80 teaching management staff from more than 20 domestic higher education institutions visited Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University to participate in a two day service-oriented learning and teaching support training programme.
Combining the needs of the trainees with the teaching experience of XJTLU, participants explored how institutions can transform their teaching management models, and how teaching managers can better support student learning and teaching, following the teaching reform trend from “teachers-oriented” to “students-oriented”.
“The design of the programme included teacher development and support, quality assurance systems, academic support and professional services as well as professional and curriculum modules,” said Dr Xiaojun Zhang, Vice President of Institute of Leadership and Education Advanced Development at XJTLU and the programme organiser.
“In this way we addressed the core problem of higher education teaching reform with a focus on upgrading the professional skills of teaching management personnel,” he said.
Dr James Wilson (pictured below), Director of the Academic Enhancement Centre at XJTLU, shared with participants the practices XJTLU uses for supporting teacher development and teaching innovation.
The Academic Enhancement Centre is a specialised organisation that was established to support and share best practices for teaching and research within and outside the University.
The AEC offers a Certificate in Professional Studies in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education training programme for all teachers that has been accredited by the Higher Education Academy. The programme provides a professional system of teachers’ qualification training for academic staff to improve their teaching standards, and to help them better understand the University's quality assurance system, as well as to promote interaction between academic staff.
“Due to a large investment in teaching support we can organise an abundance of activities,” said James.
Through the AEC, the University provides a teaching development fund to provide financial support for teaching innovation, and a teaching conference fund to enable staff to upgrade their teaching and carry out international exchanges. There are annual teaching awards for selecting and sharing best teaching practices, continued professional development seminars for teachers, annual teaching seminars, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund, and course satisfaction surveys for students.
Jianhong Cheng, Deputy Director of Yantai College Dean's Office at China Agricultural University, said after the briefing that many colleges and universities have not established specific academic support departments.
“Although there are some similar funds for research projects, seminars and incentives, there aren’t many systems like this at other universities,” she said.
“In addition, XJTLU has incorporated students’ evaluations of teaching into its quality assurance. A complete system like that has great benefits for teachers’ improvement, and that is extremely worthwhile,” she added.
Janet Thistlethwaite, Director of the Centre for Academic Affairs at XJTLU that provides administrative support services for teaching and research, gave a speech on academic support and professional services, outlining the orientation and functions of administrative support staff within university management at XJTLU.
Janet (pictured below) emphasized the importance of listening at work, and not only listening to teachers’ suggestions but also encouraging students and staff to express their views.
She said that the University provides designs for organisation and systems in order to promote mechanisms for communication and listening. One example given was academic committees participated in by teachers, students, and administrators, that make decisions on the basis of all stakeholders. Another example given was the network of the academic management organisation of the University that connects everyone.
“If one part was broken, the whole net would be destroyed,” said Janet. “This organisation structure avoids a situation where a few people make all the decisions, and makes everyone feel that they are essential.”
During the two day training programme, organisers provided participants with a special report written by Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU. There were seminars and workshops on teaching management and education research, case studies from teachers, and details about the many forms of activities students at XJTLU take part in.
“We advocate discussion-based teaching methods, and emphasised them in this training programme,” said Dr Xiaojun Zhang.
“We avoid one-way communication training but emphasize research, engagement and experience. This is a good way and can give participants greater gains,” he said.