Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Top-performing Shanghai school visits Wesley to experience best practice

Posted 14 May 2018 Shanghai EES visits Wesley 

A group of 21 Year 6 to 8 students and three teachers from Shanghai East Experimental School (Shanghai EES) visited the Glen Waverley campus in May to learn about Wesley College’s approach to the curriculum and teachers’ professional practice, and gain an insight into the day-to-day life of students and teachers.

According to Isaac Quist, Executive Director of Curriculum and International Strategy at Wesley College, the aim of the partnership is to focus on language and culture immersion programs and provide opportunities for collaboration at student, teacher and leadership levels to strengthen education at each site. The May visit is the inaugural activity of this developing partnership.

‘Our key objectives are relationship building between the staff and students of the two schools,’ Mr Quist said. ‘Until now, conversations and planning have occurred at the leadership level. The May visit has enabled English language and culture immersion for the Shanghai EES students and teachers and given our students and teachers the opportunity to learn from their Shanghai peers. 

‘A further aim of the visit was to help the Shanghai EES students and teachers to familiarise themselves with the general Wesley context, and particularly our approach in Music and Sports. 

The touring group spent nine days with students and staff at the Glen Waverley campus to participate in classes, including intensive classes in English language and culture, as well as music workshops, soccer and cross country. The touring group also visited Melbourne landmarks, including the Melbourne Zoo, SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium and Scienceworks, and rode on Puffing Billy.  

International partnership to explore best practice

The visit was part of a program by Shanghai EES to explore international approaches to the delivery of curricula, teachers’ professional practice and best practice in schooling through partnerships with and visits to leading schools around the world. 

The visitors’ participation in daily English classes through the Wesley College English Language Preparation (ELP) Program at the Glen Waverley campus enabled staff and students to see Wesley’s communicative, student-oriented approach in action. As Amanda Douglas, Head of ELP, explained, ‘The approach taken in our ELP Program is to learn English through a communicative approach, in which activities are designed to elicit language that students can use in an authentic way. For example, students learned to listen to and follow instructions in preparation for a bush dance, how to read signs and directions on a map to help them navigate their way around the school, Amazing Race-style, and how to phrase their emotions to write a reflection about their experiences,’ Ms Douglas said. 

‘The ELP Program communicative approach enabled our visitors to draw on the language they had learnt previously and use it to communicate with others. Some of the Shanghai students explained how proud they felt that they could start a conversation with a Wesley student and discuss their hobbies or interests. 

‘The experience was also beneficial for our ELP Program students, since it helped them see how well they had adapted to their new learning environment at Wesley.’ 

Learning through collaboration

The visit enabled staff and students to learn with and about each other, Assistant Head of Music at the Glen Waverley campus Daniel Gare explained. 

‘Many of the visiting students are excellent musicians, and are proficient on both Chinese traditional instruments and standard orchestral instruments,’ Mr Gare said. ‘Our visitors presented two concerts for students at the Glen Waverley campus, performing on a range of Chinese instruments, including the Gu Zheng (Chinese zither), Pipa, Hulusi (traditional flute) and Erhu (Chinese violin). We were very lucky to experience these wonderful performances, and hear the thoughtful introductions from the students, helping to explain the background and meaning of each piece. 

‘It was also rewarding to see the students collaborating, with our visitors combining with Corelli Strings, one of our auditioned chamber strings groups directed by Helen Holt. The students combined to rehearse a piece called Xanadu, written by Chinese- Australian composer Stephen Chin. Xanadu was performed at the Principal’s Farewell Dinner held in the Alex Room at the Glen Waverley campus.’ 

According to a 2016 World Bank report, How Shanghai Does It, the strong performance of schools in the Shanghai education system on international tests like the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment is the result of policies and investments to support a highly professional teacher workforce, clear learning standards and regular student assessments. 

The How Shanghai Does It report also reveals the clear benefit for teachers in Shanghai schools of participation in peer observation and mentoring programs, and engagement in other forms of professional development and partnerships.  

Image: Shanghai East Experimental School students join Corelli Strings to rehearse Xanadu by composer Stephen Chin.

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