altWu Zhenghong, Associate Professor for Faculty of Teacher Education, The Open University of China (OUC)
Overseas Based University: the University of Nottingham
Advisor: Anne Convery
Study Area: Teacher training and web-based course design



A Brief Report Of My Academic Visit To the School of Education In the University Of Nottingham



Without the sponsorship of the Sino-British Fellowship Trust, it would be impossible for me to have such an opportunity to study in the UK for over four months. Therefore, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Prof.Naylor, Mrs.Ely, and the trustees of Sino-British Fellowship Trust, for their generous support to the training program of distance education in 2005. Also, I would like to express my thanks to China Scholarship Council and the officials in the Education Section of the Embassy of P.R.China, and all my colleagues in the Open University of China, for their kind assistance in arranging this program.

As an academic visitor, I really enjoy my visit at the Centre for Comparative Education Research in the School of Education, the University of Nottingham. I would like to express my respect and thanks to Prof.W.John Morgon, Dr.Anne Convery, my mentor, Prof.Philip Olleson, Dr.Chris Atkin, Dr.Gorden Joyes, Ms Gill Morgon and other colleagues in the School. They have provided good learning support, many valuable academic suggestions and activities, and made my visits in the UK fruitful and successful.

I arrived in the UK on April 16th, 2005, and I have been here for four months. My research interests are teacher training and web-based course design. During this period, I have completed the following tasks:

1. Attending PGCE and PGCCE Courses

I am a tutor at the Department of Teacher Training, the Open University of China. My research interests lie in teacher training and web based course design. From 1987 to 1998, I mainly focused on the work of training primary and secondary school teachers and principals through making TV teaching materials. In 1999, the OUC began to conduct the open education program. The Department of Teacher Training has conducted two courses on educational administration and primary education. I am in charge of the three modules of: A Brief History of Chinese Education, the Thinking History of Management, the Human Beings and the Society. The School of Education in the University of Nottingham is one of the largest teacher training bases in the UK and has a national and international reputation for the quality of its teaching and research. It is a good opportunity for me to attend a class to observe and learn their advanced teaching experience. With the permission of the Centre for Comparative Education Research, I have engaged in the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses, which train graduates to teach at secondary level. The contents are: Teaching Practice, Healthy Schools Day (Basic Advice on First Aid at Work, Active Listening and Feedback, Healthy Sexuality) and School Based Inquiry. Meanwhile, I have attended a module Delivering Teaching and Learning which is prepared for the Postgraduate Certificate in Continuing Education(PGCCE) students. This module identifies and evaluates a range of teaching styles appropriate to the post-compulsory sector. This module contains "micro-teaching" sessions as an opportunity for students to try out the teaching styles discussed. Through attending these teaching sessions, discussing and exchanging ideas with tutors and students, my understanding of British teacher training is enhanced, and my English literacy skills are upgraded. I observed that the teaching styles and the methods in China and in the UK were quite different. In the UK, teachers pay more attention to their students' participation and feedback rather than the teaching process itself. Students are highly encouraged in discussion, arguing and showing their own opinions. This student-central teaching mode is very helpful in stimulating the interests of students and enhancing their learning skills. All those modules are crucial for my career development.

2. Attending Lectures, Seminars and Conferences

During this period, I have attended over fifteen lectures, seminars and conferences, including: E-learning Seminar, Science Education, Adult Education, Educational Psychology, the Impact of Continuing Professional Development, Creating e-learning Resource, Adult Education and the "excluded": A Local Case Study, etc. I also attended EdD (Lifelong Education) summer school (Hong kong students), include: Adult Education: the evolving picture in higher education and Making the case for adult learners. The latter is a video conference, the students in Hong Kong and the speaker in the School could interact. It gave me deep impress. All these academic activities have made valuable contributions to the development of my teaching and research. They have widened my spectrum of academic research, enlarged and renewed my views of knowledge, strengthened my research foundations and enhanced my professional teaching skills.

3. Interviewing Experts in the School of Education

I have interviewed some experts in the School of Education,
Dr. Anne Convery, my mentor, who gave me valuable suggestions on my research, provided me quite a lot of information about PGCE, and helped me log in the Blackboard and WebCT, made my study life colourful and successful.

Prof.Philip Olleson, director of Centre for Continuing Education, who introduced the situation of the centre, life long learning program, and gave me the permission to attend a Open Study Course, the title is: Exploring Opera.

Dr. Gordon Joyes, a Project Manager and Director of Learning Design for the HEFCE-funded eChina Project, who gave us a brief illustration about the eChina experience, also gave us a sample of English Grammar module,

Dr. Chris Atkin, a tutor in the Centre for Continuing Education, who explained PGCCE module and assessment system.

Through participating in these interviews, I have derived a lot of useful information and knowledge in various aspects as well.

4. E-Learning

I have got the permission to log in Blackboard Learning System and WebCT. I have browsed two modules from Blackboard: Blackboard for Instructors and Foundations of Teaching. The first one is designed to support staffs in the development of their own Blackboard modules. This course covers the following topics: Getting started with Blackboard ( learn how to create a course and add content to it ). Administration tasks( how to add students, give guess access, archive your module, archive discussion board threads ). Advanced Blackboard topics( splitting your students into groups, using Blackboard to Handle Coursework ). Thinking about pedagogy. Other topics. The other one is a brand new and innovative MA course that has several distinctive features. First and foremost, it focuses on classroom practice, and the needs of the subject classroom teacher. Second, it recognizes that teaching itself is an intellectual and scholarly activity. Third, it begins by accepting the PGCE and NQT years as valuable contributions to Masters level study. This Blackboard environment is very powerful, and offer a number of flexible tools. Students can-and probably should-add their own web page; they can get involved in group discussions and discussion forums. This web-based course involves courses information, staff information, course documents, assignment, discussion board, external links and tools. From WebCT, I have browsed the home page of EdD in Teacher Education Program, which introduces Induction Tutorials and EdD Student Information. I have learned a lot from browsing these web sites. I am sure I will make further progress in the work of making web-based courses.

