Research Results and Data Analysis

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The research outcomes are based primarily on the findings of two qualitative studies mentioned in the previous chapter: the questionnaire for two selected groups of students and the interview for two teachers who have learned critical literacy in western university. The data analysis basically proceeds according to the points of the hypothesis outlined in literature review. The data from the questionnaire and that from the interview will be interpreted alternately. In other words, the data is analyzed through the triangulation with the interpretation of one instrument supporting the other.

There are altogether 56 respondents involved in the survey. The rationale for conducting the survey is to gauge the students' perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of critical literacy in intensive reading classroom. The situation of the gender proportion in each group is quite similar. The first group consists of 28 respondents, 4 of whom are male, while the second group includes 31 respondents with only 6 male students. It is a common phenomenon in China that female learners always occupy a much larger proportion than male in foreign language university. Critical literacy pedagogy advocates the empowerment and emancipation of the individual regardless of the gender, race, and family background which are all variables of this research that need to be addressed.

"Jean Anyon's (1988) classic research suggests that teachers of affluent students are more likely than teachers of working-class students to utilize and incorporate student life experiences and knowledge into the curriculum. For example, in Anyon's study, teachers of affluent students often designed creative and innovative lessons that tapped students' existing knowledge bases"

Girls' internal motivation is stronger than boys'

Student's Motivation

Figure1: Purpose of taking intensive reading course

It is necessary to get information about the learners' purpose of reading in intensive reading course before inquiring the matter of reading activity. In other words, students' departure points of reading should be taken into account when evaluating status quo of reading course. Figure 1. exhibits the proportion of learner's leading purpose of reading in intensive reading course, which is classified as 1) meet the purpose of examination 2) improve language proficiency 3) gain social and cultural knowledge. As can be seen from the pie chart, over half of the students from the first group views improving language proficiency as their first motivation for taking intensive reading course. It should be noted that the second group shares a larger number of the students who orient themselves at gaining social and cultural knowledge from intensive reading. Though the purpose of meeting the demand of examination, which is more of an extrinsic motivation, makes up a relative small proportion in both groups, it still indicates that the students are to some extent influenced by the Chinese examination system. The negative impact of this factor on implementing critical literacy in Chinese EFL classroom will be further discussed in the following chapter.

Students' explanation from Group 1:

Improve language proficiency so as to understand more difficult articles in the future.

Only treat the text as a tool for language study rather than regarding it as discourse to analyze the deeper meaning. In other words, under the circumstance of classroom, reading for academic purpose is always predominant than reading as social practice.

Students' explanation from Group 2:

As we are going to graduate from the university and enter into the society, we would like to gain more practical knowledge and we want to use English as an intercultural communicative tool.

Linguistic Competence to Intercultural Competence

Figure 2: Factors influencing reading in intensive reading course

Group 1 (28 respondents):






















Cultural difference





Group 2 (31 respondents):






Background knowledge















Cultural difference





Figure 2 clearly presents students' perception of the most influential factor in intensive reading comprehension. The two groups share a similar situation when ranking the most influential factors in reading comprehension. Nearly half number of the students perceived cultural difference as the most influential factor, with 43 % and 51% of total respectively. By contrast, students taking Grammar as their first choice account only for less than 10 % for each group. In a word, the sharp contrast between the percentage show student's shift of the attention from linguistic level towards cultural and thinking level. It is worth noticing that the impact of vocabulary on intensive reading follows that of cultural difference. According to students' feedback from group 2, they emphasized that when they read the literary texts, they cannot help referring to the dictionary and sometimes even dictionary cannot help them to get across the meaning.

In addition, background knowledge was regarded as the secondly influential factor by both groups. Background knowledge in intensive reading contains the background information about the writer, employment of the allusions or idioms, all of which carry attached cultural connotation.

