China Studies SMLC HKU School of Modern Languages and Cultures HKU
Research and Teaching Synergy​  

The China Studies programme values the concept and practice of “research-teaching synergy.” All China Studies teachers are active, committed researchers. Each China Studies course teaches both content and skills that nurture students to be knowledgeable and capable investigators of China’s past and present. China Studies teachers and students work together in the classroom to develop and examine research questions, to engage in debates, and to apply their collective knowledge to academic and non-academic purposes.

Teaching as Research: Reflections from SINO2002

ZHANG Yun Dr. ZHANG Yun 張贇, specialist in gender studies and cultural history of modern China

Teaching-Research Synergy
Teaching the advanced CS course SINO2002: China in the World—Critical Paradigms was a refreshing and rewarding experience for me. As a scholar trained in China Studies, I envisioned that the course should be interdisciplinary in nature when I was called upon by Dr Loretta Kim, director of the China Studies program, to design and formulate my own course syllabus. With the goal of examining the shift of new paradigms in the field of China Studies around the major academic centers in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, I organized the course by prominent topics that drove debates on China’s place in the world in the twentieth century and that would recur in contemporary China in a global context. These topics included “nationalism”, “race and ethnicity”, “language reform”, “women’s status”, “science and technology”, “health and hygiene” as well as “tradition”.

During the classroom instruction, the first challenge I encountered was an eclectic student population who came from a diversity of academic backgrounds and possessed different levels of knowledge about Chinese culture and history. In order to help the students have an easier access to the course topics, I would put out a whiteboard in front of the class at each session and asked the students to write down any words, terms, or concepts that they thought to be relevant to the topic under examination. Eventually, the keywords that students wrote down served as important signposts for the subsequent lecturing and in-class discussion. I kept referring back to these keywords and made them relevant to the course content. This method proved to be very effective as students tended to be more attentive when the content was relevant to them and what they learned during the classroom often stayed with them longer too. In addition to encouraging the students to actively engage in in-class and online discussion, I also employed a teaching approach that combined multiple texts, such as visual and audio texts (photos, images, films, TV programs, or posters). Students responded enthusiastically by participating in analyzing and discussing these texts.

I have also enjoyed integrating my research into the teaching of the SINO 2002. When I was teaching the topic on “women’s status,” I shared with the students about my specialization in gender studies and women’s print culture in modern China. Specifically, the knowledge and skills that I gained from translating the renowned China historian Gail Hershatter’s recent book The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past proved to be transferrable in the classroom. The life stories about rural women from Prof. Hershatter’s book struck a chord with the students and enabled them to have an in-depth understanding of the status of Chinese women.

All in all, teaching the SINO2002 was a truly rewarding experience and I often find myself learning things from my students that gave me new perspectives and ways of thinking about China or the world at large I might not otherwise encounter. Most important, this teaching experience has consolidated my belief that research and teaching are in many ways overlapping and are both mutually beneficial and helpful.


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