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The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Double honours for PolyU in UGC Teaching Award

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 January, 2017, 5:25pm

[Sponsored Article] PolyU has multiple reasons to celebrate this month, as the first university to simultaneously clinch two of the three categories in the UGC Teaching Award. The winning academics received their awards from Prof. Adrian Dixon, Chairperson of Selection Panel, at a ceremony held on 8 September.

The University is delighted to congratulate Dr Grace Ngai and Dr Stephen Chan for taking out the General Faculty Members/Teams category and Dr Shirley Ngai for winning the Early Career Faculty Member category. The awards recognise their outstanding teaching performance and achievements, their leadership and scholarly contributions to teaching and learning.

Exemplary early-career innovator

Dr Shirley Ngai, a graduate of PolyU, launched her academic career at her alma mater in 2012. She has pioneered the implementation, development and enhancement of computerised simulation for physiotherapy training in Hong Kong.

A remarkably determined young university teacher, Dr Ngai not only achieves excellence in teaching and research but is also committed to nurturing students to become critically minded and competent clinicians who are capable of serving the community effectively.

Students’ learning needs and outcomes are always Dr Ngai’s first priority in teaching. To bridge the gap between clinical placement and classroom training, she designs various innovative pedagogical methods, such as blended learning, the flipped-classroom approach and computerised medical simulation. As Prof. Gabriel Ng, Chair Professor and Head of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, put it, “Dr Ngai’s efforts in introducing simulation learning have placed PolyU’s physiotherapy teaching on a par with leading overseas counterparts”.

Commenting on such learning experience, one of her students said, “there was a clinician and an academic staff member to evaluate our performance. This helped relate our simulation practice to actual practice in a clinical setting and to reduce the discrepancy between learning in a university and a clinical setting. That kind of feedback will help us to do better”.

Bearing in mind her motto “Growing up step by step with my students”, this humble outstanding teacher is eager to learn from others through collaborative projects and experience exchange, both within and across disciplines. She always hopes to enhance her knowledge and skills with the aim of improving her teaching for the benefit of her students.

Service-Learning transformers

Sharing the belief that education should give students the space and opportunities to explore the roles they wish to play in society, Dr Grace Ngai and Dr Stephen Chan began collaborating in 2006. They have since been outstanding in facilitating students’ transformative learning and promoting Service-Learning as an institutional strategy for developing students into responsible professionals and global citizens.

Described fittingly as “transformers” themselves, Dr Ngai and Dr Chan have fostered and advanced the practice of academic Service-Learning, which has transformed PolyU students’ learning experience. They have formed multicultural student teams, partnered with local NGOs and organized student-exchange programmes. More remarkably, they have piloted an innovative “global Service-Learning classroom” in which PolyU students and overseas peers can attend the same lectures and develop project objectives through video conferences before implementing their projects together at the service location.

Transformation also occurs in students’ mindsets. Esther Leung, a student majoring in Geomatics, reported that, “apart from benefitting the needy, we, as service providers, learn a lot more and understand ourselves better through serving”. Jacky Chan, another student majoring in Enterprise Information Systems, said that “in the past, I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, give my parents a better living. But now, I want to use my wealth to help more people in need. If everyone is willing to take one step further, the love and hope can be spread out”.

Apart from fostering students’ personal development, Dr Ngai and Dr Chan have spared no effort in expanding the coverage of their service projects, from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland to Cambodia, Myanmar, Rwanda and Kyrgyzstan. Their efforts to internationlise the Service-Learning experience and cultivate students’ sense of global citizenship and cultural awareness are particularly noteworthy.

At the system-wide level, Dr Ngai and Dr Chan have demonstrated their visionary leadership in helping PolyU management to conceptualise Service-Learning as an institutional teaching-and-learning strategy for achieving a complete education experience.

The success of Service-Learning at PolyU, however, is not wholly attributable to individuals. Dr Ngai and Dr Chan’s dedication has inspired many University members to engage in Service-Learning. The pair hope that more students can benefit from this life-change experience, and that more teachers will experience the power of taking students into challenging environments and feel the joy of watching them transform as they benefit the community.