Messages from Members

Professor Isabella Poon Wai Yin

Pro-Vice Chancellor/Vice-President
Professor, Department of Statistics
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
2011 UGC Award for Teaching Excellence

I joined The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1987 and have since worked for the University for more than 30 years. From 2004 to 2014, I served as the Associate Dean (Education) of the Science Faculty during which I had the privilege of working with many excellent teachers. This inspiring and rewarding experience was invaluable to my career development. Having served as the Associate Dean for seven years, I received the UGC Teaching Award in its inaugural year 2011. The Award is tantamount to recognition of the Science Faculty of CUHK, within which many teachers work with much dedication and innovation to continuously improve the curriculum and pedagogy with a view to enhancing student learning.

To promote teaching in the higher education sector, it is crucial to have sufficient resources. I am grateful to UGC for the provision of various funding schemes, such as the Teaching Development and Language Enhancement Grant (TDLEG) and the Funding Scheme for Teaching and Learning Related Proposals (FSTLP). Throughout the past 15 years, I have been able to make use of this funding to embark on a host of projects with colleagues. For example, in 2006 we initiated a TDLEG project to kick-start using the outcomes-based approach in science curriculum design. In 2008 we launched a TDLEG project that introduced the use of the classroom response system “clicker” across all departments in the Science Faculty to promote classroom interaction. In 2012 we undertook an inter-institutional FSTLP project that engaged some 40 teachers across different faculties and institutions to develop a large amount of online courseware for learning science subjects. In 2015 we used additional UGC funding to support more than 150 teachers at CUHK to develop micro-modules for blended learning. All of these projects generated fruitful and promising results, contributing to teaching development and enhancement  over the past two decades.  There may be a general perception that teaching is not valued in universities, but based on my personal experience and observations many university teachers are very enthusiastic about teaching. In effect, teaching and learning have improved substantially in the UGC sector as more and more teachers have actively engaged in professional development activities, with many good practices being initiated and widely disseminated. Programme management has also developed, with robust quality enhancement mechanisms put in place. Most academics do indeed value teaching and have the motivation, determination and innovation to deliver the best teaching despite facing many competing priorities. With adequate resources and funding as well as significant recognition provided by the UGC and individual institutions, teaching and learning excellence will continue to flourish in the sector.

Professor Daniel Shek Tan Lei

Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme), Chair Professor of Applied Social Sciences, and Li and Fung Endowed Professor in Service Leadership Education
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
2018 UGC Award for Teaching Excellence
(General Faculty Members/Teams)

Reflections on Teaching

I invite colleagues to reflect on the following issues when we teach. The first is to understand the needs of students. It is always helpful to “start where the student is”. Hence, having a holistic understanding of the students, including their expectations, aspirations, anxieties, difficulties and wishes, is of paramount importance. For example, some students may bring their family problems to their studies, while others may be confused about the purpose of university study. In most cases, teachers can share their personal journeys and life wisdom with the students. The second issue for reflection is students’ potential and competencies. Having a firm belief that young people have the potential and ability to change is very important. Additionally, the belief that students can learn well if we give them appropriate opportunities and support is vital for student and teacher empowerment. Obviously, developing such beliefs requires a paradigm shift in our assumptions about students. The third issue to reflect on is our attitudes about teaching. Some teachers may hold the belief that teaching is a difficult task which is not rewarding, and that it is “non-strategic” to focus on teaching. Obviously, it is important to see teaching as more than the mere dissemination of knowledge. In fact, teachers “educate” students, helping them to thrive as individuals and unleash their full potential. By doing so teachers grow and teaching is both enjoyable and rewarding when we witness the growth of our students. The final issue for reflection is how teachers should interact with students. My experience tells me that teachers should be responsive to the needs of their students and should show kindness and caring. Nevertheless, teachers should also be demanding in their expectations and encourage students to do their best.

