Higher-degree research being undertaken by Chuan Gao




Associate Professor Huizhong Shen and Associate Professor Aek Phakiti

Thesis title:

Chinese EFL learners in mobile-assisted language learning: Learner perceptions, interactions and community of practice



Project description

A digital revolution in the late 1980s led to a vigorous development of information and communication technologies in language teaching and learning. Computer technology, notwithstanding its progressive ‘normalization’, has continuously been a research focus since its inception. As a burgeoning subdivision of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has recently received much more attention, driven by a widespread ownership of mobile devices and an extended utilization of wireless networks. Not necessarily taking the place of teacher-led face-to-face classroom teaching, MALL can be a good supplement beyond the classroom to compensate for the lack of learner interactions and initiations in a teacher-dominated EFL (English as a foreign language) classroom, as well as to establish a virtual community of practice.

Recent mobile technological innovations have drawn researchers’ attention to the potential of mobile social network applications to facilitate language learning. There has been a growing research interest in WeChat-assisted (a Chinese mobile social network application) English learning. However, the number of studies pertaining to Chinese EFL learners’ learning and online interactions on WeChat is disproportional to 1.08 billion WeChat users around the world.

Guided by research on agency and community of practice, this research employs a case study approach to examining a group of Chinese university EFL learners in terms of:

  1. their perceptions towards WeChat-assisted English learning;
  2. their exercises of agency in WeChat interactions; and
  3. their development of community of practice as facilitated by a mobile-technology-assisted environment.

Chuan Gao is undertaking his PhD in Education, having a particular interest in mobile-assisted English language pedagogy and curriculum development. He holds two master qualifications respectively in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Applied linguistics and literatures, and two undergraduate qualifications respectively in English linguistics and literatures and Communication.

Chuan has worked as a research assistant and a tutor at the University of Sydney since 2017. He has also worked as a part-time English language teacher and assessor in Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and SEE (Skills for Education & Employment) at Navitas English, Sydney since 2016. His roles include creating teaching materials, devising assessments and teaching in the technology-assisted classroom.


  • Research Students Support Grants, China Studies Centre (2018)
  • Alexander Mackie Research Fellowship (2016)
  • Sydney Achievers International Scholarship (2014)

Professional and community roles:

  • Tutor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Research assistant, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • English language teacher and assessor, Navitas English Sydney, Australia

Conference presentations