Gifted English language learners: the cultural and practical experiences of Chinese students learning English in Scotland and in China

Chen, Ruihua (2020) Gifted English language learners: the cultural and practical experiences of Chinese students learning English in Scotland and in China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This research investigates the potential influences of cultural aspects and contextual practical experiences in relation to the achievement of Chinese gifted English language learners (GELL) studying in China and Scotland. The proportion of English language learners (ELL) in state schools in China has experienced a rapid increase. In sharp contrast to this context, Chinese ELLs are often overlooked for their potential gifted ability in English language learning and are underrepresented within the field of gifted and talented education. However, it is plausible that a Chinese ELL could achieve excellence in English language learning, depending on the effectiveness of the learning, training and support provided. From a review of the literature, it is evident that the identification of, and support for, gifted learners has been subject to extensive investigation. However, there is a dearth of studies looking specifically at GELLs and taking into account the practical and cultural aspects which may influence their identification, learning experiences and achievement.
Chinese ELL students studying abroad in English-speaking countries are likely to encounter a diversity of educational methods, cultures and learning environments. In this regard, the comparison of two groups of English-speaking Chinese students – one in Scotland and one in China – offers insights into the distinctions between teaching and learning methodologies experienced by gifted English-speaking Chinese students across these different contexts. This qualitative research used semi-structured in-depth interviews with twelve English language teachers, thirteen Chinese GELLs and nine parents in total in Scotland and China. A snowball-sampling method was implemented to recruit participants. The interviews were digitally-recorded and transcribed, and the transcripts analysed in accordance with thematic analysis under the technique of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).
There is no agreed definition within the literature as to what constitutes a GELL. Current literature from the field of gifted education, alongside EEL literature relating to proficiency in English Language learning was used to examine the participants’ understandings of the characteristics of a GELL. Common characteristics were identified and ELL practices within the language learning classroom were explored to better understand how GELL interact with learning opportunities. The study highlights the complex interactions that take place between the selected method of teaching for ELL, the psychological aspects to language learning, such as motivation, attitude, self-concept (cognitive and affective) and cognition along with
the sociocultural aspects of learning. The students’ demonstrated self-regulated learning strategies which in turn impacted on how the learning strategies within the class were used. How the teacher organises learning to allow these processes to interact is crucial. Findings from the study suggest that a communicative approach can offer optimal learning experiences for GELL. An important finding from this study is that while teachers in both China and Scotland could describe the characteristics of a GELL, and on the basis of this were willing to nominate GELL to participate in the study, they were not always sure how to best support them in the classroom, even when a communicative approach to language learning had been adopted.
The primary implication of the findings of this study for professional practice is that English language instruction using the communicative approach can greatly enhance the learning experience for GELLs, but teachers need to actively think about GELL when planning learning opportunities. Where language learning instruction focuses on those who require support, GELLs risk being overlooked and their skills and abilities will remain unchallenged and undeveloped. Teachers’ understanding of GELL and how ELL practices can be harnessed to provide for, and identify, GELL is key to supporting this often over-looked group of learners.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Gifted English language learner, gifted education, giftedness, English language learning.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
P Language and Literature > PE English
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Sutherland, Dr. Margaret and Stack, Prof. Niamh
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Mrs Ruihua Chen
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81439
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2020 12:54
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2020 16:04

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