New Zealand Secondary School Chinese Teachers’ Roundtable Conference 2018

The 2018 New Zealand Secondary School Chinese Teachers’ Roundtable Conference was held on September 15, 2018, at VUW’s Pipitea Campus. Sponsored by the Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington (CIVUW) and co-organized by the Chinese Teachers Association of New Zealand Wellington branch, the conference brought together 50 Secondary School Chinese teachers from all over New Zealand.

Rebecca Needham, Director of the Confucius Institute at VUW, and Feng Yu, Vice President of the New Zealand Chinese Teachers’ Association and President of Wellington branch, both expressed warm welcome to the guests and teachers.

The common focus of all of the presentations was on approaches and pedagogies teachers could adopt to achieve greater engagement with students.

Jonathan Newton, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, opened with a keynote speech titled " Teaching Chinese with tasks: Addressing the challenges and experiencing the thrills." Jonathan’s talk addressed gap between how teachers commonly understand and practice teaching with tasks on the one hand, and scholarship in the field of task-based language teaching (TBLT) on the other.  Re-calling a recent experience of Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) in China, Jonathan identified some key areas in which the understandings of teachers and the views of scholars have been shown to align and misalign, including around the teacher’s key role as a learning facilitator, and how TPLT could be used in reading/writing exercises, as well as strengthening listening and speaking skills.  He also discussed the challenges faced by these teachers when teaching through tasks and the innovative practices they have adopted to address these challenges, and concluded by offering a set of practical principles to guide Chinese language teachers who want to get better at teaching with tasks.

Victor Bao, internationally renowned Chinese teaching expert from Melbourne, spoke with passion and humour about "How to motivate students", covering the following four aspects: "reason", "method", "reflection" and "application". Raewyn Ho, from the New Zealand Ministry of Education's International Language Exchanges and pathways (ILEP), shared the Chinese Language Framework for Years 1-8, recently developed as NZ curriculum guide for New Zealand Chinese Language teachers.

The afternoon session focused on sharing teaching ideas.  Bingmei Zhang and Judy Fang, two front-line teachers from Auckland, shared their experience of Intercultural Language Learning and Chinese Teaching for Year 9 and Year 10 Students respectively.  Their entertaining session introduced games and classroom activities suitable for language teaching.

Four frontline teachers from Wellington shared their valuable teaching experience:

  • Karen Hu from Confucius Institute Classroom of Wellington East Girl’s College introduced the badge system used in Chinese language teaching at her school.
  • Lixin Wan, the Chinese teacher from Queen Margaret's College discussed differentiation in Teaching Chinese.
  • Juliet Kennedy as a French, German and Chinese teacher currently undertaking her PhD at VUW, demonstrated how to teach effective skills for listening comprehension in language teaching; and
  • Angel Lin, Chinese teacher at Wellington High School introduced the latest games in Chinese classes, closing out the conference with all of the participants on their feet dancing.

The conference finished in typical Chinese style with dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.  Rebecca Needham, CI VUW Director, and Tian Huang, President of New Zealand Chinese Teachers’ Association, expressed their thanks to all the teachers who participated, and encouraged them all to attend next year’s conference.

Feedback from all the teachers was very positive, with the only suggestion for improvement being to extend the conference beyond a single day, to allow for greater discussion of the wide range of issues of interest to Chinese language teachers.  The growing number of teachers attending this Roundtable over the three years since the Confucius Institute at VUW started hosting it is testament to the commitment of New Zealand’s Chinese language teachers to excellence in teaching, to keeping up with the latest pedagogies around language teaching, and to continuing to engage their students.

The fact that Chinese language is the fastest-growing of foreign language enrolments in New Zealand schools underlines the importance of this kind of professional development for the existing teacher cohort, and to developing pathways for new Chinese teachers, in order to meet the demands for Chinese language capability in New Zealand in the future.