May 31, 2018, by Sunita Tailor
Looking Back: 5th Change Agents Network Conference
This blog post was written by (2+2) English Language and Literature student, Yangyang Zheng.
Last year in Easter, I flew from China to Exeter, UK for the Change Agents Network (CAN) conference with one of my team members, Sonia (Lexiao PENG). Our group focused on changing the Reading Circle program to be student-led and student-oriented and we applied for building an NAA module for it. The program is now running smoothly back at UNNC campus, providing the first-year students a reading-friendly environment. We even published an article as co-authors on Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change. It had been an incredible experience, presenting on a conference and changing ideas with teachers and students from other universities (mostly from UK) talking about the role that students can play in the changes in teaching and learning.
According to Peter Sturman, the Student Support Officer, one of our tutor supervisors, it was the first time for the university (UNNC campus) to pay for two students to fly to another country to do a presentation at a conference. Mr. Richard Silburn, outgoing Head of CELE (Center for English Language Education) approved the funding for us to fly to Exeter. It was a rush decision and we had to have everything sorted out in less than 3 weeks. It is quite a story describing how we prepared for this trip, especially for the presentation. We changed and practiced our script and presentation many times and received helpful feedback from CELE tutors. By the time we boarded our first flight, we were packed with tips on how to do a good presentation and a newly-edited script.
We flew from Ningbo to Beijing, Beijing to Manchester and then from Manchester to Exeter. Almost two days on the way, which tired us out. What refreshed me was Exeter’s beautiful scenery. The conference was to be held at the University of Exeter and we also stayed on the campus. The CAN aims to promote students’ role in changing universities and it builds a platform for different groups to demonstrate what they have achieved so far. Although it is about students taking part in university changes, most of the participants at this conference were still teachers. Thus, we were special not only because we were from China, but also because we were student presenters. Our presentation lasted twenty minutes excluding the question session. We had more than a dozen in the audience out of approximately 100 participants because there were parallel sessions going on. We introduced our Reading Circle Mentor NAA Program and what we had done to make a change in promoting extensive reading at UNNC. We received positive feedback about our project (“Students taking control”) and they were also quite interested in how Chinese as First Language speakers read English literature. We also went to other presentations and workshops by teams from other universities and received many ideas about what students can do in changing the university. The conference argued that students should form partnerships with the teachers to make changes happen on their campus and slowly even take charge of those changes. We also talked to different teachers from other universities and made friends with them during lunches. We networked over discussions about the presentations, our universities and exchanged email addresses to stay in touch in the future.
It will take another 500 words to describe in detail our adventure in Exeter. It was amazing to be on a trip like this and attend the conference, exchange ideas and insights with people who care about the same thing. Our presentation, in my not-so-humble words, was a success. We see changes happen every day because of the efforts of students and those changes are going to make a difference at UNNC in a positive way and I believe the same thing can happen or is happening in UNUK as well.