Twin Towers from ferry to Ellis Island (Immigration Museum- former immigrant processing centre), New York November 1998.
On the 11 September 2001, my husband and I were just settling into a high school in the south of Guangdong province, PR China. The new academic year had just commenced, and we were joined by two young male teachers from USA. Our living quarters were fairly sparse and we had given up on television. We were listening to the radio when we first heard alarming breaking news coming from New York. We rushed next door to our young American teacher's apartment. His TV was working. We sat gob-smacked thinking what a terrible accident that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centre's twin towers.
When we saw the second plane crash into the second tower, we knew it was no accident. Watching the drama unfold - CNN's windows faced onto the WTC - was a numbing and dumbfounding experience. When the third plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania, the world held its collective breath. We knew that the world had irrevocably changed and a dark shadow loomed large.
It took some time for our Chinese colleagues to realise that this was not a fake. It was not a movie about the apocalypse. It was very horribly real and it has impacted all of us. It is not a clearcut ús versus them (the axis of evil -Iran, Iraq, North Korea), but the world seems to have become even more treacherous and barbaric.
With attacks on Iraq, then Afghanistan, even more terror in the form of ISIL (Daesh) is being unleashed in concerted attacks and by 'lone wolves' against Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims are attacked and killed in greater numbers, but this doesn't get as much media attention as when non-Muslims are killed.
9-11 is now embedded in our collective memory - where were you on 9-11 - for those of us born last century -it will remain as darkly clear as the day Diana died; and the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon. Are our journeys into space an attempt to escape from the mess we have made of things on Earth?
Rather than turn our backs on the world, what if we were to reach out to another, with a kind word, a smile, a gentle touch?
What if we sat down together and listened to each other's stories?
What if we put down our technology-enhanced gadgets and learned to communicate with each other again...to trust, to laugh, perhaps to love compassionately?
We could be fearless heroes on a personal quest: a film, a book and a death
This is the year of reading memoirs for me. Personal real-life stories are inspirational.
I finished 2015 reading Tim Winton’s Island: A memoir, followed by the former Irish President Mary Robinson’s Everybody Matters. Tim Winton always knew he wanted to be a writer, but Mary had planned to become a Catholic nun, following in her aunts’ footsteps. She became President of Ireland. Every path is personal and I am curious to find why and how we take the paths we do. [See blog 15 December]
ECO-WARRIORS ON A QUEST
When I read Stephen Romei’s [the Australian 9-10 January] review of Point Break, I wanted to see the movie for the theme of the heroic quest. It is a remake of a 1991 movie starring Keanu Reeves and appears to have cult status for many an eco-warrior, even though Romei doesn’t think much of the original. In the movie remake, there are many action shots of muscular, supremely fit, heavily tattooed men committing Robin Hood acts, stealing from the very rich to give to the poor, and spectacular acts of daring in raw Mother Nature. It is recommended not to follow their audacious surfing, trailbike riding, rock climbing, skydiving feats. Even if you know not fear, death will surely claim you before you complete the full eight requirements of the quest.
I have just finished reading Rory Stewart’s Occupational Hazards (Picador, 2006), a memoir of his time as a deputy governate coordinator in southern Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. The blurb says that he then set up the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul and was its Director.
Rory who? What is he doing now? That is even more stunning. He has been a Professor at Harvard, and then returned to the UK, where he has been the Tory Member of Parliament for Cumbria since 2010. He is currently the Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs. See http://www.rorystewart.co.uk. Before his role in Iraq, Rory walked 6000 miles across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. This journey is commemorated in his first book: The Places In Between. He had previously been with the British Foreign Service in Indonesia and Montenegro, Serbia, following a stint in the army Black Watch regiment, a tutor during summer for Princes Harry and William and a graduate of Oxford (Arts-Philosophy/Politics) and Eton. It has been suggested that Rory Stewart will be a future British Prime Minister. He is one to watch. Fearless, intellectual, adventurous.
Incidentally, Rory’s birthday is 3 January. Happy birthday!
