From Past to Present: Collecting Data on Teacher Experiences in China


By current SLA student Chen Sun


In order to understand the ways in which the current teaching practices of Chinese teachers of English reflect their personal histories as language learners, in Summer 2016 and Spring 2017, I traveled to Wuhan, China to collect data for my dissertation project (working under the supervision of Prof. Richard Young, Department of English) entitled the Connection between the Past and Present: A Study of How Teachers’ Formative Experiences as Learners of English of English Connect with What They Do Every Day in their Teaching.  image of Chen Sun


During the summer, I started my data collection by examining the teacher training curriculum and materials from an established teacher training university, identifying and contacting participants and going to some of the schools they work in. In my initial discussion with a current student and an alum, I hoped to get an idea of the education they received at the university. For the next three weeks, I conducted twenty-one face-to-face or phone interviews with in-service English teachers. Through the interviews, I became familiar with the background information I needed to know about the English instruction the participants received in school and the teacher training they received in the university. I was fortunate that the majority of the participants were interested in my full study and agreed to connect with me again when I came back the next year.


After I returned to the city in Spring, 2017, I conducted personal interviews with twenty-four teacher participants, administered a Chinese translation of the implicit-association test (IAT), collected curricula from the schools in which teacher participants teach, and identified six teachers from the twenty-four participants who allowed me to observe and record their English language classes.


Collecting data in a city I had never been to was not easy. The biggest challenge was finding participants, especially those working in junior and senior high schools. Teachers in those school work long hours, usually from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm five to six days a week and most of them are well-paid and well-respected.  Luckily, with persistence and friendly help from other teacher participants, I found nine college teachers, seven senior high school teachers and eight junior high school teachers who were interested in participating in my study, creating a pretty balanced variety of participants.


Now I have tons of data waiting for me to analyze, a successful first step in my dissertation study. I have completed analysis of the IAT data of twenty-four participants, and I’m currently working on a case study of the six teachers whose classrooms I observed. As I look back on the data collection period of my dissertation research, I feel a great deal of gratitude towards the teachers who devoted their time to participate in my study and helped me to contact their colleagues and friends to participate in the study.