Visiting professors gain experience

Visiting professors gain experience

Kelly Johnson, News Reporter

For the past several months, two scholars visiting from China have immersed themselves into the culture at Winona State University.

Hong (Lily) Zhang from Xi’an Shiyou University and Yan Jin from Winona State’s partner university Hebei University of Technology, both in China, have spent the last seven to eight months living and working in Winona.

The two women are in Winona as part of a “visiting scholars” program. They came to Minnesota to research and gain experience and knowledge about the English language and American teaching methodologies.

“My research area is related to teachers’ development, and English for a Specific Purpose (ESP), and more specifically EPP, or English for Petroleum Purpose because my home University is featured with the major of chemical petroleum,” Zhang explained.

Zhang teaches college English to her students in China as a second language and many of the students major in fields revolving around petroleum and its trade.

At her home university, Jin is a professor teaching English to college first years.

In China, based on the region, students begin to learn English anywhere from kindergarten up to ninth grade.

Jin elaborated that the majority of her students are regarded as advanced English learners, and rather than focusing on grammar, the focus is on communicative skills.

In a university that sees over 6000 incoming first years every year, Jin said there are different particular focuses among the 35 English teachers on campus, but they all follow the same general syllabus.

Jin explains she has used her scholarship from China to come to America to first become a better English learner, and then in turn, become a better English teacher, and has classified all of her experiences on the Winona State campus as learning experiences.

“My whole experience on campus here is regarded as learning, I know more about the American educational system, I know more about the relationships between professors and students here,” Jin said. “I am kind of emerged into the whole English environment, trying to get as many pieces as possible.”

The two scholars described different things they have learned from their time here at Winona State that they would like to bring back to their home Universities.

In China, teachers and professors are regarded as high authority figures. Jin said that it is her hope that with some of the American teaching techniques that she has picked up, she can continue to encourage her students to open up in class.

Jin said she hopes to bring back classroom readiness techniques to gauge the students’ knowledge upon entering her classroom.

“We can have [the students] answer two or three questions on a survey on their smartphone and then I can know where they are,” Jin said.

Zhang explains how much she has learned about American students and the educational system, explaining how impressed she was by the attitudes of American students.

“[Winona State students] work very hard and are quiet when they are listening to lectures,” Zhang said. “Also, their attitude is very serious toward assignments. Inside and outside of class assignments.”

This impression of hardworking students is something that Zhang explained as something she had experienced of American culture, directly in person.

Chinese students learn about American culture from textbooks, but Zhang explained she wants to take the newfound knowledge she has of American culture after experiencing it, back to her students.

“When I go back to my university, at first I am going to share the American culture I learned here and then I will use American teaching styles that I learned here,” Zhang said.