CREATIVE INNOVATION QUEST
Another adventurous innovator in the field of music, David Bowie, turned 69 on 8 January, released a final farewell record ‘Dark Star’ and died of liver cancer two days later. A highly gifted and strong willed child, David Bowie, changed his family name from Jones to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of the Monkees. His first foray into bands and song writing was met with limited success. Trained in theatre and mime, he added these aspects to his act and took on the persona of Ziggy Stardust. This brought fame, but nearly pushed him over the edge, and into oblivion in the early seventies. David Bowie cleaned up his act. His life has been a series of reinventions, dazzling the world with his colourful innovation. His legacy as one of the most outstanding and enduring performers for five decades will long be remembered.
LOCAL QUESTS FOR LOCAL HEROES
These acts are hard ones to follow. Our personal circumstances constrain how we might live. Most of us have to be content with our local community, and aspire to be local heroes within and for that community. We can reinvent ourselves in our local space. Check out the nominees and past winners for the Australian of the Year Local heroes category: http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/the-awards/award-categories/australias-local-hero.
Define your quest and go for it, even in your own backyard.That's more than good enough - that's great! We can do it together! Best wishes to all you heroes for 2016!
Do you see Christmas as a time to buy a special book? To take time out to read for leisure?
To reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead?
Is your new diary jam-packed with commitments, or is it a blank canvas, waiting for your special touch?
My Christmas books arrived at the beginning of the month. I couldn’t wait until Christmas. I have devoured them cover to cover. The cover of the first book depicts the place where most Australians want to be between Christmas and New Year – a long expanse of sand licked clean by a vast ocean.
Australia – our island home, the making of one of our best contemporary writers and champion for the environment
Tim Winton’s Island Home: A landscape memoir (Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015) is mostly filled with precious memory of places along Western Australia’s stretched coastline. Even if we have never been there, Tim walks us through with a clear vision, always passionate about his engagement with what is in front of, and around, him.
Interspersed in these deep-rooted experiences of place are reflective essays that draw the shapes of influence on Tim. Even at high school, Tim thought of himself as a writer.
He enrolled in Australia’s first degree offered in creative writing at WAIT (Western Australia Institute of Technology, now Curtin University).
Tim wanted to be ‘a player, a practitioner’, to write, not to teach or to be a critic. He learned that to be a writer, you also need to learn ‘by watching and listening and remembering and wondering’, as well as by reading.
He didn’t set out to be an ecowarrior, but as he observed the environmental changes wrought by industry, developers and increasing population, he stepped up to be a champion for the environment.
The opening chapter recalls a year away from Australia in Paris and in Ireland. In the middle of a freezing hailstorm, Tim knew why he had a sense of restlessness and agitation. It was time to come home to the wild spaces of Australia. This is a feeling resonating in many expats. While immersed in the excitement of exploring distant shores and making a new life, we ‘still call Australia home’(Lyrics by Peter Allen).
A matter of spirit, connecting to Ireland. Mary Robinson, champion for human rights and climate justice
For many, Ireland also represents our spiritual home.
The home of ancestors, sent as convicts, brides, or the poor escaping the Great Potato famine of the 1840s, seeking a better life in the New World.
In Dublin, Ireland, in Áras an Uachtaráin, (the President’s House), Mary Robinson placed a light in the kitchen window for the Irish Diaspora all over the world.
Everybody Matters (Hodder & Stoughton 2012), co-written with her daughter Tessa Robinson, is a startling memoir. Mary dreamed of becoming a nun. She did not dream of becoming Ireland’s first woman President. Her focus has always been on human rights, first as a lawyer, than as a Senator for twenty years.
Just as she thought she had the right balance of law and teaching and home life, Mary was invited to stand for election as President. During her term of office from 1990-1997, Mary shook up the staid conservatism of this role.
Gaining international recognition, she was invited to apply for the role of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Now a Global Elder, Mary heads up the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice! See http://www.mrfcj.org/about/mission-and-vision
Through focusing on what was in front of her and transforming expectations, attitudes and behaviour, opportunities opened up.
Tim always knew he wanted to write; Mary’s path opened up as she evolved, constantly maintaining her deep faith and concern for human rights, but refusing to be cowed by dogma and conservative tradition.
Instead of being anxious to find your ‘life’s purpose’, pay attention to your passion, your raised levels of energy, when you are at your best... and follow your own path less travelled.
Be. Then do. Patiently, persistently, and purpose will find you.
Happy reading, reflecting, and best wishes for the New Year!
