Earlier in this summer, the UK-based Higher Education Academy (HEA) led a group of 31 academics from 10 universities and colleges in South China in a four-day programme on innovative pedagogies and curriculum design at Guangdong University for Foreign Studies (GDUFS).
The project had come about following an agreement between Professor Stephanie Marshall, the HEA’s Chief Executive, and President Zhong from Guangdong University for Foreign Studies, who had met at the China Association for Higher Education conference the previous year.
Kathy Wright who led the programme said, “We were delighted with the feedback at the time. For example, one participant wrote: I want to say a big thank you for the training, which is very informative, fun and thought-provoking…I cannot wait to apply all these tricks in my own class. You have opened a new world to me.’
“But we keen to find out how things are going now and in the future. What difference had we made?”
So recently, Kathy sent delegates a reminder of some of the teaching techniques she shared at the workshops, letting them that she would be getting in touch before the end of year to find out what the impact has been. She was delighted that one of them jumped the gun and immediately offered her insight on the impact of the programme.
Dr. Jin Wu teaches Comprehensive English at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Dr Wu said, “It has been a long time since you gave us lectures in June. Your ideas on learning and teaching greatly influence me.
“In the past, I knew that interactive activities were important. But frankly speaking, the methods I used were very limited. Your lectures gave me a very useful toolkit.
“Methods like ‘answer garden’ [an online feedback tool which can be used in classes to collect responses from all students], sorting activity’, and ‘rich picture’ meant that my students have an active rather than passive input into the curriculum, which acknowledges their ideas and needs. All these tools help me to deliver more engaging sessions, and I now feel I working more closely in partnership with my students rather than simply talking at them.
“Observing how you organized the class also enlightened my teaching. While preparing for my teaching now, I always remind myself of the importance of being clear and confirming student understanding and expectations, and making full use of students’ existing knowledge, and learn to challenge their knowledge before convey something new.
“All this has led to students actively participating together in their learning, collaborating and sharing for mutual benefit. All these approaches are actually learned from you!
“And I will certainly be looking at how I continuously develop my teaching - I think that’s the route to motivating staff and students in a sustainable way, and for getting better outcomes for all.”
Kathy Wright concluded, “When we delivered the masterclass, 100% of participants thought the workshops were ‘very good or good’. Everyone agreed that the activities were relevant and engaging, that the programme was well structured, and everyone reported that they intended to use effective group work activities and collaborative projects in their programmes.
“So it was great to get this feedback from Jin Wu, showing that we really have made a difference.
“I think she’s hit the nail on the head with her final comment about CPD. I know that the HEA is discussing the benefits of HEA Fellowship for teaching staff in China and Hong Kong – indeed some staff already have it.
“With the professional standards framework at is backbone, HEA Fellowship an internationally recognised and credible measure of an institutions or individuals commitment to enhancing teaching. When you adopt a reflective practice approach to teaching, it opens your horizons to better and better teaching.”