Texas A&M recently hosted a group of 19 high school English teachers from Hangzhou, China, as they participated in a professional development program organized by the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). The training platform was designed to develop the Zhejiang Province teachers’ educational practices while promoting globalization efforts of A&M and CEHD.
“This program was a great opportunity to increase the College’s visibility and to showcase our faculty’s expertise in the field of English language education,” said Dr. Yeping Li, Department Head for Teaching, Learning, and Culture. “It also gave our faculty a chance to see a foreign school curriculum and exchange culture with some of the best teachers from Hangzhou.”
The urban population of Hangzhou is approximately that of Houston, Texas, and employs more than 80,000 teachers in that region.
In 2000, Liyao Cheng, director in charge of teacher development for the Hangzhou Municipal Bureau, recognized the need to reach out and broaden teaching strategies for subject-specific teachers. During the past twelve years, Cheng said that the Bureau sent nearly 50 teachers from Hangzhou to Australia annually in a similar, career-broadening effort.
“The teachers who attended this event were carefully selected to participate in this great opportunity,” said Cheng. “It’s important that our teachers expand their own education and seek new perspectives from other cultures. While we are here [at A&M], we hope to gain a new perspective on English language education and human resources by interacting with the College of Education and Human Development and local high schools.”
For their trip to Texas A&M, professional development and educational innovation were the primary areas of study for Cheng and her team. The three-week program included one week of lectures and two weeks of field experiences at local Bryan and College Station high schools.
“Providing the Hangzhou teachers with cutting-edge knowledge and development theory will help them devise improvements in their high school curriculum and instruction,” said Dr. Li.
Upon their return to China, the teachers plan to share their learning experiences in multiple formats including a possible book publication that can be used to aid other teachers in transferring that knowledge directly to their classroom instruction.
“Our teachers were very impressed by the quality and dedication of faculty and at how detailed and prepared the training regimens were. We will now be able to take back what we have learned and develop “train the trainer” type sessions in the five districts of Hangzhou and its adjacent seven counties” said Cheng. “We also realized that some American ideas are also used in China, so it was very good to see that we share some similar practices.”
At Texas A&M, the endeavor was seen as a positive one.
“We measured the success and impact of the program - in part, from the feedback we received. The participants expressed great appreciation of this program and a high interest in continuing and even expanding the program,” said Dr. Li. “Expanding the presence of the College of Education and Human Development on an international level better positions ourselves for the future while immediately having a positive cultural impact. We hope to continue the program on a regular basis.”
Attendees summed up their visit by expressing how unforgettable the experience was. They believe the knowledge they received will help their personal and professional lives.
“Reflecting our College’s mission of Transforming Lives and the university’s goal of international leadership, the faculty and students in our teacher preparation programs have been engaged in a variety of international initiatives in Qatar, Europe and most recently in China,” said Dr. Douglas Palmer, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “I think the success of the Hangzhou program is a testament to the expertise and recognition of our faculty.”