Dr Qianqian Zhou: I’m both an ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ in the field of linguistics

28 Sep 2021

Lying her research interest in the nature and impact of individual differences within the broader domain of second language acquisition, Dr Qianqian Zhou joined the Department of Applied Linguistics of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in August 2021.

“The impetus for my research stems from my previous experience as a language teacher in China and a language learner in the UK.” Prior to her PhD study at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Zhou worked as an English teacher for some time.

“I was regularly intrigued and confused by my students’ shifting levels of oral performance in class when I was a teacher.” Dr Zhou says.

“Then my subsequent study-abroad experience further exposed me to the ‘silent’ classroom participation of Asian students as I quickly became one myself, especially when compared to my Anglophone classmates.”

The experience of being a teacher and student gave her both the ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ perspectives that sparked her interest in oral participation in language classes.

“The inspiration came with my identity shift and eventually led me to the investigation of the construct most theoretically linked to verbal behaviour, Willingness to Communicate (WTC).”

With a great passion to investigate individual difference variables such as motivation, attitudes, and learning styles, Dr Zhou adopted video-stimulated recall interview, one of her research methods to observe students’ classroom behaviour in her PhD project.

“It was challenging to liaise with students and teachers to get their permission to be filmed for a prolonged period of time and adhere to all the ethical guidelines throughout the data collection process.” Dr Zhou says; “My PhD project was very memorable as it was my first longitudinal research that involves multiple research methods and human subjects. It really encouraged me to look further into the field of individual differences in Second Language Acquisition.”

“My current research primarily focus on ESL (English as pa Second Language)/EFL (English as a Foreign Language)/CFL (Chinese as a Foreign Language) learners’ WTC in a classroom setting, looking at its emergence and fluctuation from a Complex Dynamic Systems Theory perspective.”

“The department is a dynamic and research-intensive environment that promotes and practices research-led teaching, with faculty members specializing in a wide array of research areas that make collaboration and co-teaching possible.” Dr Zhou says.

She truly appreciates the tremendous learning, teaching, and research environment provided by the university and looks forward to potential collaborative research and teaching opportunities ahead: “I’m excited to be a part of the faculty and can’t wait to meet the students and learn together with them.”

“To quote John Holt, learning is not the product of teaching; learning is the product of the activity of learners.”

By Ying Jiang

28 Sep 2021