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Text memorisation in China: hearing the learner and teacher voice

Yu, Xia (2010) Text memorisation in China: hearing the learner and teacher voice University of Southampton, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 309pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This thesis investigates text memorization, a widely used yet under-explored language practice in foreign language teaching and learning in mainland China. The inquiry was conducted along two lines: to conceptually examine a number of issues central to the understanding of the practice of text memorization in the Chinese context, and empirically inquire into Chinese learners/teachers’ practices and perceptions of the inclusion of text memorization in foreign language learning and teaching.

The review of literature shows that (text) memorisation had been widely practiced in other parts of the world until recently, including the Anglophone west. By challenging the belief that emphasis on memorisation stifles and creative thinking, which is believed to be one of the key aims of Western education, I argue that memorisation or memorised knowledge is not only legitimate in but constitutes an important part of learning. I also demonstrate that Confucius’ theory of learning, which allows the coexistence of emphasis on memorisation and critical thinking arguably can be of relevance to education in the 21st century. Also advanced in the conceptual study is the argument that the methodological considerations underlying ALM (Audio Lingual Method), despite its western origin, match up to some fundamental Chinese conceptions of learning and teaching.

The empirical study reported in this thesis addresses the need for a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the practices and beliefs of Chinese learners and teachers regarding the use of text memorization in foreign language learning and teaching. This study bases its methodology on semi-structured interviews complemented by small-scale surveys. The data was collected from a group of Chinese learners (N=42) and teachers (N=20) affiliated with 10 schools and 6 universities at three different educational levels, i.e. junior high, senior high and college, which constitute the major part of foreign language education in China. Data collection was mainly based in a single Chinese inland capital city and lasted for one year and two months involving two fieldwork trips to China.

Analyses of the data lead to two major findings. First, both learners and teachers hold overwhelmingly positive perceptions of the use of text memorization in foreign language learning and teaching. The practice was perceived to be beneficial not only because it assists learning in a number of ways but because it builds the learners’ sense of achievement and confidence. Second, the informants’ positive beliefs about text memorisation, though context-constrained, might be more attributable to their perception of benefits to their language learning and teaching than to the view that the practice is consistent with traditional Chinese culture and values.

In sum, this inquiry promotes a ‘different-rather than-deficit’ perspective in understanding Chinese learners and their learning practice as well as problematizing the uncritical assumptions about the negative impact of a Confucian philosophy of education.

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Published date: November 2010
Organisations: University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities


Local EPrints ID: 198177
PURE UUID: 963b5805-f56f-48e1-9f2b-8cd560123ac2

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Date deposited: 19 Oct 2011 11:05
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:19

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Author: Xia Yu
Thesis advisor: Rosamond Mitchell

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