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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
812-856-8027

Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2007

They turn out some of the best, but come to learn at IU

South Korean mathematics teachers spending month with School of Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Nineteen teachers from one of the world's top countries for student mathematics achievement are trying to improve their skills by spending a month at Indiana University. A select group of high school and middle school instructors from South Korea are here through the middle of August to learn best practices from instructors in the IU School of Education and other departments.

Korean math teachers in an Indiana classroom

Alice Kilbride, right, speaks to a group of visiting math teachers from South Korea.

This is the second year the School of Education has won a grant from the South Korea's Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. The Korean government sought proposals from U.S. universities starting last year to send some of its experienced teachers for more training on an American campus.

One of the project's directors, School of Education Associate Professor of mathematics education Enrique Galindo, said he was surprised when he first saw the Seoul government's call for proposals. The Program for International Student Assessment ranked South Korea in a tie for third among 41 developed nations when it surveyed 15-year old students in 2004. The U.S. ranked 16th.

"We were puzzled as to why they want to send their teachers to the U.S.," he said.

Galindo said the Korean government wanted to open its teachers to new teaching concepts, and give them a glimpse of American culture.

"We want to learn more about the American educational system," said Weon Man-lee, the leader of the Korean group, through a translator. "Second of all, we want to know more about math teaching, math thoughts. And on top of that, we want to experience various American cultures."

Lee's group is getting its wish on all counts. The experience that began July 19 has brought them to the classroom and taken them far away from it. On Monday of this week, they visited with math teacher Alice Kilbride at Brown County High School in Nashville. They've taken part in numerous sessions on math teaching concepts with IU faculty. But they've also visited the Monroe County Fair and toured French Lick, and they'll see the movie "Hoosiers" before they leave.

The Korean participants say they are picking up several ideas to take back to their own classrooms. Eun Hee-choi said U.S. teachers seem to "give credit for how students learn and how they think," something Korea's traditional mathematics education doesn't generally allow for. Another teacher said the hands-on activity in many American classrooms is very different. "In Korea, we do have classroom activities, but it looks like it's a little bit different how they run the classroom activities in America," said Hee Jung-an. "I think it's because of the cultural difference."

A difference another teacher noted was the view of teaching outcomes. "The Korean educational system focuses on the short-term effect -- you need to see the effect almost immediately, "said Hyeom Choi-lee. "On the other hand, the American educational system has a long-term procedure and goal, and there are good and bad sides about it. There must be some things American teachers need to learn from Korean teachers, and vice versa."

Mathematics education professors Galindo and Anderson Norton are project directors for the South Korean educators' visit. School of Education professors Frank Lester, Peter Kloosterman, Catherine Brown, Diana Lambdin and Signe Kasteberg also participated in the program.

Galindo said the visit is a learning experience both for U.S. teachers and students as well as the Korean guests. "I think we are having a real exchange," he said. He noted that U.S. schools could learn something from the fact the Korean teachers were surprised at how much classroom teaching American teachers do in a day. "They (Korean teachers) have a lot of time for planning," Galindo said. "So that may be a good lesson for us."

For more information, contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 or ccarney@indiana.edu.

The following mp3 audio soundbites are available for download on the School of Education Web site at http://education.indiana.edu/audio.html.

Visiting Korean teacher Eun Hee-choi (through translator) says U.S. math instruction seems to involve the student perspective much more:

"In the American educational assessment system, teachers are trying to give credit for how students learn and how they think, which is not from the perspective of teachers…looks like American teachers are trying to include students' perspective."

Weon Man-lee, the leader of the Korean visiting teachers, says his group has several goals for the month in the United States:

"They want to learn more about the American educational system, and second of all, they want to know more about math teaching, math thoughts. And on top of that, they want to experience various American cultures."

Visiting teacher Hyeom Choi-lee says the U.S. seems to have a different view of outcomes:

"The Korean educational system focuses on the short-term effect. You need to see the effect almost immediately. On the other hand, the American educational system has a long-term procedure and goal, and there are good and bad sides about it. There must be some things American teachers need to learn from Korean teachers, and vice versa."

One of the biggest differences, says visting Korean teacher Hee Jung-an, is how students are involved in the classroom:

"In Korea, we do have classroom activities, but it looks like it's a little bit different how they run the classroom activities in America. I think it's because of the cultural difference. Consequently, the approach to the classroom activities is different."

One of the project directors, School of Education mathematics education professor Enrique Galindo says the learning goes two ways:

"I think we are having a real exchange. And we are learning important lessons from how they do things. For example, they have a lot of time for planning. They are not in front of their students all day. They were very surprised when our local teachers were telling them how many hours and how many lessons they have to teach during a day. So that may be a good lesson for us. If we want teachers to get better, we need to give them the time for them to collaborate with their colleagues, to plan lessons together, and not just to be in front of the classroom all of the time."

Galindo says the Korean teachers—like many U.S. math teachers—are trying to transition into a new style of teaching:

"According to what they say, there is very much a traditional way to teach mathematics, and many teachers in our country here are also facing that dilemma -- how to make that transition to a more active approach. And these Korean teachers are asking good questions that many of our teachers also have, like 'where do you find the time to move to this new approach?' I think we are finding good ways to help them start moving in that direction."

The student involvement aspect of math teaching, Galindo says, is something the Korean teachers are particularly interested in:

"I think they have been intrigued about our interest in the U.S. to do more hands-on activities, to do more of rather than having lecture -- an instructor on the board, showing kids how to, what steps to do, we are moving in a direction of having kids engaged in solving mathematics problems so they experience mathematics, they use tools like manipulative materials, software, to think about mathematics, and that's what we've been doing in our workshops. We've been trying to share with them that approach that's becoming more and more popular in the U.S."