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Fusion or Friction? UK Teachers’ Experiences of Cross-Cultural Teaching in China

Axbey, Harriet

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Harriet Axbey
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy


Harriet Axbey

Sharon Riddle


Cultural exchanges between the UK and China have gained in popularity in recent years due to the success of East Asian countries in international tests such as PISA. Chinese 15-year-olds outperform their British counterparts in mathematics, and many practitioners are travelling to China to learn teaching techniques in the hope of raising standards back home. Twenty-six undergraduate trainee-teachers and eleven fully-trained teachers travelled to the South of China to observe mathematics teaching in primary schools. They also took part in the teaching of English, Mathematics, and Science. The aim of the trip was to observe the phenomenon of ‘teaching for mastery’ as advocated by the National Centre for the Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (NCETM). After the trip, four participants were interviewed via email on their experiences in China. The researcher found that the three trainee teachers and one qualified teacher felt that what was being implemented in the UK as ‘teaching for mastery’ had little to do with the actual practices in China, where the concept supposedly originated. The participants commented that they had witnessed several teaching methods they would bring back to their own classrooms, but that the UK should be wary of adopting practices without seeing them in the context from which they came. Additionally, participants found many differences in terms of behaviour, class structure and teaching experience, which will be discussed along with the questions: Can we transfer Chinese teaching directly to the UK? And: Is teaching for mastery actually a British construct?


Axbey, H. (2020). Fusion or Friction? UK Teachers’ Experiences of Cross-Cultural Teaching in China. In H. Axbey, & S. Riddle (Eds.), Imagining Better Education : Conference Proceedings 2019 (15-26)

Conference Name Imagining Better Education 2019
Conference Location Durham
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Aug 19, 2020
Publicly Available Date Aug 19, 2020
Pages 15-26
Series Title Imagining Better Education
Book Title Imagining Better Education : Conference Proceedings 2019.
ISBN 9780907552246
Public URL
Publisher URL


Published Conference Proceeding (447 Kb)

Copyright Statement
The copyright of this paper remains with the author.

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