Culture in Textbooks: A Content Analysis of College English Teaching Materials

Lina Dong, Bob Adamson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


English language education in China plays an important role as a vehicle to learn from highly developed economies, and to interact with the rest of the world. This study focuses on College English (CE), the general English courses designed for non-English major undergraduates. College English prepares undergraduates for the workplace and academic arena; more than 3.6 million new students have enrolled in CE courses yearly since 2014. Intercultural communication is viewed as a necessary ability in the workplace and academic arena worldwide, and is a major component in the College English curriculum in the policy documents that are released by the Ministry of Education. Given the significant role of CE in preparing graduates to assist with national development, the content of the curriculum receives attention from policymakers to ensure their social relevance. This chapter focuses on the cultural content in two popular series of published teaching materials for CE, including the textbooks and associated media. The theoretical basis for the study is that materials are the product of a range of social factors, and therefore reflect underlying cultural conceptualizations and values (Dubin & Olshtain in Course design: Developing programmes and materials for language learning. Cambridge University Press, 1986). The topic is significant, given the historical controversy surrounding the ambivalent attitudes towards English in Chinese education, whereby the utilitarian value associated with the language has to be balanced with the perceived dangers of importing cultural hegemony that might clash with and threaten Chinese culture (Adamson in China’s English: A history of English in Chinese education. Hong Kong University Press, 2004). The study uses content analysis based on Moran’s (Teaching culture: Perspectives in practice. Heinle, 2001) categorisations (cultural products, cultural practices, cultural perspectives, cultural communities, and cultural persons) to identify the cultural content embodied in these textbooks. The findings reveal trends that reflect the on-going tensions brought about by China’s modernization and international development, and the conservation of traditional values.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCultural Knowledge and Values in English Language Teaching Materials
Subtitle of host publication(Multimodal) Representations and Stakeholders
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9789811919350
ISBN (Print)9789811919343
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • China
  • College English
  • Cultural content
  • Culture
  • Textbooks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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