AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

An ethnographic study of teaching Chinese as a heritage language and foreign language in three educational contexts in the United Kingdom

by Wei Lu

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: School of Education
Year: 2013
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education
Record ID: 1394920
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/4723/


This thesis documents an ethnographic study of teaching Mandarin in three educational contexts in the United Kingdom. The first context is a complementary school where the language is taught as a heritage language. The second context is an evening class which took place in a community centre in Birmingham where Mandarin is taught and learnt as a foreign language. The third context is a secondary school in London where students are learning Mandarin as a foreign language in order to obtain a GCSE. This thesis makes an original contribution by bringing together, within the same research agenda, three different contexts for teaching and learning of Mandarin. Although not a comparative study, this research highlights how context shapes learning for three very different groups of students. The analytical chapters describe how the different environments each sustain a variety of practices, beliefs and values in and around learning Mandarin which shape identity and pedagogy. The thesis is organised around the following themes: culture and intercultural understandings; multilingual identities; language ecology; and multilingual practices. Findings show the political and economic rise of China is imperative in understanding the local ecological order of classroom practices. Evidence shows the importance of establishing ‘small cultures’ in classrooms to engage students in intercultural questioning and understanding. The socially imposed identities of ethnicity along with affiliation to heritage language are investigated. The importance of negotiation is highlighted across the three contexts as young people are shown transforming identities which are presupposed by teachers. The researcher’s role is also investigated in this regard. Finally the use of multilingual pedagogies for teaching Mandarin are described with proficiency as an important element in determining the use of code-switching in the teaching of Mandarin. Several suggestions and recommendations for policies and practices are formulated at the end of the study which argue for pedagogic and linguistic flexibility.