Twelve years ago on the resumption of classes in China after the Spring Festival holiday break I would ask my students about their holiday. Most would go home, and home was somewhere in the same province. ‘I slept late; I ate; I watched TV or movies’ were common responses.
Now, the response is very different. In one week I received emails from two students. 'Dr Fleur, I just want to share with you. I am your student, now studying in Queensland, and I have just visited your home state of Tasmania for six days. Here are some pictures so you will feel less homesick when you are in China.' Eight pictures were attached.
A freshman student wrote: 'Dr Fleur, how are you? I just want to share my achievement. I climbed to the summit of a 5,000 metre snow mountain in Sichuan. I had some trouble with the altitude- breathing and headache, but I am so happy to achieve this.' Anthony attached six photos of the spectacular snowscape, and the proud moment at the summit.
These emails are indicators of the dramatic changes sweeping China. In the fifteen years since I have been teaching in China, I have observed both education, technology and tourism trends. I had noticed a subtle shift between 2000 and 2005. But in the last decade, that subtle shift has become a wide unstoppable river. From the mountains to the sea, and beyond China’s borders, Chinese are on the move.
Travel trends in China
Twelve years ago, Chinese still had many restrictions placed on their leisure travel abroad. Only 29 countries had ‘Approved Destination Status’ (ADS), which meant designated agency organised tours for groups of five or more mainland Chinese. In order to reduce the risk of overstaying visas, missing group members and human trafficking, travellers often had to pay a ‘bond’ of up to US$6,000 and surrender their passport to the agency and confirm their return to China within one week.
Because of fierce competition for the Chinese market, travel agencies would heavily discount costs, promoting ‘zero fees’, but aim to recoup losses by including compulsory shopping tours with commissions for the tour leaders. Many Chinese resigned themselves to this fact of travel, but resistance to pressure tactics and a maturing market has meant that agencies have to be more sophisticated to deal with the growing demand for independent and individual tastes of a new educated élite. By 2005 the number of countries approved for Chinese leisure travel had expanded to ninety countries.
In a survey I conducted that year on overseas travel with students of the new University of Nottingham Ningbo campus, just two percent responded that they had travelled outside of China, and mostly to nearby Asian destinations, such as Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia. If they did travel to Europe it was a short, but intensive and exhausting trip, such as ‘five countries in ten days’. I am sure if I did a similar survey today, that percentage would be considerably higher. Chinese have much greater freedom to travel abroad now, without the need to pay hefty deposits as a guarantee of return and will resist ‘shopping tours’. My long term Chinese friend travelled in a family group with his son and daughter-in-law to Hawaii last year, and to Sabah, Malaysia the previous year. They are part of the more than 100 million international trips in 2014 made by Chinese, who are now the world’s biggest overseas spenders at US$208 billion, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The surge in outbound travel can be shown in travel statistics from China to Indonesia. The first organised leisure tours from China to Indonesia only commenced in March 2002. Indonesian travel statistics for that year indicated that there were just over 3,600 visitors combined from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. By 2014, the China market grew to be the second largest behind Australia, with 387,533 arrivals, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year, reported by Bali Update. The biggest challenge now for Indonesian travel agencies is to combine specialist in-depth local knowledge with fluency in Mandarin language skills.
Last Spring Festival, five freshmen boys travelled independently to experience the Snow Festival in Sapporo, Japan. Last summer, one of my second year girls went as a volunteer teacher to Kenya with an international student association; another went independently to Thailand to work on an organic farm, whilst another had a one semester work experience in Disneyworld Florida, and another was on a student exchange program in Germany and travelled to several nearby countries. Students approach me for references to support their applications for study in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia and the USA. These students are hard-working, talented and have such a drive and optimistic attitude. I am privileged to support them to achieve their dreams. With increasing opportunities for intercultural exchanges within China, changes in government policy, relaxed travel rules, easier visa accessibility, and increasing disposable incomes, the desire for exploring beyond the local neighbourhood is able to be realised.
Education trends in China
Reflecting on changes in education in China, a number of trends can be identified. Since the open and reform policies of 1978 until the end of 2013, more than three million Chinese students have studied overseas. More than one million are currently overseas, and the return to China rate is about 73 percent, according to a report by the Jiangsu Education Department. Within China, the number of students enrolled in higher education has increased dramatically. In 2003, one in three persons between the age of 19-23 years was enrolled in higher education; that ratio has increased to two in three, according to UNESCO statistics.
