Tell us about your teaching experience before joining CLEAR.
After graduating from CUHK, I worked as a secondary school English teacher for more than six years. Then I served at the University of Hong Kong and worked on professional teacher training for another 11 years. In 1994, I joined the Faculty of Education at CUHK. In addition to teaching and research, I was also the programme director and designed a four-year undergraduate curriculum that prepared students to become certified English teachers. It was a very valuable experience as I was required to adopt a broader perspective. Later, I worked as Associate Dean (Student Affairs) of the Faculty and joined CLEAR in August 2015.
How are pre-service and in-service trainings different?
Education is not a new subject even to the pre-service course participants—as each of them has already been exposed to different teaching styles as a student for over 10 years. They have a passion in education and wish to explore more. In-service participants have practical teaching experience and their own perceptions in pedagogy. They are ready to discuss how various methodologies can be implemented. However, when it comes to teaching strategy, ‘one size does not fit all’. Teachers should be flexible enough when exercising their autonomy in teaching to successfully manage all classroom situations.
You are a three-time-winner of the Faculty’s Exemplary Teaching Award. What is your teaching style?
I always remind myself and my students that ‘teaching does not necessarily lead to effective learning’. It is not uncommon to observe diligent teachers overwork themselves without enabling students to learn. The question is whether students can truly learn by the way we teach. For example, novice teachers tend to teach in the way they were taught. But is the same kind of teaching strategy still effective to students nowadays? My teaching involves a lot of interactive activities. I always encourage students to compare their own teaching approaches with the way I teach. I also prefer asking questions, facilitating discussions and inspiring students to think, instead of simply giving them instructions. I wish to make my teaching as interactive and effective as possible. If students consider my classes dull and ineffective, I hope they can identify the problem and try to come up with a solution.
Can you briefly describe the services provided by CLEAR?
CLEAR offers a one-year Professional Development Course for teaching staff at Assistant Professor grade or below. It covers the mission and values of teaching at CUHK, course design and teaching strategies, as well as a practicum session. We are also commissioned by the Graduate School to offer Improving Postgraduate Learning courses, which include seminars and lectures, covering the writing of research proposals, papers, and literary review, laboratory safety and trainings for teaching assistants. Another important duty is the evaluation of students’ learning. Data collected at different stages of learning at the University will be delivered to various course administrators. CLEAR also hosts workshops to explain how to use various surveys to facilitate evaluation and analyze the effectiveness of teaching. Moreover, CLEAR manages several teaching and learning grants, as well as encourages teaching staff to develop new teaching methodologies.
How does the newly established ELITE accommodate the latest trend of ‘flipped classroom’ pedagogy and e-learning?
With two sound-proof recording studios at Hui Yeung Shing Building and an instructional designer, The Centre for E-Learning Innovation and Technology (ELITE, managed by CLEAR) offers technical support for developing teaching materials with the latest digital technology. ELITE also hosts seminars to initiate interdisciplinary collaborations. The latest ‘flipped classroom’ pedagogy allows students to obtain materials online to prepare themselves in advance, so that they would be ready for discussions and to raise questions during class time. The University has established the Micro-Module Courseware Development Grant Schemes to support the production of digital teaching materials to facilitate self-learning.
How do you spend your time after work?
Social services take up a large part of my leisure time, as I think there should be more to life than just work and family. I am the council and board member of various NGOs and institutions. Currently, I am training 60 outstanding primary school English teachers in cooperation with the Beijing Normal University. I have also taken some short courses on floristry, logical thinking, and public speech. Now I am learning a Shaolin breathing exercise from a psychology professor. I enjoy reading detective novels. I’ve finished those by John Grisham and recently moving to J.K. Rowling’s. These writers have done enormous research for their imaginative stories. Reading their works is truly a pleasurable and enriching experience.
This article was originally published in No. 476, Newsletter in Apr 2016.