, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 133-148

Teaching for identities, writing between the “we” and the “I” paradigms

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Abstract

Circumscribed by the culture of collectivist and Confucian traditions, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education in China has defaulted to an impersonalized provision and delivery. Much of teaching and learning is to assimilate individuals into a group identity. This epistemological model can be detected in learning outcomes, e.g., preferential use of ‘we’ over ‘I’, lack of authentic self-identity in student EFL writing, etc., and is characterized by ubiquitous rote learning. In this paper, we adopt a biographical approach to the teaching of stories expressed as personal narrative as part of the research framework. This is also applied to critical curriculum and pedagogical reforms that help students to write across their extant cultural constraint, enabling them to make a conceptual leap in understanding the difference between the collective, and the individual identities, of the “we” and the “I”. Once this conceptual awareness has been achieved, the individual viewpoint can be elicited and articulated in student writing of narrative accounts. Biographical narrative accounts of personal experience are found to have a creative and self-actualizing force in forming the individual’s identity, using his/her original voice. The findings suggest that EFL writing curriculum and pedagogy in the new era can be a useful strategy to empower students and EFL teachers to teach and write between the “we” and the “I” paradigms, and expand their ontological capability and flexibility through pedagogical effect.