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12/09/2010

Learning through Peer-Teaching



This semester our Ethnic Diversity in China class is open to students from our host university. We and local faculty members all want to take a comparative perspective to teach about China’s ethnic diversity. One of the class assignments is to read and discuss three chapters from Susan Blum’s book Portraits of “Primitives”: Ordering Human Kinds in the Chinese Nation. Blum compares Han-ness in China with whiteness in the U.S. This approach triggered local students and faculty members’ inquiries into more understanding of race and ethnic dynamics in the U.S. So we incorporate relevant reading assignments into the class. Some of our U.S. students enthusiastically asked their faculty advisors to send journal articles for their local peers to read. The class is becoming more dynamic as it progresses. It is taught primarily in three modes: lecture, discussion, and peer-teaching. I find peer-teaching most fascinating when our U.S. students speak from the podium to their local peers. The format of teaching is inviting and provocative to everyone in class. It increases peer thought-exchange rates. Our U.S. students who have done peer-teaching or leading class discussions are often regarded by local peers as “cool 酷”or “hip 牛”. One of the indicators of this popularity is the increasing number of text messages or invitation calls for events.

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