In the last decade and a half, the number of foreign students studying in China has also steadily increased. In 2013, there was an 8.5% increase on the previous year, and 356,500 foreign students from 200 countries were studying in a wide range of institutions across 31 provinces, cities and autonomous regions.
The rapid expansion of higher education places since the late 1990s and choice of both Chinese- state and private institutions and foreign university presences, commencing with the University of Nottingham, Ningbo China campus in 2004, the 1+1 model Xi’an Jiatong-Liverpool University in Suzhou and the 1+N model Sino-British College in Shanghai, the new American campuses in China as well as many offshore programs offered in partner colleges and universities, will push change in education models and a shift from teacher and exam-centric models to student-centric and flexible modes of delivery in this new phase of internationalisation.
The successful conduct of two mega-events, namely the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 and the six-month long 2010 Shanghai Expo, promoted the new China to the world, with detailed attention to security and safety, superb athletic and cultural performances, and ability to be welcoming and warm hosts. Students who volunteered during these events told of long periods of training and strict discipline, but the rewards in individual and national pride were enormous. Citizens of Beijing and Shanghai also benefited, not only from the cultural exchanges, but also from the vastly improved infrastructure and services. The success attracts more people to China for travel, education and business and inspires confidence in local people to have bigger dreams.
Combined trends driving a learning revolution
The rapid expansion of infrastructure, technology and services and the ability of Chinese to travel, and their desire and value for higher education, supported by government policy and big dreams drive a new sense of optimism and prosperity that is within reach of ever growing numbers. My hopes and dreams for the new China are that this prosperity enables a more equitable distribution of wealth, with socially inclusive policies and improved services and opportunities right across China.
In the first class of each semester, I ask students to complete a short questionnaire. Each class has about 40-50 students. I find now that about half the class come from other provinces, and less than a handful are from the city where the campus is located (Zhuhai). The others come from many other parts of Guangdong and Hong Kong (a 70 minute ferry ride from Zhuhai). I also find that there is a small sprinkling of international students – Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Spain, USA. It’s a far cry from single province, mainland Chinese only students in a class of twelve years ago.
Twelve years ago few students had mobile phones or laptops. They relied on desktop computers with plug-in connections. Most of their assignments were handwritten. Now most students have up-to-date laptops and smart-phones. It is accepted that their assignments will be computer generated. The mobile phone innovations, wireless technology, credit card and internet accessibility, widespread popularity of wechat, weibo and on-line communities and ease of sharing have fuelled changes in both travel and education. Students now can access MOOC (Mass open on-line courses). Outside the traditional teacher-led classes, students are creating their own learning revolutions.
They demonstrate confidence to have their own dreams and ability to realise them within the collective Chinese Dream envisioned by President Xi Jinping, considered internationally and domestically as one of the best contemporary political leaders. Against the backdrop of social stability, progressive reforms, and technology, travel and education seismic shifts, China holds much promise for a bright future.
Confident, ‘can-do’ students from Sun Yat-sen University; studying at the University of Queensland 2015-2016.
Between 2000-2015, the author lived in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Henan as well as Guangdong province.
Our daily pace of life sometimes seems too fast, too urgent, and we often leave behind things from yesteryear. Remembrance Day, 11 November, reminds us of the importance of the past.
Recently I picked up an old business card of mine from the 1990s and I still liked the logo, and the tagline: integrating personal and corporate growth. At that time I had left a safe corporate HRM job where I had hit the glass ceiling and was freelancing. It was just before the explosion of internet connectivity. After a couple of years of freelancing, I went back to university and explored a whole new path of Philosophy / Peace Studies followed by a PhD in tourism, development and sustainability. As a teacher crossing disciplines, I taught tourism and events management, management and organisational behaviour, research and writing skills.
I continued my passion to support people to be the best person that they can be. At all levels of an organisation.
From students on work experience to entry level employees to the CEO and Boardroom.
A hot topic of discussion for business today is ‘innovation’. To invent. To give a new lease of life. To discover. To pioneer. To revolutionise. (From Roget’s Thesaurus).
