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Teachers from Iraq, China visit ASU to deepen understanding of English

August 27, 2013

Teacher Training Program also provides experience with American culture

Arizona State University’s American English and Culture Program, one of the largest intensive English as a second language (ESL) programs in the nation, is hosting two Teacher Training Programs this fall for academic professionals from Iraq and China.  

The training workshops are part of ASU’s efforts to engage with global partners and work with them to find solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

Mark Rentz, director of the American English and Culture Program, says the group works with universities, embassies and ministries of education from around the world to offer customized programs and workshops to meet the needs of English language teachers at different levels of proficiency.

“Most teachers who visit us through the ESL Teacher Training Program are young individuals on the cusp of becoming critical influences on their students’ lives,” Rentz notes. “Our workshops combine instruction in American teaching methods with glimpses into American culture to offer immersive learning of the English language.”

Rentz says the program enables teachers from abroad to compare notes and absorb best practices from their American counterparts.

“In the U.S., we use the Socratic method of teaching that involves question and answer sessions to stimulate critical thinking,” Rentz notes. “As part of teacher-training classes and workshops, program participants observe interaction between ASU professors and their students from various fields, such as business, sustainability and education. The process helps them apply similar skills in their own classrooms.”

Additionally, classroom learning is accompanied by lessons in American culture through field visits.

“We seek to expand the classroom to reach into the local community,” Rentz explains. “ASU offers many opportunities to explore the arts, desert life, desert plants, and college and professional athletics. We take our guests on trips to museums, ballgames, nearby towns and cities, historic sites and even shopping malls. The idea is to provide participants ample opportunity to practice their language skills in real life situations.”

According to Rentz, the group of 25 teacher trainees, including English language instructors and graduate students from Iraq will participate in a six-week workshop, complete with extensive English lessons and homestays with American families to practice the language. The group’s visit was facilitated by a grant awarded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The Chinese group, comprised of professors representing nearly a dozen disciplines from Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, is partaking in a three-week program that involves meeting with their ASU counterparts, observing classes in their area of expertise and building English language skills for presentations and publications. The Chinese university has shared a familial relationship with ASU since 2006.

“Although the two groups from Iraq and China are quite different in terms of cultural background and resources, the goals for all these teachers are strikingly similar,” Rentz says. “They all want to better utilize English, technology and interactive teaching methods in the classroom, and maintain new friendships with the American colleagues and counterparts for years to come.”

The American English and Culture Program Teacher Training Program covers classes, seminars and workshops on topics such as key concepts of language teaching; teaching approaches, methods and techniques; best practices for teaching English as a second language; teacher language development; communicative language teaching; classroom management; and cultural patterns of language learning.

More information is available at