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2 posts from December 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.


Field Trip - Community work in Qinghai

 This past October our students stayed in a few villages during our mid-semester field trip in Qinghai. Their assignments were to do volunteer teaching at village-based schools and help a young school master draft a proposal for CIEE Ping Grant application. Public schools in general are funded by the state. Village-based schools are what Western NGOs would call “grass-roots” schools. They are often ill-funded with poor facility but sustained by their community members’ support. Our students, while doing volunteer teaching, also helped the school identify the needed areas for funding and articulate the young school master’s ideas for new curriculum activities that involve the entire village. Our students were truly loved by the communities where they stayed.