- About PKAL
Project Kaleidoscope and three universities in Wuhan China sponsored a weekend pro-seminar on undergraduate STEM reform during the first weekend in November 2005. This was a continuation of a developing collaboration between American and Chinese colleagues pursuing a parallel agenda to strengthen the learning of undergraduates in STEM fields.
Representatives of thirty-seven Chinese universities, the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology participated, together with a PKAL delegation of ten science faculty and academic leaders.
During the final session, participants were asked to list specific activities (short-term) they will be undertaking as a result of the pro-seminar discussions, and some long-term goals.
Responses from Chinese academics include:
- I plan to read some books on "educational theories," especially books in English, in order to improve our concept of teaching and pedagogies. Understand that "doing it" is better than knowing it. I will try to implement reform of teaching modes, e.g., group discussions and interest groups in my classes.
- In the next five years, I will suggest to my president that we use this new interactive teaching method, and also to connect to PKAL colleagues to visit our university to assist in reforming our undergraduate programs.
- I will explore questions such as: how a professor can balance the research and teaching obligations? And should professors focus on undergraduate or graduate students? How to develop exchanges for undergraduate students with brother-universities in and out of China? Then, I’d like to focus on undergraduate students in our college department, to support their studying each day, and their out-of-class training. However, the evaluating system “holds” things something. As a teacher, how does he or she address this problem?
- My short term plan is to create an undergraduate intelligence tutorial system, to combine teaching with research work. My long-term plan is to expand the number of students involved in such a tutorial to about 130 students, helping them to recognize their capital.
- I will report to my colleagues, and in some disciplines, encourage the introduction of group discussions. My five-year plan would be to conduct large-scale pedagogical reform on my campus. This would include sending our teachers abroad for better learning about advancing pedagogies, and other programs in PKAL.
- In the next few weeks, I will maybe do something about problem-based learning. In the next five years, I hope to become a constructivist, to do research on undergraduate teaching. I will focus mainly on the PBL case study, and other pedagogical strategies.
- My focus will be on the reform of teaching approaches, and I will provide outlay for particular projects on my campus. I will also promote technology modernization in the whole school, to guarantee the success of the reforms. I would like to invite professors of PKAL to give lectures to discuss the possibilities of collaboration, and to join ‘trial classes’ with foreign experts.
- Immediately we will introduce the content of this seminar to our university, and recommend the PKAL views on undergraduate education. Over the next five years, we will work to transform the means of teaching and pedagogies and try to use the interactive approaches to teaching. In this, we hope we will have good cooperation with PKAL.
- We will work to enhance pedagogical reform, hopefully with support from our university in organizing our instructors and professors. The beginning will be to identify the specific steps to take.
- The teaching methods used in Chinese universities should be reformed urgently. The spirit of the American PKAL professors stimulated us. We need more interactions between PKAL and China.
- Being aware of the actual circumstances of our university, we will work to adopt and try new modes of teaching. A greater variety of pedagogies will be very helpful for our efforts in undergraduate teaching. We need more opportunities for communication with American colleagues, like this international seminar.
- My first step will be to introduce the experiences of this seminar to my university colleagues, especially to our Teaching Affairs Office. Based on the method of the "clickers" and "peer leaders," we want to improve our teaching for our undergraduates. We will begin by choosing some 2nd or 3rd year students, and give them some new conditions and environments for learning and studying, in order to build a high quality, diversified and creative system of higher education in the next five years.
- I understand the significance of undergraduate research as to activate students’ practical ability, to make them understand the nature of research, and to train their consciousness and spirit of cooperation. My university is a teaching-oriented university. Teaching quality is our basic duty, thus reform of teaching approaches and means of teaching will be our focus in the future. We will give special attention to reform in different courses with different groups of students. In doing this, we would like to collaborate with PKAL.
- I will suggest that our school focus on reform of teaching approaches, in terms of education reform and programme construction. We will try to work out which of the several different ways of teaching are suitable for the conditions of our school. We will explore which approaches are adaptable and feasible, particularly those that are research-oriented and thus that can arouse students’ interest and initiative. My question is how to collaborate with PKAL in doing this?
