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Integrating English Teaching Theory and Practice, High School English Teachers Share Their Overseas Experiences

In order to assist English teachers to integrate educational theory with practical experience, and provide them with a professional training opportunity, the Ministry of Education invited National Taiwan Normal University to hold the “2014 High School English Teachers Overseas Study Experience Sharing Session,” which runs from March 8th to 10th in northern, central, and southern Taiwan.
From July 8th to August 9th, 60 high school and vocational high school English teachers selected by the Ministry of Education went abroad for a 5 weeks study. Junior high school teachers studied at Western Washington University in the United States, senior high school teachers went to Simon Fraser University in Canada, and vocational high school teachers studied at Dublin City University in Ireland. During the experience sharing session, 60 teachers shared what they learned in their host countries. Sharing those experiences with English teachers nationwide definitely boost English education and enhance students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.
Based on what they had learned, 60 English teachers wrote action plans to address issues encountered in classroom instruction. These action plans are closely related to the 12-year basic education agenda: effective teaching, multiple assessments, differentiated teaching, cooperative learning, using information technology, creative thinking, and expression. After returning from abroad, the teachers implemented those action plans in class for one semester. Teachers then adjusted those action plans according to school resources as well as their student’s English level and response. Teachers strengthened the implementation of combining language teaching theory and practice into the classroom and enhanced their own practical ability in teaching based on what they learned during overseas study.
National Nantou Commercial High School (國立南投高級商業職業學校) English teacher Zhuang Juanping(莊鵑萍), who participated in this training for the first time, went to Dublin City University in Ireland. She mentioned that classroom observation during lessons helped her learn from other teachers with different teaching styles and subjects. Zhuang emphasized the interdependence between culture and language. During her study overseas, she learned a lot about history, culture, and applied technology, which help to improve English language education and professional development. Professors in Dublin also recommended many useful teaching resources which will be helpful in the future.
During his 5- week study at Western Washington University in United States, Huang Yanxiang(黃雁祥) from New Taipei City Municipal San-Min High School (新北市立三民高級中學) noticed that the American teachers respect children and have confidence in their own teaching skills. Teachers are full of enthusiasm and the kids are happy to participate in classroom activities. Unlike the one-way “teach and learn” pattern Taiwanese are used to, Huang’s goal was to design a student-centered “learn and teach” teaching model. He also learned a lot from participating in cultural activities. He believes that language learning is not just about learning the language but also the culture. Every visit made him more appreciated the local life and allowed him to experience cultural differences. During the trip he also saw interesting slogans, flyers, and even restaurant menus that could be used as teaching material, which brought language learning a step closer to daily life.
Xu Sangsang(許桑桑) from National Hou-Be Senior High School (國立後壁高級中學) studied at Simon Fraser University in Canada. She observed that Canada's education system focuses on student self-learning, which is also one of the goals of Taiwan’s 12-year basic education. As for curriculum, Canadian teachers have more freedom in choosing teaching materials themselves. Activities are common so students have abundant opportunities to share and discuss in class. During the 5- week program, cultural visits were a profound opportunity for many teachers to understand Canadian culture and life. Community activities helped her to realize the importance of learning groups among students, teachers, and schools. In addition, teachers also get a lot of valuable teaching experience from peer interaction. Many teachers believe that studying abroad broadened their visions and international experience. After the teachers integrate their cultural experiences and language teaching from these trips, students will be able to learn better.
Overall, these overseas study programs enhanced English teachers’ skills in teaching. By learning English in different cultures, teachers were able to experience different cultures themselves and also to rethink the English teaching situation in Taiwan.