Professors from China Study uOttawa’s Teaching Methods

Posted on Friday, December 18, 2015

Last semester, 62 Chinese professors audited our engineering and computer science courses. Their verdict: our lectures are very interactive.

As classes wrapped up last December, uOttawa said to goodbye to a very special group of visitors: 62 professors from China who had come to audit several courses, not so much for their content, as for the teaching methods being used. This new collaboration between the University of Ottawa and the China Scholarship Council (CSC) was the project of Professor Jason Zhang, Vice-Dean of International Affairs.

From September 1 to November 30, professors from several universities in China took part in the “University Lecturers Training Program”, with the aim of enhancing their teaching skills through international immersive training. The professors were invited to sit in on any engineering or computer science courses of their choosing to see how students are being taught in Canada. On a given day, they would also receive intensive English-language training (provided by the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute), as well as a teaching workshop given by the Centre for University Teaching. Then, during the last two weeks, the program culminated in a teaching symposium, during which each professor had to give a sample lecture on a topic of their choosing, showcasing both their prior and newly-acquired lecturing skills.

The professors found the teaching methods in Canada very innovative. “In China, teaching is generally very traditional,” explains Professor Zhang. “The focus is on the lecturer, and the students quietly take notes. Here, there is more interaction, and students ask more questions.”

One of the participants, Professor Nan Geng from Northwest A&F University (Yangling, Shaanxi Province, China), gave us his impressions: “I attended two courses for computer science undergraduates, and one for postgraduates, and got a clear understanding of the course arrangement. Through learning and communication, we can find differences in teaching between colleges in China and Canada, strengthen our weak aspects, and promote interschool exchange in teaching.” The program is likely to continue, with a new group of professors expected to arrive in the summer 2016 semester. Professor Zhang is also working on a possible similar agreement with institutions in El Salvador.

Professor Zhang hopes the benefits of such programs can carry over to the students of the Faculty of Engineering. “Not enough of our students go abroad; only three to five every year!” he says. As Vice-Dean of International Affairs, he is working on forming partnerships that could lead to international opportunities for the Faculty’s students: examples include internships, research placements, coop terms, and credited courses. One such opportunity was given to chemical engineering student Dmitry Ridner, who spent his summer as a research intern in Tianjin, China. Dmitry carried out research related to oil sand refining, and did some incredible sightseeing all over China (read more about his captivating journey here).

Are you an engineering or computer science student interested in enriching your education by going overseas? Contact Professor Zhang at to discuss this possibility.

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