More commonly used in relation to science and technology, now our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull is urging Australians:
“We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us. We’re not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it,” as reported by David Uren in the Australian Business Review, 24 September 2015. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/fostering-innovation-at-heart-of-malcolm-turnbulls-economic-policy/story-e6frg9qo-1227540992168.
What does it mean for us to work ‘more innovatively’? And more ‘collaboratively’?
What is often overlooked in the new technological 24/7 connectivity workplace are the ‘soft personal skills’, building relationships of trust before working together.
And changing the concept of leaders as an élite group with control over others to ‘everyone is a leader’.
Enhancing personal leadership skills to enable greater articulation of values, strengths and goals that are aligned with organisational values, strengths and goals is the critical task for now – in order to work across disciplinary boundaries and to engage in truly collaborative teams where trust, compassion and capability can lead to synergy and innovative quantum leaps in outcomes.
As a former HR practitioner, and teacher of contemporary theory and practice relating to Organisational Behaviour and Management, my focus is on ‘soft skills’, in order to create reflective and engaging workplaces that integrate personal and organisational growth.
There are many issues facing workplaces in a time of greater complexity, volatility and rapid change. And in a crowded chaotic marketplace of offerings, it can be overwhelming to choose personal and professional development programs that are specifically relevant for your particular workplace.
We all face CHALLENGES that impact on our physical and emotional HEALTH, and the health of our organisations.
We can take ACTION to lead us to OPPORTUNITIES and SUCCESS.
Next time I will introduce the CHAOS dynamic processes as an innovative way to unlock and overcome obstacles for personal and organisational change and growth.
It springs from the fertile middle ground between senior executive leaders and junior entry-level staff. And it will give a new lease of life to my old logo and values. Watch this space.
In the meanwhile, what do you see as the biggest challenges for your organisation, or for yourself in terms of your personal growth? If you had one wish for action to overcome this challenge what might it be?
PLATEAU - a positive perspective
Last week I met with two friends - one old and one new. The old friend was focused on standing his ground; pushing down roots to create a prosperous future for his family in this special place.
As for me, I am like the water moving to where it needs to go. That is, I have travelled far and wide, but keep coming back to this place, seeking reasons to stay. Perhaps I am more like those migratory birds, going far, but always returning home. It is a seasonal thing.
Coming home by road, I always know home is close when I see the welcoming silhouette of Table Cape, with its protective arm sheltering my hometown. I love the changing patterns of light reflecting on water.
Coming home by a Rex flight to the airport based in my hometown, I fly over the Cape. I think the pilot deliberately swoops us over this scenic path then circles to gently glide to land on our tiny airstrip. The rich chocolate soil is home for opium poppies, pyrethrum daisies and tulips. Even on a cloudy day, it expresses Joy. Prosperity. Tranquillity. Home. The place where I want to be.
My new friend talked about being on a plateau. We tend to think of this as a 'levelling off', 'a stalling'. Perhaps we think the upward rise has ended...now it is a rollercoaster ride or a steep decline.
What if we think of it as a time to reflect, to dream, to expand our horizons?
From a plateau, like Table Cape, we can see sky and water, and plains and mountains. It is a place to rest, to renew, to re-energise.
When we choose to get off a 'fast' track, to explore a different set of opportunities, to develop a new map of possibilities, the plateau...the middle ground...is a great place to be.
IMAGES - my pix of Table Cape, Wynyard, northwest Tasmania, Looking up, from Fossil Bluff Beach(above), and looking across the tulip farm to the Cape lighthouse (below).
Last year President Xi and Peng Liyuan visited Tasmania. President Xi has called for people-to-people exchanges to develop collaborative relationships across country boundaries.
I had the chance to lead 10 young women from Sun Yat-sen University's School of Tourism, China to Singapore, Bali and Lombok- Indonesia for 16 days in July. For many, it was their first overseas trip. This field trip, as evidenced by student learning portfolios, wechat uploads and pair visual presentations, has developed ‘intelligent tourist behaviour awareness’ (as outlined by Prof Philip Pearce keynote speech #3, IGU Tropical Tourism Outlook Conference, Lombok island July 2015), developed intercultural awareness and communication skills across linguistic-cultural boundaries, as well as enhanced design and planning awareness for events, tourism and hospitality management.
