How do we effectively diversify and expand the global academe by giving voice to Other perspectives that have historically been occluded in discourse? This question is evermore pertinent today as we witness increased racism, racialized politics, as well as politicized nationalism growing across the globe, warranting conciliation and collective expansion of our thoughts via meaningful discourse rather than through spectacular antagonization. This situation calls for a necessity to remain critical of both theoretical, and popular narratives abound, while seeking to understand our world substantially from many different cultural vantage points.
Pluralistic awareness as such needs to be advocated from within the global academia and the art-world. This is because the systematic configuration of these fields (e.g. language, concepts, epistemological conventions, and publication platforms etc.) perpetuates global hegemony, even though they are the designated arenas for critical reflections. In view of tackling such historical legacy, I hope to nurture an awareness of such hidden complexities through pluralistic and interdisciplinary readings, critical analysis, and creative experimentations, that foregrounds the need to remain prudent and far-sighted throughout.
In applying the pedagogy of Problem Based Learning (PBL), I see education as a collective knowledge building process wherein students' own lived experiences and knowledge become valuable insights for problem-solving. This student-centric approach enables students to consider their ideas from multiple perspectives, makes the content more relatable, and converts the classroom into an active site of autoethnographic research through which both students and teachers can generate original insights for research and creative practices. Teaching is, therefore, a valuable part of my reflexive practice and a key point through which change can gradually be effectuated.
The role of the teacher in PBL is to create a pertinent problem scenario, to provide the students with foundational knowledge and scaffoldings, to then focus on facilitating students’ self-driven brainstorming, researching, and problem solving processes. As this framework is repeated with varying scenarios and contexts, students become better at critically analysing different situations at hand, in identifying the knowns and unknowns, and in devising effective solutions that are well thought through. This collective solution-seeking approach improves knowledge retention and collaboration skills, while building a sense of agency and confidence.
Other merits of PBL include its emphases on collaboration and presentation. Group projects can be tough as its success is highly contingent on the dynamics within the teams. In exposing students to many group projects, they can engage in heuristic processes of working with a wide range of personalities, as well as in devising personal strategies to deal with potential mishaps. Students are also expected to present their findings on a daily basis, which leads to refinement of skills in articulating, presenting, and in critiquing the ideas at hand. I often begin the course by recording initial presentations by students for them to analyze their own performances, then we would do another recording at the end of the course to self-reflect on the improvements made. This ability to present clearly is not only crucial to the success of any and all initiatives, its benefits have been well recognized during student internships as reflected in employer feedback.
Having taught English since 2001, and teaching media arts courses at tertiary institutions since 2009, I have worked with students from toddler age children to retirement-age executives from different cultural backgrounds. This broad and tacit awareness shapes me into a nimble educator with many pedagogic tools to engage a diverse body of students. It enables me to be pre-emptive of contingencies such as the class size, technical limitations, or the ethnic make-up of students when building course materials and in managing the class. This added complexity makes teaching more interesting and rewarding.
Leveraging experiences in the academia, the art-world, and the marketing and advertising industry, I enjoy building and teaching a broad range of courses from theory and history, to design and art-making processes. I tend to equate my academic work to art-making, for instance, in the way novel experiences are sculpted from a diverse palette of curated ideas, technologies, and techniques. This makes it fun to establish and manage various processes such as festivals, or even internships, or academic duties including project supervision and student mentoring.
Below are some of the roles I have taken on at Republic Polytechnic (Singapore) as academic staff, between 2009 and 2013, prior to returning for further education.
SM2702 Interdisciplinary Practices in Art, Science, and Humanities
(TA, SCM, CityU HK, 2016, 2023)
A broad survey of research and development approaches within the arts, the hard and soft sciences and the humanities. Basic concepts values, conduct, representation, and politics are addressed through such topical concerns the perennial dialogue between biological and socio-cultural models of research. The relation between theories and research methods is discussed in the context of classical and current research and creative activity.
GE1113 Visual Storytelling and Cultural Thinking
(TA, SCM, CityU HK, 2015)
As our life is increasingly dominated by visual media, the significance of “visual storytelling” is rising across different means of communication. By bringing examples of some most influential visions of the world—works from artists, photographers, and especially film and video makers, the course helps students to recognize basic rules in visual coding and visual storytelling. Another important frame of knowledge for this course is how cultural elements affect the very making of visual media. Through vigorous drawing, printing, analytical and storytelling exercises, the goal of the course is to enhance students’ capability in understanding of visual media and in visualizing their own ideas.
