Distance Language Teacher Education: New challenges for Hong Kong

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Eindhoven Technical University]On: 15 November 2014, At: 23:45Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>Open Learning: The Journal ofOpen, Distance and e-LearningPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/copl20</p><p>Distance Language TeacherEducation: New challenges forHong KongLiying ChengPublished online: 19 Aug 2010.</p><p>To cite this article: Liying Cheng (2000) Distance Language Teacher Education: Newchallenges for Hong Kong, Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 15:1, 5-16</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/026805100115434</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. 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Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found athttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ein</p><p>dhov</p><p>en T</p><p>echn</p><p>ical</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:45</p><p> 15 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>Open Learning, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2000</p><p>Distance Language Teacher Education:</p><p>new challenges for Hong Kong</p><p>LIYING CHENGUniversity of Alberta, Canada</p><p>ABSTRACT An urgent need for a relatively large number of quali ed Putonghua language</p><p>teachers in Hong Kong has led the Open University of Hong Kong to establish a distance</p><p>education programme for in-service language teachers, most of whom are non-native</p><p>speakers. The programme designed by the university involves distance study coupled with</p><p>regular face-to-face tutorials, and is designed to enable the in-service teachers to apply their</p><p>learned knowledge directly in their daily teaching. The article explains how evaluation of</p><p>the rst presentation of the course in 1996 showed that the course alone could not fully</p><p>address the actual de ciencies in the teachers Putonghua listening and speaking skills</p><p>while, additionally, there was also a need to restructure the teaching methodology compo-</p><p>nent of the course. The basis upon which these judgements were made is explained, and the</p><p>steps taken to strengthen the course to meet these perceived de ciencies, while not adding to</p><p>the students workload, are outlined.</p><p>Language learning, which used to be considered too complex an undertaking for</p><p>distance education, has been making steady progress in recent years, especially in</p><p>the areas of open-access and self-access learning. One advantage of such an endeav-</p><p>our is the possibility for language learners to draw on resources available in the world</p><p>outside the classroom. Distance education permits learners to continue working, and</p><p>apart from the personal bene ts arising from this, there is a signi cant professional</p><p>advantage for the teacher learners compared with face-to-face full-time teacher</p><p>education courses (Howard &amp; McGrath, 1995, p. 5). This study discusses a distance</p><p>education programme for Putonghua [1] teachers within a special language context</p><p>in relation to the language benchmarks set for all teachers in Hong Kong. There is</p><p>an urgent need for quali ed Putonghua teachers in Hong Kong [2]. The Open</p><p>University of Hong Kong s distance education programme stands out because of its</p><p> exibility and scale of training. The article also discusses the design of the course,</p><p>and feedback from its rst presentation as well as the nal examination results. As</p><p>this study shows, the Putonghua language pro ciency of our teacher learners</p><p>remains low mainly due to the limited period that Putonghua has been part of the</p><p>core school curriculum.</p><p>5</p><p>0268-0513/00/010005 12 2000 The Open University</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ein</p><p>dhov</p><p>en T</p><p>echn</p><p>ical</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:45</p><p> 15 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>6 L. Cheng</p><p>Language Learning and Teacher Education at a Distance</p><p>Language teacher education through distance learning offers challenges both for</p><p>language learning as well as for teacher education. McGrath (1995, p. 70), when</p><p>comparing the advantages and disadvantages of teacher education by distance and</p><p>face-to-face learning, asserts that a distance-only continuing education course is</p><p>more likely to be successful in promoting steady long-term change than a pro-</p><p>gramme with comparable content in a face-to-face mode. However, when it comes</p><p>to pre-service teacher education, McGrath argues for a mixed-mode programme as</p><p>the distance-only programmes lack the crucial dimension of classroom practice. I</p><p>would suggest that when it comes to in-service teacher education, such as the</p><p>language course within the current study (our course being mixed-mode with</p><p>regular tutorials), the above disadvantage is minimised, as in-service teachers are</p><p>actually teaching in the classroom at the time of their study. Their training through</p><p>distance learning can become a distinct advantage. On the one hand, they are able</p><p>to apply their knowledge directly into their classroom teaching. On the other, they</p><p>can study at their own pace without interrupting their normal teaching. Such</p><p>advantages in in-service teacher education, together with the time-scale, scale of the</p><p>training, and the ability of the teachers under training within the Hong Kong</p><p>context, provides a great opportunity for our distance Putonghua teacher education</p><p>programme in Hong Kong.