It’s A Small World, After All

We frequently hear about the importance of today’s students being critical and innovative thinkers and globally aware citizens. But did you know that the same discussions are happening halfway around the globe? As part of the 7th Annual High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange held in Beijing, June 7–9, 2016, a U.S.–China Education Think Tank Dialogue was held with a theme of Educational Research, Policymaking and Innovation in the Knowledge-Based Economy. Participants in the dialogue included policy makers, teacher preparation faculty, researchers, principals, and teachers. (You can download the agenda by clicking here.)

The presentations addressed topics such as lessons of education reform and development in China and U.S. educational reform efforts, curriculum reform, vocational education, and innovative teaching practices. The scope and variety of presentations provided attendees with a unique and comprehensive overview of education in China today. Similar to U.S. efforts to address inequalities in education and to equip our youth with the skills and mindsets necessary to thrive in the 21st century, Chinese policy makers and school administrators are working to improve access to quality education in the western parts of the country, to develop more critical thinking skills and creativity, and to make K–12 classroom instruction more student-centered.

As part of China’s commitment to internationalize its education, all 300 million students study English, starting in Kindergarten.

While the United States shares some of the same education goals, we also have similar challenges. Our Chinese counterparts are increasing funding and support of rural and minority schools, identifying new ways of engaging the community, working to make the profession of teaching more respected and with competitive salaries, and providing schools with more autonomy. Another area of commonality is providing professional development for educators and administrators. Because of Shanghai students’ high PISA scores, there has been global interest in learning more about Shanghai teachers and schools. Data from a Teaching and Learning International Survey revealed that Shanghai teachers have 62 professional development days per academic year.

All new teachers participate in a multiple-year induction program that includes a mentor who is an expert teacher. This level of support requires a financial commitment, which is particularly noteworthy given that 100 new schools are built each year in Shanghai.

The Think Tank Dialogue offered rich learning opportunities for both U.S. and Chinese educators. Reflecting on the three days of presentations, it is clear that we have much more in common than the differences that divide us.

Faye Snodgress is chairing a session on Higher Education Reform and Employment with presenters Dr. Leon Richard, Chancellor of the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College, Dr. Sun Cheng, Director of Vocational and Technical Education, National Institute of Education Sciences of China, Dr. Yi Li, Provost and Vice President, California State University-Northridge, and Dr. Wu Ni, Director for the Education Policy Research Center, National Institute of Education Sciences of China.

Faye Snodgress is chairing a session on Higher Education Reform and Employment with presenters Dr. Leon Richard, Chancellor of the University of Hawaii Kapiolani Community College, Dr. Sun Cheng, Director of Vocational and Technical Education, National Institute of Education Sciences of China, Dr. Yi Li, Provost and Vice President, California State University-Northridge, and Dr. Wu Ni, Director for the Education Policy Research Center, National Institute of Education Sciences of China.

Given KDP’s commitment to advancing sustainability literacy, I met with our partner, the Beijing Association for Education for Sustainable Development (BAESD), which is interested in becoming an affiliate chapter of KDP. BAESD is involved in the establishment of a national Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) District and Green Development Exemplary District in the Shijingshan District. China’s commitment to ESD has set a good example worldwide in curriculum development, teacher training, and innovations in technology. As part of working together with educators and other countries to promote the well-being of human society, the group is interested in establishing a partnership with U.S. high schools that have incorporated either environmental education or sustainable education in their pedagogies and curriculum.

Dr. SHI, Gendongi and his BAESD staff, principals, and teachers.

Dr. SHI, Gendongi and his BAESD staff, principals, and teachers.

Being in China for the Think Tank Dialogue also provided an opportunity for me to meet with two of our Chinese chapters. Members of the Far East China School chapter shared the many ways that members use and benefit from KDP resources, such as listening to and discussing podcasts, reading articles from the Record, and using the professional development resources and tips shared in emails from KDP Headquarters. Chapter members are eagerly awaiting Convo 2017!

KDP Counselor Dr. Chen Xaioda proudly displays the KDP banner which will hang in the school’s conference room.

KDP Counselor Dr. Chen Xaioda proudly displays the KDP banner which will hang in the school’s conference room.

The KDP Asia–Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE) chapter, which was established by KDP Laureate Dr. Zhou Nan-Zhoa, is interested in expanding membership beyond Shanghai. Some new goals were established for collaboration between KDP and APNIEVE related to joint research projects and participation in exchange programs for teachers, principals, and students.

An international experience such as my recent trip to China reminds me how much we can learn from talking with other educators, whether they are part of our local community or teach in schools around the world.

Dr. Xiong Jianhui, Secretary-General of UNESCO-APNIEVE and KDP Chapter Counselor, joins me in showing our updated planning document.

Dr. Xiong Jianhui, Secretary-General of UNESCO-APNIEVE and KDP Chapter Counselor, joins me in showing our updated planning document.

We share a deep-seeded belief that education is the path to a better life, and we strive to ensure that today’s youth are responsible global citizens who have the skills and understanding to address future challenges in an equitable manner.

We are united by a profession in which we all strive to continually improve our practice to ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. It is a small world, after all.

