Category Archives: Language

Using Reciprocal Peer Coteaching to developing learner autonomy: an action research project with a beginners’ Chinese class

Weiming Liu & Ann Devitt


Peer teaching has been used as a mechanism for promoting learner autonomy within a range of language learning contexts. This paper explores how absolute beginners in a Chinese class can engage in reciprocal peer coteaching from the start of their language learning experience and how this contributes to aspects central to the development of learner autonomy as well as to improving their linguistic competence in Chinese. Reciprocal peer coteaching entails students collaborating in teaching teams to teach their peers, with all students taking a turn acting as peer teacher and peer learner, during a short beginners course in Chinese. The study was conducted as an action research project in three cycles with data derived from students’ reflective language learning journals. The findings suggested that the cooperative and challenging activity of reciprocal peer coteaching served to build individual responsibility and motivation for learning while at the same time developing group solidarity in the classes, both of which served to promote the autonomy of learners within the class group.

Keywords: Motivation, Chinese Language, Learner Autonomy, Reciprocal peer coteaching

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The creation of an active learning context for a Chinese class

Mr Weiming Liu & Dr Ann Devitt


Research suggests that coteaching contains two dimensions. The first dimension shows that two or more people teach together to meet students’ needs. This dimension demonstrates a process of transmission of knowledge from coteachers to students and points out coteachers’ joint responsibility for students’ learning. The second dimension indicates that coteachers share valuable ideas with each other and help each other to deliver successful coteaching sessions. This dimension emphasises the importance of coteachers’ collaboration during their preparation for coteaching and their implementation of coteaching. A beginners’ Chinese course was organised at a School of Education in an Irish University. The current qualitative research study focused on the coteaching sessions which accounted for about 20% of the Chinese classroom activities. Students were divided into groups and required to conduct coteaching in turn in the form of revision. Coteachers shared leadership and responsibilities within coteaching groups. Included in the data sources in the current study were students’ weekly reflective journals and final group reports. This study explores the impact of coteaching on the process of students’ language learning, in particular whether coteaching can encourage students to take responsibility for their learning and the learning of others, and if it can help to increase their level of subject knowledge.

Keywords: Coteaching, Chinese Language, Learner Autonomy, the ZPD

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Activating empathy: Language teacher education through a Chinese course

Mr. Weiming Liu & Dr. Ann Devitt


The qualitative research project reported here provided a description of part of a language teacher education programme. The role of empathy was emphasised as an attribute in 16 trainee-teachers’ professional development through a Chinese language taster course. Chinese was chosen as an exotic language. Peer teaching was implemented in order to maximise trainee-teachers’ engagement in the course. The project was designed to increase trainee-teachers’ awareness of their school pupils’ learning activities and strengthen their attachment to their pupils. Trainee-teachers’ empathetic development involved their motivational reasoning, affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Data sources in the current paper included student weekly reflective journals and final group reports. The authors attempted to attest the activation of empathy as an approach to language teacher education and examine the rationale for choosing Chinese in such a setting. The results from this project also suggested the possibility of creating contexts in which Chinese language teachers may exercise their empathetic dispositions.

Keywords: Empathy, Peer Teaching, Chinese Language, Language Teacher Education

Retreating Figure by Zhu Ziqing (《背影》朱自清)

This vedio clip was welcomed by a group of fourth year students when the analysis on ‘Retrating Figure’ (背影) took place. Their feedback was that they managed to understand the text but certain words and phrases hindered their understanding. Personally, I thought this clip was very good and helpful as well. But when showing students a clip like this, we may need to make sure that they are not completely restricted by the given resources.

Learning colour (3. Eating)

In Chinese, certain colours can refer to certain groups of people. Eating or being eaten are their relationships.


Nationality in Chinese = ‘country’ + the word ‘人, rén’.

Can you find out what 人 means? Can you say two countries in Chinese, according to the map?

Chinese horoscope

To express my horoscope, I could say:  我Wǒ属shǔ…… (+ any of the following animals).

Learning colour (2. Jealousy)

A children’s book has the following sentence: “When I’m jealous, colour me green”. It looks like that in the west jealous people change their colour from head to toe. Compared with the westerners, Chinese people seem calmer. The only indicator for their jealousy is the change of their eye colour. However, their eyes turn into red instead of green. It can be said in Chinese that somebody is 眼红yǎnhóng.  

Learning colour (1. Clothing)

I came across a Chinese word a few days ago. It’s called ‘hēilǐng, 黑领 or black collar’. Do you know what it refers to?