With most of the Fellows last Tuesday I attended an annual program at the National Academies arranged for us to learn about all their work and different boards’ projects. It was organized by Dr. Jay Labov, Senior Advisor for Education and Communication (NAS & NRC), who brought together twelve presenters from NAS.  Presenter Dr. Ana Ferraras, Senior Program Officer at the NRC’s Board on International Scientific Organizations, talked to us about her work in China and alluded to the report on ‘the teacher development continuum in the US and in China.’ In China teachers have more time for self-reflection and interaction with colleagues. Chinese teachers view their American counterparts as not having first-hand experience on the educational theories they implement in the classroom. Desks in Chinese classrooms are arranged in straight rows, the traditional lecture orientation. Teachers have between 40-50 students in a classroom and it is the teachers not the students who move between rooms. Chinese teachers have fewer classes than do U.S. counterparts, two or three per day. This gives Chinese teachers time to grade homework within the school working hours while comparing notes with other teachers. Chinese teachers may have up to an hour and half for lunch, compared to the thirty minutes or so we get in the United States. A contributor to the report commented that teaching in the United States take after a production model, with inputs and outputs to liken it to a production efficiency mentality. This tends to results in a disconnected workforce, a horizontal model of teaching in which not much trust is placed in teachers. Education in China seems to stress more importance to the implementation of the curriculum whereas in United States the focus tends to be on designing and redesigning. This was one the presentations that stuck with me. It made me think that professional development opportunities in the United States are thought as something that happens outside the classroom and given by specialists or so-called experts. In China, PD seems to be a continuous process in which teachers themselves are given time to reflect on their teaching and exchange feedback between them on a daily basis.


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