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Globalization of English teaching practices: When Confucianism meets Vygotskian practices: An ethnography of teaching and learning EFL in a Korean university

Sun Joo Huh, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This ethnographic study examines how students learn English through classroom experiences that challenge their current cultural practices. In particular, I examine how learning language through activities affects students learning English as a foreign language (EFL) in a Korean university. It is based on the assumption, that learners have knowledge and use what they know to learn when presented with conflicting cultural models of learning. Because of globalization of English instruction, traditional Confucian values now co-exist in many Asian university EFL classrooms. My theoretical framework to explore these issues in Korea includes an examination of English language education policies through effect of globalization in Korean education, Confucianism and Vygotskian theories on language learners. In this ethnographic study, I have a dual role as the classroom teacher and a participant observer. I selected four focal participants for my research. My data include field notes, audio-tapes and notes from interviews, audio tapes from group activities, and notes from triangulations, verifications and peer reviews. Conceptual tools for data analysis are formulated using sociocultural theory together with activity theory (Engestrom, 1996). This perspective allowed me to provide a macro level analysis. In addition, I used Fairclough's Critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2001) for microanalysis of classroom in teaching and interview data. My findings from the macro level show how suggest that group interactions within an “English only policy” classroom re-created power structures derived from Confucian ideologies even though students' level of communicative abilities differed and institutional policies constrained them. Each student struggled in creative ways to respond to ideological conflicts presented to them. I document a shift in their learning ideologies, a shift in their levels of confidence and their identities after reflecting on their past learning experiences in two contrasting Freshman EFL classes. I also learned that as an international scholar educated in the US, I in many ways have become an agent of globalized English practices. Therefore I must also actually review my own biases and reflect on my actions.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Huh, Sun Joo, "Globalization of English teaching practices: When Confucianism meets Vygotskian practices: An ethnography of teaching and learning EFL in a Korean university" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136739.