altHu Jiangping, professor, Chief of the Section of Foreign Affairs, Jiangxi Open University
Overseas Based University: the University of Nottingham
Advisor: Ann O'grady
Study Area: English Teaching Method, Distance Education, English Literature



A Brief Report about My Academic Study in the UK



This report would not have existed if I hadn't got a special fund from the Sino-British Fellowship Trust and the China Scholarship Council to spend the period between 21th November, 2006 to 5th April, 2007 as a Academic visitor at the University of Nottingham which is famous for its research, teaching quality and popularity with students, For this I am deeply grateful to Mrs. Ely and the other members of Sino-British Fellowship Trust for their charity.

I am also indebted to the Open University of China and Jiangxi Open University and very large number of my colleague; I would like to extend my respects and thanks to all the colleagues in the Nottingham University, in particularly, I would like to express my thanks to Pro. Morgan, the director of the School of Education; Mrs. O'Grady, my tutor, from the School of Education; Julie Garlick, Centre Manager, University of Nottingham Adult Education Centre; and Dr Julie King, deputy director, Centre for English Language Education, and Mrs. Hazel, the secretary of the School of Education and so on. It was their inspiration and support, and also gave me so much help and convenience for my study and academic visiting, and then made my stay in UK is fruitful and meaningful.

What I Have Done

As one of the academic visitors, I studied and worked at the School of Education, University of Nottingham from 21, Nov., 2006 to 5, April, 2007. During this period, I learned a lot of valuable information about distance education and virtual learning and teaching programmes. At the same time I successfully carried out some research. I have already completed my academic visit. Now I will make my report to you concerning my study and research. During this period, I have completed the following:

  1. The aims and contents of my academic study in the UK.

    Before I came to Britain, I had told Mrs. O'Grady by e-mail about my research area:
  • How to provide course-learning resources and learning support services to virtual
  • learners online in long distance education and adults education
  • To study on English as a Secondary Language's teaching methods
  • English Literature

    Then, when I arrived here, on the fourth day, I made an appointment with my tutor, Anne O'Grady, and told her my ideas about my research area. According to the situation in the University, in fact, this University mostly uses face to face teaching, so I had to adapt my study aims, and then work out my study plan:
  • I want to know about the education system in the UK, its teachers, its policy in education.
  • Read some magazines, journals, and reference books which concerned with my project.
  • Look at some adult's textbooks on English as a Second Language.
  • Meet some academics to learn from them and ask them how they provide teaching materials to students via on-line in English as a Second Language.
  • Attending all kinds of presentations and seminars about education, literature and English as a Second Language.
  • Audit some courses which involve in English as the second language teaching's methods, and some courses about Britain Literature and Adult Education.
  • Do some cultural visit and then have a better understand about English culture, meanwhile visit some units or organizations which connected with the adult education.
  • Read some articles written by O'Grady and Atkin. Ask for their opinions, if no problem I want to translate their articles to Chinese, and introduce their papers into our country.
  1. To get an outline about the education system in the UK

    Through looking up some materials and books, and I found the education system in Britain is almost the same as our country's education system. They also think education is very important.

    In Britain, education is mostly provided by two kinds of schools: stated-funded schools and independent (fee-charging ) school.

    To most children, at the age of two or three to five or six, they start their education at a nursery school. This is called pre-school or pre-preparatory education.

    When they as five, English children are required by law to have an education until they are 16 years old. From five to 16 , this period of time, their education is compulsory and free. About 94 per cent of pupils in the UK receive free education from public funds, while 6 per cent attend independent fee paying schools.

    At the age of five to the age of 11. most UK children ,they go to primary school, this period of education is called primary education.

    At the age of 11, they move on to regular high schools, known as secondary schools.

    English children are required to attend school until they are 16 years old.

    At the age of 16, students undertake examinations called the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education).
    After completing the GCSE, some students leave school, others go onto technical college, whilst others continue at high school for two more years and take a further set of standardized exams, known as A levels, in three or four subjects. These exams determine whether a student is eligible for university.