With regards to this phenomena, Mr Wu. espoused a powerful argument during the interview. He responded that without the explanation and exploration of the background knowledge, or the use of allusion, or the social cultural phenomenon within the text, students can hardly achieve the basic understanding of what it is talking about, not to mention how to critique the text according to their own understanding. In this sense, critical literacy and intercultural communication are mutual inclusive to each other.

For the sake of cultivating the language learners as an active reader and critical global citizen, the teaching of reading should highlights the importance of intercultural competence and thinking competence. If the intensive reading still lingers on the surface level of teaching lexical and grammatical, it will fail to meet the learners' higher needs. The following part will reveal how the students work on literacy in intensive reading class.

Working with the text

According to the demonstration of the data, most students would sometimes analyze the author's intention and could separate the facts and author's opinion within the text. However, it is noted that 66% of the students would usually accept the author's viewpoints and 15% of them even always agree with what the author says. Surprisingly, no one in both groups would never agree with the author's viewpoints. Besides, over half numbers of the students hold that they would never compare the viewpoints within the text with that of other relevant texts.

The interview of the Mr. Wu's explanation could partly account for the reason. In intensive reading class, the texts selection in intensive reading are all from writers from English speaking countries. The texts are to some degree being regarded as classic and authoritative in public. It will give the students an illusion that texts like this could not be challenged or questioned. Besides, in reading comprehension test, students are always asked to answer the closed questions such as what is the purpose of the author in writing this article; which of the following statement is true according to the author's opinion; Students are always trained to analyze the author's intention to meet the purpose of the examination.

Cultural difference in teaching and learning mode is Mrs. Gao's primary concern about implementing critical literacy in intensive reading course.

Understanding about the Basic Concepts

In addition, the open-ended answers of students' understanding of the basic concepts could further support the outcome of students' working with the text. According to the data of Question 11 to 13, there are 15 % of the students disagree with the statements "Text is never neutral and transparent." They exemplified their answers with some political news in newspaper and news report and stated that they could hardly find any bias and personal attitude out of those texts. It seems that there are still some misunderstanding and information gap among students in terms of being critical. On the contrary, over half of the students completely agree with statement. Most students shared the same viewpoints that "no one's reading position is impartial and complete."

Five students from the first group noted down they have no idea about "being critical". Ten students referred to the ambiguity of the term of "being critical":

Student A: At the beginning, I thought being critical is to let us find some errors or inaccurate words in the text.

The statement has reflected the cultural difficulties existed in understanding the concept of critical literacy. It seems that the reproductive learning styles and traditions of Asian students make critical literacy difficult. In Chinese EFL classroom, students are always asked to do proof-reading or error corrections of short text to achieve the accuracy of grammar. Even when teaching home language, Chinese teacher will ask students to identify the unreasonable words. Therefore, the students' misunderstanding of being critical is probably derived from such traditional perspectives.

Student B: Being critical is like what the judges do on the American Idol.

Three students from the first group defined "being critical" is to "criticize the author's viewpoints".

Eight students from the second group share a similar viewpoint that being critical is to offer their own opinion to comment what the author says.

One student drew her experience in the restaurant

One student noted his experience of dealing with the relationship with his parents.

Comparing the students' notes, it seems the concepts of critical literacy formed in students' mind

The difficulty lies in that they are using second language to look at the world. Therefore, the barriers also come from the acquiring of the second language and the culture difference within the language and out of the language.

Interview of the teacher

Concepts of critical literacy

Before exploring their ideas of introducing critical literacy to Chinese EFL classroom, it is necessary to embody their understanding of critical literacy.

Mr. Wu: Well, we should not just read the surface meaning. Critical literacy is about developing students' ability to read the intended meaning behind as texts are never neutral. After reading, students need to form their own opinion and ideas, and show their comments on the article without completely agree with what the author says. Only in this way can a reader be called critical and creative.

Of course, teachers should be critical pioneers themselves before they infuse critical literacy in teaching.

