Teaching in Hong Kong, ReflectionsPosted: July 26, 2014
I used to wait for a while before writing my reflections, to give myself time to sort the information and think about things. These days, one amazing thing finishes and then another starts. I’ve had a lot less free time than I thought I would on this course and I have about a day of downtime before starting work again on Monday (I fly back this afternoon) and then I’m off again on another project a week from then. So I’ll try and capture my thoughts now, although I always hope to come back and adjust them later as I think. (I actually have a maxim when I’m travelling to “do it while I’m there” because I’ve discovered that, too often, the way back takes you on a different path, so I may never revisit this but, knowing this, I’ll try to put in as much as I can.)
In talking to the students, and in seeing their marks, this has been a success but, like all pathfinders, the problem now is marking the trail so that other people can find it. How do we do this again? How do we it better? Well, we’re already talking about setting up the administration earlier to get some things going that we wanted the first time around and I’ve got a list of suggestions from the students as to what they think could be better.
But this was a strong validation of guided study groups, blended learning, flipping, collaborative work and giving students some freedom. This also justified putting the effort into industry visits and sharing what we do in our school with our students. This has been an excellent educational experience, with emphasis on both parts of that. The community has made it work, because the students commented that they’d never spent so much time digging into references to understand what was going on, and that discussion was an important part of that. However, their physical proximity allowed them to do it face-to-face, rather than on a forum.
That’s an interesting point – if you look at our electronic footprint, you’d think the course was a failure. Instead, because we spent at least 3-4 hours together every day, issues were resolved quickly and only broadcast when they had to be. You’d be right in assuming that that can be a little wearing on the instructor, because you’re always on, but that’s why I’m here.
The next trick is going to be getting this to work for less crazy instructors – in the last couple of days, I’ve been really tired, because the constant “on” (while doing my normal job back home in the cracks) is not what I’m used to and I don’t have my usual home comforts to settle back in to, in order to unwind. Not a big complaint, as I’ve been very comfortable, but a lot of people would find it hard to leave their families for three weeks, let alone act as mentor, guide and teacher to 10 people across that time. Having said that, the students have been great and I’ve worried more about them as a general principle than I’ve had to deal with as a reaction to problems. But it is still wearing.
Probably, the most important thing to do next time is to go ahead with the pan of integrating local students as well, to maximise the mix. Travel broadens the mind, because the longer you spend in other cultures, the more of your own you can start to see without your own biases. We’ve done very well in exposing students to different areas of HK and Macua, in seeing other communities and industries, and in meeting people – but this would be so much better if they worked side-by-side with students from CUHK. Apart from a learning experience, we could be building working and friendship relationships measured in decades rather than a trip measured in weeks.
In summary, it went well and we managed to combine engaging learning with effective learning – so I’m very happy to call this a successful start, already.
If you’ve been following the course, thanks for reading, and I’m always happy to answer questions in the comments! Ciao!
Take us out, Bruce!