First of all, I must sincerely apologize for the lateness of these posts. As I write this, I am on a high speed train leaving Xi’an, and since I am on my way to spending the next few days in remote towns between Xi’an and Beijing, there is no guarantee when I will have a stable internet connection again. Nevertheless, I will do my best to send this out as soon as possible. Anyway, leaving Xi’an is honestly quite sad. Xi’an was an incredible city, and I will definitely miss my time there, I spent one month at the Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, and it was definitely one of the most amazing experiences I have had to date. So, after four weeks taking three classes at two universities, I have a comparison to make. As a Normal University, SNU is a teaching college, much like UNC, which was also at one point a Normal University. I’d like to elaborate a few differences I noticed between the two universities’ teaching styles, class organization, and grading.
To begin, the teaching style is quite different between the two schools. At Shaanxi Normal University, they mostly used a teaching style based off centuries-old Confucian methods. These methods area primarily based upon read and repeat, with the purpose of exact rote memorization. This method was very useful in ancient times, when, in order to do well on the Civil Service Exam (A highly prestigious test in China based on mostly Confucian literature that qualifies you for government positions), you had to be able to have a multitude of texts and poems memorized word for word. In class, this method materialized itself in our teacher spending most of the class reading sections of a dialogue or vocab list in Chinese, having us repeat after her, and then asking us specific questions about the text to make sure we knew it exact. Later, we would be quizzed on the vocab dialogue to test for rote memorization. In contrast, at UNC, and most Western colleges, the teaching style is lecture or Socratic discussion, the goal of which is holistic comprehension instead of rote memorization. Obviously, the objective of both styles is a form of memorization, but each society takes a different route.
Alas, it looks like I may be out of time for the rest of this post. We are spending this week on tour, and having just arrived in Beijing, there is a dawn ‘til dusk day of tours awaiting me. I promise to get the rest of this topic spoken of this evening or tomorrow morning. Until then, enjoy perusing the rest of the blog!