Teaching graduate Information and Library Science students as a Fulbright Scholar at a prestigious Chinese University was an enlightening experience from which I have just returned from a semester long teaching assignment. After all the excitement of being selected as a Fulbright Scholar to China, I was full of apprehension as to the teaching experience itself. What would be an appropriate approach for teaching in my discipline? During a semester-long teaching assignment, I learned more about myself through the role of “foreign expert” and about my students who were Chinese Information Science and Archival Management majors: how they learn and how they may become information professionals in an emerging global higher education market.
I covered topics on plagiarism, ethical use of information, citation management, research processes, database search strategies, and access to knowledge in digital information. In addition to the teaching activities, I engaged in public lectures, seminars, and roundtable discussions on the following subjects: collegiality, mentorship, academic librarianship and professional identity, library leadership and workplace civility. I also enjoyed lecturing in a number of Chinese universities from Beijing to Nanjing to Chongqing and including traveling to Korea, all in one semester.
Being an academic librarian from a medium size comprehensive university in the USA and going to a major research-based Chinese top 10 university was an extraordinary transformation of myself as a teacher. Developing my professional identity as an educator was something for which I had strived for a long time. At last, I was going to have the chance to practice my lifelong dream in China in the fall of 2016 along with seven other Fulbright Scholars who arrived in China to teach and conduct research.
During the first class meeting, I reviewed the syllabus and my expectations. However it was not until the third class after I re-emphasized that I expected the students to participate as part of their grade that my students’ responses gradually became more participative. Eventually, they began to openly question and respond to one another in the class. They were also required to write reflective journals throughout the entire semester which was another unusual practice for them. Students’ opinions became more expressive and clearer as time passed. They sought out each’s opinions and advice in and out of the classroom.
As the semester progressed and the students became not only more participative, but delightfully outspoken. I often rewarded them with clear verbal praise, or a high five, or a hug. This open praise was also something quite outside their comfort zone and it took them a while to get used to it. On one occasion, one of my students did such a good job that I gave her a hug after class. After a while, other students earned a hug and waited patiently for their reward. After the final class of the semester, all my students lined up and demanded to be hugged and would not let me leave until they had received their well-deserved reward. I took this as a clear sign that they had gotten the message that I wanted them to take responsibility for their learning and that I was looking forward to the day when I would welcome them to join me as professional colleagues in our newly formed global connection.
–Shin Freedman, Head of Scholarly Resources & Collections for the Henry Whittemore Library