Inquiry-based learning is more effective than teacher-centred teaching.
This teaching principle drives from my learning and research experience in both China and Canada. The traditional Chinese way of teaching emphasizes the role of teachers in conveying knowledge to students. In this way, teachers are the primary information giver and students passively receive information. I was used to this way until I began my graduate study in Canada. The first impressive course that I took stressed the role of students in constructing knowledge through gathering and synthesizing information and integrating it with the general skills of inquiry, communication, critical thinking, problem solving and so on. I was impressed by the effectiveness of this different way compared to the traditional Chinese way that I was used to. Consequently, I conceive teaching as a student-centred process of guiding, inspiring and assisting students’ learning, while learning is understood as an active and inquiry-based process of receiving a teacher’s guidance, inspiration and assistance. The two processes are mutually constructed and inseparable.
“A student is not necessarily inferior to his or her teacher, nor is a teacher necessarily more virtuous and talented than his or her student in any field.”
This is a traditional Chinese teaching philosophy first proposed more than a thousand years ago by Han Yu, a great essayist, poet and educator. Although the traditional Chinese teaching methods that I experienced in China seem to be dwarfed by the ways in Canada, this traditional Chinese teaching philosophy still stands tall. In my course, I encourage students to speak out their ideas, which in turn, sparks my enthusiasm for teaching and inspires new insights for my own research. In order to encourage students to engage with the course, many active learning strategies are used, including think-pair-share, debate, case study, gallery walk, brainstorm and many others. For example, in the seminar Global Political Economy and China, I design one major strategy for each week according to the specific nature of the topic focused on that particular week, such as debate for China’s stance (revisionist or status-quo power) in international politics, brainstorm for solutions to global environmental degradation and case study for China’s trade disputes with other countries.
Detailed and objective evaluation and assessment methods are an important tool to stimulate students to actively participate.
My evaluation criteria emphasize both attitude and quality. Attitude mainly relates to punctuality in attending courses and submitting assignments and enthusiasm in group work, course discussion and other course activities. Quality mainly refers to the contribution of students to course discussion and other course activities and the extent to which students’ assignments meet requirements. Explicit criteria for grading are necessary to create a fair playing ground and, consequently, arouse the passion of students in participating in the course.
Basic ethical standards always matter.
I respect students’ spiritual and cultural values, confidentiality, gender identity and ethnicity, and establish professional relationships with students based on trust, fairness, honesty and reliability.