Exploring an Exam-Practice Approach to Teaching Academic Reading and Writing in China: Teacher Perspectives and Materials Analysis

Terrett, Matthew Andrew (2014). Exploring an Exam-Practice Approach to Teaching Academic Reading and Writing in China: Teacher Perspectives and Materials Analysis. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000af71


This study explores teacher perceptions of an approach to teaching academic reading and writing that focuses on local English for Academic Purposes (EAP) exams (the Exam-Practice Approach) and presents a textual analysis of the teaching materials. The research context is the EAP component of an international foundation year programme for undergraduate students embarking on Business or Engineering pathways at a British university operating in China.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with English teachers and analysed thematically. This data was enhanced through participant observation, documentary evidence and a survey. Findings indicate concerns regarding the separation of academic reading and writing skills, and a mismatch between course aims and assessment. Contextual factors influencing the development of the local EAP programme are identified and concerns are raised over a perceived lack of purpose in teachers’ professional roles.
Corpora were constructed from the reading input in the EAP materials divided according to the students’ disciplinary studies (Business and Engineering) and a keyword analysis conducted using the British Academic Written English (BAWE) reference corpus. This was supported through the manual analysis of rhetorical functions in reading materials. Findings indicate that the reading input does not provide a coherent model of target situation writing and that the local academic reading materials contain language features that directly contradict local writing instruction.
The primary implication of the findings of this study for pedagogical and professional practice is that course assessment can greatly influence the development of an English for Academic Purposes programme. Focus on English-language test practice risks alienating teachers and reinforcing a deficit model of Chinese students. The purpose of the EAP programme therefore needs to be clear and assessment should reflect that purpose.

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