With the support and funding from both International Education and a CEGEP International grant, Rhys Adams (Vanier Physics department) and Gregory Mulcair (John Abbott Physics and Engineering Technologies departments) accompanied Modern Languages teacher Shirley Zhu to China during January 2-15 to promote pedagogical approaches in student-centered learning to four institutions.
Rhys and Gregory visited Changchun Vocational College, Qufu Normal University, Jinan Polytechnic College and Beijing Fengtai Vocational High School where they primarily presented peer instruction (PI) and problem-based learning (PBL) techniques and examples with using technology in the classroom to a predominately Mandarin speaking group of teachers and administrators. Shirley was present to translate and to add context (comparing curriculum and teaching styles between China and Quebec) to facilitate the exchange of ideas. At the institutions, the teachers were given opportunities to visit classrooms, teaching laboratories, research facilities and to share pedagogy approaches with the Chinese teachers and physics graduate students.
Chinese classrooms have been dominated by teacher-centered pedagogy, so teachers are not used to Interactive presentations. Factoring in the language issue, one challenge was to keep the group of teachers, anywhere between 100-200 teachers, engaged during the presentations. Rhys and Gregory had to be flexible and adapt to the audiences’ needs and requests, and Shirley did a fantastic job at keeping their interest level high. Similar to our regular classrooms, when the Chinese teachers were asked to participate in creating and sharing their PI and PBL materials, the energy level in the room quickly rose.
The benefits of such an experience are many. As Rhys says, “I did not know what to expect, so it was eye-opening to see how modern some of their teaching labs are. We both left there with new demonstration ideas for our physics classes. They use a very traditional approach during class lectures, but they were very receptive to the ideas we shared with them and they would have liked for us to spend more time with them to help develop PI and PBL materials suitable for their classes. This gives us confidence in what we do in our classrooms. And personally, it was a thrill to spend time in China, have meaningful conversations with the teachers and visit some of Beijing’s major sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.”
All institutions expressed a willingness to continue with the collaboration. It is expected that teachers and administrators from the institutions will visit Vanier and John Abbott in the future to participate in workshops and watch some our classroom dynamics. Furthermore, we hope there will be more opportunities for Vanier and John Abbott teachers to visit the institutions in China.