</p><p>Another important point to be stressed here is that the stimulus to make languages</p><p>a part of distance education has come from policies driving literacy, language</p><p>education and further education (Lyman-Hager, 1995; Johnson, 1992, 1993/1994).</p><p>This is especially true within the Hong Kong educational context, where two</p><p>language policies provide considerable challenges and opportunities for distance</p><p>language education.</p><p>The Hong Kong Language Context</p><p>The rst such language policy is the Education Commission Report No. 6 (ECR6)</p><p>(Education Commission, 1995), which fully addresses the concerns expressed by the</p><p>government, business and commerce, and educational bodies about declining stan-</p><p>dards of language skills, and the need for high level language skills among the</p><p>workforce in Hong Kong as it moves from a manufacturing to a service industry</p><p>base. The policy aims at achieving the goal for secondary school graduates to be</p><p>pro cient in writing English and Chinese, and able to communicate con dently in</p><p>Cantonese, English and Putonghua (bi-literate and trilingual). Putonghua thus has,</p><p>for the rst time in Hong Kong education history, become part of the core</p><p>curriculum from the 1998 school year starting from Primary 1, Secondary 1 and</p><p>Secondary 4. The subject will be examined in the Hong Kong Certi cate of</p><p>Education Examinations (HKCEE) by the year 2000. The HKCEE is the large-</p><p>scale secondary school leaving examination which plays a very important role for</p><p>students whether they seek employment or go on to tertiary education. Furthermore,</p><p>it was also stressed in the 1997 Policy Address by the Hong Kong Special Adminis-</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ein</p><p>dhov</p><p>en T</p><p>echn</p><p>ical</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:45</p><p> 15 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>Distance Language Teacher Education 7</p><p>trative Region (SAR) Chief Executive that `con dence and competence in the use of</p><p>Chinese and English are essential if we are to maintain our competitive edge in the</p><p>world (Hong Kong SAR Government, 1997). This policy highlights the urgent</p><p>need to train teachers in the three language competencies. Putonghua teacher</p><p>education is more pressing as it is a relatively new school subject.</p><p>The second in uential policy followed by the ERC6 is the one that sets language</p><p>benchmarks for all teachers (English, Cantonese and Putonghua) by the year 2000.</p><p>The policy requires all new teachers to meet the benchmarks before they join the</p><p>profession in 2000, and in-service teachers to be retrained if they fail to meet the</p><p>benchmarks. All serving language teachers are required to meet the language</p><p>benchmarks by the year 2005. The setting of language benchmarks for teachers has</p><p>signi cant implications for language education planning, assessment and evaluation.</p><p>Consequently, the Hong Kong teacher education institutions are facing an urgent</p><p>need to provide training for the existing in-service language teachers within the</p><p>limited time-scale and at a relatively fast rate, so that within 5 years of the</p><p>benchmarks being set, all teachers will be able to reach them. They are also being</p><p>exhorted by the government to pay more attention to `language awareness and</p><p>language skills issues (ECR6, C3).</p><p>Besides the pressing need for language teacher education under the two new</p><p>language policies, Putonghua teacher education is under other pressures. Even in</p><p>1991, only 52.7% (among 408 primary schools) offered Putonghua courses.</p><p>Putonghua was taught usually for 1 hour per week (He, 1994). According to a</p><p>survey carried out in 1996, 92% of teachers of Putonghua are non-native speakers,</p><p>and 99.1% of them teach part-time, of whom only 21.5% majored in Putonghua.</p><p>The current situation of Putonghua teachers in Hong Kong is that, rst, the</p><p>government s language policy, by emphasising the importance of the Chinese</p><p>language, puts Putonghua teacher education under a great time stress. Second, the</p><p>lack of trained Putonghua teachers in schools, as well as Putonghua being a</p><p>relatively new school subject, indicate a training need at a relatively large scale.