    Post-sixteen education (including A-levels and equivalents)
    After completing compulsory education at the age of sixteen, students may legally leave school and start work. Most study A-levels or equivalent qualifications , or transfer to sixth form colleges or tertiary college. or college of further education.
    International students often enter the education system at this point, e.g. taking an A-level course in preparation for further or higher education in the UK.
    Further education is divided into two kinds, one is full-time and the another is part-time education. outside the higher education sector, for persons over compulsory school age (sixteen years). It includes vocational, academic, social, physical and recreational courses.

    Further education colleges usually offer a range of full-time and part-time vocational courses, as well as more academic and higher education courses. Many of the courses provide qualifications which are accepted for entry into UK universities.
    Vocational education is very flexible and is constantly being revised and developed to meet these needs.
    Further education also provides continued general education for people of all ages. People use further education to study academic subjects and explore recreational activities as well as to develop and upgrade work skills.

    Post-eighteen education
    Sixth-formers usually finish their secondary education at the age of eighteen with A-levels or equivalent qualifications, then go on to study at either further or higher education level.

    Higher education (HE) (including degree courses, postgraduate programmes and MBAs) This is the term used to describe the education and training that takes place at universities, colleges and institutes offering studies at degree level and higher. The UK has over ninety universities and more than fifty HE colleges offering a wide range of courses, most of which lead to degrees or equivalent qualifications, postgraduate qualifications or MBAs.
  2. Research about English as a Second Language's Teaching Methodology

    As an English teacher, I especially pay attention to the English as the second language's teaching methodology, in order to improve my teaching level, so I undertook the follow research:
  1. Why is English so popular?

    There are a number of interlocking reasons for the popularity of English as a lingua franca. Many of these are historical, but also include economic and cultural factors which have influenced and sustained the spread of the language.

    A colonial history:
    When the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the Massachusetts coast in 1620 after their eventful journey from Plymouth, England, they brought with them not just a set of religious beliefs, nor only a pioneering spirit and a desire for colonisation, but also their language. Although many years later the Americans broke away from their colonial masters, the language of English remained and it is still the predominant language of the world's greatest economic and political power.

    It was the same in Australia, too. When Commander Philip planted the British flag in Sydney Cove on 26th January 1788, it was not just a group of British convicts and their guardians who disembarked (to be rapidly followed by many free settlers of that land), but also a language.

    In other parts of the British Empire, English rapidly became a unifying/dominating means of control. For example, it became a lingua franca in India, where a plethora of indigenous languages made the use of any one of them as a whole-country system problematic. The imposition of English as the one language of administration helped maintain the coloniser's power.

    Thus, in the same way as Spanish was imposed on much of the new world by the conquistadores from Castile, or Brazil and parts of Africa took on the language of their Portuguese conquerors, English travelled around many parts of the world, until, many years from the colonial reality that introduced it, and long after that colonial power has faded away, it is still widely used as a main or at least an institutional language in countries as far apart as Jamaica and Pakistan, Uganda, and New Zealand.

    A major factor in the spread of English has been the spread of commerce throughout the world, and in particular, the emergence of the United States as a world economic power. Of course other economic blocks are hugely powerful too, but the spread of international commerce has taken English along with it. This is the twentieth-century phenomenon of "globalisation". For example, the red and dark blue twin-arched sign of a McDonalds fast food restaurant arrives in many different countries, Whether we take a benign view of such "multinational" economic activity or view it as a threat to the identities of individual countries and local control, English is the language that frequently rides on its back.

    Much travel and tourism is carried on, around the world, using the English language. Of course this is not always the case, but a visit to most airports on the globe will show signs not only in the language of that country, but also in English, just as many airline announcements are glossed in English too, whatever the language of the country the airport is situated in.
    So far, English is also the preferred language of air traffic control in many countries and is used widely in sea travel communication.

    Information exchange:
    A great deal of academic discourse around the world takes place in English. It is often a lingua franca of conferences, for example, and many journal articles in fields as diverse as astrophysics and zoology have English as a kind of default language.
    The first years of the internet as a major channel for information exchange have also seen a marked predominance of English. This probably has something to do with the Internet's roots in the USA and the predominance of its use there in the early days of the World Wide Web.

