Following our interview with Katharine Carruthers last week about the 2017 Annual Chinese Teaching Conference, we have caught up with IOE CI Teacher Training Coordinator, Philippa Vallely for a blog post about all things 2017 Conference-related.
- Hello Philippa! The Conference theme for 2017 is ‘Expanding Excellence: Raising Expectation, Increasing Fluency’. In what ways is this theme relevant to the current situation of Mandarin Chinese teaching in the UK?
With so many current developments in the Chinese teaching world, this year we wanted to look at how we can stretch both ourselves as teachers and our students, and focus on how we can create the confidence and ability to use the language competently. With the first year of the Mandarin Excellence Programme drawing to a close, feedback from those students has been extremely positive, particularly about having time to focus on areas that learners find challenging, for example tones and character writing (this will be discussed in a plenary on Friday chaired by our CI Director, Katharine Carruthers). Alongside that, we are looking ahead to the GCSE changes, which will see a greater expectation of fluency in all skills placed on students, with an expectation that they can manipulate both written and spoken language. There is also a growing focus on a more cohesive approach to KS2 to KS3 transition (which will be addressed in a plenary on Saturday led by our Primary Coordinator, James Trapp), which also taps into this theme of expanding excellence and raising expectations. It’s a very exciting time to be a Chinese teacher!
- As the Teacher Training Coordinator for the IOE CI, you lead a lot of workshops on Mandarin Chinese teaching. What do you enjoy most about leading workshops?
There are three aspects I really enjoy; Firstly, I like being able to provide an opportunity for colleagues to have the time and space to think in depth about a topic, and for them to share knowledge with each other. Secondly, I love it when teachers get back to me after an event and tell me what they have tried out in their classroom as a result of being at a workshop – that makes me happy! Finally, I enjoy the personal challenge of keeping up-to-date with current language teaching practice and, more frequently these days, the educational tools we can draw on to make our learners’ experience more engaging and dynamic.
- What do you think is the most important aspect of this year’s Conference?
Obviously each year there are ongoing aspects that are central- not least being the important networking and teacher development opportunities that the conference offers. This year specifically sees the 10th Anniversary of the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, as well as the formal opening of our new Model CI building, so from that point of view, both of those are very exciting and important for us.
- You play an integral part in the organisation of the Conference. What do you enjoy most about organising the Conference?
I really enjoy working with the workshop presenters and seeing the workshops evolve from the first proposals to the final presentations.
- There are almost 30 workshops at the Conference this year. Can you give us a brief overview of what to expect from the workshops in terms of topic areas covered?
I’m genuinely excited about the breadth and strength of this year’s workshops! We have a great mix of familiar faces and new presenters, on a number of wide-ranging topics, to reflect the theme “Expanding Excellence: Raising Expectation, Increasing Fluency.’ Strands include
- workshops focused on engaging and stretching learners (including the student projects that UCL IOE CI have created this year for the MEP)
- primary school specific (including the transition to secondary, and early learners)
- specific exams (including a GCSE workshop by the co-authors of the Edxcel book, Michelle Tate and Yan Hua who have spent much of the last year focusing on the new specification demands)
- working across your school to engage with other subjects
We have teachers drawing from personal projects involving rap, target language and differentiation and PhD level workshops on the use of WeChat and social media, and the intelligibility of beginners in Chinese. The biggest problem is going to be picking which ones to go to, as I want to see all of them.
- The 2017 Conference will be your third IOE CI Conference. How has the Conference evolved in the time you’ve been at the IOE?
That’s probably a question to ask others, as I didn’t experience any conferences prior to working at UCL IOE CI!
- The Conference has many different aspects to it; plenaries, workshops, Conference dinner, networking, special guests etc. If you had to pick one, what would your favourite aspect of the Conference be?
For me the workshops are a favourite, because it’s a fantastic opportunity to hear from active teachers who are really examining their teaching and stretching their students, and being brave enough to share their ideas and experiences with our teaching community. I also enjoy the plenaries as they often make me think about old topics from new angles.