2019 Conference Plenary and Workshop: Kay McLeod

Our 16th Annual Chinese Teaching Conference, ‘Looking Back, Thinking Forward,’ will take place on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June. Our Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) Coordinator, Kay McLeod, will be leading a plenary, ‘Characters: New approaches to teaching’ and a workshop, ‘Using the IOE MEP teacher training films to develop your own teaching’ on Saturday 15th. Kay spoke to us about her workshop, her plenary and her first year at the Conference being part of the IOE Confucius Institute team. To book your place at the Conference, please click here.

Hello Kay! You will be chairing a plenary and doing a workshop at this year’s Conference. Can you first of all tell us all about your plenary, ‘Characters: New approaches to teaching’?

That’s right! This plenary is about new action research project on teaching Chinese characters which we are running as part of the overall Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP). The plenary will serve as an introduction to the project and discussion of the findings so far. I see wildly different approaches to character-teaching even just in the schools I visit: I know that every teacher finds his or her own methods eventually, but wouldn’t it be useful to have some evidence showing which methods have quantifiable advantages, i.e. which methods new teachers could turn to when in doubt? Maybe even – dare I say it – some recommendations? So the idea is that the MEP gives teacher-researchers an unprecedented opportunity to try out new approaches to character-teaching in a controlled, intensive learning context and with a range of different learners. The Open University is leading on the project, so as you can imagine, the teachers involved in the project (willing Mandarin teachers who are conducting the action-research in their everyday, normal classrooms) have been expertly briefed by our colleagues from the OU on research methodology, how to conduct controlled tests, and how to analyse the resulting data. I think if you are at all interested in developing your own academic career or taking advantage of real-world research opportunities while teaching, this plenary will give you inspiration and some practical insights into what action research could entail for you, too. 

Your workshop ‘Using the IOE MEP teacher training films to develop your own teaching’ will take place on Saturday 15th June. Can you explain what will happen in this workshop and the importance of it?

Yes! Not the most catchy title, I know, but I’m really looking forward to this one too. This session will focus on the growing project that is the MEP Teacher Training films, already in their second year, overseen by Nicola Larkin from the IOE CI and frankly a fantastic resource for anyone teaching Mandarin. The idea is that we will first introduce the project – what the films are, why and where they exist, some of the work that went into producing them  – and then we’ll dive right in and start looking at some clips from the point of view of a teacher using this resource to develop themselves, their department, their PGCE students’ practice, their Hanban volunteers or even their non-Mandarin colleagues’ teaching styles. It’s not about showing these films and saying, “This is how you should teach!” – it’s more about using these films to observe and critique/borrow a much bigger range of teaching styles and techniques in situations where maybe you don’t have time to travel to other schools, or maybe there aren’t many schools offering Mandarin in your area at all. So we’ll be partly just giving teachers that time and space to get to know the resource and partly doing some structured activities to get you thinking about how this could be useful for you in boosting your career in your school and in the teaching community at large. 

This is your first Conference as a member of the IOE CI team. How do you feel about participating in the Conference as part of the IOE CI versus as a delegate?

Excited! Very excited. Chinese teachers in the UK form such a supportive, collaborative community and one that’s steadily growing as well, and to be part of this team which organises some of the biggest events in the Chinese teaching calendar is a real honour. Over the years the Conference has been a real highlight of my teaching year – I’ve always left feeling enthused, better-informed, and connected. I hope teachers feel as well-served and inspired by our offerings this year as I have felt every year since I joined the profession. It’s a chance to re-connect with the rest of our widely-spread network and give ourselves a boost after another year of hard work!

To find out more about the 2019 Annual Chinese Teaching Conference, please visit our Conference webpage.