Faye_S_7-1-14Faye Snodgress, CAE, is the Executive Director for Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education.

Authentic Learning in Action at the “Our Global Neighborhood Conference” in China

Conference Flyer“A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.” The vision of the Global Educational Community (GEC), to build global partnerships between teachers and students, so that the world can have a peaceful and meaningful future, epitomizes the principles of this proverb because the 3rd annual GEC conference was an example of a vision with a plan. At GEC’s Elementary Education International Conference we have been enjoying authentic learning in action. We have been part of a “vision with a plan,” and we are engaging in groundbreaking educational initiatives that could change the world. The conference’s workshops are designed to help us build partnerships with educators and students around the world.

Honored GuestsThroughout the conference, our stay has been enhanced by a continuous stream of hospitality, punctuated with enthusiasm and graciousness. From the very beginning, we were treated as honored guests. We were greeted at the airport with much care and concern. At our hotel, we were showered with greetings from three of our Beijing friends who have been our guests at the School District of Janesville in Wisconsin.

Hospitality

And this hospitality story has continued each day. We have been accompanied back and forth from the hotel to school. We have been greeted in the halls, at the conference door, during lunch, dinner, seminars, and tours. Our needs have been anticipated and each question answered twofold. The old adage, treat others as you wish to be treated, must have been replaced by treat others better than you wish to be treated! Yet, all of this attention has allowed us to receive something much greater than comfort in another land; it has allowed us to make many, many friends.

Beyond our Chinese hosts, we are sharing this conference with Chinese educators and other seminar presenters and workshop leaders from around the world. We are all working together in an authentic learning atmosphere to build and expand excellence in global education. These are the people that we hope to keep as our neighbors in GEC’s expanding global community. These are the people with whom we hope to raise global education standards. These are the people with whom we hope to build a more peaceful and meaningful world for the future.

WorkshopHere we learn authentically with a greater purpose in mind, in a respectful learning atmosphere, teacher as student and student as teacher. So, purposefully and strategically, the conference began with the seminar on Coaching Teachers for Authentic Student Learning by Jack Dieckmann and Kari Kokka from the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE). This is a challenging topic for educators anywhere, but to tackle this topic in a bilingual and multicultural atmosphere really brought home the idea of teacher as student and student as teacher. When we work together in this atmosphere, no one is exempt from the role of learner and all are teachers. We are both learner and teacher because embedded in this classroom emerges the challenges of our global community. This global classroom, an authentic learning challenge superimposed on an authentic learning seminar, demanded that all of us reformulate how to learn and work in a global community. Here in the Dream Theater of ZhongGuanCun No. 3 Primary School in Beijing, China we had our own united nations working to improve our world. This was an appropriate place for an appropriate dream!

All of our seminars demonstrated outstanding staff development practices that were masterfully intertwined. The Authentic Learning seminar had many concepts that were reiterated, integrated, applied or expanded in the Global Schools for the 21st Century seminar by Martin Krovetz and Honey Berg from CES, a Coalition of Essential Schools in California. The Effective Teaching Seminar with Cathy Zozakiewicz from SCALE taught and demonstrated explicitly many of the teaching strategies from the first two seminars. In the final day, we could see these concepts demonstrated in virtual classrooms lead by teachers from China, Canada, Finland, and the USA. Here we could see and evaluate authentic learning classrooms. Watching teachers from around the world work with a classroom of Chinese students was wonderful entertainment for a group of educators, but seeing our seminar work in action was an invaluable way to share and reflect on this learning experience also. We were very fortunate to see so many outstanding educators practicing their craft.

Authentic Learning with FriendsThis kind of staff development requires an enormous amount of preparation, expertise, and inspiration; this is the same commitment that we expect teachers to provide for students every day. It demands the same hours and hours of preparation and effective teaching practices that we require in the classroom. In addition to these outstanding professional development offerings, the presenters all learned to work in a global school atmosphere requiring advanced communication skills, inventive collaborative strategies, and amazing abilities in the areas of flexibility, creativity, and problem solving. We owe much gratitude and appreciation for their dedication, perseverance, resiliency, and commitment for these amazing days together!

DimensionsThese are the same skills we know our students will need in this new interconnected world. As we continue to explore and experience what this world will be, we need to continue to recreate our classrooms too in order to meet these expectations. We will need to continue to ask ourselves how we can prepare students to live in a transformed planet that we can only try to imagine. Like artists have learned to represent a three dimensional world on a two dimensional page, we still struggle to represent the 4th dimension in our three dimensional world, since we can only imagine the 4th dimension. Similarly, we can only imagine what skills the citizens of the future will need. So it is important that we work together with other educators from across the world, like we have this week. We might not even realize how important our learning has been until we continue this process in the years to come and look back on all that we have learned and from where we began!

Special thanks again to our Chinese hosts, to all the Chinese educators and students that worked with us and made us feel at home, to our workshop leaders and seminar presenters, to all of our friends across the globe, and to Dr. Guoli Liang (KDP member) for all of his leadership and hospitality!

Learning

Beth Ulring – Teacher from the School District of Janesville, Wisconsin, USA