Interpreting folkways of teaching: a life-history narrative inquiry into characteristics of Chinese secondary EFL teachers' knowledge

  • Hong Qin Zhao

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The aim is to investigate and understand teachers' knowledge of teaching and to comprehend their pedagogy. It is concerned with an ontological issue of being: what it feels like and what it means to be an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. From this can be appreciated the general principles that teachers may utilize for their learning and practice in their own situations, to educate the coming generation that will make our future world what it will be for us all. 17 EFL teachers from secondary schools in Yichang, Hubei Province in China participated in Biographic-Narrative Interview (BNI), supported by fieldwork observation, which has captured a range of aspects of their practice and experience in classrooms and beyond. The narrative data is organized, analysed and presented along both diachronic and synchronic dimensions which are complemented with observation notes. Diachronic analysis examined the data over time, looking at the development of the teachers' knowledge of teaching over time with the individual teacher, and more generally within the sample cohort. Synchronic analysis examined the data at the same time, identifying issues and themes that emerged across all the cases. Collective techniques of narrative and thematic analysis are used to construct life stories that lead to becoming a teacher. Critical incidents and metaphors that are anchored in their life-history accounts are identified and interpreted to display their ways of teaching and being a teacher. Educational experience and understanding are unique to, and vary between, individuals, and are less likely to be interchangeable. They are ever-enriching with contexts and circumstances. Most importantly, their subjects are still learning and experiencing the world. Individual cases are presented and opened for understanding and alternative interpretations. Some salient themes and issues, such as why they became a teacher; first years' challenges; early mastery of pedagogy and middle career dilemmas, are synthesized and discussed. Their pedagogy interwoven from caring and grammarian teaching is characterized as the most significant. A narrative model for teacher and teaching knowledge is tentatively conceptualised.
Date of Award7 Mar 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJack Whitehead (Supervisor) & Trevor Grimshaw (Supervisor)

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