The meaning of “research-active” to SYU students


Professor Geoffrey Blowers

The teaching and learning mode will be more interactive and students’ learning experience will be broader as Hong Kong Shue Yan University enhances its research culture and teachers involve themselves more in research funding schemes, according to Professor Geoffrey Blowers, Director of Graduate Studies.

In an interview with the Shue Yan Newsletter, Professor Blowers said the government’s research funding scheme for the self-financing institutions is due to be implemented later this year, and the University is encouraging its academic staff to apply. It is time for Shue Yan to become a more research-active university since by doing this it can improve the University’s academic and teaching standards. He wishes not only individual teachers but also whole departments to become involved in doing research.

Students may question what the implications of SYU being research active will be for them. Professor Blowers said those professors or lecturers who get involved in doing research will carry out explorations of their subject and will be able to share their research findings, analysis and conclusions with students. Students can thus have a deeper understanding of the subject and come to learn how research is conducted.

Professor Blowers also said the learning mode of the students can be changed from a traditional passive-receptive format into more interactive one as the teacher get involved in research. He suggested a model for the arrangement of the class which can benefit more students. Teachers engaging their students in a research exercise can divide their classes into two to three groups for different tasks. For example, group A can draft research questions. Group B can collect data. Group C can interpret and analyze the data and draft conclusions.

The data under such an arrangement collected is brand new and cannot be found in books. Students collect the data, discuss and analyze it, and formulate their own conclusions. In these circumstances they will likely find the lecture more attractive as they are doing a real research.” Professor Blowers said.

For those teachers who secure research funding for research assistants, Professor Blowers said, they may employ undergraduate students in this capacity so that they can become involved in the research as well. Being a research assistant, students can learn different research skills such as those involved in data collection, observation, and communication. “These soft skills cannot be learned from a textbook but they are very useful in our lives.”

Professor Blowers encourages every academic staff to apply for the research funding. He said since the scheme is yet to be introduced, it is expected that the Research Grants Council will be more willing to give out the money in the first round for those who fulfill the basic requirements. From next year on, competition will likely become more vigorous; therefore, teachers should take advantage of this initial opportunity to apply. The administration of the University also intends to introduce some measures to support research-active staff. For example, those who are engaged in funded research projects might have their weekly teaching hours cut, and there might be further reductions if the circumstances are justified.

At the end of the interview, Professor Blowers reminded students who work on a research papers or term papers under the supervision of the professor or lecturer, “You should take control of the project at the beginning. For example, you can inform your teacher that you need to meet him or her every week so that he or she can provide you with more advice which can improve your learning and research. Don’t feel shy because of your status,” said Professor Blowers. These are words coming from his experience of being a professor supervising students on research projects for many years.

Source: November Issue 2013

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