Our Annual Chinese Teaching Conference took place on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June. The conference was attended by over 400 people, including delegates, speakers and workshop presenters. There were over 30 workshops for delegates to choose from over the two days and six plenaries featuring academics and Chinese education experts from as far as Australia.
Day 1 – Friday 14th June
The first day of the conference was a very exciting one, as the opening plenary featured the Rt. Honourable Nick Gibb MP from the Department of Education speaking about the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) and meeting students and teachers on the programme. The opening plenary also featured IOE Director, Becky Francis, and Katharine Carruthers, discussing the success of Mandarin in schools, as well as the success of the Mandarin PGCE at the IOE.
After the opening plenary, delegates dispersed to the first workshops of the conference, which included Lucy Wicks’ ‘Differentiation in the Mixed Ability Classroom’ workshop, a workshop from the IOE CI’s Xiaoming Zhu with the BFI, as well as a workshop about embedding Chinese into the primary school curriculum. Directly following the first round of conference workshops, the delegates broke for lunch and a catch up with colleagues, while also having the chance to look around the exhibition hall, which was attended by a variety of Chinese education companies including Mandarin Matrix, Dragons in Europe and GoChinese.
After lunch, Dr. Jane Orton from the University of Melbourne led the second plenary and spoke to the delegates about Chinese from the learners perspective and how teachers can focus attention on the tasks of learners of Chinese as they create a path from their starting line as competent speakers of English towards the finishing line of being competent Chinese speakers. Delegates really enjoyed hearing about Jane’s long-spanning career in the field of teaching Chinese, especially in the context of Australia and the challenges they as a country have encountered in teaching Mandarin.
Delegates attended a further two rounds of workshops that focused on, among other things, listening strategies, independent learning and primary Mandarin, before the final plenary of the day, which focussed on MFL pedagogy and the position of Chinese. This plenary featured talks on the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy, the 2016 Pedagogy review as well as input from Prof. Li Wei, who is UCL IOE’s Chair of Applied Linguistics.
The first day of the conference was rounded off with the annual conference dinner, where Helen Lewis from Finham Park School, Dinh Ho from Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, Cara Bleiman from the Harris Federation and Yaying Liu from Archbishop Sentamu Academy all received Excellence Awards for their services to Mandarin Chinese teaching.
Day 2 – Saturday 15th June
Saturday’s first two plenaries explored the work that the IOE Confucius Institute has been doing for Mandarin education in the UK. Firstly, the opening Saturday plenary featured talks by those teachers who have been involved in the action research project on teaching Chinese characters which the IOE CI is running as part of the MEP. The second Saturday plenary looked at specific IOE CI teacher training such as the Mandarin Upskilling course, the Early Leaders’ Course and the MTeach programme, and featured talks by teachers who have participated in these courses.
The 16 workshops on Saturday included themes such as behaviour management, approaches to primary Mandarin, teaching Mandarin with SEN learners and character learning within schemes of work.
The final plenary of Saturday and of the conference featured Ryan James-Gall from SOAS, Manny Botwe of Tytherington School and Liqin Dai from Archbishop Sentamu Academy. The plenary explored the idea that learning languages builds character, as well as how learning Mandarin can have a massive impact on the lives of young people in the UK. The final plenary contained a lot of laughter, through photos of Ryan’s time in China, and it also created a very positive end to the 16th Annual Conference, showing the importance of teaching, and learning, Chinese.
IOE Confucius Institute Director Katharine Carruthers said of this year’s conference, “Our 16th Annual Conference was our most successful conference to date. It brought together the UK Chinese teaching community, as well as connecting us to what is going on in other countries, such as Australia. The IOE Confucius Institute is always very happy to meet all the teachers and celebrate the work that you do quietly and continuously throughout the year for Chinese education in the UK. We hope that you enjoyed the conference as much as the IOE Confucius Institute team did and that you have gained more insight and knowledge to make your next year in Chinese teaching, your best ever.”