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The 2014 Beijing New Oriental School - Elite Teachers Professional Development Program

Date:2014-11-20   Author:   From:IESC

It started on October 27, 2014, a bright and sunny fall day in New York City. The deep blue sky and fresh breezes off the Atlantic Ocean welcomed thirty-two teachers from Beijing New Oriental School (BJNOS) to Teachers College, Columbia University for IESC’s 6th annual Professional Development Program. 

IVY LEAGUE EDUCATION. Selected on the basis of their performance, the teachers were eager to enjoy New York’s cultural life and to sample Ivy League education at Columbia’s graduate school of education – Teachers College – the oldest and largest graduate school of education in the United States and perennially ranked among the world’s best.

The purpose of the IESC development program was to provide the teachers with a deep understanding of “student-centered learning”. Taught by faculty from Columbia as well as other educational institutions, a broad range of professional development topics were included. For example, discussion included the benefits and practices of John Dewey’s experiential learning, Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory to help teachers become aware of student’s various learning styles so they can think about how to apply different teaching methods that would enhance and accelerate student learning.  The “DISC Assessment for Communication” was given to each teacher to help them understand differences in communication styles and how people from different cultures communicate with diverse perspectives. In particular, this year’s training devoted two-whole days on the teaching of second languages. Teachers College’s Professor Dr. Han presented theory and research on “Task-Based Language Teaching,” showing how it can be applied in the classroom. 

The Program was highly interactive, filled with class discussion, experiential exercises, small group discussions, and demonstrations in order that the BJNOS teachers gained a thorough knowledge and personal experience of these topics. 

To deepen the teachers' understanding of the course content, the training included a capstone, team project. Each teacher worked with their own self-selected group and each team was asked to present a theme representing their learning from the Program. Just-in-time feedback and suggestions were given by a panel of experts—professional colleagues of Teachers College. 

When all of the teams gathered at the end to celebrate their work and learn about the panel’s view of the “best, overall presentation,” it was clear that the teachers had given their best effort and made outstanding presentations. It was also clear that the week of training and development encouraged the teachers to try many new ideas in their future teaching. 

VISITING US SCHOOLS. On-site visits to high schools has always been one of the highlights in the IESC program. This year, IESC collaborated with Brookline High School (BHS) in Brookline, Massachusetts. BHS is one of the best public high schools in the country located just outside Boston. Brookline High hosted the BJNOS teachers’ visit with an open, warm welcome.  Upon arrival, the Principal of the school gave a speech welcoming BJNOS and saying that on behalf of BHS, they appreciated this opportunity to engage in cross-culture, education exchange. Following the reception, the teachers were guided through the school by four Brookline students to observe different lessons, including foreign languages, carpentry, cooking, drawing, and a mechanics workshop. BJNOS teachers were able to freely communicate with Brookline teachers, asking questions and exchanging thoughts about such things as curriculum instruction and education principles. "Without this experiences, it would be too hard to imagine how different American high schools are from the Chinese schools", one BJNOS teacher commented after the school visit. 

US CULTURE. In addition to the Columbia training and the BHS school visit, the BJNOS teachers also had chance to experience life in the US and to learn about American history and culture. They visited many of the famous historical sights in New York, Boston, New Haven and Washington D.C. Much of the cultural background knowledge about specific sites and American history was given either by local professional guides in each of those cities or by IESC’s group leaders before, during, and after the teacher’s visits to museums, universities, and historical buildings. 

After 14 days, the BJNOS Elite Teachers Professional Development Program came to an end back in Washington D.C. and at its international airport. With many precious memories of the US, its educational system, cultural life, and the teacher’s personal learning, all agreed that this was a “one-of-a-kind” professional development experience.  

John Dewey would have been proud as teacher’s commented that the experience of visiting the US was filled with many new insights and a rich, broadening of perspective.  Some of the teachers felt so energized by this professional development experience that they almost thought they were flying home to begin a new career! 

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