University Teaching Fellowships 2007
Professor LEUNG learned his philosophy of teaching from one of his own teachers, who instilled in him the importance of being committed and cherishing one¡¦s students. As a result, his teaching philosophy is very simple. He believes that teaching is not just a process of knowledge transfer but also about changing a student¡¦s life.
Professor Leung understands that, in this era of knowledge explosion, students need to acquire skills that enable them to keep on learning throughout their lives. He teaches both advanced and basic scientifi c courses for science and non-science major students, and strives to ensure that his students¡¦ learning experience is not limited to textbook materials. He always impresses upon them that scientifi c knowledge is not only interesting but also vital for so many aspects of modern life. He also has a natural gift for making science understandable to both science and non-science major students, and can express the most diffi cult scientifi c concepts in a way that can be readily appreciated by his audience.
Professor Leung is also the warden of Starr Hall, and takes his duties as warden as seriously as he does his teaching duties. He tries to get his hallmates to understand that learning is not just something that goes on in lecture theaters, but should happen every day, in every place, and should continue throughout their lives. He is also the perfect example of a teacher whose passion for teaching goes beyond the classroom. He shares his interests and beliefs not only in informal contacts with his colleagues and students but also on formal occasions such as high table dinners. He believes that learning from your mistakes is an important part of the learning process. He tells his students not to be afraid of taking a risk ¾ provided that we do not keep on repeating the same mistake! He also insists that scientists have a responsibility to communicate their discoveries beyond the academic world, and believes very strongly that universities should not be ivory towers.
Professor Leung modestly admits that he is not a born teacher, and that he has had to acquire all the skills he possesses. Perhaps as a result, he has always kept an open mind and been willing to try out new teaching techniques. The best example of his readiness to experiment was the introduction of the 'clicker system' at HKU. He learned about this system, which creates an interactive learning environment by enabling students to give feedback during a lecture in real time, from Professor Eric Mazur at Harvard University, and applied for a Teaching Development Grant in 2006 to develop it at HKU. He has also developed, with the help of his postgraduate students, the interactive web-based interface 'Classman', which manages classroom activities and provides a platform for interactive learning beyond the normal timetabled contact hours.
Like Socrates in classical Athens, Professor Leung believes in encouraging his students to learn by asking questions. He changed the format of an advanced scientifi c course, replacing the traditional system of protocol-driven experiments with an inquiry-based personal research experience. His main aim was to help students to learn actively. He assigns each student a unique problem with a set of relevant solutions, so that they can enjoy a unique research experience based on the different approaches they use to solve the problem. Although this can be a time-consuming teaching method, his teaching philosophy is popular with his research students, and there was no shortage of volunteers to adopt this new approach.
Professor Leung believes that motivation to learn is the key to the successful completion of the teaching-and-learning-cycle. His students learn from what they have observed, and he himself attends educational workshops and conferences to keep himself up to date with teaching developments. In this way he creates a highly motivated learning environment, starting from himself and extending to everyone in his research team, including postdoctoral fellows and both postgraduate and undergraduate students.
Citation written and delivered by Dr HON Chung Chau