The ten students did an outstanding job as volunteer members of the tropical tourism conference organising committee, and are authentic ambassadors of STM, and of China. Everywhere we went, people looked, smiled, engaged in conversation and were so impressed by their model behaviour, that is professional, but able to mix confidently- share, laugh, sing, dance and develop friendships, especially with their counterparts at UNRAM in Lombok.
At their first meeting, all the students, both Chinese and Indonesian, were anxious: how will we communicate? What will they think of me?
In a very short time, they were sharing national songs, jokes, dancing and sharing social media contact details.
Presidents Xi and Widodo both have recommended people-to-people exchanges between China-Indonesia to promote mutual understanding, friendships and professional collaboration- these ten students are an exemplary case to highlight the benefits of such exchanges, and I am sure friendships will be maintained in the long term, as students on both sides overcame initial shyness and are now facebook and wechat buddies.
What powerful partnerships will emerge from these exchanges?
Hello to all our friends in, and from China! And also from Indonesia!
This month, Peta Credlin, lost her job as Chief of Staff to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, when he was ousted by his Liberal party colleagues, and Malcolm Turnbull assumed the role as Australia’s newest Prime Minister. Credlin was still named by The Australian Women’s Weekly as Australia’s most powerful woman. In her speech at the award ceremony, Credlin stated ‘If I was a guy, I wouldn’t be bossy, I’d be strong. If I was a guy I wouldn’t be a micromanager, I’d be across my brief.’
By drawing attention to her assumed perception about gender differences, Credlin is further turning the knife on herself. As Janet Albrechtsen writes, ‘Credlin was a toxic blockage to the PM’s office’ (the Australian, 26-27 September 2015, p.17). This was partially the cause that ignited the dramatic mood swings of Liberal party members from disappointment and frustration to anger that resulted in the shift of loyalty to a new leader.
Leadership is about action. About getting things done through people. It isn’t about ‘power over’ others. It isn’t about aggressive manipulation and bullying – by men or women. It isn’t about grandstanding and who can make the funniest or most outrageous quip in Twitterland.
It is about relationships. Building relationships through influence
and collaborative projects, just as Senator Marise Payne has been quietly and calmly doing in relation to Defence over many years, and is deserving of her new responsibility as Defence Minister.
First and foremost, leadership starts with self. Through understanding self and enhanced awareness of Emotional Intelligence, you can improve interaction with others. There are a plethora of courses now available about leadership from short courses to postgraduate tertiary courses. However, having intellectual knowledge of a set of tools with the idea that ‘leadership can be learned’ is only part of the story.
Are you willing and able to make the transformational personal shift in attitude and behaviour to emerge as the best of leaders?
In the Tao te Ching (Lao Tzu), XV11:
‘The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.
Next comes the ruler they love and praise;
Next comes one they fear;
Last comes one they treat with impertinence.
Only when there is not enough faith is there a lack of faith.
Hesitant, he does not utter words lightly.
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The people will say, ‘It happened to us naturally.’
Today we could say ‘her’, as well as ‘his’.
To find out more about Personal Leadership skills development specialised workshops and programs, contact me at email@example.com.
‘Highest good is like water. Because water excels in benefitting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way…’ (Lau 2001, Lao Tzu , Book 1, VIII, p.11)
This picture is of lotus plants in a central lake on the Sun Yat-sen University Zhuhai campus China that was poisoned and barren 6 months previously…it’s now a beautiful water garden. The flower appears to be holding up a leaf, which acts as an umbrella, protected and protective. Both are mutually supportive; just as teachers and students are interdependent, supporting each other, learning and teaching.
I am a gardener. I like to get my hands dirty and create gardens, with earth and water, sunlight, nature, love and constant vigilance. I am glad to know that in China teachers are regarded as ‘diligent gardeners …caring, self-sacrificing, moral-modelling, and deserving of high-respect ‘and students are the fruits of their labour’ (Hui 2005, p.27).
As a teacher, I aim to ‘lead (students) to the threshold of (their) own mind’, (Gibran 1923, p.99) to encourage them to be curious, adventurous, to explore and to experiment, to question and to apply their skills in a meaningful and relevant way (see Booth and Kennedy nd) and within ethical frameworks.
