Exploring educators’ agency in English-medium-instruction in higher education: An example from China

Dr. Thi Kim Anh Dang, Senior Lecturer (TESOL and Languages Education), Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, Email:
Dr. Gary J Bonar, Lecturer in Languages and TESOL, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, Email:
Jiazhou Yao, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, Email:

The internationalisation of higher education worldwide has witnessed the expansion of courses using English-as-a-medium-of-instruction (EMI) in non-native-English-speaking countries. Previous research has identified complex challenges facing EMI educators and highlighted the significance of educators’ agency and perceptions of EMI on their EMI practice. However, little is known empirically about how EMI educators exercise agency in response to the demands of EMI teaching. Adopting a cultural-historical perspective, this study explores how Chinese EMI educators exercise their agency to respond to the various demands of EMI practice. Data were collected via survey questionnaires and written interviews with 10 Chinese EMI academics. Findings highlight the multiple challenges EMI educators face, and examples of how they exercise their agency in response. Educators’ perceptions of EMI, which are shaped by various factors, appear to play a vital role in orientating their agency. The paper will discuss implications for EMI research and practice.

English-medium-instruction, teacher agency, socio-cultural theory, higher education, China

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