Awardee of 2019 UGC Teaching Award – Dr Tushar CHAUDHURI

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Biography

Dr Tushar CHAUDHURI
Principal Lecturer in European Studies
Department of Government and International Studies
Hong Kong Baptist University

Awardee of 2019
(Category: General Faculty Members)

Dr Tushar Chaudhuri was born in Kolkata, India. He graduated from the German Studies Program of the Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi with an MPhil degree and was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru best undergraduate student prize of the Indian government. He earned his PhD in German as a Foreign Language from the University of Giessen, Germany. For his research project on multilingual grammar teaching, he was awarded a research scholarship by the state of Hesse, Germany. Dr Chaudhuri was trained as a German language teacher at the Goethe-Institut New Delhi, Munich and Berlin and has taught German as a Foreign Language to university students in India, Germany and Hong Kong. He was awarded the Hong Kong Baptist University President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2019, while serving as Senior Lecturer and Associate Head of Department of the Department of Government and International Studies and Coordinator of the German Stream of the European Studies Program at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). He has successfully led teaching and learning projects funded by the UGC in Hong Kong and by the Jean-Monnet Action Program of the European Union. Currently, he is senior lecturer for German as a Foreign Language at the Leibniz University in Hanover, Germany. He has published three books and his research interests include the impact of new technology on the university language classroom, the role of multilingualism in foreign language acquisition and telecollaborative language learning.

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Teaching Philosophy

Part I: Teaching Philosophy

Dr Chaudhuri was brought up in India and now mainly teaches German, a foreign language not frequently spoken in Hong Kong, to students at HKBU, which is far away from his home country. Given his unique background, we can expect that he is no ordinary language instructor but rather a true educator who brings a life-changing experience to students through innovative and immersive pedagogical approaches and a deep passion to connect and learn with others across the world. Dr Chaudhuri has not only enhanced the language proficiencies of his students but also played a vital role in promoting in them a strong sense of global awareness and intercultural understanding, shaping them for participation in the real world as global citizens.

Dr Chaudhuri believes that university education should be a life-changing experience for those who engage in the opportunities it provides for deep learning, particularly questioning and analysis, and for local and global collaboration.

He has constructed his teaching strategy around a simple 3C approach: connect, collaborate and construct. This 3C approach is based on the objective of educating global citizens who are interconnected and who will solve global problems through the collaborative construction of knowledge.

Telecollaboration as Learning Design

The application of this 3C approach is best demonstrated by Dr Chaudhuri’s telecollaborative teaching projects. In these state-of-the-art online projects, he combines language education with global topics, such as sustainable urban development. This creative approach brings diversification, internationalisation and technological advances to students’ learning experiences.

As Dr Chaudhuri puts it aptly, the pre-requisites for global interconnectedness are language proficiency and intercultural competence. This is the vision behind his ‘telecollaboration’ pedagogy for foreign language education. He enables his students to gain access to European philosophical and technological innovations through several channels, including direct contact with artefacts of the foreign language and its cultural components, and forming global connections through collaboration with international partners.

His approaches and pedagogical designs using telecollaboration are well-established in the education literature:

In the context of foreign language education, telecollaboration refers to the application of online communication tools to bring together classes of language learners in geographically distant locations to develop their foreign language skills and intercultural competence through collaborative tasks and project work.[1]

Research on telecollaboration has shown that it helps students ‘to enter into a new realm of collaborative enquiry’,[2] develop ‘new online literacies’[3] and ‘enter into contact with individuals or groups in the real world’.[4]

Within the 3C-framework, Dr Chaudhuri has further expanded the scope of a telecollaborative learning design to include the following four components.

  1. A multimodal forum for participants to exchange, compare and contrast information, and to create a third space. In other words, one cannot restrict oneself anymore only to one universal aim. [Connect]
  1. The complexity of the Web 2.0 mindset of participants, which is open and collaborative but at the same time critical of inefficient or non-useful collaboration and geared towards fast and effective results. [Collaborate]
  1. A vital necessity to continue dialogue aimed at setting tasks and goals with tangible and achievable outcomes: tangible through alignment to specific curricular learning outcomes and achievable chiefly through dialogue and collaboration. [Collaborate]
  1. The chance to explore intracultural issues (as opposed to merely intercultural richness) embedded within the course curriculum. [Construct]

Exemplifying Telecollaboration

For a glimpse into the telecollaborative experience of Dr Chaudhuri’s students, we can look into a case study of a project that he led, the Integrated Language Learning & Social Awareness Project (ILLSA). This project on language enhancement uses online platforms to connect French, German, Italian and Spanish learners at universities in Hong Kong and Europe.