- My focus will be on undergraduate research, asking if students can do some basic research, and/or if some of the society-sponsored research can be done. It is especially important that some of this undergraduate research should be applied to the society. There will be lack of money to support this. Another disadvantage is coverage of material. The benefits are that the skills of students advance, that they enjoy the courses more as they become more engaged...and this excitement will carry over into other aspects of their science learning. Concerns: number of students to be involved and cost–will there be enough money to sponsor undergraduate research? I have a further question: "is life-long research suitable for a woman?"
- I am learning that the interests of students are the best teacher, and that student-centered, teacher-guided education is better. "I am taught" is passively absorbing, and "I do and I understand" is the active search for knowledge. I will be thinking about uses of technologies, adopting solutions one at a time. Thinking about teacher-center is thinking about depth of knowledge; thinking about student centered is thinking about searching, about depth of knowledge, and about actively accepting what is being learned. This is research-oriented teaching, as students come to understand the applications of what they are learning. There are many means (multimedia, pptl, pictures, flash cartoons, and movies) to make a deep impression on student learning.
- I may (possibly) try the peer leader method, the "clickers," and the roundtable discussion approach.
- Bring in more interactive activities in my teaching, to get to know the students’ problems and ideas, and to consider how to improve the students’ ability as researcher. Reform in an all-around manner the entire curriculum, strengthen related courses, and integrate students’ paper writing with personal research. I will try to lead my students into experiments ad early as possible in their undergraduate career.
- I will work to reform my methods of teaching, specifically to intensify interactive teaching and learning by using flash cards. I will pay more time to and put more energy into my teaching, and will work toward more communication with peer professors. The school authorities should attach importance to such reform efforts, encouraging and supporting faculty who participate activity in the reform of undergraduate teaching.
- My goal is to bring students more actively into their teaching, to practice more discussion-based classroom teaching, and to cultivate the ability of students to do research.
- I will make an immediate proposal to our university to undertake pedagogical reform, and in the next five years, we intend to invite PKAL professors to our university to have demonstration classes for improving the teaching. If possible, we will work toward a program of student exchanges, especially in the teaching of laboratories and in graduate student training.
- I plan to discuss with my colleagues in the molecular biology course teaching team the various aspects of reforming our teaching–attitude, methods, and organization of the course. I plan to apply the peer-led team learning approach in my class. We had team study sections in previous years, as well as senior undergraduate TA’s. It should be feasible for us to switch to the PLTL teaching mode in the coming semester. I will keep in touch with PKAL colleagues for timely assistance. We need an annual meeting like this so that more educators can participate and benefit.
- Reform of teaching modes will be the top priority, and I will report to the president of our university to start the cooperation with PKAL. I look forward to further information.
- I will begin some pilots of teaching reform, such as "clickers" or flash cards. It is clear that good questions posed by teachers are an effective instructional approach. I will ask more teachers to be involved, and try to gain the support of leaders in our university by stressing the importance, necessity and urgency of teaching reform.
From the American PKAL delegation:
- In the next year, I would like to workout arrangements for exchange of faculty and students with Chinese universities, starting in the summer of 2006. We will also look to host a Chinese undergraduate research student. My plan within five years is to scale-up, and to have regular exchanges of undergraduates with at least three Chinese institutions and two faculty mentors each year. Use PKAL as a forum for collaborative presentations to bring more academic institutions on both sides into this emerging collaboration.
- Generate names and research areas of potential Chinese and American collaborators for pilot experiments in undergraduate research collaborations. Based on this seminar, I will begin to collect ideas for grant proposals to fund such activities, but it will be helpful to know the disciplinary fields of our Chinese colleagues. I would like PKAL to assist in setting up these reseach collaborations, to work toward a "wiki" through which we can have Sino/US pedagogical discussions, and to facilitate course-course connections for lab work and/or teaching.
- I will share what we have done here with my university colleagues and in the other major national projects in which I am involved, and work on a plan on how to interact with our Chinese colleagues. I would like to consider opportunities to teach in China and to have faculty from China visit our university, thus I will stay in touch with my Chinese colleagues
- I will work to disseminate the experiences of this seminar widely, and begin to identify a larger network of interested faculty and perhaps form a “forum” on the PKAL website. In five years, I would like to be involved in faculty exchanges with the intention of working toward pedagogical change in both China and America (perhaps need to learn Chinese!). I’ll work with PKAL as a broker for faculty connections, just the more general structure, not the details.