Wenjie Tang describes an evaluation of the Teaching Scholar Project, a US-China exchange program sponsored by the Committee of 100. This article is part of Asian Philanthropy Forum’s “Exploring the Impact of Asian Philanthropy” series.
In the wake of the United States’ increasing interest in China, US-China cultural exchange programs have attracted wide attention from philanthropic organizations. Many international programs open the door to China for American youth. Unlike this commonly applied youth-focused approach, the Committee of 100 (C-100) provided learning opportunities for the educators of American youth as part of a C-100 Educational Exchange Program. Under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, C-100 in collaboration with the Wanxiang America Corporation designed and administrated the C-100-Wanxiang Teaching Scholar Program in 2012. As with other cultural exchange programs, a key question for philanthropic sponsors is the extent to which a program reaches its objectives. This blog post highlights some of the program outcomes and implications for evaluating cultural exchange programs.
During the summer of 2012, the C-100 Teaching Scholars Program provided a one-week summer institute and a three-week intensive study tour in China to 18 American secondary school educators. The program goal was to offer teaching scholars first-hand Chinese teaching resources, in the hope that they could offer rich and factual lessons about China to their students. The program evaluation studied the program outcomes through a 3-month follow-up survey. Results of phone interviews supported and further explained the meaning of the survey findings. Overall, teachers reported the program’s positive impact on their China-related knowledge, teachings about China, interest in China, as well as their cultural competencies.
– Increased content knowledge about China. Respondents indicated that the program increased their knowledge about both ancient Chinese history and modern China. Teachers appreciated what they studied during the one-week summer institute, upon which they were able to build what they actually experienced in China. In phone interviews, they described the program experience as “eye-opening” in terms of giving them “surprising” experiences and adding “complexity” to participants’ understanding of China.
– Expanded program impact to students. The extent teachers applied their program experience to teaching addresses how well the program reached its goals. According to the survey, ten of the 12 respondents mentioned more about China to their students than before. Although many social science teachers hadn’t had the chance to teach about China due to their curriculum arrangement, they anticipated that they would be more confident to teach the content than otherwise because their experience in China increased their teaching credibility. Nine of the 12 survey respondents reported that they applied the knowledge acquired during the program to their teaching, and that the materials they collected during the program enriched their lessons. Therefore, the program reached its objectives to help participants teach about China by promoting richness of course materials and increasing teachers’ confidence.
– Sustained interest in China. Although teachers said that their attitudes toward China didn’t change, they indicated that their interest in China grew and was sustained after they returned to the States. They said that they were more attentive to the news about China, and thought more critically when processing the information. Teachers also agreed on the importance for Americans to experience the real China, and advocated for more exchange programs to facilitate the mutual understanding between the people of the two countries.
– Increasing participants’ cultural competency. During phone interviews, teachers frequently talked about the differences they observed between the US and China, such as the difference between the American and Chinese education systems, the unique challenges that China faces given its large population, and the difference between Chinese and American lifestyles, such as pace. All these implied that they were consciously aware that what they observed in China was different from their own cultural background, which is the first step of increased cultural competency.
Despite the growing number of US-China cultural exchange programs, not all programs are able to allocate evaluation resources as did the C-100 Teaching Scholars Program. As an evaluator, I would encourage more evaluation efforts on this topic due to their usefulness for informing directions of program improvement as well as enhancing program accountability to sponsors.
About the Author
Wenjie Tang. As a program evaluator, Wenjie Tang enjoys working with programs to understand and learn from evaluation findings. She is now working with the evaluation team at Arizona GEAR UP at Northern Arizona University. Wenjie received her Master’s degree in Applied Social Psychology and Evaluation in 2009 from Claremont Graduate University, where she received rigorous training in evaluation methodologies. Her research skills include survey, interviews, focus groups, observations, randomized-controlled-trial design, and various statistics skills. Born and raised in Shanghai, China, the sharp differences between the American and Chinese cultures sparked her interest in programs bridging the two countries. During and after her graduate study, she designed and implemented cultural exchange programs for American and Chinese youth. Her background in evaluation and cultural exchange programs attracted her to the C-100 Teaching Scholars Program evaluation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posts in this series:
New Trends in Philanthropy in China, Karla Simon
The Next Wave of Philanthropy in China, Dien Yuen