The students are assigned a community project topic (e.g. ‘Healthy Cities’), and in the ILLSA project they complete tasks that simultaneously broaden their global vision through engagement in community actions and allow them to practise their communicative skills in the foreign language through reflective and research-based problem solving.

Each project cycle of around 8 weeks consists of 3 phases: knowledge gathering, research and a community project.

To complete the cycle, a pair of students learning a foreign language (e.g. German) in Hong Kong must collaborate with a pair of students learning the same language in Europe. This intercultural team meets virtually and gathers, records and reports their data in German in a common e-portfolio – hitting assignment milestones throughout the 8-week cycle. This can be considered a win-win approach: instead of the traditional approach of pairing students with native speakers, students are paired with other learners of the language with different cultural backgrounds. This generates common interests, motivation and mutual enrichment for all participants.

Explaining the rationale for adopting telecollaboration as a learning design, Dr Chaudhuri observed that his students were seeking ever higher levels of language and intercultural competence, often in preparation for spending a year in an exchange programme in a German-speaking country. He also saw an increasing number of students interested in taking up internships during this exchange year.

Aware of these needs of his students, Dr Chaudhuri decided that telecollaboration was the best way forward to help them acquire the competencies of teamwork, negotiation, effective communication and effective project management that are essential to excel in their exchange year in a German-speaking country.

This is a prime example of a passionate educator adopting a learner-centred approach from the beginning, by introducing the telecollaboration pedagogy, and turning this into an even more effective learner-led approachas the learners advance from one stage to another in the collaborative process.

Dr Chaudhuri’s telecollaboration approach expanded from an in-class language-learning activity to a community activity involving high schools, sister institutions and European partners, recognised by both the UGC in Hong Kong and the European Commission as a high-potential emerging area of teaching and learning.

Giving its flexibility in terms of learning outcomes and content, the telecollaboration approach could equally be applied on other interdisciplinary fronts, such as in STEM disciplines and in medical education and practice. This is especially the case now that the COVID-19 pandemic has familiarised so many of us with the use of the new teaching and learning technologies needed to conduct online classes, virtual meetings and virtual collaboration. Therefore, most university teachers are now already trained with the ability and experience to apply a telecollaborative pedagogy and mindset in their respective disciplines.

The Transferability of Telecollaboration

Dr Chaudhuri realised early on that this successful approach has potential not only outside of language classes but also beyond the tertiary education sector. Following the success of his ILLSA German-language project, he has proactively led the effort to harness the benefits of telecollaboration in other projects.

The transferability of this pedagogy can be clearly illustrated by the following two projects led by Dr Chaudhuri.

The Global Learning Online Project was conducted with students from the Faculty of Social Sciences in HKBU (Hong Kong) and students from the University of Kent (UK) on the topic of migration. The participating students were from a diverse range of disciplines, such as political science, sociology, education, history and European studies.

The HK-EU Schools e-Learning Project on Green Living and Sustainability connected local high school students in Hong Kong to high school students in European countries, including Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The project involved more than 400 students across 25 high schools on subjects ranging from Mathematics to Liberal Studies.

These two projects, along with ILLSA, which already involves 17 universities worldwide with almost 300 participating students of 40 nationalities, serve to promote Hong Kong as an innovative international hub of tertiary education and attract participating high school students in Europe and Southeast Asia to consider studying in Hong Kong as an undergraduate, postgraduate or exchange student.

Transformational Outcomes

The achievements of Dr Chaudhuri’s students speak loudly for the success of his telecollaboration pedagogy. Students typically enter his class with a 0-level proficiency in German, but within four semesters they achieve a sufficiently advanced level of proficiency to enter German universities as exchange students. The effectiveness of his approach for teaching German as a foreign language is unique not only in Hong Kong but also in Europe.

More than 200 of Dr Chaudhuri’s students have successfully completed an exchange year abroad in Germany or Austria and many have also gone on to professional success at the Hong Kong and international levels. When we include the telecollaborating students in Europe, it is immediately clear that the benefits of his classes travel far and reach across the globe to students of different nationalities, cultures and levels of study.

