Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Inaugural Sino-NZ Vocational Education Research Forum - Qingdao 23 - 24 September

Day 1
In Qingdao for the inaugural Sino-NZ Vocational Education Research forum. Opens with formal welcome from Professor Qin Chuan, President of Qingdao Technical College.

Then a short speech from the vice-mayor of Qingdao Municipal Government, Liu Mingjun.

Followed by a series of speeches from various signatories of the MOE between China and NZ.

Alexandra Grace, Education NZ Regional director in China.
Gao Yong, deputy director for Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education (CIVTE), China and Shao Wei, secretary general of China International Association for International Exchange (CEAIE).
all provide background on the formalised relationship between China and NZ to share knowledge on Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) and to learn from each other. China is placing priority in TVET due to its potential to increase economic and social levels. There are over 14000 TVET colleges on China with over 10 million students. it is important to improve teaching and learning in TVET to enhance student learning and in turn contribute to China's progress.

After morning tea, two keynotes.
one from Liu Yufeng, director of comparative education research, CIVTE on 'building a modern vocational education: China's path selection. goal of china to become more competitive, as measured on global competitiveness scales. China is on second stage of development but NZ in stage 3. TVET seen as one way to lift competitiveness through improving science, technology through improvement of human capital. Path for constructing modern VET include connection between secondary and higher VET, cooperation between school and enterprise, and improving social justice.
Then Prof. Qin Chuan from QTC with 'learning teaching and doing in one: let every student be the best of him/herself'. Students in VET weak in abstract and logic ability but good at operations, imagination and other intelligences. Move to supply appropriate learning resources, guide students to learn, motivate students to be the best. learning, teaching and doing need to become integrated.

Third keynote from Mark Flowers, CE of Wintec on 'internationalisation of vocational education and training - learning from each other'. Need to change teaching practice, meeting needs of employers / industry, and focus on our students. Skills of workforce need to lift to cope with China and NZ becoming exporters and the process of internationalisation.

Last keynote with Dai Yuwei, President of Tianjin Light Industry Vocational  Technical College, speaks on 'relying on industry guidance and innovating educational system to achieve effective vocational college education of school enterprice cooperation. Three strategies used. Understand and form a school and enterprise cooperation system, derive a model to improve and evaluate the school and enterprise cooperation system, and effective personnel training through and by the system.

After lunch, two streams present around the theme 'excellent vocational teaching'.  I present in the 'science' stream. Summaries of presentations follow. Other NZ educators present in the other stream, including Aidan Bigham, Peter Bilious, Sam Honey, Dr. Karen Vaughan, Adrian Woodhouse and Dr. John Clayton.

I am first up to provide a quick overview of the 'learning through apprenticeship' project. Basically, how to assist apprentices to become more metacognitive about their learning. Learning as becoming through learning how to do, be, feel and think like a trades person.

Zhang Yi from Baotou Vocational College on 'strengthening knowledge application by inverted teaching, improving cognitive competence by innovation of evaluation system. Focus on introducing authentic learning in the form of project based learning. Steps include introduction (connecting theory to practice, working out learning objective), exploration, practice (through project based teams where students play actual production roles), assessing (teacher, self and peer).

Jo Thomas from Wintec with 'English language teaching for a changing world' two concepts, what English should be taught?' and the learnings from a case study. Important to recognise English learning needs of students, what are they learning English for? Task based learning important. shared experiences of a blended distance learning programme for English teachers in Kwangtung.

Shao Ningping from Ningxia Vocational Technical College of Industry and Commerce on 'applications of various teaching methods on logistics management courses'. A practice / task based approach with problem and case study based learning. Requires teachers to take active role in preparing appropriate resources to support the various learning activities. Role plays often used to replicate real world practice to enhance other approaches. Modelling used to help students learn complex tasks. Enterprise cooperation (often work placement) and competition orientated learning also used.

After morning tea, Kelly Pender from Bay of Plenty Polytechnic shares 'empowerment and compassion,enhanced through experiential learning'. Shared approaches used on Certificate of Fitness (level 4). Importance of teachers setting an example. Learning concepts made easier by applying learning through 'learning by doing', improves empathy with others (clients) and understanding why they have to learn certain things.

