Our Stories @ ENG: Lian-Hee Wee

Our Stories @ ENG: A series in which teaching staff and students share their memories of the ENG Department to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the department. [Read all entries.]  [Revisit the “Pride of Place” series.] [Revisit the “Pet Sounds” series.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]

A First Lesson on Fieldwork
by Lian-Hee Wee

I taught what is now called “Academic and Professional Writing” from 2006-2007. This is picture from 30 Jan 2007.

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In trying to prepare students for research writing, I wanted to give students a sense of fieldwork. How to teach that in Year One and to students with varying interests in Linguistics and Literature was a challenge. I figured we would have a class outside of class. The one in the picture was at the Cornwall Street Children’s Playground, which is the setting for many Hong Kong TV serials. The task was to stroll, observe, and then play. They were asked to play games they learnt as children, but hadn’t played for a long time. Again, as they played, they were to observe what each person did or said.

In other classes, I had tried other venues as well. There was once where we walked to Lok Fu where there was a 24-hour MacDonald’s and also a wonderful JUSCO emporium (now displaced by UNY). Students browsed through product labels, read and studied advertisements, or eavesdropped into the conversations of customers. Here is an example of something we found: No graffiti offender will be prosecuted.

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From the class assignment, students were required to use the fieldwork experience to write a poem. The poems would be submitted to the English Poetry Contest (now superseded by the HKBU Century Club Citywide Poetry Competition). I think some of the submitted works won.

I do not have quantifiable evidence that this particular lesson was helpful to the students when they wrote the Honours Projects some years after the class. I believe, however, that good things must have come out of this class. At the very least, they would remember that learning should take place everywhere, and one could observe even as one plays. In today’s myopic world where education effectiveness is only shallowly measured by short-term assessments, and where more resources are given into ‘reporting’ than to engaging in the true pursuits of academic activities, I find myself reminiscing very fondly to when teachers were trusted to do their best, and were not coerced into certain methodologies of framing all their work in business-like terms. Who is to blame?

In the meantime, memories of the brightened eyes of students who found meaningful learning continue to keep my aspirations afloat, and to prevent me from straying into the path of academic/educational bureaucracy.

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Lian-HeeLian-Hee Wee is Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature. [Click here to read all entries by or about Lian-Hee.]

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