Shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and tofu makers are all craftsmen. “Craftsman” originally means a person with outstanding skills. “Craftsmanship” is a way of making a living, and a person with a certain craft is called a craftsman. By constantly tempering and polishing with their hands, they manage to pursue the utmost aspiration for skill and quality.

There are many so-called craftsmen; however, a craftsman with real craftsmanship is very rare. The process of becoming a craftsman is filled with physical pain and fatigue, but also accompanied by fulfilment.

What is a craftsman? Jiro Dreams of Sushi expressed it accurately: “Once you choose your profession, you must be devoted to your work whole heartedly. You must love your job, without complaints, and spend your lifetime perfecting your skills. These are the secrets of success.” As a true craftsman, a professional spirit and specialised qualities cannot be neglected.

Whenever she talks about craftsmanship, Ms Jiang Ping, a teacher from the OUC’s Shiyan Branch in Hubei Province, will ask herself: what exactly is a teacher’s “spirit of craftsmanship”? How on earth can a teacher be a craftsman?

Only by thinking deeply about innovation can we break through old habits and customs

In her long experience of distance education, Jiang Ping has often encountered confusion: she always believes that students love learning and are willing to learn actively. However, the fact is that “Nobody browses the static web pages; there are low click rates for multimedia courseware; videos on demand are hardly watched; the course discussion forum is not popular with visitors and people rarely respond to the teachers’ posts.” “Many students seldom or scarcely participate in face-to-face teaching. Even when they do come, they just use their eyes and ears to appreciate teacher’s performance.” These have become teaching norms.

For learners, “learning” is a process of imitation and absorption, which translates “what others know and master” into “what I know and master”, while “practice” is a kind of exercise and application, which translates “learnt knowledge” into “actions”. So, true learning requires two translation processes. Without them, learning is just pseudo-learning. For example, in rough and frame-worked face-to-face teaching, the students often feel bored. Although teaching has been developed, “what others know and master” fails to be translated into “what I know and master”, let alone “learnt knowledge” being translated into “actions”. This kind of teaching can only cultivate students’ appreciation and ability to take notes, which is “pseudo-teaching” in nature.

In order to combat this situation, Jiang Ping tried to use the flipped classroom. She used the learning task list as a guideline to recommend learning content for students to ensure that they were aware of their specific learning goals and to encourage them to follow the teacher’s suggestions. The process includes creating excellent teaching resources (including text, PowerPoint presentations, and micro-courses),before class according to the teaching content and the students’ needs, and uploading them to the online platform, so that students can download and study them at home and discuss what they have learnt. Collective face-to-face tutoring is then carried out based on the students’ questions and difficulty points. During the face-to-face communication and discussion, doubts will be cleared, knowledge will be applied, and case studies will be analysed. This type of teaching prioritises information transfer and internalisation, which truly makes the classroom a place where teachers and students can interact and communicate. Years of practice have proved that this kind of teaching can effectively enhance students’ initiative in learning independently and participating in online discussions and exchanges.

Try your best and you will succeed

A student called Wang Gaiying once gave Jiang Ping the following evaluation: “Today’s homework for Child Psychology was to understand the characteristics of children’s physiological development from their paintings! This is great teaching design” “Piaget theory is very abstract but Ms. Jiang uses simple charts, videos, and case study analysis to make it easy to understand.”

A student called Zhang Lei once wrote in the email to Jiang Ping: “This courseware is one of the best courseware I’ve ever seen. When I opened it, the beautiful animation and interface design instantly caught my eye and made me want to know more about the subject. The content of the course is rich in pictures, refined theoretical knowledge, and animations, which is more interesting than reading books and studying by myself. For this reason, it is easier to understand the knowledge. I hope that teachers can create more excellent courseware that is easy and quick to operate. That will be a blessing for all of us.”

Thanks to all this positive feedback, Jiang Ping gained confidence and strength in her own teaching reform.

“When one person focuses on a skill, it must be refined; when he focuses on a job, he will surely get promoted.”

Looking back over her teaching process at the OUC, Jiang Ping has grown from watching and learning from others’ teaching skills to using many kinds of media to create teaching content and innovate the teaching process, she constantly gave feedback, made adjustments, and improved her own teaching behaviour in the process of “research, construction, guidance, support, and pursuit”.

Jiang Ping loves her job and has imbued it with the “spirit of craftsmanship,” which has helped her to constantly develop and win many honours and recognitions. In 2013, she took part in the seventh China Distance Education Teachers Forum and gave a keynote speech on Tactics for the Improvement of the Information Technology Ability of Teachers in Open Universities. She has won third prize in the OUC’s teaching skills contest, first prize in the multimedia courseware making contest at Hubei Radio and Television University, second prize in a micro-course contest, first prize in the sixth social science outstanding achievement contest in Shiyan city, and second prize for 12th five-year plan education scientific research outstanding achievements.

Looking forward to the new pattern of OUC education, as an OUC teacher, Jiang Ping says: “I only want to be a craftsman, cultivate a craftsman’s spirit, shield myself from the distractions of the outside world, and focus on my own choices.

Written by Wu Yaqi, Edited by: Yan Jingzhen,