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Benjamin Ku & Chen Tien Chi
2 teaching styles;
1 teaching goal

By Timothy Ser

Ages don't govern teaching styles. The oldest and one of the youngest teaching staff at The Chinese University of Hong Kong work toward the same goal - quality education - using different teaching strategies.

The oldest teaching staff is 72-year-old Prof. Chen Tien Chi.

He is a visiting professor in the Office of General Education and a professor emeritus in The Computer Science and Engineering Department.

The thin, white haired Prof. Chen was the former college head of United College from 1979 to 1988.

He was a regular member of the teaching staff from 1979 to 1992.

Previously Prof. Chen worked for an IBM research laboratory in Silicon Valley.

Regarding to his interest in continuing to teach again, he simply said, "I find teaching interesting."

His enthusiasm is evident from the effort he puts into every lecture.

Recently he spent over 40 hours preparing a 2-hour college general education lecture that included a Powerpoint presentation. Dr.

Benjamin Ku Hok Bun, 31, of the Department of Sociology, is one of the youngest teaching staff.

Dr. Ku was already employed by the Chinese University before he got his Ph.D in 1999.

Compared with Prof. Chen, Dr. Ku is less experienced. He is entering the second year of his teaching life.

He is teaching two courses - Chinese Society and Hong Kong Society.

He always asks questions in classes in order to have more interactions with students.

"I have even played chess games with students during lecture," said Dr. Ku.

Dr. Ku said that students easily get bored during lecture, so he often make use of multimedia to stimulate them.

"They can learn more effectively in a more relaxing atmosphere. It is no good for me to keep talking all through the lecture," said Dr. Ku.

He also gets close to students.

Walking around the classroom and standing close to students are some of his habits.

He sometimes sits on a bench with one leg casually dangling in the air.

"I am not a rigid person," said Dr. Ku."I want to break down the barriers between students and lecturers.

"Simply call me Ben," said Dr. Ku, as though to emphasize his point.

Dr. Ku said that students feel free to ask him questions when he is closer to them.

He gets a sense of personal reward from this - something that he never really expected.

His students regularly express their views in many ways - in class, after lessons and via e-mails.

One of Dr. Ku's students is Cherie Li. She is a Year 2 student in the Department of Economics. Miss Li said, "He's very young. He doesn't look like a member of the teaching staff at all."

Dr. Ku not only has a casual teaching style, but he also is very casual in the way he dresses.

Judging strictly from his clothes, some students would find it a surprise to realise that he is an instructor.

He sometimes can be seen wearing a blue T-shirt, white jeans, and a pair of running shoes. Sunglasses may be seen hanging from the collar of his shirt.

By comparison, Prof. Chen has a completely different teaching style.

During one recent lecture, Prof. Chen slowly sat down on a chair in the classroom. Beside him was a cup and a thermos of hot water.

He spoke in a low voice and at a steady pace, his soft voice amplified by a microphone.

Students sat quietly and listened to Prof. Chen, but that does not imply he has no interactions with students.

For example, after lectures Prof. Chen likes to hold a forum that students can join voluntarily. The atmosphere there is in great contrast to that of his lectures.

According to Prof. Chen, students actively raise questions and listen to his explanations patiently, though not all students attend the forum.

To the students' surprise, Prof. Chen is quite an open-minded person. He introduces many new technologies both in class and in the forum.

Yet, he is very disappointed when he realises that students are inattentive in his class. This happened to be the situation during the 2-hour lecture he spent 40 hours preparing.

Prof. Chen knitted his brows and said, "It's a pity that they wasted my 40 hours of work in preparation."

The interaction between Prof. Chen and students has been inevitably limited in the past few years because Prof. Chen stays at the university only for 5 or 6 months each year.

Nonetheless, it would be a misunderstanding if students thought Prof. Chen does not spend time with his charges.

It would be hard for students to imagine Prof. Chen teaching students German folk-dance, but he really did so at the German Culture Festival in 1983 when he was the College Head of United College.

"I treasure days with students, because I expect to join the social circles of students," said Prof. Chen.

He even participated in both athletic meets and swimming galas in competitions with students.

"I had great fellowship with students at that time," said Prof. Chen.

As for Dr. Ku, he also spends time on establishing close friendship with students.

Sometimes students tell Dr. Ku their personal problems such as love affairs gone sour.

It is common for him to go out for drinks or meals with students.

"I regard students as brothers and sisters," said Dr. Ku, "because I am a Christian."

He forces himself to do more than just teach. Dr. Ku encourages students to participate in social affairs.

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Timothy Ser

Dr. Ku wants to break down the barriers between students and lecturers.













Timothy Ser
Prof. Chen enjoys fellowship with students and joins in many activities.