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«Linyi - Cambridge Summer School 2009 - Report The Linyi - Cambridge Summer School 2009 took place during the week 8 - 14 July, at Linyi Normal ...»

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Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009

Linyi - Cambridge Summer School 2009 - Report

The Linyi - Cambridge Summer School 2009 took place during the week 8 - 14 July,

at Linyi Normal University in Shandong Province, China. Thirteen postgraduate students

from Cambridge University gave four days of lectures on topics mostly taken from the Part

II and Part III courses at Cambridge. The days of lectures were followed by a day for our

Chinese students to review and prepare for the final day, during which the Chinese students gave presentations on the course material. The project included three days of preparation and teaching practice in Cambridge in mid-June and a week of intensive language training and cultural background in Linyi before the Summer School week.

The stated aims of the project were the following:

-to give students in Shandong the experience of the student-led seminars which are so much a part of our mathematical life here in Cambridge,

-to stimulate a research culture within Shandong Province,

-to encourage networking both between UK students and Shandong students, and amongst Shandong students,

-for our Asian students, to explore means of serving their home countries even while they are studying/working abroad,

-for our Western students, to give them an experience of life at Chinese universities.

It is to the very great credit of all who took part that the project met and surpassed these goals in every respect. The Chinese students responded with enthusiasm to a style of teaching which involved the audience in an active role. As a consequence the mathematics department at Linyi is now considering ways of incorporating this style of teaching as a part of its teaching practice. The degree to which our students began socialising with their Chinese students even in the short time they were together augurs well for continuing interaction. While I would like to have seen a greater representation from other Chinese universities, there is anecdotal evidence that this networking is happening and is useful. Certainly e-mail addresses have been exchanged both between Chinese students studying at different universities, and between Cambridge students and summer school students. Our Asian students played a mission-critical role in the running of the programme, and have become very involved in the planning and design of future projects. While the summer holidays may not present Chinese university life in its entirety, the close interaction between our students and their Chinese students serves to complement our students’ experiences during their two weeks on campus, leaving them with a good working understanding of life in a Chinese university.

We went to Linyi to teach, but we seriously underestimated how much we ourselves would learn in the course of the project. The summer school presented us with the double challenge of designing courses appropriate to students from a different mathematical background and learning in a foreign language. Together with the summer school ethos, where the aim is that the entire class should be able to grasp the ideas in the course, this challenge stimulated much critical and productive thought about teaching methods and techniques. Pedagogical ideas developed during the course of this summer school will certainly be applied in future editions of the summer school, and may well be adapted for Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009 use during the school year within the mathematics curriculum at Linyi. We will be applying some of these ideas in Cambridge to improve our teaching support for the Part III mathematics tripos.

The success of the project is such that we are expecting to repeat the project next year at Linyi, and are considering ways to extend the project. Next year’s teachers will include students from Oxford and possibly Warwick as well as Cambridge. Running similar schools at other universities in China, and running schools on subjects other than mathematics are also being discussed.

1.The project.

1.1.History of the project.

1.2.Project schedule.



1.5.Travel arrangements.

1.6.Living arrangements in Linyi

1.7.Daily schedule, language and culture week.

1.8.Daily schedule, teaching week.

2.Financing the project.

3.Feedback structures.

3.1.Chinese student feedback

3.2.Cambridge student feedback.

4.Looking forward.

4.1.Visit to the British Council Appendices A. Feedback from group leaders B. Feedback from Cambridge teachers.

C. Final meeting with the Linyi Mathemtics Department.

D. Outputs and outcomes.

1.The project.

1.1.History of the project. Linyi Normal University serves a largely agricultural area in Shandong Province. The institution was founded in 1941, and had an initial purpose of supplying teachers for the region. My first visit to Linyi in 2006 was motivated by a desire to practice my elementary Mandarin. On discovering that I was a mathematician, Linyi staff invited me to teach mathematics instead. I discovered that in spite of fairly humble academic ambitions, the classes included a core of able students who would profit from a more ambitious programme, a department eager to adopt measures which would facilitate this, and a university leadership absolutely committed to raising the institution’s academic standing.

Following that visit I began discussing measures that might be made to give able students a chance to progress further, and to begin to develop a research culture with members of the mathematics department. The possibility of bringing over some students from Cambridge to run a summer school was one of these measures. At the same time, within the mathematics departments at Cambridge, as part of the Transferable Skills Training programme, we have been exploring ways of Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009 giving our PhD students opportunities to teach and mentor the Part III students. We have also seen the Part III students responding and developing their own capacity to teach, encourage each other and collaborate. The challenge was to adapt these experiences to the Chinese pattern of higher education. I believe that the spirit behind the methods that have been effective here at Cambridge can equally be adapted to developing universities as a means of achieving the goal of offering Chinese students even from rural backgrounds the chance of achieving their mathematical potential.

1.2. Project Schedule.

1.2.1.June 10 - 12 Course preparation workshops in Cambridge.

1.2.2.June 29 - July 8. Language training and course preparation in Linyi.

1.2.3.July 9 - 12. Summer school. Classes met each day, with a two hour teaching session complemented by an hour of helping students work through examples.

1.2.4.July 13. Preparation day for the mini-conference on the 14th.

1.2.5.July 14. Chinese tudents taking part gave short talks reviewing the material of the course and presenting interesting examples.

