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Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Need for Chinese language teachers growing, IU responding

Summer institute part of growing opportunities for Chinese language teachers

June 29, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The third annual Chinese Pedagogy Institute concludes this week on the Indiana University campus after two and a half weeks of intensive work to prepare more teachers of the Chinese language. The institute is a project of the Center for Chinese Language Pedagogy (CCLP) within the College of Arts and Sciences. The study is worth four to five graduate credits through the IU School of Education and counts toward requirements for secondary teacher certification in Chinese.

Twenty teachers holed up in shared living quarters for a week at Bradford Woods, the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's outdoor center just north of Martinsville, then came to the IU Bloomington campus. The participants came from Indiana and states as far away as Florida, for the intensive coursework. It covers either beginning or advanced language teaching based upon participants' skill levels, then a field experience that involves actually teaching language to students in Bloomington.

"We want them to have the opportunity to be exposed to the latest instructional techniques," said Jennifer Liu, director of the CCLP. "We want to make sure those teachers have an opportunity to observe these concepts, brainstorm with each other, and then have a chance on campus to apply whatever they have learned."

China's growing influence as a global business leader is part of the drive for more Americans to learn the Chinese language. And, demand in the U.S. is increasing. According to the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages, enrollment in Chinese language courses among primary and secondary students grew from 5,000 in 2000 to around 50,000 in 2007.

"I was told that every day there are 8,000 students studying Chinese in Chicago," Liu said. "Imagine, given this number, how many teachers we will need."

The School of Education offers three routes to Chinese language teaching certification -- through the "Transition to Teaching" program, the secondary graduate certification program, and "Community of Teachers."

"We want to help Indiana build a pipeline for Chinese language expertise," said Heidi Ross, professor of educational policy studies in the School of Education and director of the East Asian Studies Center.

Ross said the pipeline is coming together in the state through more primary and secondary schools offering instruction and the continuing development of partnerships at IU.

"With strong East Asian languages and culture programs, we have the ability to teach upper level language courses and culture classes -- all the knowledge that a teacher would need in order to step into the classroom," Ross said. "We also have the ability to send students to East Asia on study abroad programs."

She said the combination of cross-campus elements makes IU's preparation of Chinese language teachers unique among offerings within the state.

The Confucius Institute in Indianapolis, established at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2007 and directed by Professor Zao C. (Joe) Xu, has also developed rich Chinese language teaching programs aimed at enhancing the language competency of undergraduates, K-12 teachers and students, and members of the community.

The Chinese Pedagogy Institute demonstrated the desire for more pedagogical knowledge about teaching Chinese. "We want to inform our teaching through what we can learn from second language acquisition and learning strategies," said participant Matthew Friedel, a graduate student in foreign language education at the University of Iowa.

A Brownsburg, Ind., teacher returned for her second year in the workshop. "That's how I got my first full-time position, after I finished the program," Ming Chu said. "I think it's really a benefit for me to come back, because this year I'm trying to help the school build a Chinese curriculum."

And a teacher from Akron, Ohio, said she came to learn more after her first year as a Chinese language teacher. "The variety of materials we're all using is huge," Tamula Drumm said. "One of the things we do is review materials so everybody has a chance to see how the different materials work and whether they've been successful or not. And we get ideas from each other."