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Teaching the Chinese Learner: Psychological and Pedagogical Perspectives

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chlerEdited by: David A. Watkins & John B. Biggs

2001, 306 pp

ISBN 10: 962809372X
ISBN 13: 978-0864313812

HK$200 (local), US$32 (overseas)

Published by the Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) and the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER)

Order from CERC or online

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This book is a sequel to The Chinese Learner: Cultural, Psychological and Contextual Influences, which was first published in 1996 and has been widely acclaimed. The 1996 book made a seminal contribution to the field by focusing on the influence of cultural factors on approaches to learning in Chinese societies. Chinese learners were clearly doing some things better than their Western counterparts; but how was this achieved in large classes and harsh educational environments?

The present volume extends the earlier book by focusing on the work of teachers. It analyses the ways in which teachers in Hong Kong and China think about their teaching, and the ways in which they conduct their teaching. Differences between Chinese and Western approaches to teaching are identified, and lessons are drawn for educational reform.


Setting the Scene

1. The Paradox of the Chinese Learner and Beyond (David A. Watkins and John B. Biggs)

Teacher Thinking

2. Towards a Model of Teaching Conceptions of Chinese Secondary School
Teachers of Physics (Gao Lingbiao and David A. Watkins)
3. The Role of Assessment in Student Learning: The Views of Hong Kong and Swedish Lecturers (Bo Dahlin, David A. Watkins and Mats Ekholm)

Teacher Practice

4. Teacher-Student Interaction: Attributional Implications and Effectiveness of Teachers’ Evaluative Feedback (Farideh Salili)
5. Are Chinese Teachers Authoritarian? (Irene T. Ho)
6. Large Classes in China: Teachers and Interaction (Martin Cortazzi and Jin Lixian)
7. Two Faces of the Reed Relay: Exploring the Effects of the Medium of  Instruction (Dorothy F.P. Ng, Amy B.M. Tsui and Ference Marton)
8. Solving the Paradox of the Chinese Teacher? (Ida Mok, P.M. Chik, P.Y. Ko, Tammy Kwan, M.L. Lo, Ference Marton, Dorothy F.P. Ng, M.F. Pang, U.Runesson and L.H. Szeto)
9. Promoting Learning and Understanding through Constructivist Approaches for Chinese Learners (Carol K.K. Chan)
10. Problem-Based Learning in a Chinese Context: Faculty Perceptions
(Stephanie F. Stokes)

Changing Teachers

11. The Influence of Teacher Education on Conceptions of Teaching and
Learning (Thomas K.W. Tang)
12. A Conceptual Change Approach to University Staff Development (Angela S.P. Ho)
13. Transforming Teaching through Action Research (David Kember)
Overview and Conclusions Insights into Teaching the Chinese Learner (John B. Biggs and David A. Watkins)

The Chinese Learner: Cultural, Psychological and Contextual Influences

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chlerEdited by David A. Watkins & John B. Biggs

1996, reprinted 2005

ISBN 10: 0-86431-182-6
ISBN 13: 978-0-86431-182-5

HK$200 (local), US$32 (overseas)

Published by Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC) & Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER)

Order from CERC [out of stock] or online

Preview in Google Books


In August 1996 CERC’s first book, The Chinese Learner: Cultural , Psychological and Contextual Influences was in print. This is the first book to paint a clear, research based picture of how Chinese students and their teachers see the context and content of their learning both in Hong Kong and abroad. The focus of much of this research is the question ‘How can Chinese learners be so successful academically (often out-performing their Western peers) when their teaching and learning seems to be so oriented to rote memorization?’. It is concluded that at the heart of this paradox are cross-cultural differences in the very processes of teaching and learning , particularly concerning the relationship between memorizing and understanding and the nature of motivation. Widely held Western stereotypes and misconceptions of Chinese learners are shown to be largely without foundation.

Chapter Highlights:
1. Learning Theories and Approaches to Research: a Cross-cultural Perspective

  • David Watkins2. Coping with Second Language Texts: the Development of Lexically-Based Reading Strategies
  • Robert Keith Johnson and Agnes Yau So Ngor3. Memorizing and Understanding: the Key to the Paradox ?
  • Ference Marton, Gloria Dall’ Alba and Tse Lai Kun4. Chinese Students at an Australian University: Adaptability and Continuity
  • Simone Volet5. Collaborative Learning: the Latent Dimension in Chinese Students’ Learning
  • Catherine Tang6. The Cultural Context for Chinese Learners: Conceptions of Learning in the Confucian Tradition
  • Lee Wing On7. Western Misperceptions of the Confucian-heritage Learning Culture
  • John Biggs8. Accepting Personal Responsibility for Learning
  • Farideh Salili9. Hong Kong Secondary School Learners: a Developmental Perspective
  • David Watkins10.The Chinese Learner in Retrospect
  • John Biggs and David Watkins

