2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Clifford Hill: Bringing East and West Together

Professor Clifford Hill is actively exploring ways to improve education by bringing Western educational practices to China, and examining Eastern traditions with students at TC.

Professor Hill's proposal, A Transcultural Approach to Contemplative Practices: Traditional Resources and Contemporary Educational Benefits won him a Contemplative Practice Fellowship. The fellowship is funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Fetzer Institute and administered by the American Council of Learned Societies. The goal of the fellowship is to provide opportunities for faculty in academic institutions to develop curriculum that includes the study of contemplation.

Hill will be developing a course that would introduce an overview of classical Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions as well as those in Africa and the Americas before the arrival of Europeans. Additionally, the course will seek to explore the contemporary relevance of the contemplative practices of these traditions and investigate their educational potential.

In his efforts to bring Western knowledge to the East, Hill and graduate student Wang Haixiao have been working to develop better ways of assessing English language skills of students in China. "We would like to build tests that deal better with real understanding of language," Hill said. One solution they are developing is a short-answer test that can be scored by computer. Another way of assessing students' English proficiency, he added, is to assign them a topic in their major field to research in English via the Internet and the World Wide Web. They would then be expected to give both an oral and written presentation of their project.

"College English is the curriculum for all Chinese university students," Hill explained. "English is becoming the dominant language as the foreign language requirement for people in Chinese universities."

He foresees a change in English language teaching in China. Chinese students will become increasingly interested in using English as an important tool for intercultural communication in China. "English is such an international language, it becomes a vehicle for allowing China to be open to the world," Hill noted.

At college English teaching conferences held in Beijing and Nanjing this past July, Professor Hill presented alternatives to the multiple-choice test for college English in China. Hill gave the keynote address at the conferences, which were sponsored by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

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