Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CRLT faculty development conference draws top Chinese educators

Interested in transforming their students from attentive classroom listeners to actively engaged learners, 33 top Chinese university officials visited U-M last week for instruction from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the 2011 Michigan Faculty Development Seminar.

Activities included instruction on the use of "clickers" in the classroom, which in recent years have allowed American students to interact during class with the instructor and classmates via the Internet.

Visiting Chinese university officials learn how to use "clickers" that allow students to interact with their classmates and instructors. (Photo by Laura Schram, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching)  

CRLT Executive Director Constance Cook says a new Chinese strategic plan for the country focuses on improving education at all levels, and CRLT hosted the event to help them achieve that objective. As a result of the seminar, the government has decided that four-year Chinese universities should create teaching centers like CRLT, and the Ministry of Education plans to fund development of centers in the elite universities.

"One of their key goals is to improve student learning in Chinese classrooms. We want to help them encourage innovation and critical thinking" Cook says.

In a May 26 session presented in the Palmer Commons Great Lakes Rooms and co-led by Cook and CRLT assistant directors Erping Zhu and Mary Wright, participants were asked to form groups and brainstorm goals for their own learning centers.

"They're trying to get the students actively engaged — talking to other students, using clickers, and somehow engaging them with the material instead of listening passively," says Matt Kaplan, CRLT managing director.

"The role played by the CRLT here in terms of improving their teaching skills, the process of evaluation, has also made a very deep impression," says Huang Zhen, vice president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. "Thanks to the sessions organized by CRLT in the teaching classes we have got a systematic understanding of what U-M is operating in this regard, and we hope that our experiences in this course can further enhance our concepts and creatively train talents in the universities in China."

Zhu Chongshi, president of Xiamen University and leader of the Chinese delegation, says, "We would like to further enhance the level of teaching at our universities, especially the new faculty because we know that CRLT has been in existence for nearly 50 years, during which time they have made very good contributions to the enhancement of the teaching levels of the faculty here. We're eager to come here and learn."

Seminar sessions included: how grants and teaching awards can be incentives for improving teaching; teaching entrepreneurship, creativity and critical thinking; teaching effectively using teams; how to evaluate teaching; and the role of a teaching center in curriculum development.

Founded in 1962, CRLT was the first teaching center in the country. It partners with U-M faculty, graduate students and administrators to promote a university culture that values and rewards teaching, respects and supports individual differences among learners, and encourages the creation of learning environments in which diverse students can learn and excel.