Learning in a Global Context: Instructional Improvement Lessons from China

In 2010, I was fortunate to travel to China while working on a research project about teacher preparation practices in the ten nations that are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) consortium. As I traveled, I was impressed with the rigorous requirements for teacher candidates, the high levels of support for new teachers, and the knowledge and skills of students.

Many aspects of what I saw and learned in China stuck with me, and this week I will head back to China to learn more, this time as an Eisenhower Fellow. When I was there before we saw some impressive approaches to pre-service teacher preparation, but we did not have an opportunity to consider the ways in which teachers are helped to improve their instruction through ongoing professional development and support. 

In 2010, China released a national plan for education reform.  Part of that plan included helping teachers to teach in new ways. Reformers wanted to see teachers using instructional techniques that encourage what have been called “21st century skills” - critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.  According to the plan, teachers in pre-k and elementary programs need to adapt instruction to support these skills.  Now, several years after the implementation of that reform plan began, I will explore not only how teacher preparation has shifted, but also the support systems that help teachers to teach in these new ways and provide high quality experiences to children. 

Learning from the changes being undertaken in communities in China, I hope to use this knowledge to support educational improvement efforts more effectively. A portion of the $4-5 billion that philanthropy invests each year in elementary and secondary education across the United States has the potential to play a significant role in helping teachers meet the needs of shifting populations and contexts.

I believe that we have great opportunities to learn from the struggles and successes of other countries, and from China in particular.  Communities across both of our countries are confronting inequitable opportunities and are seeking to improve instructional practices to meet the needs of a changing world. The William Penn Foundation is committed to supporting teachers who work with our youngest learners to employ the strategies that will be most effective. I expect that lessons learned in China will help us to push ourselves, and each other, to enhance educational opportunities and outcomes by improving instructional practice.

I plan to share some of my experiences while abroad, so please visit the blog for future posts and learn alongside me.