behaving like barbarians. Those with postcolonial axes to grind might applaud such ‘credibility’. But for some young, under-trained, under-supported teachers far from home, naively trying to make a difference and do the best they can, this would be inaccurate. Greenwood and Levin (2005: 54), writing about action research, argue that credibility should be measured by the extent to which the research is

mostly framed as an exercise in learning about ‘the West’ and, specifically, in comparing (an idealized and essentialized) China with (a constructed, imagined) West. As for how culture might be learned, or learned about; in common with the treatment of language described in Chapter 6, the objective of Chinese students and teachers seems to be to learn facts about Western culture(s) rather than to learn how to operate in them or learn about culture more generally, including students’ own cultures.

not necessarily the most effective. While there may be some overlap between these constructs, they are distinct. Beth explains: [The student evaluations] they are a complete popularity contest, it’s how much do the students like you. … [They like] Ryan, because he’s young, cute, he’s funny, he tells funny stories. … It’s just his whole, kind of, foreigner package that will always put his popularity up. … He’s their age, um, he’s, you know, he can flirt, be funny, and still make them talk. … [The

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