The Problems of Communicative Language Teaching for Chinese Student Teachers in an American TESOL Practicum and Our Post-Lesson Dialogue for Solutions
Fagan, Keenan Patrick
Numerous studies from China report that student teachers in English language teaching practicums resist communicative language teaching, CLT (Hu, 2002), to follow mentor teacher cultural practices of teaching to the Gaokao through explanations of vocabulary and grammar. This study addressed a knowledge gap to investigate the CLT problems and successes that four Chinese student teachers experienced in an American TESOL practicum, and their post-lesson reflections with me, their supervisor, to seek solutions to CLT problems. Following qualitative methods in grounded theory practice I found that CLT problems were of two types. One type occurred when participants reproduced common cultural teaching practices from China. Another type occurred when they attempted to implement CLT activities like role plays and information gaps. This latter type showed this sample’s strong communicative teaching intent (Larsen-Freeman, 2000), a finding rarely reported for this population. This intent led to numerous successes in implementing CLT, for which participants designed activities which attended to student interests. I found that participants were weighing what it means to be a good teacher from both the Chinese activity system of ELT in which they were enculturated and the CLT activity systems in which they were embedded. Our biggest disagreements concerned how they explained vocabulary. To bridge our differing conceptions of TESOL practice and seek solutions to CLT problems, we engaged in a process of dialogue that progressed through six stages. Participants exercised important dialogical skills through these stages. When we accomplished the purposes of interactional stages, participants successfully implemented ideas for CLT.