International research continues online during COVID-19
By Dr. Fuhui Tong
Like schools in the United States, schools in China have also been moved to online delivery because of COVID-19. However, that has not stopped international research happening between our faculty and teachers and students in China.
In January 2019, the Center for Research and Development in Dual Language Literacy Acquisition and the Education Leadership Research Center formed a professional partnership with the Beihai Haicheng No. 1 Experimental Primary School, China.
Since the establishment of the partnership, researchers from CRDLLA and ELRC have been implementing and testing an English/Chinese dual-language curriculum in two first grade classrooms the school. When the COVID-19 pandemic started in China, Dr. Fuhui Tong, professor and associate director of CRDLLA, did not want that research to stop.
“Despite the unprecedented time that everyone across the world is facing, we feel the privilege of having the flexibility to continue our research online of virtual teacher professional development with our Beihai team in China through social media apps, such as WeChat, so that we can provide timely coaching and mentoring with feedback on teachers’ instruction,” said Tong.
Tong has two school-aged children learning virtually at home. She took this opportunity to engage her bilingual children in a unique learning experience. They recorded themselves reading stories in English to model the language. They also modeled student-teacher interaction and asked questions with Chinese clarification to assist comprehension. The recordings motivated the students in China to start making their own storybooks in English.
“These students did not have prior exposure to English at the time they entered first grade. However, after being immersed in our curriculum with teacher virtual professional development, virtual mentoring and coaching, video materials and take-home activities for a little over a semester, they were able to speak and write in complete sentences,” said Tong. “This is a substantial growth in an English as a foreign language context.”
The virtual classroom observations show that the English teachers have already started applying effective strategies into their virtual instruction not only in the two experimental classrooms, but in others as well. They shared with the research team that they have benefited tremendously from the professional development trainings and feel more confident in their own teaching.
“Through this international research project, we anticipate a sustainable development on teachers’ instructional capacity,” said Tong.
“This dual language curriculum not only empowers our kids’ English language learning, but also promotes their higher-order think skills, self-regulation, character building, school-parent communication, and parent-child interaction, all of which would in turn enhance their whole education,” said Ms. Luo, the principal of Beihai Haicheng No. 1 Experimental Primary School.
Graduate students from the college’s Bilingual/ESL program are also benefitting from being involved in research online during COVID-19.
“While staying at home during the pandemic, I am still able to participate in such a meaningful project and apply my research skills and background in the virtual world,” said Henan Zhang, a doctoral student and research assistant at CRDLLA.
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