Ms Gao: I suppose that critical literacy for me is to link to the demonstration and expression of thinking and also more importantly, to a critical understanding of how language and literacy work as part of our socio-cultural dimensions. It helps reveal the social inequalities (e.g. the oppressed and the oppressing power represented in the text) and brings about the social justice. After we detect the ideological and power bias within the text, we need to take action to redress it by taking a critical stance.

Although the two teachers are both acquainted with critical literacy as they have learned the knowledge abroad, their points of emphasis of defining critical literacy are slightly different.

For Mr. Wu, critical literacy means cultivating student's ability to form their personal views on reading. He lays more stress on 'reader's response' when reading a text. His explanation reflects the notion that there are multiple responses towards a text in reader's mind. For example, they will establish a factual perspective, as well as an emotional perspective, i.e. an "efferent" stance as well as an "aesthetic" stance. (Rosenblatt, 1994, p22) In that sense, students are regarded as "text critics" who can be empowered to go beyond the literal meaning of the text and explore alternative ways of interpret the intention, mood and voices with the text. Mr. Wu's idea of critical literacy is pretty much close to what Luke and Freebody (1990) posit the readers as "meaning makers" pertaining to the "semantic competence."

Ms. Gao raises the issue of critical literacy to a social and culture level. She holds a stronger view of regarding critical literacy as a tool for social justice. She reaches to the dimension of revealing the relationship between language, power and ideology. In other words, besides carefully weigh the author's argument within the text, it is needed to engage students in action to challenge existing representation of inequality.

In sum, both teachers show interest and positive attitudes towards critical literacy. Both teachers have their further explanation about students' understanding and misunderstanding of critical literacy in the survey.

Interaction in the Classroom

Figure 3 Student's role in intensive reading class

There is a disparity between the two groups of students in terms of their role in the classroom. In the first group, almost two thirds of the students regarded themselves as a language learner. This result to some extent illuminated with the learner's reading purpose of improving the language proficiency. Furthermore, a critical literacy classroom requires learner's active role of engaging the classroom discussion and activity. Though nearly half of the students also viewed themselves as a language learner, the rate of their role as a reader and critic is increasing compared with the first group. It seems students' recognition of transferring their role to a global citizen is increasing after their two-year study of advanced English. It could be regarded as a progress of implementing critical literacy in the teaching of reading.

Figure 4 Student's expectation of teacher's role

The teacher's role in Chinese EFL classroom is categorized into three in the present study which is participant, organizer and leader. From the perspective of critical literacy pedagogy, the role of the teacher as a 'leader' is forming a traditional teacher-centered learning atmosphere while teacher as a participant, who shares the equal engagement with the students, is highly student-centered.

In the first group, 40 % of students from group 1 expected their teachers as a leader who will take the predominant role in the whole intensive reading class. The situation comes to be slightly different in the second group where there is an obvious reduces of the number of the students to 15% in the second who wanted their teachers to be a leader. By contrast, teachers as participants could hardly be accepted by most of students in both groups. The reason still goes to the cultural tradition of China in terms of the worship of teachers and traditional view always holds teachers as authoritative and powerful in the classroom. The students' strong preference of hoping their teachers to be an organizer is quite obvious in group 2. The role of an organizer also mainly

The students are becoming more and more aware of the

From some implication drawn from the qualitative data analysis from the second group and the interview from the two teachers, it can be seen that critical literacy is on the way of gradually transforming the Chinese EFL classroom.

The teacher provided more opportunities for questions and discussion during class time.

There was a collaborative atmosphere in this course

The questions and activity designed by the teacher stimulated my interest in reading.

My intercultural communicative competence is developing from the activity based on the topic generated from the text.

My critical thinking ability is enhanced from this course.

Critical literacy is usually traced to critical theory and critical pedagogy is not currently practiced to a large degree in China

It is essential to recognize that English learning it not only a matter of four skills but also a consideration of lives and identities of the students. The intensive reading, as a core course should also aim at a pedagogy of supporting EFL learners taking a critical stance towards language learning.


Background knowledge

Intercultural communicative competence

Research Findings and Discussions