Interview with Su-Chin Chang
Past and present
N: What did you want to be when you were young?
S: I wanted to be a scientist when I was young. I was fascinated by geology.
N: Did you pursue your dream intentionally?
S: I was interested to be an Earth Scientist when I was 12, as well as astronomy. And I realized my mathematics was not good enough.
N: Are kids encouraged to think about what kind of subjects they want to take in University?
S: Not really because parents will decide for their children. When children would like to be geologist, their parents would get very angry because they are so worried about their future. When I wanted to be a geologist, my father was supportive because he was also a professor. However, my mom was more concerned. She was a teacher and she thought that it was not a good job. She wanted me to be a doctor or banker.
N: Do you think it is a very common thing in a Chinese family?
S: Yes, I also had some pressure from my relatives. My cousin had a misconception that I would become a driver because geologist is to collect rocks and sands.
N: Can you tell us your story leading to your current teaching job in HK?
S: Because my husband works in HK. At the beginning, my husband would like to work in HK and I would like to stay in US. We had been together 14 years and we broke up because of that, and we didn’t talk to each other for three months. After three months, I tried to find a job in HKU.
N: Did you get a job right away?
S: In the first year, I was a Research Assistant Professor. Then in the second year, I applied for Assistant Professor. I was lucky enough to switch. I came to HK 7 years ago.
Teaching at HKU
N: How’s your teaching? Did you like it? What are the challenges?
S: My teaching load is not heavy. There is much time for me to do research. In 7 years, I offered 8 different courses. I enjoy it very much especially when I prepared the teaching materials.
N: What are the challenges of teaching HK students?
S: Before I taught in HK, many people told me HK students are naughty. They chat a lot in the classroom and are very noisy. I was a bit worried so I got myself prepared before coming in HK. Therefore, I planned for the two-hour lecture. I would not talk for the whole lecture. I will switch the subject in every 15-20 minutes. I will give them a quiz.
N: In HK, students normally don’t like to answer questions. Did you call up their names or what did you do?
S: I divided them into small groups. I gave them some time to discuss. And each group needed to put forward their ideas.
N: What are the most challenging aspects of teaching in HKU?
S: Teaching Common Core course is the most difficult because students come from different backgrounds. Some students don’t care or don’t really want to learn science. And since some students did not have science background, it was difficult for me to adjust the teaching materials. In order to raise their awareness, I would do experiment like observing Dinosaur’s faeces and to analyse what did the dinosaur eat. Another thing that I realize is that students would only like to talk with people from the same backgrounds. I tried to encourage them to form group with students from different disciplines, but it didn’t work. I was kind of surprise that HKU students were quite conservative and shy.
S: I think we need more teaching assistants and staff but I have no information about where I can get the resources. I think the hiring process needs to be more transparent.
N: What makes you feel fulfilled when teaching in HKU?
S: For the Common Core course I taught, I would need the students to do posters and group presentation. I was quite surprised to see the posters because they were so creative. Some students made the poster using recycling materials.
S: Even though the response rate of my course is not very high, but the overall feedbacks are very positive.
N: Any advice you would like to give to the tutors?
S: My tutors are all very good. They tried to understand the course materials and planned how to run the tutorials. Another thing is they need to care about students, care about their learning progress.
N: Any other things you would like to suggest?
S: I think Common Core could really increase the transparency in letting the teachers know where to get the resources. I think the teachers need to get more support.