LEARNING & TEACHING CONTEXT
I have experience as a teacher in private and state institutions of higher education and Sino-British joint ventures in China since 2000, in Australian and German tertiary education and business experience in human resource management. I teach in the ‘fuzzy’ social science arenas of management, organizational behaviour, tourism and events management as well as writing skills for tourism, hospitality and events. I am a practical academic, with experience in leading teaching teams, influencing processes and assuring quality; developing study materials and learning activities, guiding work-based reflective practice for Masters level students, supporting student-led community consultancy projects on tourism development; and co-ordinating individual work-integrated learning projects. With a Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching that deepened my own reflective practice, I am confident to develop and shape effective teaching strategies that include supporting students and colleagues to engage more actively with technology, learning in and from the field, and deepening their own reflective practice (Schön 1983).
My current role is to prepare undergraduate (Bachelor) Chinese students for future study in Australia. The challenge is to shift students from rote learning to reflective learning, active engagement and participation and to challenge assumptions, to ask questions, to know how to read difficult texts and the environment, and how to find appropriate references. Integrating influences of Socratic dialogue with ancient Chinese philosophy of Confucius, Lao Tze and Buddhism, as well as modern greats like Schön (1983) and Harvey (1978), I encourage students and colleagues towards independent and creative learning and to discover new questions. Classes are modified according to qualitative feedback from the students. The learning outcomes of my students are framed explicitly and aligned with assessment and learning activities as recommended by Biggs and Tang (2011). With freedom to ‘play’ and ‘push’ boundaries, results of students are outstanding.
LEARNING AND TEACHING IN PRACTICE
MYTH-BUSTING: ENCOURAGING ACTIVE, ENGAGED STUDENTS
There are many examples of excellence to dispel the myth of the ‘passive, dull, unimaginative’ Chinese student, including the winner of a provincial English speaking contest. Li Fang went on to win a national competition and a scholarship to complete her M. Phil. Linguistics in Cambridge. She is about to complete her PhD at Peking University and translated a bilingual children’s book Shanghai Mouse that I authored in 2010. In 2008, I edited and published an anthology of student writing: ‘Willow and Bamboo: Inside China by Henan students’ (Barnaby James, Sydney). This book showcases the students’ clear and evocative writing that documents social changes in their lifetimes.
In 2009, I led 60 events management students from Shanghai to study at the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire for nine weeks, and in 2014 I led 19 tourism management students on a two week field trip to Singapore, Bali and Lombok. In both cases, students were transformed and brimming with new found confidence from finding their way around places in a foreign language, undertaking focused research and reflecting on their achievements both as travelers, students and potential managers of tourism, hospitality and events.
My five primary values of freedom; autonomy; independence; integrity; and wisdom, developed as a young HRM practitioner and deepened by reading and support from guides and mentors along the way, are integrated in the goal of supporting individuals and groups towards personal and professional growth, meaningful and sustainable livelihoods (see also Booth and Kennedy, nd.). When I see outcomes that result from an integrated approach based on my quintessential values, I am in my ‘element’ (Robinson 2009). Enabling students to blossom and supporting teaching colleagues to develop effective strategies for student engagement and high achievement so that we all flourish is the meaningful livelihood I have been nurturing, and plan to continue to do so, wherever it will lead me.
LIST OF REFERENCES
Biggs, J and Tang, C 2011, Teaching for quality learning at university, McGraw Hill and Open University Press, Maidenhead.
Booth, C and Kennedy, B, nd. ‘Are academics teachers or learners? The new academic as a learner not teacher’, RMIT, www.doc88.com/p-1703926753274 (viewed 17 September 2014)
Chism, N 1998, ‘Developing a philosophy of teaching statement’, in KH Gillespie (ed.) Essays on teaching excellence: toward the best in the Academy (1997-98) POD Network: A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.
Fallon, F 2010, Shanghai Mouse, trans. Li Fang; illus. Mat Terrett, Barnaby James, Wynyard, Tas.
Fallon, F (ed.) 2008, Willow and bamboo: inside China by Henan students, Barnaby James, Sydney.
Gibran, K 1923 The Prophet and the art of peace, New illustrated edition, Duncan Baird Publishers, London.
Harvey, JB 1978, ‘Learning to not teach’, The Organizational Behaviour Learning Journal, vol. 111, no. 3, pp.11-17, George Washington University.
