North Texas Daily

Sports teaching program expands its global footprint

Sports teaching program expands its global footprint

February 11
00:26 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighnic0le

They’re located 7,000 miles apart, but the University of North Texas and East China Normal University in Shanghai have more in common than one might think.

Since 2014, UNT’s College of Education and ECNU have worked together in a student exchange partnership to further current students’ knowledge in the field of sports pedagogy, a method of teaching an academic subject or theoretical concept.

“Sports and education come together,” Zhang said.

Immediately after finishing its second run-through of a semester-long curriculum, the program and its participants are looking to further UNT’s international presence.

Kinesiology, health promotion and recreation assistant professor Tao Zhang, who leads the program, said sports pedagogy examines the influence of policy and the program impact in physical education, physical activity and sports programs.

“The subject matter forms the foundation of effective teaching and coaching,” Zhang said. “We aim to develop new knowledge that can improve learning and lifetime physical activity by enhancing the development of [the] sports experience for diverse populations.”

During the fall 2014 and 2015 semesters, ECNU sports pedagogy students came to UNT, not only to learn about their major but also to experience a different culture. Likewise, UNT sports pedagogy students made ECNU their home for the semester.

ECNU doctoral student Qiang Guo has studied at UNT since August 2014 and was the first sports pedagogy student from ECNU to do so. Guo focuses on youth physical activity, sedentary behavior and obesity prevention.

Although he goes back to China this summer, Guo has studied and conducted research at UNT. He has also attended local and national conferences in order to gain a better knowledge about his field.

Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation department faculty members and visiting students from East China Normal University attended the 2015 TAHPERD (Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) in Dallas in December of 2015. Photo courtesy of associate professor of sport pedagogy Tao Zhang.

Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation department faculty members and visiting students from East China Normal University attended the 2015 Texas Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance conference in Dallas in December of 2015. Courtesy | Tao Zhang.

“The way or mode of thinking in the research of sports pedagogy is really different between China and America,” Guo said. “It’s necessary to deeply understand what is happening and how to solve these problems from different aspects of ways of thinking.”

Guo said there are many factors affecting problems like youth inactivity. Factors like socioeconomic status, cultural background and sports habits vary across countries and regions, and all of them influence the way young people think and act.

ECNU students participated in P.E. teaching method classes at UNT and observed various P.E. classes at elementary and middle schools in Denton ISD.

The study abroad program allows both groups of students to simultaneously experience the study of sports pedagogy in a new and different environment. Kinesiology, health promotion and recreation assistant professor Xiangli Gu said although they offer the program to many students in the College of Education, the international program offers more than just a means to explore.

“This is such a big effort within UNT for international outreach,” Gu said. “It opens up a whole new world of knowledge and skill. China is so different compared to the United States, and there’s nothing like experiencing such a diverse place while doing something you are interested in.”

Gu said the UNT and ECNU program is different than many study abroad programs offered because of this. Additionally, the program is a way for UNT to further its relationship with Chinese universities.

In November 2014, President Neal Smatresk visited ECNU to discuss strengthening the relationship between the two universities. UNT and ECNU also have a joint research laboratory that deals with technology and follows the phrase “big data, little devices and lifelong learning.”

“We are not only sending students to study in Shanghai; students from ECNU are coming here to learn, grow and develop in their skills as well,” Gu said. “This program provides such a great opportunity to build and increase our connections and presence in China and opens the door to so many other prospects.”

Although the program has only been in affect since 2014, it is opening possibilities for more joint programs through the university. Kinesiology, health promotion and recreation associate professor Katherine Thomas said having this relationship with one of China’s leading universities could help propel UNT and the College of Education into the international eye.

“This program puts UNT on the radar of students in Shanghai and beyond,” Thomas said. “The program benefits the graduate goals of UNT and our students. UNT students benefit by associating with international students. It provides a global perspective and helps us see that we are all more alike than different.”

Because she has been with the program since its inception, Gu is curious to see what the future holds for the program. She is, however, ready to see the next round of students go through the program to gain knowledge on sports pedagogy and culture.

“Now that UNT is a tier-one university, we need to put more of an effort on collaboration with outside universities,” Gu said. “This is just the start of a bigger picture. I cannot wait to see the program grow, just like the university.”

Featured Image: Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation department faculty members and the dean of the College of Education Jerry Thomas pose with the visiting students from East China Normal University during the UNT Homecoming game on Saturday October 10, 2015. Courtesy | Tao Zhang

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