Distinguished Teaching Award winner Jiang Xuejun: Teaching at SUSTech is a lifelong choice

Oct 11, 2018

Looking back on his five-year teaching experience at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Dr. Jiang Xuejun, an assistant professor of mathematics, was deeply impressed by several things. One is that five years ago, he was attracted by the idea of establishing a research university, SUSTech, so he abandoned his teaching position at a key university in Wuhan in Hubei province to come to Shenzhen. As a result, he has experienced the development of SUSTech. At this year's Teacher's Day Awards Ceremony, SUSTech awarded him the “Five-Year Service Award,” and the “Outstanding Teaching Award.” He has won other awards in research, and he thinks this is the best affirmation for a teacher.

Dr. Jiang Xuejun joined the Department of Mathematics at SUSTech in July 2013. In the past 5 years, he has undertaken a heavy teaching load and guided dozens of undergraduates to graduate. He has also actively promoted undergraduate internships and made great contributions to the school's financial mathematics and statistics education. He also continued to explore teaching reforms by presiding over provincial education and school-level educational reform projects, as well as recording a time series analysis MOOC course. Even with all those commitments, he has found the time to co-author an upcoming textbook called Mathematics Statistics with Professor Tian Guoliang. He pays great attention to classroom teacher-student interaction and innovations in teaching methods.

The first priority is cultivating research skills and the initiative to learn

When talking about undergraduate education, Jiang Xuejun believes that the biggest advantage of undergraduate study is that they accept change quickly and that the students do not feel constrained to his ideas. Therefore, he is constantly teaching in accordance with their aptitude, hoping to cultivate good study habits.

The spirit of active learning and keen study is what he values most and is also the quality he most wants to cultivate. He regularly selects topics and conducts face-to-face discussions with students, with as many as four group meetings each week. For each group theme, Jiang Xuejun will inform the students of what they need to read ahead of the meeting. The specific solutions will guide students to think independently and explore.

Jiang Xuejun believes that we should pay attention to cultivating students' solid basic and professional knowledge, especially in such high-level research universities as SUSTech. Undergraduate enrolment is relatively small, and undergraduate students are required to have a higher level of knowledge. Faculties can consider higher requirements for the top 20% of the department and may increase the difficulty and breadth of the curriculum and professional training for those students. Students that can reach these requirements can even be educated in advance at the undergraduate level.

His expectations for the undergraduate study content coincide with SUSTech’s general education program. "As a student, the most important thing is to lay a solid foundation of knowledge, and to be as broad as possible, to master the professional content of more than one subject."

Jiang Xuejun suggested that freshmen must first learn to allocate and manage their own time and be responsible for their actions. On this basis, we must try our best to plan and have goals for learning and life. He hopes that SUSTech students will be able to face the difficulties in their studies, and they must have the spirit of curiosity and hard work.

A classroom that attracts students is a good classroom

Thinking about teaching will ultimately fall into practice. For classroom teaching, Jiang Xuejun admits that he will also check student attendance, but he believes that effective teaching needs to attract the attention of students as much as possible. In this regard, he has his own experience and teaching skills. For example, different students understand the material at different times. His solution is to let the students who understand the content share it with the students that do not. This kind of reversal teaching method can effectively attract the attention of students and solve some students' understanding. Instead of students being confused, the students are helping each other so that the academic effect is twice as good with half the effort. In order to make his class more interactive and interesting, he is extremely serious about preparing lessons.

Jiang Xuejun said that good lesson preparation is the basis for good lessons, especially in the preparation of new lessons. Sometimes it takes him two or three days to prepare for a new lesson. He believes that adequate preparation can help to form teaching notes and coursework with their own unique style, saving time for teaching this course in the future.

Jiang Xuejun used to classify courseware, handouts, exercises, homework and answers, quizzes and answers, projects, mid-term exam papers, final exam papers and answers in the first preparation lesson. After class, he continued to improve the courseware according to the students’ feedback and recorded the lesson experience. He would also give some exercises for the following quizzes and answers. This habit allows him to accumulate his own question bank for exams, which could more effectively help students to consolidate and review. It also meant that students would be bringing in more knowledge into subsequent tests. Besides lecturing in class, he will interactively broadcast videos that are normally recorded to students.

Sometimes the busy day-to-day work has squeezed the time for preparing lessons, and he is preparing classes until late into the night or as the sun breaches the horizon in the morning. Outside the classroom, students often come to his office to ask questions. No matter how busy, Jiang Xuejun will stop the work at hand and explain patiently.

His hard work is reflected in the educational outcomes achieved. His colorful teaching style is matched by his preparation, making Jiang Xuejun’s classes highly popular.

Choosing SUSTech is Something That You Won’t Regret

Before coming to SUSTech, Jiang Xuejun was engaged in teaching and research work at a university in Wuhan. However, after knowing more about SUSTech, he was attracted by its uniqueness. He had had experience in studying in Hong Kong. The relaxed academic atmosphere and teaching atmosphere of SUSTech, and the teaching of English have created great appeal to Jiang Xuejun. He believes that SUSTech has gathered the excellent quality of many universities at home and abroad, and the future development is expected.

To this end, he gave up his stable work and the familiar living environment in Wuhan to come to the forefront of China's reform & opening up and arrived at SUSTech. His wife gave him great support, and also came to Shenzhen to work hard together, where they supported each other and had made progress together.

Speaking of this past event, Jiang Xuejun could not hide his feelings for the years and his gratitude to his wife. He admits that he first came to SUSTech and his own imagination gap, but with the joint efforts of many parties, the fast-growing SUSTech has more than lived up to his expectations. He never regretted this life choice.

Interview: Miao Xuening

Text: Miao Xuening, Zhang Jiachen

Translated and Adapted: Chris Edwards

Proofread: Xia Yingying

Photo: Wang Kaiqiang

Design: Qiu Jun