1.2.6.July 15. Programme evaluation and final meetings with the leadership of the Linyi Mathematics Department.

1.2.7.July 15 - 22. Cambridge students departed for independent travel in China.

1.3.People. This year’s project involved thirteen students. Five of them, James Cooper, James Griffin, Ta Sheng Tan, Qing Wang, and Hui Guo are presently research students, all in DPMMS, with Hui Guo and Qing Wang members of the Statslab. Qing works with the Medical Research Unit at Addenbrookes Hospital.

Two students, Matthew Tointon and Peng Zhao will be joining DPMMS and DAMTP respectively as research students in October. The remaining six, Dean Bodenham, Martin Gould (starting a PhD at Oxford next year), Patrick Orson, Dale Winter (starting at MIT next year), Lloyd West (starting at Purdue next year) and Barinder Banwait (starting at Warwick next year) had just completed Part III. We were accompanied by Lori Colliander, secretary in DPMMS, who took charge of logistics, and whose experience in running student programmes in other universities has been extremely useful to us in planning and in designing suitable methods of evaluation and feedback.

1.3.1.The research students were among those who responded to an initial letter in the spring of 2008. All those from the Part III year found out about the project through informal chatter, and volunteered. There was no formal application or assessment procedure. There was a formal presentation of the project in January 2009, and students were asked to express their commitment by purchasing flight tickets, on the basis that the fares would be covered provided that the student actually took part. There was only one instance of a student dropping out of the programme after tickets had been bought, for personal reasons.

1.3.2.The Part III students had sufficient experience to be as effective at teaching as their older colleagues. Absolute confidence with the subject to be taught is important. Beyond that, a commitment to teaching and a desire to engage with their students seems to be as important as further research experience.

1.3.3. Lori Colliander’s assistance both in logistical and assessment matters has been mission critical. Even with the experience of one successful Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009

–  –  –

students an alternative experience of teaching, and to encourage the inquisitive spirit shown by our undergraduates.

1.5.Travel arrangements. The main group of eleven students travelled together on an Air China flight to Beijing, followed by the overnight sleeper train from Beijing to Linyi. This arrangement worked well, the overnight hard sleeper being a China experience that should not be missed. Following the summer school all made independent arrangements for their return journeys.

1.6.Living arrangements in Linyi. We stayed in a hotel that is owned by the university, and is situated at the corner of the North Campus, a ten minute ride from the New Campus, where teaching took place. The preferred arrangement would have been to house us in the Foreign Student’s Block, but there were not enough spare rooms to accommodate all of us. It was felt to be (and was!) important that the group stayed together as a group. The Foreign Students Block would have offered some useful amenities (larger rooms, the ability to wash clothes and basic kitchen facilities), but the hotel was convenient and air conditioned. The heat and the mosquitos were both a challenge, and the air conditioning helped with both of these problems. Two of our number shared a room, enabling one room to be used as a common room, with one laptop providing internet access for those who did not bring laptops. It functioned well as a common room, with discussion going on often until late in the night. For meals, the default was a restaurant also associated with the university, although many opted to buy provisions from the supermarket across the road rather than join in the rather unusual breakfasts offered at the restaurant.

1.6.1. The importance of the common room. One feature of the project that greatly enhanced its value as a transferable skills training project was that our students lived and worked in close proximity. There was a continuous undercurrent of discussion about teaching methods, and successful methods were quickly disseminated through the group.

1.7.Daily schedule, language and culture week. The first full week was dedicated to intensive language and cultural studies. Breakfast opened in the restaurant at 8:00, and language classes ran from 8:30 - 11:30 and 2:00 - 4:30. The group divided into two classes, one for those with some background Chinese (James Griffin and Lloyd West), and one at the level of complete beginners. It is debatable how much useful Chinese can be picked up in a single week of lessons, however intense. Certainly some students did appear to be able to make some efforts in using Chinese on the strength of just the one week. In the future, I would advise students planning to take part to take at least half a year of Chinese, and to take it seriously. Having some ability in the language has a positive effect on the relationship with the Chinese students. Perhaps Chines languages classes might be run at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, as happens within the engineering department.

Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009

–  –  –

course lectures and vice versa, in order to give students time to attempt the homework on their own and with their colleagues before asking their teachers

–  –  –

2.Financing the project. Having failed to secure funding from the British Council’s PMI2 student mobility scheme, and with the International Office ultimately unable to contribute, the financial plan was that students would seek travel grants from their colleges and other sources to cover their international travel. The Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics offered to underwrite the shortfall out of transferable training funds, thus freeing me from personal financial responsibility for the project. Moreover, it very generously contributed secretarial support before and during the project, as well as funding Lori Colliander’s travel expenses. Linyi Normal University took responsibility for travel between Beijing and Linyi as well as all food and lodging during our stay in Linyi.

This support was generous in every detail, including transport between the hotel and the Report on Cambridge Linyi Summer School 2009 - M. Batchelor, August 2009 New Campus, and the well-stocked fridge in the Common Room in the mathematics department. We were superbly well looked after.

2.1.Breakdown of contributions from UK sources. The total cost of airfares was £6569.84. Students managed to raise a total of £2900 from College sources: nine students secured travel grants and bursaries ranging from £200 to £500. The shortfall has been covered by the Transferable Skills Training funds and other funds within the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at Cambridge.

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