Skip to main content

Connect, Innovate and Change – teaching and learning observations from China

10 Dec 2019 | Becky Smith Becky Smith, Advance HE’s Assistant Director for International, shares her observations about the recent 2019 International Conference for Teaching and Learning at Peking University in Beijing, China.

This conference brought together more than 90 mainland Chinese universities, as well as universities from the UK, US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Japan. Among other contributors were the Chinese Ministry of Education, the Chinese Association for Higher Education and the China Association for Educational Technology. From further afield, were organisations such as SEDA, the POD Network, UNESCO and Advance HE who were also invited to speak at the conference. So it was a truly international event.

As Ding Xin, Vice President and Secretary General of the China Association for Educational Technology described it, the two-day conference was an “academic feast” on the theme of “Connect, Innovate and Change”.

Even the most casual observer will know that China has seen extraordinary change over the past decade and this has been felt throughout the higher education system too. The Chinese government has placed increasing emphasis on the role of teaching and learning in HE and, particularly since the establishment of the 30 National Teaching Demonstration Centres in 2013, you can see the effect this has had on energising the drive to enhance teaching practice in the sector. There are now approximately 700 embedded Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning throughout universities in China.

Qi Shiliang, Principal Trainer at Xi’an Eurasia University in China reflected during his presentation on the role and shifting nature of faculty development centres in the country. He observed that many are building on a traditional function of monitoring, control and compensation management to, “…join hands with teachers,” and offer more of a service, knowledge and support function.

A number of innovations were discussed during the event including an initiative by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University where students are employed to act as partners to co-design coursework, assignments and activities. These often involve students engaging with hackathons and media such as infographics, 3D modelling, on-camera concept videos and game design in their Learning Lab Studio, a flexible space with dynamic technological capabilities and art-making supplies. Tamara Brenner, Executive Director of the Center explained that the involvement of the students in designing and prototyping activities not only lends their perspectives to improving the learning experiences and environments but also supports their own skill development.

Mary Wright, Director of Brown University’s Sheriden Center for Teaching and Learning outlined a recently established tool by the Professional and Organisational Development (POD) Network, of which she is past-President, and the American Council on Education (ACE). This self-assessment tool, the Center for Teaching and Learning Matrix, assists teacher development centres to assess their capacity in relation to organisational structure, resource allocation and infrastructure as well as programmes and services.

The theme of Connection was evident throughout the conference. Principal Fellow and Director of the Arena Centre for Research-based Education at Advance HE member institution, UCL, Sam Smidt, outlined the development of UCL’s Connected Curriculum framework over the last five years. This framework is centred on a research-based approach to education. Her colleague, Simon Walker, Principal Fellow and National Teaching Fellow, also spoke on how they have worked to develop assessment at the institution by mapping the nature, frequency and scale of assignments across modules and programmes in an effort to balance loads and reduce student stress. There were also strong links to references made by Hong Huaqing from Nanyang Technological University who focused on the work being done by the Center for Research & Development in Learning (CRADLE) to utilise learning analytics to support a holistic technology-enhanced team-based learning eco-system and enhance student outcomes in both the online and built learning environments.

Advance HE’s contribution presented some of the current global trends in teaching as well as examples of the ways we can support teaching and learning. Key examples of best practice and engagement from member institutions around the world were highlighted. It also referenced the specific work we have been undertaking in both mainland China and Hong Kong to strengthen teaching skills development via programmers such as our Teaching Skills Masterclasses and Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education as well as professional recognition through Fellowship.

Find out more about Advance HE’s work to enhance the quality and status of teaching for individuals around the globe.

Keep up to date - Sign up to Advance HE communications

Our monthly newsletter contains the latest news from Advance HE, updates from around the sector, links to articles sharing knowledge and best practice and information on our services and upcoming events. Don't miss out, sign up to our newsletter now.

Sign up to our enewsletter