    Popular culture:
    In the western world, at least, English is a dominating language in popular culture. Pop music in English saturates the planet's airwaves. Thus many people who are not English speakers can sing words from their favourite English medium songs. Many people who are regular cinemagoers ( or TV viewers) frequently hear English in subtitled films coming out of the Hollywood in the USA.
  1. How to teach English

    We accept that English is currently become a dominant language in the world and being widely used around the globe. Being an English teacher I read some books about how to teach, I think the following theories are very important for me to teach my oral English course:

    Aims and Means
    The methods we use to teach a subject ought to vary according to what our aims are.

    If we want to teach student to use a language, we will give them practice in using it. This is possible aims.

    Large classes
    Usually, we give student a course in a large classes, obviously, in larges, it is more difficult than in small ones, in this situation we adapt group work, in which pupils work together in groups, makes things easier. One can have students of about the same ability in a group; or one can have groups of mixed ability, with one good pupil as the leader and tutor of each.

    Oral work: conversation
    One of the big problems when one is trying to "teach conversation" is getting the students to talk. "Conversation lessons" tend to turn into lectures by the teacher, with occasional very short responses from the pupils.
    To avoid this, it is wise for the teacher to choose a subject which he thinks will interest the class, and give them questions and then discuss it.

    Topic and genre
    Many receptive skill activities prove less successful than anticipated because the topic is not appropriate or because students are not familiar with the genre they are dealing with. If students are not interested in a topic, or if they are unfamiliar with the text genre we are asking them to work on, they may be reluctant to engage fully with the activity.
    To resolve such problems we need to think about how we choose and use topics, and how we approach different reading and speaking genres:

    Choose the right topics:
    We should try and choose topics which our students will be interested in. We can find this out by questionnaires, interviews, or by the reactions of students in both current and previous classes to various activities and topics we have used. However, individual students have individual interests, so that it is unlikely that all members of a class will be interested in the same thing. For this reason we need to include a variety of topics across a series of lessons so that all our students' interests will be created for in the end.

    Create interest:
    If we can get the students engaged in the task there is much better chance that they will read or listen with commitment and concentration, whether or not they were interested in the topic to start with.
    We can get students engaged by talking about the topic, by showing a picture for prediction, by asking them to guess what they are going to see or hear on the basis of a few words or phrases from the text, or by having them look at headlines or captions before they read the whole thing. Perhaps we will show them a picture of someone famous and get them to say if they know anything about that person before they read a text about them or hear them talking.

    Through real-life situations
    The purpose of teaching a foreign language is to enable the students to use it. Using a language means knowing in what real-life situations each particular form is used. One can only learn to know this by hearing, speaking, reading, and writing each form a sufficient number of times in suitable, realistic situations. using the related real-life situations to practice more and more.

    Then the teacher should ask some questions of the class as a whole, listen to their replies, and then choose one student after another to answer alone. As much as possible, the teacher should get students to discuss with each other in their group.

    Through discussion, the teacher will find that a few students tend to speak too much, others not at all. He should encourage the latter to join in when they feel ready to do so, and tactfully keep the talkative ones from monopolizing the conversation.
  2. How can we resolve some problems we meet in teaching practice?

    When we try to teach students speaking and listening, it's important to use a variety of teaching methods.
  • If students are all at different levels

    One of the biggest problems teachers face is a lesson where the students are at different levels---- some with quite competent English, some whose English isn't very good, then what are the possible ways of dealing with the situation?

    Use different materials:
    When teachers know who the good and less good students are, they can form different groups. While one group is reading a story, the other better group or groups can discuss a topic, and the weaker group can work on a piece of language study.

    Do different tasks with the same material:
    Where teachers use the same material with the whole class, they can encourage students to do different tasks depending on their abilities. for example, the teacher can ask for simple repetition from some students, but ask others to use the new language in more complex sentences. If the teacher is getting students to give answers or opinions, she can make it clear that one word will do for some students. Lastly, in role-plays and other speaking or group activities, She can ensure that students have roles or functions which are appropriate to their level.

