Diplomas' Art & Design Teacher, Brett Jones demonstrating to his class
Written by Diplomas Art & Design Academic Manager, Brett Jones
In February 2012, I taught a two week workshop at Tsinghua University, Beijing with a colleague from the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture.
The program posed teaching challenges with low English language levels and fluctuating attendance from 44 to 20 students. The workshops gave us an opportunity to modify our teaching practice; drawing on our ability to improvise and apply the teaching theory, "teaching in action".
Visual instructions were extremely helpful with the students: simple PowerPoint slides, demonstrations, examples of previous student work, class examples, whiteboard and blackboard illustrations.
We asked students to present a model to the class and use eight descriptive English words to analyse it. We noticed there was a language barrier between the teachers and students, so we quickly changed the activity asking them them to use one word that best summarised their model.
We began by asking the students which was the better English word to present first and we wrote the words up on the whiteboard, clustering similar words together. As the words were added, students could write them down, and subsequently became more confident in using English words.
We wanted students to nominate design words that would visually analyse their models, rather than, "I like this bit" or "this is great". One student stood up and read out three words: brilliant, outstanding, fantastic. Though we got a response from the class, it was not quite the response we were looking for. We recalibrated expectations again and asked students to use the language of visual analysis. Students responded well to this activity, commenting afterwards that it was particularly useful to use English specific to their area of study.
There were many other instances where we modified our plans for the particular teaching session. It demonstrated that teaching from a script can be limiting if the script is followed inflexibly and without variation. In some cases, we completely changed what we had outlined in the original program plan. Being adaptable was necessary as we had not taught here before and had little knowledge of what to expect.
The students who attended were engaged and committed to studying overseas. An added bonus is I received eight applications from the best students to study Art and Design at Monash College.
Overall a rewarding and valuable learning experience that I highly recommend to others teachers.