Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Teaching in Xian

I had to deliver two full days of lectures for a subject in a Masters program in Information Systems in Xian over the weekend. I used a lot of case studies. Some of which are well-known cases such as Google’s search engine, the Wikipedia open source encyclopedia, Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, etc. Others are projects that I have personally been involved in, such as the building of a digital library at Project Gutenberg, data mining on a crime database, text mining for human resource management, etc. I also included assignments done by previous batches of students.

I used an interactive style in the lectures, asking them questions and encouraging them to ask questions. Then I gave them time to conduct group discussions and invited some of them to present the results. I told them repeatedly that it was not how much facts they memorized, and whether the answer to a question was yes or no that matter. It was how they analyze a new problem, and be able to justify their answers with facts or sound arguments. In short, the techniques I used are quite common in Western universities.

To my students in Xian, however, this is something new. They were attentive in the class, and were clearly eager to understand what I was trying to discuss with them. They told me they found the emphasis on practical applications as well as research-based insights into the case studies refreshing. The applauded at the end of the first day, and clapped even louder on the second and last day. Their response made the hard work worth it. On the plan ride back to Hong Kong immediately after the classes on Sunday, I was totally exhausted but happy with the experience.


Anonymous said...

Good work! People's appreciation is the best reward.
This afternoon my staff asked me about the attraction of HK secondary schools to mainland students. I told them we are definitely attractive because of the teacher-student warm relationship, the open discussion / interactive learning approaches, the diversity / range of extra curricular activities, the English language environment etc. Ann

The Cat said...


It would be so much easier to just simply do rote teaching and make students memorize... and nobody could/would blame us if we did that. I would like to think that students do notice and appreciate when we put in extra effort... otherwise, it would be a exercise in futility indeed...

StephenC said...

Yeah, I think they do, most of them anyway.

You reminded me of something else: I got an appointment mixed up and ended up not having enough time to go out for lunch on Sunday. One of the girls gave me one of her two apples. Then one of the male students went out to buy me 2 sandwiches and a milk-drink. And another girl brought me hot tea. I was really touched.