Maybe one thing that helped me be successful in teaching in Greater China is that I’m an egg.
So what is an egg? Maybe it helps to think first of a banana. For a Chinese, the banana represents the Chinese American who has adapted the American culture (i.e., yellow on the outside and white on the inside). Well the egg is the opposite and that’s me. I respect and appreciate the Chinese culture in every way.
I want to address six (6) things I’ve learned about the differences first, then talk about the solutions I’ve tried and discuss your thoughts on them. The six things are related:LanguageParticipationReading and Case StudiesCompetition and AwardsOne Child Family EffectUnderstandingChinglish
The first issue I want to address is the perspective on language. The Chinese student has taken the time and made great effort to learn my language, English. As for me, I only know a little Chinese. So, it’s my responsibility to take the time to listen and help the student apply the English language to the topic I’m teaching. After all, the Chinese people have always taken their time to listen to my attempts at speaking Chinese.
Second, one of the most common challenges we often face in the classroom is the differences in class participation. I think we all know the traditional teaching methods in Asia and particularly in China are focused on lectures and students are better seen and not heard. Couple that with the issue of “face” and the fear of answering a question incorrectly or making a comment that singles yourself out, and the result is silence in the class. However, the Chinese culture is a collective culture and the fear can be alleviated if the students feel they can answer questions as a group., which I’ll address later.
Additionally, what we do know is that students of all cultures, especially Chinese students use their phones to communicate all of the time. They are not shy on the phone or even on Facebook for that matter.
The third point is regarding the use of case studies in class. How do we usually handle case studies? I suspect it’s common to give the case study in class to read and then have groups discuss them. The challenge here for the ESL student is they don’t read for comprehension as fast as a native English reader and speaker.
A Chinese student also expects to get all of the answers from a textbook, not from a case study discussed in class or even from input from other students. Couple that with the need for more time to read and re-read materials for comprehension and assigned case studies to read in class are problematic.
The fourth area of difference has to do with the focuson competition. You see the heroes of the country such as Olympic athletes idolized. It is important for every child to strive to be winner..
In contrast, here in the Western world, everybody is a winner. We all get medals from an early age. There are no winners or losers at soccer, baseball, etc.
Fourth, awards and recognition are extremely important. So, is GPA. The family puts a very high value on education and enforces that with high expectations of their children. Keep in mind, the students who were succesful in getting into USF are the WINNERS!
Issue number five is understanding the One Child Policy in Mainland China and what that means to our students. First, consider that fact that there is a strong desire for further education for their child beyond undergraduate studies. If their child was successful enough to get into USF and study overseas, this bachelors degree is only the beginning. The family has the money and the “face” gained from their child is enormous. The family doesn’t really understand Western teaching methods, such as the need for critical thinking, their understanding would be that if their child studies hard, they will continue to succeed by reading textbooks and doing well on exams. There is really little room for failure and little choice given in terms of area of study for the students.
Finally, you have to understand the issue of “Chinglish”. There is a great play that recently ran in Berkley by this name and it depicted all of the funny aspects of trying to understand English as learned and spoken by a Chinese. I have a lot of personal experience along these lines, but the key in teaching is to understand that Yes, may really mean No or perhaps even “I don’t understand”. You can’t assume understanding by just getting a “Yes” response from the student(s) in a class.
The solutions I’ve found that work follow.
So, first let me address solutions to the language issue. BecauseI’m a fast speaking American and they are often translating as I go, I encourage students to record my lectures. I did it in grad school with professors whose first language wasn’t English. I also have recorded some of my lectures using Adobe Connect and then uploaded them to YouTube so students can listen to the lecture on their own time and at their own speed. Then, I use the class time for discussion. What are your thoughts?
On the issue of class participation, my solutions are as follows:Allow the students to answer after consulting other students around them. It takes longer, but it gets participationAllow SMS messages with questions to be sent to me during class. I check them at the end of class or a break.Discussion: What are your experiences or thoughts?
On the issue of case study discussions in class. First, consider assigning the reading outside of class , as well as the possible discussion questions. Then put them in teams to prepare solutions to be presented in class. However, if you really want to give something to do in class, then the use of technology with lots of visuals would be the way to go. I’ve found the Chinese student in particular loves to use his/her technology in class to research topics. Maybe there is even an App for that! Have any of you ever tried it?
Addressing the issue of competition is key to understanding the value of group presentations. While speaking in class is intimating to all students, eventually we might expect our American students to be able to stand on their own. However, in the Chinese culture it is all about collectivism and the group. There is a strong need for support. Additionally, consider the issue of competition and the need for awards and rewards. What I’ve done that really brings out the strength of the group presentation is create competitions. For example, I had groups in class do a scavenger hunt throughout Hong Kong of convention venues to answer questions about the venue, then do a creative PowerPoint and presentation before a class of 120 students. The results were amazing. So, I want to dispel the assumption that Chinese or any international student isn’t good at group presentations. Have any of you tried any group presentation ideas that have worked?
In order to be sure that Mom and Dad can keep track of their sons and daughters progress GPA is going to be a key. Again, the rewards and recognition aspect plays a role to identify progress too. We also have to be sure to coach the student regarding future education so they can better educate their parents. In hospitality management, that means understanding the need for industry experience first before further degrees. Working for prestigious companies, even if it is an internship, could be one way to help convince the parents.Have any of your had to address parent’s concerns for your Mainland Chinese students
Finally, on the issue of “Chinglish”, what can I say, patience and a good listening ear are the only solutions I know.
There is no doubt with more than 2 billion Gen Y’s in Mainland China and the growth of the middle class, we will have more Chinese in the classroom. We need to embrace it and work with the winners we have at USF.
The results look like this, my former convention and event management students at Hong Kong PolyU, who have now graduated and are working in various areas of the industry in Greater China and elsewhere.
Teaching Chinese Students
Cross-cultural Perspectives on Effectively Teaching Chinese Students: Lessons from an Egg David L. Jones, Ph.D. Administrative Director Department of Hospitality Management