By Julie Bell
NCSL's International Education Study Group's tour of China continued with a visit to a pair of schools with different missions.
The Shanghai Experimental School is a high performing school with stiff admission standards. Students have to test into it. It is a partner school with Shanghai Normal University, which is testing out education reforms.
We were greeted by middle school students speaking wonderful English and they were our tour guides for the day.
The second school is a primary school and not one of the top schools, much more of a normal school. We visited with the principal and teachers and then watched a math lesson for fourth graders. The lesson and what occurred afterward was particularly memorable for our group..
A wonderful teacher presented a lesson on the radius of a circle. Her class was 40 fourth graders sitting in clusters at tables with paper, scissors and rulers. The students learned about circles by cutting paper into different forms, measuring the distance from the center to the end points, comparing circles to other shapes, and then talking about what they were observing.
After the lesson, all 18 of the school’s math teachers sat together to “debrief” on the lecture. They talked about the content, the process of student engagement, and the teacher’s interactions with the students.
This is a typical process in Shanghai schools. Teachers will often spend significant time once a week to discuss and dissect lessons and learn from each other about how to be more effective. The principal is also involved in this discussion, and they often bring in a master teacher from another school to also offer comments.
Our group was struck by the teacher collaboration, the discipline of the students, the enthusiasm of the students during the lesson, and the skill of the teacher to effectively handle a classroom of 40 children.
In the next two days the group will visit another school, as well as meet with national and provincial governmental officials to better understand the history, goals, and progress of China’s education reforms.
Julie Bell is the director in NCSL's education program.