Hui Leng 2005, ‘Chinese cultural schema of education: implications for communication between Chinese students and Australian educators’, Issues in Educational Research, vol.15, no. 1, pp. 17-36.
Lau, D. (2001 translator). Tao te ching: A bilingual edition. (The way of Tao; sometimes known as ‘The book of five thousand characters’), Chinese University Press, Hong Kong.
Robinson, K 2009, The element: how finding your passion changes everything (with Lou Arona), Viking, New York.
Schön, D 1983, The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in practice. Basic Books, New York.
How to design learning tasks that foster deep learning and student engagement?
This has been my challenge in teaching, especially Organisational Behaviour (OB), which I have taught in private and public universities, and joint-ventures in China since 2000, and in Australia and Germany. Like Kennedy (2002), I have been determined to disprove the stereotype of the ‘passive’ Chinese student. In much team work, students just do ‘piece-work’, and focus on doing a task minimally. But, if we aim for graduates who are passionate, creative thinkers, truly collaborative and responsible, underpinned with professional and technical know-how, how can we encourage deeper interaction and reflection in the class-room setting?
I use one exemplar task that just seems to work every time, for every class. It’s called the circle cutting task.
All the class is involved; how many scissors are required? One per team.
Complexity- With one pair of scissors and one A4 sheet of paper, cut to make the largest possible circle without any breaks or joins (see Alan Chapman’s businessballs.com). Time: 15 minutes.
Coherence- The observers make sense of the action and different approaches: activists jump right in and everyone wants to hold the scissors; reflectors are slower and quieter in their approach; theorists practise first; pragmatists wait for the opportunity to find the most efficient solution.
Charlesworth (2008) shows that after a period of time in higher education, Chinese and Indonesian become more active learners. Biggs (2012) guides us into thinking more precisely about what we want our students to do and how to align assessment with learning outcomes and graduate attributes. Thomas Edison (Caldicott, 2013), Harvey (1979); Schön (1983) and Mary Follett (1924) are still relevant for today, cheering us on to be more confident, creative and continually adapting to student needs and our mutual desire for engagement… and leading them towards the graduate attributes required for the 21st century.
This exercise is part of a six week collaborative learning project which concludes with
a team presentation and report on the application of an OB theory in the workplace
and includes reflections of the team process, with a focus on communication, team
roles, strengths, shared values.
Supports Kennedy (2002) that Chinese students are active, demonstrate a diversity of learning styles, attitudes and strengths. Given encouragement and clear learning objectives, Chinese students are engaged and engaging; respectful and playful; keen to try; and able to reflect deeply on the meaning of the exercise. They demand more action and engagement (Fallon, 2014).
1. Model the behaviour you want your students to have
2.Introduce experiential learning exercises that get students up out of their seat and interacting with each other
3.Step back and watch the learning in process.
I have used this ‘ice-breaker’ circle puzzle several times, adapted from Alan Chapman’s businessballs.com. I first ask students to analyse their learning styles and create teams based on this; sometimes mixed, sometimes the same style for clear ‘ah ha!’ moments. Thank you to SYSU School of Tourism Management students!
Biggs, J. (2012). What the student does: teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 31 (1), 39-55.
Caldicott, S.M. (2013). Midnight lunch: the 4 phases of team collaboration processes from Thomas Edison's lab. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Charlesworth, Z.M. (2008). Learning styles across cultures: suggestions for educators. Education & Training, 50 (2), 115-127.
Fallon, F. (2014)., Mapping graduate attributes and outcomes for events management students in Shanghai and Guangzhou: what can we learn? Paper presented at SYSU Events management conference, Guangzhou 12-13 July.
Follett, M.P. (1924). Creative experience. New York: Longmans, Green and Co.
Harvey, J. (1979). Learning not to teach. Journal of Management Education; 4:19-21.
Honey, P. (n.d). The Learning Styles Questionnaire www. peterhoney.com
Kennedy, P. (2002). Learning cultures and learning styles: Myth-understandings about adult Chinese learners, in Cribbin, J & Kennedy, P (eds.) Lifelong learning in action. HK University Press, pp.71-92.
Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in practice. New York: Basic Books.
POSTER PRESENTED HERDSA CONFERENCE HONG KONG JULY 2014
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,