5. Reading

I have read some books, including: Opening Education----Policies and Practices From Open and Distance Education; Adult Learning, Adult Teaching; A History of Modern British Adult Education. From reading I have learned that Singleton and Samuel Fox opened the first adult school in Nottingham in 1798, to teach biblo reading, writing and arithmetic to youth women employed in the lace and hosiery factories. The origins of the University of Nottingham itself can be traced back to this. The British government places a strong emphasis on the development of adult learning or lifelong learning. More or less, all the universities and colleges have been involved and have taken their commitments in the process of pursuing the days of learning society, a would-be phenomenon of lifelong learning. I read some papers, articles, reports about distance education, teacher training and educational policies on the web site. I have found that education system in the UK includes foundation education, further education, higher education, adult education, vocational education and special education, which is different from that in China. Because of the limitation of my stay, I have not got enough time to read more papers and articles, so I collected and downloaded a lot of them to make further research when I go back to China. My reading has enriched my knowledge about distance education, teacher training and adult education.

6. Visiting Activities

On June 22, I visited Adult Education Centre of the School of Education, University of Nottingham, which locates in the Shakespeare Street in the city centre. I interviewed Mrs. Julie Carlick, the manager of the Centre. Mrs. Carlick introduced the situation of the Centre and showed us around the building. The Centre provides open studies short courses for adults, part-time certificate and diploma courses leading to a BA in Combined Studies, opportunities for research and a comprehensive program of postgraduate taught courses in the broad field of post-compulsory education.

On July 7, I visited Loughborough College which was established in1909. The College offers courses ranging from beginner to Higher National Diploma and Foundation Degree in a wide selection of subjects. Mrs. Betty Douglas, a international development executive, introduced the condition and showed us around the College. Mr. Martin Killeen gave us a brief introduction to GCE(A-Level) Courses, Vocational Courses and Foundation Degrees Courses of the College. Mr. Peter Dicson showed us an e-assessment system on the web site and a web-based course which impressed me most.

On July 6 and 8, I visited Heathfield Primary School and Bramcoate Secondary School. I attended five lessons, include: literacy, numeral, drama, Spanish and movie and TV design. I have been delighted by my experiences of meeting British children and teenagers. They have greeted me with sincere smile and genuine welcome. Visiting primary and secondary schools helped me to understand more British educational condition: pupils do not need to buy textbooks and writing materials, the government offers everything; the teaching style is quite different from that in China; the teaching atmosphere is relaxed and full of excitement.

On July 14, I visited West Nottinghamshir College which is one of the further education colleges that was part of the National Basic Skills Pathfinder projects, set up by the government to pilot literacy, numeral and language activities. It has been deeply involved in providing services of all kinds to the surrounding area to meet the economic and social needs. I visited the workshohs of the College, I was deeply impressed by the quality facilities and learner support services.

On July 26, I visited the Regional Centre of the Open University in the East Midlands. I interviewed Mr. Mike Bunker, assistant director and Mr. Ian Martin, staff tutor in Mathematics & Computing who gave me a brief introduction of the Regional Centre. I have learned that the East Midlands Region has about 11,000 registered students. These students are supported by about 500 Associate Lecturers teaching 650 groups. There are 20 tutorial centres across the Region. Regions are organized into broad teams: Student Services, Teaching Services, Regional Services, Stuff Tutors.

On July 27, I visited the Headquarters of Open University in Milton Keynes. The Open University is a world leader in open learning. It promotes educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realize their ambitions and fulfill their potential. The mission of OU is open to people, places, methods and ideas. It is the UK’s largest university, with over 200,000 students and customers. The university is ranked amongst the top UK universities for the quality of its teaching. I visited the library which owned a lot of teaching materials, include: textbooks, videos, CD-Rom, Dvds. It provides good learning environment to the students. I interviewed Dr. Arthur and Dr.Zand. They gave me a brief introduction of their tutorial system and assessment system and answered my questions. In conclusion, I have got a lot of useful and valuable information. That will be of great benefit to my future teaching career.

7. Participating in Other Activities

My majors are history and education, so I am interested in British history and culture. My academic visit to the UK is a wonderful opportunity for me to do first hand learning of British history and culture. I have visited the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Westminster Abbey, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. Also I have visited cathedrals, been to concerts and some music festivals and so on. While having these activities, I totally enjoyed the great British culture, traditions and history. I have appreciated the outstanding natural landscape. It is a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

I have made many friends who invited me to their homes and gave me a lot of help. We often exchange ideas on various topics. I really enjoy the communication with British people. I cherish this friendship and will keep in touch with them. I believe our communication will increase mutual understanding.


I am fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity to study in the UK. I have got a lot not only from learning in the University but also from my living experience which is something that I can not get from textbooks. I have got a clear idea about education system in the UK, my academic horizon was widened, my professional insight was increased. I have a better understanding of the history, society and culture of the UK. Meanwhile, I have improved my English communication skill. Four months slipped away quickly, the nice memory will last forever.