9 Tips For Engaging Students In China.

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1) Be nurturing and encouraging.

Chinese students tend to be very reserved, but they respond well to positive reinforcement and become more proactive once they feel they are in a safe environment where they won’t be judged or criticized. Chinese students often perceive the simple act of asking a question or making a comment as a potential lack of respect towards the teacher; you must make sure they understand this won’t be the case with you. Also, in each class there are bound to be one or two more participative, lively students who will talk more freely. While it is important to reward these students for their initiative, and to make use of their role to stimulate the entire class, you should make sure you are not engaging in a one-to-one conversation or running the risk of depriving the rest of the class of the opportunity to speak up.

2) Be culturally aware.

The students will have references that are different from your own; don’t mistake for ignorance what is really a different perspective on things. However, keep in mind that this means that they might require to be “filled in” with more background that you would normally deem necessary.

3) Prepare to be flexible.

While as with any lesson, planning is important, don’t worry if you suddenly feel the need to need to develop a new point and end up going on a tangent. This might get you more slowly to the goal of your lesson, but will enhance your students’ general culture and give them a better overview of the subject at hand.

4) Monitors

Each class has one or two “monitors”, that is, students who are in charge of practical matters for the entire class. If, for some reason, there is no designated monitor, you can ask for a volunteer or pick someone randomly. Monitors are precious, as they will help you with issues such as making photocopies for the class or passing information.

5) Workloads

Keep in mind that Chinese students have very heavy workloads (sometimes up to thirty hours a week). For this reason, it is not advisable to burden them with much homework or long reading assignments. It is preferable to put the emphasis on classwork (alternate lecturing with group discussions or writing exercises, for instance).

6) Powerpoint

Whenever possible, make PowerPoint presentations. Chinese culture is very visual, and therefore students will appreciate this kind of support. It will also enable them to read, rather than only hear, words and notions that might be difficult for them. If you can, send the class the presentations beforehand, since Chinese students are not as used to note-taking as Western ones and might want to print the PowerPoints to take notes on directly. It is also useful to make diagrams or write keywords on the board.

7) Repetition and Clarity

Repeating notions and making oneself clear is important in any teaching situation but becomes vital in a context where students might not be used to your accent, speech mannerisms and thought patterns. Frequently stop and ask the class if everything is clear, especially if you notice you are receiving puzzled gazes. If even a few students signal they haven’t understood, repeat the concept in different words, perhaps simplifying it slightly

8) Get Personal

Talk a little bit about yourself, about your background, your country of origin, your experience of life in China. The students will be curious about you and will become more responsive if they have a sense of who you are.

9) Use Humour

Last but not the least, make use of humor. In spite of their reserve, Chinese students enjoy jokes. Humor defuses tension and can even draw attention to cultural differences. If you are struggling mandarin learner, throwing in a phrase or two occasionally is bound to draw a laugh.


Careers in China

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