Education and Society in Hong Kong and Macao: Comparative Perspectives on Continuity and Change

Return to CERC Studies in Comparative Education.

chin-hk-macao-Taiwan-colourMark Bray & Ramsey Koo

2004, 2nd edition (1999, 1st edition) 323 pp

ISBN 10: 962-8093-34-7
ISBN 13: 978-962-8093-34-2

HK$200 (local), US$32 (overseas)

Published by Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC)

Order from CERC or online 

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Hong Kong and Macao have much in common. The dominant populations in both territories are Cantonese-speaking Chinese; both are small in area; both are urban societies; both have been colonies of European powers; and both have undergone political transition to reunification with China. Yet in education, for reasons that are analysed in this book, they are very different.

The patterns of similarities and differences in the two territories make a fascinating basis for comparative study. The overarching theme of the book, on continuity and change, is particularly pertinent following the transition of the two societies to the postcolonial era.

This thoroughly-revised and expanded second edition builds on the widely-recognised first edition. The work has been acclaimed as a significant contribution to the broad field of comparative education as well as to study of the specific societies which are its main focus.

Mark Bray is Chair Professor of Comparative Education at the University of Hong Kong. Ramsey Koo is a Senior Lecturer at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. Both have long experience of research on education in Hong Kong and Macao; and both are active in professional societies concerned with comparative education.





















Values Education for Dynamic Societies: Individualism or Collectivism

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cerc-10Edited by William K. Cummings, Maria Teresa Tatto & John Hawkin

2001, 312pp.

ISBN 10: 962-8093-71-1
ISBN 13: 978-962-8093-71-7

HK$200 (local), US$32 (overseas)

Published by Comparative Education Research Centre (CERC)

Order from CERC or online

Preview on Google Books


Social changes have made values education an important topic for academics, policy makers and practitioners in all parts of the world. This book examines values education in a diverse set of societies. Some, including China, the United States and Russia, are very large countries. At the opposite end of the scale, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are much smaller societies but are no less complex. Other countries addressed in this book include Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand.

All these societies have very different cultures and heritages. Through its comparative analysis, the book significantly enhances conceptual understanding of this complex domain. An intriguing finding concerns the emerging support in Asia for individualistic values, by contrast with the new interest in collective values in the West.

William K. Cummings teaches at George Washington University, and is a past president of the Comparative & International Education Society. Maria Teresa Tatto teaches at Michigan State University, and has conducted influential comparative studies of teacher education, student learning, and reform. John Hawkins teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is Editor of the Comparative Education Review.

The Culture of Borrowing: The Thai State, Higher Education and Quality Assessment

Wednesday October 2
206 Runme Shaw Building, HKU Main Campus

Speaker: Rattana Lao
Chair: Mark Bray

Influenced by the theory of policy borrowing and lending, this seminar explores why “a global education policy” such as quality assessment (QA) resonates in Thailand. The research deployed a qualitative case study methodology with a triangulation from document analysis, 80 elite interviews, and a three-month internship at the Office of National Educational Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA).

Historical legacies of the Thai state as an active borrower of foreign idea creates a fertile ground for QA to resonate in Thailand. The Thai elites have always, actively and purposefully, made reference to policies from elsewhere in order to legitimize national reform. Thailand deploys externalization strategy to justify the locally and historically rooted logic and aspiration that becoming modern and adapted to global trends is a national necessity.

Rattana Lao (Amp) was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, and for her doctorate graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University, USA. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the HKU Faculty of Education.

Islam as a Culture or an Ideology: The Role of Universities

Speaker: Abbas Madandar Arani
Chair: Liz Jackson

Dialogue among civilizations requires a full understanding of different
views towards the functions of each civilization. Islamic civilization has
been one of core points in controversies about both “dialogue and conflict
among civilizations”.

The word ‘Islam’ may raise two general views on this civilization. The first
regards Islam as a culture, and the second considers Islam as an ‘Ideology’.
These two views entail different social and cultural implications.

Universities can promote one of the two aforementioned views. Taking a
cultural view towards Islamic civilization, universities can strengthen an
intellectual relationship between civilizations. Alternatively, promotion of
an ideological view increases the conceptual distances and gapes in
understanding between Islamic civilization and other civilizations.
The presentation will first explain these two views, and will then indicate
different functions of universities and other higher education centres in
some Islamic countries.

Abbas Madandar Arani received his PhD from Mysore University, India,
and is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at
Lorestan University, Iran. His research and teaching interest is in the field
of comparative education, with particular focus on education reform,
globalization and internationalization, religion and schooling, and
educational management and leadership.