Research productivity levels of Chinese TEFL academics

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Interim Citation:


Since China’s Economic Reform and its Open Door Policy, China has entered a new era of education (Adamson, 2002; Hu, 2005a). English has gained status as a language for international relations (Graddol, 1997) and international trade (Qu, 2007). Hence, in 2001, China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) required universities to offer 5-10% of their course units in English, particularly in the fields of information technology, biotechnology, finance and law (Jen, 2001; MOE, 2001). However, “the upgrading of national English proficiency, then, is predicted largely on the professional competence of the teaching force” (Hu, 2005b, p. 655). For TEFL academics, one component of this competence is the capacity to conduct research (Day, 1991; Shu, 2002). Indeed, research productivity has become essential for university success, and academics’ employment and promotional prospects. This study aims to investigate 182 Chinese TEFL academics’ research outputs across three Chinese higher education institutions through the research question: What are the research productivity levels of Chinese TEFL academics? A survey instrument was devised to gather TEFL academics’ calculations of research productivity and, in particular, the quality and quantity of research outputs over a five-year period (2004-2008). Descriptive statistics through SPSS were used to analyse data across research output fields (e.g., journal articles, conference papers). Academic status varied (n=182; teaching assistants 23.6%, lecturers 47.3%, associate professors 22.5%, and professors 6.6%) as did years of teaching (1-5 years 27.4%, 6-10 years 24.7%, 11-15 18.1%, 16-20 years 13.7%, > 21 years 15.9%). Results (n=182, male=27%, females=73%) indicated 18% had not produced any research in the five-year period. Indeed, more than 70% had produced no research in all categories except non-core journal articles and provincial projects. An overwhelming majority of TEFL academics had zero productivity in 10 of the 12 categories. Nevertheless, there were highly-productive TEFL academics, who had produced five or more pieces of research across the 12 categories. In addition, there was not much difference between sole and co-authored research outputs, except non-core journal articles where sole authored work was 20% higher than co-authored work. China’s desire for international competitiveness in education will require measures that facilitate higher levels of research productivity. These measures must include professional development, support and mentoring programs, and employment of personnel who can guide these processes. Research performance is an outcome, hence there is a need to understand Chinese TEFL academics’ perceptions about research, and experiences that may hinder and facilitate higher research productivity.