USF World News

World Languages and Confucius Institute Partner to Host Startalk
August 10, 2011

From August 5-19th, 2011 the USF Confucius Institute and the department of World Languages are hosting 10 K-12 Chinese language teachers through the Startalk program. Funded by the U.S. government, Startalk is a national program that offers foreign language teachers at the K-12 level an intensive teaching training experience. USF joins 41 other states in providing K-12 Chinese language training. Divided into two parts, the program is hosting eight teachers from within the state and two from Ohio. During the first part, teachers are going through a rigorous training schedule, studying new approaches and learning how to tackle flaws in existing ones.

Dr. Eric Shepherd, Assistant Professor in the department of World Languages is leading the training sessions. Popular for his performance teaching methods, Dr. Shepherd is formally training participants on how to effectively bring Chinese language to the classroom. As part of the training process, 25 high school students are also participating in the program. Dr. Shepherd and Dr. Xizhen Qinfrom World Languages are teaching the Chinese language to these high school students and giving teacher trainees the opportunity to observe the use of USF’s Learning in the Culture pedagogical approach first hand. In addition, trainees are given the chance to demonstrate what they have learned under the instruction and guidance of Dr. Shepherd.

As the second part of the program, during the fall semester teachers are expected to use their training in their own classrooms. USF faculty will visit each classroom in person to provide feedback and on their practices.

Over the last year, the Confucius Institute has been working tirelessly to promote Chinese language learning at the K-12 level and has given a tremendous amount of support to teachers at this level. When asked what the motivation behind the initiative is, director of the USF Confucius Institute Kun Shi says that the Hanban’s (Confucius Institute Headquarters) efforts are concentrated toward increasing the number of students learning Chinese no matter where they are.  He explains that while universities have a limited language requirement, K-12 education provides for a greater number of students who study foreign language over a longer period of time. “The K-12 training we provide is focused on the greater Tampa Bay area, but we are also trying to reach out statewide. Moreover, if students begin taking Chinese in school and are aware of the Confucius Institute at USF, they are more likely to come here.”