    Use the students:
    Some teachers adopt a strategy of peer help and teaching so that better students can help weaker ones. They can work with them in pairs or groups, explaining things, or providing good models of language performance in speaking. Thus, when teachers put students in groups, they can ensure that weak and strong students are put together.
  • If the class is very big

    In big classes, it is difficult for the teacher to make contact with the students at the back and it is difficult for students to ask for and receive individual attention. Despite the problems of big classes, there are things which teachers can do.

    Use pair work and group work:
    In large classes, pairwork and groupwork play an important part since they maximise student participation. When using pairwork and group work with large groups, it is important to make instructions especially clear.

    Use group leaders:
    teachers can enlist the help of a few group leaders. They can be used to check that everyone in their group has understood a task.

    Use the size of the group to your advantage:
    Big groups have disadvantages of course, but they also have one main advantage--- they are bigger, so that humour, for example, is funnier, drama is more dramatic, a good class feeling is warmer and more enveloping. Experienced teachers use this potential to organise exciting and involving classes.
  • If students keep using their own language

    One of the problems that teachers sometimes face with students who all share the same native language is that they use their native language rather than English to perform classroom tasks. This may be because they want to communicate something important, and so they use language in the best way they know. But however much teachers might understand the need to have them practising English.
    There are a number of things that can be done in this situation.

    Talk to them about the issues:
    teachers can discuss with students how they should all feel about using English in the class. Teachers should try to get their students’ agreement that overuse of their own language means that they will have less chance to learn English; that using their own language during speaking activities denies them chances for rehearsal.

    Encourage them to use English appropriately:

    Create an English environment:

    Keep reminding them:
  • If students don't want to talk
    Many teachers have come across students who don't seem to want to talk in class. Sometimes, this may have to do with the students' own characters. Sometimes, it is because there are other students who dominate, Sometimes, it is because students are simply not used to talking freely--- for reasons of culture and background. Perhaps sometimes they suffer from a fear of making mistakes and therefore "losing face" in front of the teacher and their peers.
    Whatever, in order to make them more reluctant to speak, there are other much better things to try:

    Use pairwork:
    Pairwork will help to provoke quiet students into talking. When they are with one or perhaps two or three other students, they are not under so much pressure as they are if asked to speak in front of the whole class.

    Use "acting out" and reading aloud:
    Getting students to act out dialogues is one way of encouraging quiet students.

    Use role-play :
    Many teachers have found that quiet students speak more freely when they are playing a role--- when they are not having to be themselves, in other words. The use of role allows students to take on a new identity, one in which they can behave in uncharacteristic ways. It can be very liberating.

    Above all methodology, I think it's very helpful for me in my teaching practice.
  1. Studying and researching at the University of Nottingham

    As a academic visitor I have been studying and researching at the University of Nottingham, with my tutor, Anne O'Grady's help, I have attended some modules to study, for example, I attended Listening and Speaking; Reading and Summary; Information Computer Technology; Conversation, These courses are provided by English language department of Nottingham University. And I also attended Recent English Novel, this module provide by Adult Learning Centre in Nottingham University. Meanwhile I also attend another module to study, Research Methods, a masters Module on the MA, in lifelong Education, in School Education in Nottingham University.
    Besides, I have also attended a variety of seminars on education, economics, politics, environment and technology. For example: Draft: Stop and search: Youth Institutionalisation and Education in South Africa; Globalization and Educational Development: The Role of Teacher Trade Unionism; Non formal education for social justice and inclusion in developing countries; The Enlightenment of the Political Public Sphere: Habermas, Communicative Reason; Can China Really Become a Superpower?; Community involvement in Education in Egypt: the Role of School Board of Trustees; ect., These seminars have helped me to develop my views and have a better understand about education in different countries. In addition, I have visited the Open University, Portland College etc..
  2. Attending the Module of Recent English Novel to Study

    Thank for my tutor, Anne O'Grady, with the help of her, I am very lucky to attend the course of Recent British Novel to study, to understand and learn the latest novel in recent one or two years. In this course I learned two latest novels, one is The Sea, the other is On Beauty. Meanwhile, I also finished a very short paper which has about 1000 words about another two novels, one is Carry me down by M. J. Hyland, another is Black Swan Green by David Mitchell .

