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Confucius Institute Chinese Teachers in the UK: language, culture and identity

Ye, W. (2016) Confucius Institute Chinese Teachers in the UK: language, culture and identity. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This study focuses on identity and interculturality in the context of globalization. It explores the work and living experiences of Confucius Institute Chinese teachers (CICTs) in the UK through their accounts and reflection. Because of their betwixt and between situation, the CICTs’ stories differ from those of immigrants, international students and pre-service student teachers, who have been the main focus in L2 identity research. This Ph.D. research project was undertaken from August 2013 to July 2014 with a cohort of CICTs working in Britain. The focus is on exploring the way CICTs interpret and make sense of their sojourning experience, and how this context and the wider globalised social environment have impacted on their understandings and their personal growth. Underpinned by Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, field and capital, Byram’s notion of “intercultural mediator” and Kramsch’s “symbolic competence”, this study employs an explorative approach, and draws on interviews with four CI directors, two focus group discussions with eight CICTs and three longitudinal case studies of CICTs’ weblogs, to understand the emergence, formation and growth of CICTs’ identity. The findings indicate that the teaching abroad experience improved symbolic competence and had a positive impact on CICTs. Being uprooted to an Anglophone context and positioned as foreigners, with limited understanding of English language and culture, CICTs strived for successful professional adjustment. By actively exercising agency and resilience, they eventually stepped out of ethnocentrism to become educators with world perspectives. This study draws attention to some weaknesses of the CI program and offers suggestions for CI stakeholders as well as those responsible for future international exchange programmes. It highlights the complexity of identity and agency, shedding light on ways of improving cross-cultural communication competence in the classroom and beyond in the era of globalization.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Edwards, V. and li, D.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:66817


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