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Recognizing students’ individual differences for effective teaching: EMI Teaching Community shares experiences


(Provided by Teaching and Learning Development and Resources Center) To enhance teachers’ teaching quality and students’ learning abilities, NSYSU EMI Teaching Community organized a two-hour meeting on effective teaching, inviting visiting professor Thomas Smith to discuss the close link between effective teaching and students’ individual differences, and the participating teachers to share their personal experience during a practical exchange workshop. The event met with positive feedback from the participants.

The Coordinator of the EMI Teaching Community, Professor Virginia Shen of Si Wan College said that the Community planned a series of events to pave the way to the University’s 10-year EMI education project, and achieve the target of NSYSU’s graduate programs to be taught fully in English and undergraduate programs to provide optional courses in English. This meeting concentrated on acknowledging students’ individual differences and diversity to spur their motivation to study and create a friendlier quality study environment while promoting EMI education.

Professor Thomas Smith from the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment at Northern Illinois University whose expertise in statistics, research design, and science education have enabled him to quickly grasp the atmosphere in a group and students’ individual differences, and adjust teaching methods accordingly to help them study more effectively. He believes that individual differences and the diversity of the group are not limited to students’ race, skin color, language: such factors like gender, personality, or culture are easily overlooked but are basic elements to be taken into account by the teacher when designing the course.

To solve potential problems stemming from individual differences, Professor Smith recommended using plain and simple language and adopting a student-centered approach. He said that the language used in class and the language of the materials should not include complicated grammar and local proverbs to avoid students’ confusion and incomprehension. The speech tempo should be slower than that of a normal conversation and the speaker should make timely pauses for the audience to process and absorb knowledge. Regarding the student-oriented approach, Professor Smith suggested teachers use the flipped-classroom teaching method. It is a different method than the traditional one, with the teacher giving a lecture and the students listening. The flipped classroom method consists of the students reading the materials assigned by the teachers at home in advance, followed by asking questions and discussing the materials with other students in the class, and finally completing a task together. “Paying attention to the diversity of the group and respecting individual differences between the students,” he said, “is the only way to adjust the teaching methods for that group and achieve perfect teaching efficiency.”

During the exchange workshop, the participating teachers shared their personal experience and methods they found to be effective and engaging that spurred students’ passion for learning. The teachers shared various interesting teaching methods. Professor Jui-Hua Chen of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature used a paper plane to help students memorize words, Professor Virginia Shen of Si Wan College shared her method of “Identity Categories Game” to teach the importance of mutual respect despite differences, and Assistant Professor Chi-Chen Liu of the Department of Business Administration at National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology used tongue twisters and rephrased nursery rhymes to help students memorize information through versification and rhythm. Besides games relating to the teaching materials, Professor Tong-Yu Hsieh of the Department of Electrical Engineering shared his knowledge about smart technology for education, such Interactive Response Systems (IRS) as Kahoot!, Zuvio, Cloud Classroom, and Plinkers to enhance students’ interest in studying and learning effectiveness. The teachers can first design the class theme using IRS and then apply it to emphasize the main points of the textbook and keep the tempo of the class. After class, the teacher can use online data analysis to check whether the students have absorbed new knowledge and whether it is necessary to adjust the teaching methods. In addition, Assistant Professor Koching Chao of Si Wan College has been able to grasp the effectiveness of students' learning through the notes taken during each class. Assistant Professor Chin-Chang Tsai of the Institute of Public Affairs Management shared that before the proper class he would organize a brainstorm to connect the curriculum with everyday life, global news, or common experiences to help the students think, understand, and put into practice what they learned.

The event was a lively discussion that allowed teachers to fully realize the importance of recognizing students' individual differences and showed them various ways to adjust teaching materials and models to address such issues and stimulate students’ interest in learning. Through regular events, the EMI Teaching Community hopes to share and compare teaching experiences to gradually achieve the goal of NSYSU becoming a university with English as the medium of instruction.

(Edited by Public Affairs Division)
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