SM2105 Narrative Strategies & Aesthetics of Time-Based Media
(TA, SCM, CityU HK, 2014)
‘Narrative’ is an important concept in new media creation. Far more than just story-telling, the idea of ‘narrative’ invites us to think about structures, processes and systems – essential to time-based organization and spatial arrangement. This course examines narrative strategies for all kinds of creative situations: from photo sequence to moving image aesthetics, montage theories for time-based media, from fiction and documentary film, animation to video experiments for ubiquitous screen contexts, game, hypertext, and immersive environments. At the end of the course, students should be able to use the concept of narrative flexibly, playfully, and strategically in their future art experiments.
SM1702 Creative Media Studio 1
(TA, SCM, CityU HK, 2014)
This six-credit studio course is aimed at ensuring basic competence with a range of traditional and new media tools for artistic creation. The course begins with workshops to generate experiences of creativity, followed by trainings in visual thinking and spatial logic, drawing, photography, video, sound production and aural awareness, which amount to the arts of seeing and hearing in the age of technological convergence. Students are expected to operate, with proficiency, tools of various media, and then gradually generate their own artistic vocabulary. In the process, students are also encouraged to create works with humanitarian sensibilities and concerns, especially via keen observation of the world around them.
SM1701 Contemporary and New Media Art
(TA, SCM, CityU HK, 2013)
This course combines critical theory and art history in developing a basic understanding of media art. It provides an overview of the social context, aims and forms of contemporary art, with a strong emphasis on experimental film and video art, installation, performance, interactive and intermedia work, and modes of computational thinking in art practices. The main focus will be on how media technologies are used in contemporary art practices.
(Module Chair, Republic Polytechnic 2013)
- Introduction to the fundamentals of drawing: line work, shading, perspective, and point of view. Through observation, life studies, field work, and extensive hands-on practice, students will develop the ability to see and render the human form, objects, architecture, and nature, enabling them to express ideas in visual form with confidence and clarity. Emphasis will be on the development of observational and rendering skills
T301 Creative Media Enterprise
(Module Chair, at Republic Polytechnic 2011-2013)
- Introduction to entrepreneurial skills & their application within the context of creative industries.Through a study of topics ranging from funding and the writing of a business proposal, to developing pitch and intellectual property rights, students will have acquired fundamental abilities that will enable them to face creative enterprise challenges as an aspiring professional.
T205 Digital Media Arts
(Module Chair, Republic Polytechnic 2011)
- Introduction to key digital tools for content creation, ranging from Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Dreamweaver, and Flash. Designed to help students discover their area of specialization, this introductory module imparts basic technical knowledge of various software and hardware used in the industry alongside basic design fundamentals for each skillset.
T252 Fundamentals of Design
(Co-Module Chair, Republic Polytechnic, 2010)
- This module looks at the ways design affects how we think, feel and respond to the world. Through exploration, analysis, discussion and practice, students will understand how design works to shape one’s perceptions and how it can be used to effectively entertain, persuade and affect human behaviour. Students will also look at how human nature plays a role in design and will develop a personal approach for creating design work that is meaningful and effective. Through the module, students will become aware of the elements of design and how they can be used to communicate effectively, and in turn become more confident in using these various elements to express their own artistic points of view with imagination and creativity.
T201 Creative Concepts
(Facilitation, at Republic Polytechic 2009)
- This module equips students with a conscious understanding of the manner in which creativity is generated, developed and applied. While it aims to empower students to ‘think out of the box’, it focuses more on guiding them to understand what this creative zone they call ‘the box’ is, as well as understanding the processes in which creative thinking is carried out. As a result, students develop their creative personalities and the associated behaviour. The module is centred on the key concept that creativity is the process in which the mundane or pedestrian is transformed into the unique.
=== Pedagogic Certification ===
Problem Based Learning Certification
PBL Foundation course is a compulsory 104-hour staff development programme at Republic Polytechnic. It is a student-centered pedagogic approach through which students can nurture working-knowledge of the subject matter by solving open-ended problems via self-directed inquiry. To achieve this, facilitators (teachers) build carefully scaffolded lesson materials presented alongside the problem statement, which students resolve through group work in consultation with their facilitators. Each group would then present their findings at the end of each lesson, so that each class becomes an opportunity to enhance group collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and presentation skills. While PBL may not always be practicable, I incorporate its philosophy and student-driven approach to teaching, along with other techniques picked up along the way.