Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009
For fourth year, Korean math teachers come to IU seeking innovative practices
Project-based learning one focus of month-long visit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 13, 2009
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A group of secondary math teachers from South Korea is wrapping up a month-long visit to Indiana University's School of Education next week, the fourth consecutive year for a program bringing Korean teachers to the U.S. to learn new ways of sharing math content.
Twenty-one high school and middle school teachers have explored several new methods during their weeks of workshops, including ways of using music to teach math, examining math in exercise physiology, and methods of math instruction in the New Tech High School model. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education awarded a grant to the IU School of Education to host the teachers, who arrived on July 22 and leave Bloomington on Monday (Aug. 17).
The project is hosted by the Center for Social Studies and International Education, a coordinated program of the School of Education and the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, which has professional development for international educators as part of its mission.
The Korean math teachers continue to come every year as education leaders in their country try to add an element of creativity to their students' academic abilities. Secondary students in South Korea have long outperformed their U.S. counterparts on standardized math tests. In the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, which tests 15-year olds, South Korea placed 2nd among 30 countries in math. The U.S. came in 25th.
But the teachers say there is a great emphasis on academic performance in South Korea that results in high achievement on tests, but perhaps less independent thinking.
"The reason why the Korean student has a high score is two reasons," said high school math teacher Kim Yong Joon. "Math is a very important subject in Korea to enter college. So many parents think it is important to enter a good university. The other reason is parents spend a lot of money for their children to get a private education in mathematics."
"There is no special skill," said high school teacher Teong Hee Kyoung of Korean students. "Many Korean parents focus on going to a higher-level college. Students constantly must study."
The Korean teachers said they are finding a greater need to integrate math skills into other subject areas, but the pressure of delivering math content makes doing so difficult. One said the Korean college entrance exam now requires an essay that calls for greater independent thinking.
"The essay consists of some integrating questions, so students have to know the relationship between math and music or math and science," said San Eui Park, a high school teacher. "So for students to prepare for those kinds of tests, I made a special class to cover those topics."
Over four years, one of the academic project directors said he and other facilitators have tried to continuously show their visitors the most recent developments in sharing math content.
"For example, in the last few years, schools are now embracing the project-based learning (PBL) approach," said Enrique Galindo, associate professor of mathematics education. "We have the New Tech High Schools, so we've incorporated sessions on that. We have the opportunity to visit these schools to work with the teachers who are in these schools." The Korean teachers visited Zebra New Tech High in Rochester, Ind., and will go to Bloomington's New Tech High tomorrow.
Galindo said the teachers are not just coming to hear about PBL; they'll leave for home with a PBL project in hand. The teachers also will spend some of the time this week presenting their final projects to each other.
"The teachers have to complete a project," he said. "We want to have a product by the end of the training that incorporates some of the ideas that they've learned or have found interesting about the training."
The IU hosts and local teachers working with the Korean visitors said they've also picked up some ideas from them. While the Korean teachers may hope to add some different elements to their students' performance, Galindo said U.S. teachers and students can certainly appreciate the sense of responsibility and dedication.
"Many of our teachers couldn't believe hearing how high school students in Korea would spend hours outside of school time continuing their studying -- getting tutoring, either at school or private tutoring," he said. Galindo said the Korean teachers speak of students regularly staying at school until 10 p.m. "It's a different situation. It's a different culture. But there may be things to learn from that."