Associate Professor Develops Physical Education Teacher Preparation Curriculum in China

Photo of Xiaofen Keating
Xiaofen Keating

Have you ever wondered about differences in education systems around the world? Associate Professor Xiaofen Keating in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction has been expanding the experience and knowledge of College of Education students by giving them a hands-on learning environment that takes them across the globe. Over the past two years, she has helped develop an experience within the physical education teacher preparation program that allows students at the University of Texas at Austin to study education at multiple universities in China while Chinese students study education at UT.

Program Overview

After receiving funding from the Department of State in 2016 for a two-year project to help promote American fitness and health culture in China, Keating began taking Physical Education and Kinesiology and Health Education students to China as part of a program to help students engage and expand their knowledge of an education system other than their own.

Keating says that the program can be even more beneficial than a traditional study abroad program that only visits one university. “The international learning experience enriches students’ understanding of the field of physical education from different perspectives,” says Keating. “The visits to six universities in China also help UT students understand the variations of physical education programs offered in China and helps students better understand American and Chinese cultures.”

UT Students at Chinese Universities

Ten undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students UT Austin, The University of Texas in Dallas, and Austin Community College traveled to China during summer 2018 to teach various physical education techniques and become immersed in a new culture. Each of The UT students gave a presentation to the Chinese students on their own topic to at least one of the universities, while some students taught the entire time.

“Our students exchanged ideas about the physical education teacher preparation curriculum and teacher preparation issues with their Chinese counterparts,” says Keating. “They also learned that Chinese physical education majors spend more time on learning basic sports skills and teaching methods than those in the U.S. Student teaching was also found to be implemented differently in China, as many students are placed in rural areas instead of in nearby schools.”

Xiaolu Liu, a third-year doctoral graduate student in the physical education teacher education program also recounted her experience as a teaching assistant.

“As the TA for the physical education culture program, I had a wonderful summer spending three months with the Chinese students from Zhejiang Normal University,” says Liu. “We’ve built a very close connection through daily academic lectures as well as physical activity classes. This amazing opportunity not only enriched my teaching experience as a future physical educator but also helped Chinese students understand more about physical education and sports culture in America. It is worth being a part of long-term cooperation!”

From May 20-June 11, UT students visited Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai; East Normal University, Shanghai; Huayiao University, Quanzhou, Fujian; Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua; Northeast Normal University, Changchun, Jilin; and China’s University of Mining and Technology, Xuzhou, Jiangsu.

Chinese Students at UT

As part of the program, three UT doctoral students teach 40 Chinese students that come and study the UT College of Education physical education program. Twenty students from the Shanghai University of Sports were at UT this summer, while another group of 20 students from Zhejiang Normal University was here from mid-summer to early fall.

Tianwei Zheng says, “I have learned a lot of new knowledge and skills during this summer at UT Austin. I love that we can have academic lectures, physical activity classes, and varied cultural activities. This helped me understand more about the learning in a classroom at UT Austin as well as enjoy American sports such as American football and baseball that I have never experienced before. I was very happy that I could make so many friendships with people at UT Austin while learning a new culture! UT Austin is wonderful!”


“Participating in this program allows students to develop cultural sensitivity and a better understanding of China and the U.S.,” says Keating. “This is demonstrated by learning new cultural sports such as football and baseball for Chinese and Taichi and dragon dance for U.S. students.”

Keating says the program has also initiated international research projects, with some students now planning to conduct comparison studies between China and the U.S. It has also allowed the students to establish friendships with different scholars and students.

“Having colleagues and friends in different countries makes them feel that the world is much smaller, well connected, and supported.”