The transformative effects of the experience are best appreciated from the words and lives of past students of Dr Chaudhuri.

A local Hong Kong student wrote: ‘I find the project very useful and meaningful because we learn a lot about Germany. Politics and society are important subjects for European Studies. And we could practice our German during the holidays too. All in all, a very good project.’

The lives of two alumni, Steven and Carmen, provide further insight into how the telecollaboration project can be a life-changing opportunity.

Steven joined European Studies after his A-levels in Hong Kong and, like all his classmates, he did not speak any German. By the time he went for his exchange year in Germany, he was well qualified for an internship with Greenpeace. After graduation he returned to Germany to pursue a Master’s degree in Politics at the University of Heidelberg on a full scholarship. Since returning to Hong Kong he has been working at the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation on energy security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. As part of this job, he facilitates telecollaborative projects – similar to those he participated in during his studies with Dr Chaudhuri – to spread the word about clean energy in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.

Before Carmen went on an exchange year in Germany, she already had an internship lined up with TÜV-Rheinland, one of the leading quality control companies in Europe, after only a short telephone interview in German while she was still physically located in Hong Kong. After graduating, Carmen was hired by the same company at its Cologne headquarters. She now facilitates the hiring of more HKBU students as interns at TÜV-Rheinland in Cologne.

It is clear that if not for the transformative education received under Dr Chaudhuri, these two successful graduates would be unlikely to have made it so far into their careers. It is also worth noting that they are by no means just ‘getting by’ at work in these German companies; in fact, their supervisors are regularly complimenting Dr Chaudhuri’s students: ‘Your students are always an asset to our workplace. Their language proficiency especially in formal communications is sometimes better than those of our native-speaker interns. They are also very motivated and work independently and are results-oriented.’

A video by the UGC showcasing Dr Chaudhuri’s teaching philosophy can be accessed here.


[1] O’Dowd, R. (2014): ‘Intercultural communicative competence through telecollaboration’, in: J. Jackson (ed): The Routledge Handbook of Language and Intercultural Communication. London & New York: Routledge, 340.

[2] Kern, R., Ware, P. & Warschauer, M. (2004): ‘Crossing frontiers: New directions in online pedagogy and research’, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24: 243–260

[3] Guth, S. & Helm, F. (eds) (2010): Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, Literacies and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century. Bern: Peter Lang

[4] Dooly, M. & O’Dowd, R. (2012): Researching Online Foreign Language Interaction and Exchange. Theories Methods, Challenges. Bern: Peter Lang

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Achievement/Good Practices

Part II: Achievements/Good Practices

Commitment to Continuous Professional Development

Dr Chaudhuri is always eager to learn from other scholars and his contemporaries by participating in seminars and conferences. He recalls that it was these occasions that gave him the inspiration to develop the telecollaboration pedagogy and to continue improving his approach.

He especially points to a workshop facilitated by Dr Milton Cox on setting up a community of practice (CoP), which inspired him to set up a university-wide multidisciplinary CoP on student e-portfolios. The CoP brought together 12 colleagues ranging from professors and associate deans to lecturers and managers of the university. Their CoP became the most active of its kind in HKBU, meeting almost twice a month for 2 years and eventually publishing their proceedings and results with Springer in a book entitled E-Portfolios in Higher Education – A Multidisciplinary Approach, allowing a much wider audience to benefit from their work.

Dr Chaudhuri also conducts workshops regularly for Hong Kong high school teachers and develops teaching and learning resources/handbooks that are made universally accessible from an online depository to enable teachers to engage in telecollaborative pedagogies independently. He has also been involved in developing other add-on resources for students enrolled in the ILLSA project.

Besides publishing numerous articles in reputable journals, Dr Chaudhuri has edited two books on teaching and learning. A third book on telecollaborative language learning based on the ILLSA project is forthcoming and will be published by Springer.

Dr Chaudhuri is an active member of several professional networks, such as the eLearning Forum Asia, the Research Network Educational Linguistics, the Working Group on Technology in Education Germany and the Association for Learning Technology UK. He serves as chief examiner and external reviewer for German in other local institutions and also as advisor or reviewer to several international journals on language education.

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