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Award-winning CityU educators empower student driven learning

Award-winning CityU educators empower student driven learning
Dr Tan Chee-wei (left) and Professor Alexander Loke are the TEA winners for 2020/21 .

Adopting a student-centred approach to acquiring knowledge is the teaching philosophy mutually shared by the Teaching Excellence Award (TEA) winners at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) this year.

Professor Alexander Loke of the School of Law and Dr Tan Chee-wei, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science, won the TEA for 2020/21.

Developing deep learning

Professor Loke seeks to cultivate a passion for deep learning among his students. He helps them manage complexity by constructing mind maps and frameworks and by investigating the links between different topics and subject areas. He emphasises the importance of seeing the law as a whole and the need for a good lawyer to have the ability to dive into details and nuances. 

He places students at the centre of the knowledge-building process so that they can take ownership of their learning and appreciate the value of collaborative learning. By encouraging students to build solutions together, this approach nurtures confident learners who strive for more sophisticated answers.

In addition, he exhorts his students to treat the classroom as a safe place to explore, and to investigate when answers go wrong. “Make your mistakes in class, not in the examination. And certainly not when you are in practice,” he said.

Professor Loke’s most satisfactory experience so far at CityU came from the “Aha!” moments shown on the faces of students when they see the new light during the learning process.

He will continue to encourage a love for exploring new knowledge and encourage his students to become meaningful participants in shaping the world. His teaching grant will be used to investigate learning challenges encountered when crossing legal paradigms.

Teaching to inspire and uncover new knowledge

“University teaching is not about just covering the curriculum but rather how students uncover, guide and shape my teaching pedagogy”, said Dr Tan, who has upheld this motto throughout his teaching career.

Dr Tan believes successful teaching comes from a student-centred approach to inspiring curiosity and encouraging autonomy when searching for unique discoveries. His students are stimulated to demonstrate creativity and innovation in project work, and some have even won prizes at international competitions such as the Intel Cup Contest and the NASA Space App Challenge.

As a computer scientist, Dr Tan explores pioneering ways to facilitate teaching, such as AI-powered chatbots for classroom flipping in which students receive instant feedback on self-directed learning before meeting in the classroom.

During his 12 years at CityU, Dr Tan has found the most challenging experience to be the virtual teaching format during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Tan plans to address challenges faced in remote or hybrid teaching and learning situations. He will work with international partners such as the Harvard-MIT Open Online Education Platform to explore new teaching methodologies and nurture future engineers.

The TEA has promoted exceptional teaching methods since 1993. Each awardee receives a cash prize of HK$15,000 for professional development and a teaching grant of HK$150,000.

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