The CRoC team of James and Lisa Catterall recently spent two weeks teaching in China. Prior to this trip, Dr. Catterall traveled with CRoC Senior Research Associate Dr. Sherry Kerr to Beijing and Shanghai on two occasions to teach arts integration strategies, neuroscience and learning, and personal character development.
CRoC Communications Coordinator Alison Rowe sat down with James Catterall to talk about this most recent trip.
Tell me a little about the context of your teaching experience.
We teach at the Beijing Institute of Education, which is a teacher professional development institution. It’s a large facility with 40 classrooms, running as many as a couple of dozen courses at once. We typically work with about 40 teachers in a class for a week, and the class week is about 30 hours - six hours, five days a week. Our students are English teachers, art teachers, Chinese language teachers, teachers teaching all sorts of things! A lot is going on, it's a very active environment. We’re starting to think that we will teach one class over a two week period, instead of two separate courses that are one week each.
How are Chinese teachers employing the creative arts in their teaching?
As we see it, Chinese schools have art teachers and art programs but they’re small, and the regular teachers have not had much exposure to arts integration – using art, visual and performing arts in their teaching. As a result of our teaching, they are invited to do just that – to bring more art into their regular classes. The hope is that they’ll begin to use these strategies in their teaching.
What’s the best thing about teaching in China?
Teaching in China means immersing oneself in a different culture with teachers who teach in a very different system. That could create a whole host of problems, but our agents and hosts are very organized and accommodating. We get to focus on teaching with excellent translators, which is essential. It's very rewarding to see how receptive the teachers are to learning about the arts and neuroscience. That's probably the best thing, although the whole experience is fantastic. Also, being able to visit the Great Wall again. As a 1,700 year old design and engineering feat, it's astounding.
What did you learn from the experience that will inform your future research?
The feedback they give us is wonderful, very positive. The teachers say that they find the material very useful, but it remains to be seen if they change their instruction or not. As of yet, we don’t have good sources of information that delve into this, because we don’t survey them afterward. What we need to inform our future research is to do this type of follow-up to better understand what the teachers are getting out of it.
(newsletter photo: a traditional meal in China with steamed dumplings.)