Docent in the Picture
Without sustainable teaching, the development of our civilization will discontinue, decline, and die away.
Cha-Hsuan Liu was a lecturer at the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Science (ISS). The teaching in ISS consists three pillars: Social Policy and Public Health, Youth, and Migration and Cultural diversity. Because her academic background overarched a wide range of knowledge – from Medical technology, Hospital and Healthcare administration, Health Psychology, to Migration and minority studies, she gave lessons under all these three pillars. A professor in ISS once made a nice remark about her, “Cha- Hsuan probably is one of the true ISS-ers who can cover the teaching among all the disciplines in our department.”
I met Cha-Hsuan when TAUU was looking for a teacher for the “Strengthen your education week”. It was a really nice talk with a passionate teacher. Cha-Hsuan gave a course about “Improve your Presentation Skill – What I learned from my TED-talk”, where she gave some inside information about her TEDx Talk – The Secret of Tiger Moms at Amsterdam in 2017.
Now Cha-Hsuan is leaving the University after a four-years contract. Sadly, we are losing an engaging teacher, again.
What are her plans for the future? What did she like about teaching and what inspires her?
Why did you become a teacher?
Not sure how I can give a good answer to this question. Fate? It feels very nature for me to share my knowledge with others. I did not choose to be a teacher. Maybe I have never chosen to be anything/anyone at all (lol).
‘I sometimes called young children in my village to sit in front of me and gave “lessons” to them.‘
I started teaching when I was 4 or 5 years old, if this can be counted. I sometimes called young children in my village to sit in front of me and gave “lessons” to them. In schools, I was a teaching assistant. In my undergraduate years, I have already given workshops to other students. Next to my master study in the Netherlands, I taught Chinese language to both children and adults at a Chinese school.
Later I worked in Taiwan after having acquired my PhD degree, but for some reasons I needed to be back in the Netherlands. When Prof. Tom ter Bogt asked me if I would like to teach at ISS, I immediately accepted this offer.
‘Without sustainable teaching, the development of our civilization will discontinue, decline, and die away.‘
Even though I attribute “fate” as a reason of being a teacher, it is indeed my passion to translate, integrate and exchange knowledges between disciplines and levels for diverse audience. I believe, by doing so, we advance the understanding of our world and further inspire our living.
What inspires you in teaching?
The ancient wisdom that we inherit for thousands and thousands of generations and the novel understanding that we generate in the modern time. It can be the language, the philosophy, the religion, or the understanding of our universe. Without sustainable teaching, the development of our civilization will discontinue, decline, and die away.
Who inspires you within the university?
My teachers, my colleagues and my students.
‘In Chinese culture, teachers are regarded as important as the parents.‘
In Chinese culture, teachers are regarded as important as the parents. While they propagate the doctrine, impart professional skills, and resolve doubts, they are also the model who inspire the next generation’s behaviors and aspirations.
My vision on academic work is much influenced by my PhD promoter, Prof. David Ingleby. He always encourages me to be critical to the information that I gathered for my research and to add my own insights to the phenomenon. When I design a course or am in front of my students or audience, I have the same urge to support them to learn the knowledge with critical eyes and encourage them to enhance what we have inherited. Together with the mindfulness, I believe it is the energy for the evolution of our human mind.
At the same time, I admire my colleagues’ passion on teaching. The trainers of the department “Onderwijsadvies & Training” at our faculty FSS have shared plenty methods to bring my teaching in a forward-thinking level. My colleagues share their tips on various situation in the classes openly. These hands-on experiences are inspiring me to think deeply how my insights can be well received by the students.
Last but not least, in UU I had great students coming from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. Their reflections and discussions shape my comprehensions of the theories or practices. Together with my students we re-visit the interpretations of our world and give the knowledge new meanings.
What wisdom have you acquired as a teacher that you would like to pass on to other junior teachers?
I believe each student has their own time to master the information/knowledge/skills that we share. Actually, they might know more or better than us concerning the modern knowledge or it in other fields.
I often make a joke on myself that I am teaching History instead of the Ethnic and Minority matters, Youth study or Health. The theories that I teach are the crystals generated from the experiences of the past. The theories may help us to explain the current social phenomenon, or they cannot. By exchanging our understandings with each other, we can move our wisdom forward and make progress of our living for all.
What is your wish/challenge for education? What would you like to see different?
Thank you for this question. In the past years, I often seek inputs and comments on my idea about “New Education” from my friends, colleagues and students. Nowadays, the younger generation have developed their own way for learning. Young children who thirst for knowledge will always find a way to acquire it. The classroom is no longer the central place for the knowledge transmission. Since the access to information or knowledge can be easily reached anytime anywhere, it becomes more urgent for teachers to facilitate students to distinguish the quality of the information, to be critical to the knowledge acquired and to apply what they are equipped.
‘It becomes more urgent to facilitate students to distinguish the quality of the information, to be critical to the knowledge acquired and to apply what they are equipped.‘
Therefore, I imagine the University to be a classic Greek Gymnasium, a place where philosophers and the knowledgeable frequently assemble to hold talks and lectures; a place for the learners debate and verify their knowledge; a place to test their innovative ideas. It should be an arena or a laboratory. Instead of delivering knowledge, it is more important to cultivate the critical thinking and mindfulness. They are the weapons that prepare a human being for the life-long acquisition of knowledge or skills to sustain and to advance the livings.
Which colleague within the UU would you like to ask a question (and what question would that be)?
The executive board?
What is their ideology of higher education?
What kind of higher education they are leading us to?
I know the University is a research institute, but it is also an instituted eco-system for higher education. In order to sustain the University as an institute, nowadays the operation of the education system seems sacrificing the sustainability of education itself.
What we have observed in the past years, University seem to propose replacing more and more senior teaching staffs with junior ones to avoid the ‘costly’ expense on the senior teaching force. (Interestingly, there seems no problem with the budget on the senior officers of the supportive teams). Although I understand that the current university regulation may try to cheer the teaching staffs leveling up their competence by investing efforts on research, it somehow gives the impression that experience of teaching is not appreciated.
It was argued that without continuing research involvement the quality of an academic staff can be impaired. Sadly, not many lecturers were given the chance or on the payroll to participate research projects in the University. With a temporary parttime function, the lecturers sometimes need to seek a side job or work on several jobs to fulfil their living necessity. Even though research hours can be allocated to the lecturers since this year (2020), I still wonder if this research involvement can sustain these colleagues’ work in the University, given the fact that a temporary contract can only be maximum three years and no extension can be made.
What is your next step?
Good news just came in that I am awarded an international grant, Taiwan fellowship 2021, to study Covid-19 measures from hundreds of applicants around the world. It will be a cooperation with my colleague, Dr. Jaap Bos. Funny enough, despite the fact that I am passionate about research and knowing that research is the only path leading to a successful academic career, I was much soaked by the teaching tasks and could not pick up my passion during my time in UU. You can imagine how great and grateful I feel to be a research worm once again!
‘Since UU has included ‘Sustainable University’ in her strategic plan, it would be a brave move to sustain the higher education teaching by restore the development track for the teaching teams as well.‘
I believe that there are many colleagues in teaching function also have the countless potential to carry research projects like I do. Since UU has included ‘Sustainable University’ in her strategic plan, it would be a conscious and brave move to sustain the higher education teaching by restoring the development track for the teaching teams as well.
10 November 2020
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