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Teaching and Learning Showcase
Lessons Learned from Lecturing in Guangzhou, China
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Module Title:

An Introduction to Horticulture, Forestry & Land Use and Environment

Module Coordinator:

Barry J. McMahon

Target Audience:

Stage 1 of a 4 year Agricultural Science Articulation Degree delivered by UCD/South China Agricultural University Students

Collaborator(s):

Mary Forrest & Wei Gong (South China Agricultural University)
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background:

An Introduction to Horticulture, Forestry & Land Use and Environment is a core module taken by all UCD/ South China Agricultural University (SCAU) students. This is the first of six modules which UCD School of Agriculture & Food Science contribute to the first two years of an articulated degree (2 year + 2 year Degree). It is delivered in SCAU, Guangzhou and introduces the major global issues in horticulture and forestry in conjunction with other interactions between human beings and their environment. The class size is approximately 30 students however, the challenges relate to delivery, the nature of the material and the differences in lecture/tutor-student interactions between China and Ireland. In addition, the module was to be delivered over an intensive five day period with 15 hours contact in December 2013. Prior to delivery of the lectures I was informed that, in general, Chinese students were reserved, resilient with respect the volume of material they could absorb. They possess a good work ethic while they are unlikely to challenge the lecturer’s ideas or express alternative opinions or perspectives.

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goals:

During this process the goals were as follows:

  1. To introduce students in SCAU to the lecturing and tutorial methods I implement in UCD.
  2. To assess the delivery of material to students in SCAU.
  3. To implement the advice of peers who were onlookers at lectures before the next lecture, where possible.
  4. To enhance the learning experience of SCAU students.
  5. To document methods of delivery which were effective or otherwise.
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The Innovative Approach:

In advance, subject material was given to students. This consisted of lecture content and usually 3 tutorial questions directly related to the material covered. The following procedure was followed.

  1. Deliver the lecture and oversee the tutorial.
  2. The peers (Dr. Mary Forrest & Dr. Wei Gong) obtained feedback from students after the sessions were completed.
  3. Consult peers in what was effective or otherwise from the student’s perspective while also providing their own comments
  4. Document and implement the suggestions and repeat the process.
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Results:

After initial difficulties with dialect and delivery, students indicated after 3-4 hours contact time, that they began to understand lectures and tutorials better. After a substantial amount of encouragement students did embrace and enjoy the opportunity to verbalise their opinions in tutorials and as the week progressed they gained in confidence.

There are number of points to note regarding the interaction of students in lectures and tutorials. Such as:

  1. In China a textbook is closely associated with modules but this is not the case with the module I delivered.  Review papers were the main source of material and the students seemed to enjoy this. This information was obtained from students via peers.
  2. Note-taking by students is limited however, they will regularly use phones to translate information. This was a personal observation.
  3. In my experience with the students in SCAU the level of English was good and they understood the vast majority of the module content. This information was obtained from students via peers.
  4. SCAU students enjoyed the interaction in the tutorial and were capable of expressing their own views and opinions, contrary to what I had heard previously.  This information was obtained from students via peers.


Here are some suggestions for delivery of lecture material in China:

  1. Speak slowly, use short sentences and be congruent.
  2. Use keywords at the introduction of lectures.
  3. Figures and diagrams are essential for explaining complex concepts.
  4. Consider providing a glossary of terms in advance.
  5. Obtaining direct feedback from students is difficult so, it is useful to have a peer informally obtain this information which can be responded in future.


Many of these points are relevant regardless of where lectures are delivered.