    The Sea (by John Banville)

    The novel of The Sea wrote by Irish author John Banville, which was named as winner of the Man Booker Prize which is the Britain's top literary honour for Fiction 2005.

    John Banville's latest novel the Sea is simultaneously about growing up and growing old. Its narrator, Max Morden, a middle- aged art historian, who has recently been widowed, now in his sixties, is revisiting the Irish coastal resort where he once spent a holiday as a boy. While there, he encountered the Grace family, who mysteriously changed his life. When he was a child, maybe ten or eleven, at first he was attracted to the Mrs. Grace, but when he gets to know the twin children, he eventually falls for the girl. The novel is an attempt to recapture the past, the closer post, his life with Anna, is the lost time he really mourns, he is grieving for his wife Anna, and he is dealing with the pain of having watched a loved one waste away and die, and of surviving, and of the difficulty of having to go on, alone.

    The narrative moves back and forth between the present and the past---both the immediate one, the "plague year" of Anna's decline and death, as well as memories from their life together, as well as memories of a summer from his childhood spent here.

    The present , his daughter, Claire, certainty appeals to him, no unpleasant feeling, only the warm glow of favoured memories. But past, like present, can't be reshaped entirely to fit our needs, and the painful can't be kept at bay.

    The jumps between present, his past with Anna, and his childhood—along with asides about his daughter---too many small clues about so many different things are littered throughout the text. Max's desperation, and his wrestling with grief, mortality, and his own life---how he has lived it so far, and how he might live his remaining days---are very well related.

    The Sea offers an extraordinary meditation on mortality, grief, death, childhood and memory. It’s not a comfortable novel, when you read it, you will fell very heavy, and grief, but it is undeniably brilliant.

    On Beauty (by Zadie Smith)

    The novel of On Beauty was written by English novelist Zadie Smith, who has been celebrated as one of the Britain's most talented young authors. Zadie Smith won Orange Prize in June, 2006 for her book On Sea, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2005. The Orange Prize, which honors the year’s best female-written, English language novel published in the UK.
    The story On Beauty set in New England and London, which revolves around two families, the Belseys and the Kippses. Howard Belsey is a white liberal academic and Rembrandt scholar with a black wife. Kiki, and three children. His long-time rival, Sir Montague Kipps, a Caribbean-born conservative, will also now teach at the same university. The oldest of the Belsey children, Jerome, falls in love with Kipps' daughter. Howard's life is further complicated when Kiki learns of an affair he's had with a colleague named Claire, his daughter falls for a young street rapper who takes a poetry course taught by Claire, his youngest son speaks only in gangsta rap, and Kiki strikes up a friendship with Kipps' invalid wife.
    On Beauty opens out to provide the reader with a splashy, irreverent look at campus politics, political correctness and the ways different generations regard race and class, but its real focus is on personal relationships. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love.


The short four months elapsed very quickly. It will become my very nice memory and my rich academic experiences. It seems a beginning of my knowing about the culture, society, education, educational system and study of distance education in the UK. Many further research maybe will finish in the future.

I hope to keep contact with my English colleagues on academic study, to extend friendship with them, and make the education internationally.


Further Information:

1. Situated Literacies Reading and writing in context. David Barton, Mary Hamilton
2. The Three Dimensions of Learning Contemporary learning theory. Knud illeris.
3. New Labour's Educational Agenda Arm Hodgson and Ken Spours.
4. How to Teach English Jeremy Harmer
5. The Practice of English Language Teaching Teremy Hamer
6. A Teacher Training Course for Teachers of EFL Hill
7. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language Marianne Celce-Murcia
8. A Reader's Guide to the Twentieth Century Novel in Britain Randall Stevenson
9. The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson Wendy Martin
10. Transformations of Domesticity in Modern Women's Writing---homelessness at home Thomas Fostor
11. Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson
12. The Sea John Banvilles's
13. On Beauty Zadie Smith
14. Literature in Adult Education Peter Preston
15. A History of the English Language Albert C. Baugh & Thomas Cable


March 12, 2007 finished at Jubilee Campus.