At the start of March myself and a colleague went to teach at Ludong University in Yantai, China, for two weeks. The teaching was part of a collaborative programme between the psychology departments at Keele and Ludong whereby the Ludong students get to come to Keele in their third year of their undergraduate degree after completing two years of a combination distance learning and intensive research methods courses. We were there to teach the second instalment of the intensive research methods course.
The teaching was a really interesting experience. The students had varying levels of English language so explaining even quite simple statistical concepts was pretty difficult because we had to restrict ourselves to using very simple English (i.e., no jargon, no colloquialisms, keeping to concise sentences with little embellishment, fully explaining examples). When there were things we thought they had not understood it was difficult to think of a way to re-explain something without straying into more complex language that the majority of the class would not understand. We were assisted by a Chinese lecturer who helped out as a teaching assistant in all our classes. She was amazingly helpful. Her English was excellent, and she translated concepts or re-explained them if the students had not understood. Initially it was difficult to know whether it was the English that the students had not understood, or the statistical concepts!
Overall the teaching went well, the students were keen and generally engaged, though somewhat less so in the afternoon lectures as they are used to having a nap after lunch(!) – I think we’ll have to change the timetable next year to allow them to do that. They had to complete a group project in the second week and they were so keen that many of the groups had got their friends in their dorms to participate over the weekend. This was good, as they’d collected a lot of data, but it meant that we had to think of other things to fill the lab time in the second week!
The students were quite shy at first, and tended to not ask questions in the lecture classes, but in the lab classes they were more open to trying out their English and asked some quite high-level statistical questions (which sometimes we had to go away and figure out the answer to before we could help them!) On the last day they brought us some gifts of green tea and we had some delicious cake in class. It was a lovely ending to the experience.