</p><p>Third, the urgent requirements of language benchmarks, and the current situation</p><p>of the language ability of teachers, require a training course taking account of both</p><p>the language abilities and teaching competencies of the teachers under training.</p><p>Teacher education institutions in Hong Kong face the urgent need to produce high</p><p>quality teachers at a reasonably fast rate, who should be both competent in the</p><p>pedagogical skills and in language skills within a short period of time. The Open</p><p>University of Hong Kong s distance in-service Putonghua teacher education course</p><p> ts well in the context and shows its advantage in dealing with the above pressing</p><p>situation, though there are other teacher education institutions offering similar</p><p>courses at the same time, but on a relatively small scale.</p><p>Putonghua Teacher Education at the Open University of Hong Kong</p><p>The distance learning programmes for teachers at the School of Languages and</p><p>Education, Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK), are mixed-mode in-service</p><p>teacher education with regular face-to-face tutorials. All our teacher learners are</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ein</p><p>dhov</p><p>en T</p><p>echn</p><p>ical</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:45</p><p> 15 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>8 L. Cheng</p><p>TABLE I. Putonghua teacher education course components</p><p>Unit Theme</p><p>Unit 1 Hong Kong Putonghua teaching and learning situation</p><p>Unit 2 Modern Chinese grammar</p><p>Unit 3 Phonology</p><p>Unit 4 Listening ability</p><p>Unit 5 Reading aloud training</p><p>Unit 6 Speaking ability</p><p>Unit 7 Theory in teaching and learning</p><p>Unit 8 Pedagogy in teaching and learning</p><p>Unit 9 Practicum in teaching and learning</p><p>Unit 10 Language assessment and evaluation</p><p>teaching at the time of their study. Some of them are allowed a lighter workload, and</p><p>some are not, depending upon the speci c situation at their serving schools. The</p><p>teacher education programmes are designed to maximise the exibility of teachers at</p><p>work, and the application of their learned knowledge directly into their daily</p><p>teaching. Most of them cater for hundreds of teachers in one presentation, com-</p><p>pared with the traditional face-to-face course offered at other teacher education</p><p>institutions, where each course caters for only a limited number of teachers (20 30)</p><p>at a time. The Bachelor of Education (BEd. in Primary Education) programme</p><p>consists of eight classroom teaching options, three of them being language teacher</p><p>education, namely English, Chinese [3], and Putonghua. They are all designed</p><p>locally. English is self-explanatory. The second two subjects are unique in Hong</p><p>Kong. Chinese, referred to as Modern Chinese in Hong Kong, emphasises the</p><p>teaching of reading and writing aspects of the language. Putonghua focuses on</p><p>enhancing listening and speaking skills, in addition to the training in classroom</p><p>teaching methodology and language awareness that is common to both courses. The</p><p>three language courses, English, Chinese and Putonghua, were developed in parallel</p><p>in course components, yet with different focuses on each speci c language context</p><p>in Hong Kong.</p><p>The Putonghua course was developed by taking the above special language</p><p>situation in Hong Kong into consideration. It made use of the distance learning</p><p>mode by employing a task-based approach with a multimedia element. The course</p><p>was offered for the rst time in October 1996. It was designed to comprise</p><p>socio-linguistic and methodological issues, language awareness, curriculum and</p><p>assessment, as well as a language skill training component to address the problem of</p><p>insuf ciently quali ed Putonghua teachers in Hong Kong. The course is a 1-year</p><p>higher level BEd. course with 10 units of study (see Table I). Tutorials were</p><p>scheduled about once each month for the rst presentation, with roughly 200</p><p>teacher learners enrolled.</p><p>Compared with the Chinese teaching option focusing on reading and writing</p><p>mentioned above, the Putonghua course focused on listening and speaking training</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Ein</p><p>dhov</p><p>en T</p><p>echn</p><p>ical</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity] </p><p>at 2</p><p>3:45</p><p> 15 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>Distance Language Teacher Education 9</p><p>through Units 3 6. However, what was unknown to us at the time of the course</p><p>design was the actual Putonghua language ability of the teachers who would take our</p><p>course. It was only after they started the course, and after soliciting feedback from</p><p>them and various other sources, that we realised that language ability remained an</p><p>issue for many teachers under training. Besides, the language situation was far more</p><p>complicated than we expected.</p><p>In late 1997, after the rst presentation, an overall forma...</p></li></ul>


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