Participation-based pedagogy: How congruent is it with Chinese cultures of learning?

William Thomas LITTLEWOOD

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


There is a common perception that Chinese learners are frequently passive and unwilling to participate actively in the classroom. However this perception is contradicted by the experience of many teachers and also by what the students themselves say about their learning preferences. In a survey of tertiary students learning English in eight Asian contexts (including Hong Kong and Mainland China), most students expressed positive attitudes towards exploring knowledge and working purposefully, in groups, towards common goals. A later survey indicated that students in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore like to be stimulated to develop active interest, to think creatively and to work independently. What then leads to the stereotype mentioned above? In a third survey, students of a range of subjects were asked what factors they believed to hinder or facilitate their own readiness to participate in interactive learning. They believed that active participation is hindered mainly by tiredness, shyness, fear of being wrong, insufficient interest or knowledge in the subject, and insufficient time to formulate what they want to say. Participation is facilitated when teachers give priority to creating an informal atmosphere, giving encouraging responses and ensuring that topics engage students’ knowledge and interest. These studies highlight the role of the specific learning context in either discouraging or encouraging students’ readiness to participate and indicate that most Chinese students welcome participation-based classroom learning if it is implemented in supportive ways. Copyright © 2009 Guangxi Normal University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural identity and language anxiety
EditorsPeikai CHENG, Jackie Xiu YAN
Place of PublicationGuilin
PublisherGuangxi Normal University Press
ISBN (Print)9787563379620
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Littlewood, W. (2009). Participation-based pedagogy: How congruent is it with Chinese cultures of learning? In P. Cheng & J. X. Yan (Eds.), Cultural identity and language anxiety (pp. 179-202). Guilin: Guangxi Normal University Press.


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