On a chilly week mid-November, Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham headed out of Heathrow to fly fifteen hours east to reach the ancient city of Nanjing in China. Colleagues at Nanjing University of Information, Science and Technology (NUIST) were waiting for us to deliver the Teaching and Learning Development Course, contributing to the University of Reading Recognised Teacher Status for staff within the NUIST-Reading Academy. The cohort consisted of teaching staff from China, Russia, Egypt and Britain.
Globalisation, the internationalisation of the curriculum and cross-cultural development are key themes in the Higher Education sector currently and so, after three days of collaboration, sharing ideas around pedagogy and implementation of effective classroom practices, we thought it would be interesting here to share our underlying Five Principles (after Chickering and Gamson’s Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education1) for implementing effective training in an overseas context, with an illustration of what this looked like in practice.
Our hope is that some of these principles may be a helpful for you in your teaching and learning context.
Five principles for successful training
1 Develop rapport and know your learners (this may be even more important with a mixed nationality group)
We used a variety of ice breakers, warm up activities and numerous opportunities for personalisation to ease our teaching colleagues into a comfortable ‘stretch’ zone where they were happy to reflect upon current practice and discuss ways to implement change effectively.
Example: Icebreaker, Day 1 Suitcase Activity– what are you bringing to the course? What are your areas of expertise? What are you good at? What are you hoping to take away?:- otherwise known as a rough and ready Needs Analysis
2 Change the classroom layout (and focus on creating a Positive Learning environment)
This was essential, in order to model ways in which different interaction patterns could easily be encouraged, moving the focus away from a teacher-led transmission model to a facilitation one, (away from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ to a ‘Guide on the Side’), acknowledging that the participants’ own experiences and views were not only valid but welcome. This was an area that was much commented on in the initial evaluations following the course.
Example: Day 3 Team building: table group work to create physical models of a teaching theory – using whatever resources they could find in the room (this included paper cups, chairs, post-its and even an umbrella)
3 Model the method, encourage Active Learning
One of our guiding principles when working with educators is to provide training with a practical focus, which will save busy lecturers time when they come to prepare future sessions. In this way, there is a good deal of linking theoretical models to actual classroom practice.
Example: Reflective logs, daily: at the end of each day, we invited lecturers to spend 15 minutes in quiet reflective time, to identify what their key learning outcomes were for each session from the workshops and how they could be applied in their own teaching and learning context.
4 Use the Three Ts – topic, task and time
Following on from the previous principle – educating teachers and aiding their development is complex and involves discussion, examination and time in order for teachers to construct meaning for themselves. We provided a wide range of learning tasks and activities, with plenty of support given to enable the participants to make the links between methodology and practice for themselves.
Example: Peer learning: comparison of teaching policies at the University of Reading and NUIST.
5 Training is a two-way process (in other words, be prepared for two-way learning – be ready to learn from the participants)
We travelled to NUIST knowing that the starting point for all discussions around teaching and learning do not take place in a vacuum, but are highly personal and situated in a particular context and that the person who knows the most about what happens in your own classroom is you. Teacher development provides the opportunity and space for educators to step back and examine their own teaching stories and by sharing these, continue the cycle of reflection and development.
Example: Teacher Hat, Student Hat: lecturers shared ways that they could apply activities in their context by discussing in pairs questions such as – Could you use this in your classroom? What adaptations would you need to make?
After three days of intensive training, it was time to fly back home. We left behind the lecturers at the NUIST-Reading Academy motivated and energised, ready to face their classes on Monday with new perspectives and ideas developed from their collaboration with colleagues – and also with the beginnings of a new community of practitioners to draw upon for development and support. We brought back with us a deeper understanding of the challenges our counterparts at NUIST face, and new shared perspectives on ways to continue our own learning journeys.
Clare McCullagh and Angela Buckingham are Academic Developers in the Centre for Quality support and Development (CQSD). They visited the Reading Academy at NUIST from 15th-21st November 2016.
1 Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson (1987) “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education” American Association of Higher Education Bulletin vol.39 no.7 pp.3-7