Dr Elaine Au Liu Suk Ching

Associate Head
Associate Professor, Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences
City University of Hong Kong

2014 UGC Award for Teaching Excellence

Based on my background, first as a social worker and then as a social work educator, my teaching philosophy is guided by one of social work’s core elements – the humanistic approach. I see each student’s learning experience as an enriching, transformational journey. I respect student’s individuality and uniqueness, and accept the constraints connected to their past. I care deeply about the welfare of young adults and understand how environmental forces such as globalisation, a fast-growing economy, cultural diversity and technological advances may have markedly affected their upbringing. At the same time, I am aware that our brief encounters with young people in the classroom can easily be impersonal and structural. Both inside and outside of the classroom, I therefore emphasise the interconnectedness of students and the community, and strive to create opportunities for students to take action in the community through helping, serving and involving themselves in the social causes they feel strongly about, thus facilitating a process of transforming their past constraints into present strengths. The resulting emergent sense of empowerment then leads to a cycle of positive reinforcement, providing young people with the motivation and confidence to better and more fully involve themselves in the community.

Dr Jason Chan Kwan Kit

Lecturer I
Department of Chemistry
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
2018 UGC Award for Teaching Excellence

Teaching in academia is very rewarding. We may remember ourselves at university age being energetic, curiosity-driven, cheerful young adults who were developing into independent thinkers. Thus it is always a joy to share in the enthusiasm of students at this stage of their lives, and a privilege to share my experience and knowledge with them to guide them on their paths of life. Teaching is also the best way to learn anything, and I speak from personal experience as I have benefited from this very often: as I teach my students, they also teach me.

A learning experience that lasts is what I aimed to deliver, one where students can feel positive about having learned something worthwhile and meaningful, and where taking my courses is time well-spent. It is through an experiential learning pedagogy combined with an element of fun that I have managed to achieve these goals.

In collaboration with the Centre for Education Innovation at HKUST, we have developed a solution to offer experiential learning to large classes. We offer students a free choice between a traditional individual project and a variety of experiential learning group projects, and find that the percentage opting for the experiential option continues to rise. Currently, over 75% in my class of 343 students have chosen this option. Most of them enjoy these chemistry mini-projects, and it is worth noting that these are students from engineering, business or the humanities who are studying a science common-core course.

Technology also transforms how we teach and learn. I am fortunate to be part of the HKUST X Minerva Scholars Program team. We conduct classes on a pioneering online platform using a curriculum based on Minerva’s revolutionary vision for university education. Popularising chemistry through a diverse range of community outreach endeavours has also become a little mission of mine; one that is hugely rewarding and motivating for me.

Professor Kong Siu Cheung 

Professor, Department of Mathematics and Information Technology (MIT)
Director, Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology (LTTC)
The Education University of Hong Kong

2020 UGC Award for Teaching Excellence (TEAMS)

What makes a good teacher?  Having been a teacher in secondary and tertiary education settings for many years, I can verify that the student-centred paradigm is the bedrock on which good teaching develops.  We care about students’ interests and perspectives and create opportunities for them to develop autonomy and self-regulation.  Along this line of thinking, many of us work hard to be good teachers.  Despite our good intention, there are competing priorities sharing our 􀀁nite time: research, and administrative duties, to name a few.  At the end of the day, we 􀀁nd ourselves slicing only a small portion of time polishing our teaching.  To make the most out of this fraction of time, I hope to share two things.  First, it is worthwhile to spend time on innovating pedagogies to support student learning.  Your investment will pay off, and ultimately, good teaching should be effortless when you turn it into a habit. Second, the teacher is not the only factor in the good teaching equation.  Your students play their part, too.  To keep yourself going, you need encouragement and support from them – as much as they need them from you.  When your students are not responsive, don’t be disappointed and give in to your standards because a disequilibrium is a norm.  What you need to do is to re-calibrate your teaching with a caring heart and adequate support for your students. I hope you will continue to feel alive and inspired through teaching.