Chen Xiaofeng from Xinjiang Institute of Light Industry Technology, on 'the teaching innovation of the chemical engineering unit operation and maintenance'. Went through understanding of curriculum planning using a job orientated curriculum. However, employers found graduates to still be under prepared. Therefore, shift to development of students' 'personality' development. Undertook an analysis of the curriculum to increase emphasis on students' 'professional' development. included practising through use of simulation software, then students discuss operation, school competitions motivate students, theory and practical now integrated, use of formative assessments and content extension becomes students' responsibility.

Julia Bruce then presents on 'engaging challenging learners'. Described her work with hairdressing students using a 'living consensus' model. Process of teachers and students sharing responsibility for creating learning environments through group agreements, on-going discussion and shared understanding. Teaching and sharing strategies include ongoing ethical practice discussions, discussions on shared cultural practice (culture share activity), shared group management. Code of practice and shared ethics understandings form the basis of the living consensus. Video diary used to record the evolution of the living consensus so teachers and students are able to reflect on their transformation. Project based learning is the underpinning learning approach.

Malcolm Doidge from Wellington Institute of Technology on 'collaboration as a teaching tool'. Mahi tahi - working together. Provided an overview of work with level 1 - 3 design programme over 3 years. Learning how to help oneself leads to helping others. Used 3 Maori principles, family (whanau), working together (mahi tahi) and principles / guidelines (tikanga) to follow. Using technology (evernote) to record project based learning (developing a board game).

A panel closes the day, followed by conference dinner.

A very packed day but heartening to see the similarities and aspirations between Chinese and NZ current teaching practice and learning focuses.

Day 2

Today there is a series of 3 class room demonstrations.beginning with Du Xiao Ni teaching a session on 'primary hall sensor'. A lesson plan provided in Chinese and the 40 minute session is to showcase 'problem based' teaching approach. the class views an introductory video and then answer a series of questions (in groups). Individual students answer questions using flip carts or diagrams. the teacher clarifies points and revises main features of the lesson. Lesson is teacher directed but good teaching shown in how the teacher draws the aswers out of the students, reinforces correct answers and using 'teaching moments' where appropriate to clarify understanding.

Second demonstration lesson is with Li Qin and a lesson on 'group analysis and modification on the draft of particulat commodities display'. A retailing course whereby students design a display and substantiate their choice. Teacher and other students provide feedback and critique. Questions are mostly from students and team members take turns to answer. Teacher provides a comprehensive critique.

The NZ contribution from Julia Bruce with a group of volunteer students. Julia based her session on helping students understand their learning style preference through completing a short questionnaire. Then discussing ways in which to enhance their learning through the understanding of how they preferred to learn.

Two Chinese and two NZ representatives provided feedback / critique on the three sessions.

The forum closed with short speech from Professor Qin Chuan.

Day 4

Five of us (Jo Thomas, Julia Bruce, Adrian Thomas, Kelly Pender and myself) along with Stewart Brougham (Wintec Offshore project manager) take the fast train (travels at 300km plus an hour) from Qingdao to Tianjin on Day 3. A chance for us to see some of rural Shandong and to debrief the experiences of the previous two days.

On Day 4, we visit the Tianjin Light Industry Vocational  Technical College which is one of 8 educational institutes that make up stage 1 of the Haihe Educational Park. When completed, the park supports educational and residential needs of over 300,000 people!! The physical spaces are impressive and we have another opportunity to observe a few classes in the engineering, art / design, commerce and electronics areas.

Overall, a good experience to observe the challenges China faces and their focus at developing infrastructure and human capital through TVET. There is support from the highest officials for vocational learning to become more learning focused. The sheer numbers of vocational educators to shift from content to learning focus is a particular challenge. However, there are movements from 'sage on the stage' to 'guide on the side' from the presentations and class observations. Small steps in the right direction, although the Chinese will need to contextualise Western models of learning to their culture and social needs.

Link to newspaper article on the conference published late October.


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