Emergency Remote Teaching: The Challenges Associated with a Context of Second Language Instruction


  • Gregory MacKinnon Acadia University
  • Tyler MacLean Henan Experimental High School




ESL, Online learning, offshore schools, COVID-19


The pandemic of 2020 frequently necessitated that offshore school teachers continue their instruction of Chinese children in the online format rather than face-to-face back in China; a so-called emergency remote teaching response. A required change in pedagogy accompanied a range of challenges in an effort to offer quality education to English as a Second Language (ESL) students. During the fall 2020-2021 academic year, a sample of 25 teachers and 3 principals provided feedback on those inherent challenges in a mixed method study consisting of surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Factors that impacted the delivery were identified in broad categories of teacher lifestyle, hindrances with technology, teaching practice, and pedagogical support. The findings were unique in that 1) they were nested in a response to a difficult context as opposed to a carefully planned online instruction and 2) second language students constituted a different learning cohort. This work further adds to the literature by suggesting that cognitive load, self-regulation, and attentional literacy deserve careful consideration when contexts of ESL learning with technology are implicated.

This work further adds to the literature by suggesting that cognitive load, self-regulation and attentional literacy deserve careful consideration when contexts of ESL learning with technology are implicated.

Author Biographies

Gregory MacKinnon, Acadia University

Gregory MacKinnon, PhD is a professor of Science and Technology Education in the School of Education at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Serving as Chair of International Practica since 2002 has culminated in the placement and supervision of over 160 teacher interns in China. His international work extends to curriculum development in China and Caribbean nations.


Tyler MacLean, Henan Experimental High School

Tyler MacLean is the Vice Principal of Henan Experimental High School in Zhengzhou China. He has taught Social Studies and English/Language Arts in China for nine years. His master’s degrees in Curriculum and Leadership are from Acadia University in his native Nova Scotia, Canada. Current research interests include cross cultural pedagogy and leadership, online learning, and curriculum development.


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