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This study used a phenomenological approach to arrive at a description of the essential structures of the lived experience of Chinese-born foreign language teachers with respect to foreign language teaching. Four structures were present for these teachers: that of the overall context of foreign language teaching in China; the student; the teacher; and foreign language teaching per se. In this chapter, I have attempted to explicate those structures. Several findings are highlighted here.

  • • While the basic conceptions of the educational process between educated people in the United States and China are utterly different (Li, 2001, 2003, 2005), the conceptions of these six teachers are markedly similar.
  • • The Confucian heritage of Chinese education is indisputable. Jiao shu, yu ren is the undergirding foundation of Chinese FLT. It forms, in the words of one participant, 'the image and definition of a teacher'. Without some familiarity with this ideal, Western observers might misunderstand what is happening in the Chinese classroom.
  • • The teachers are radically student-focused, but not student-centred in the Western sense. For the most part, their classrooms are teacher- directed and textbook-centric, though interactive.
  • • Teachers generally desire a warm, pleasant, relaxed relationship with their students, using humour and enthusiasm to connect with their students, but expect students to work hard.
  • • Responsibility with Chinese characteristics is a broad-ranging sense of duty that prompts Chinese-born teachers to take on a concern for their students' learning and lives in a way that is deeply inspiring. Teachers are constantly reflecting on their teaching to seek ways to be more effective and more efficient in conveying both L2 content and L2 skill.
  • • The exam system is a pervasive and mostly negative influence in Chinese education. Teacher practices - but not underlying teacher conceptions - are conditioned by this exam system, but when teachers are taken out of it, they teach differently.
  • • It was not geography that led to differences in these teachers' practices, but whether or not they participated in the testing system of China.
  • • FLT in China has been and continues to be significantly influenced by Western theories, but Chinese are applying theory more critically and confidently to meet the needs of their changing educational culture.
  • • Foreign language education - like almost everything else in China - is undergoing rapid and broad-based change.
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