HKBU Enews Eyes on HKBU
May 2012 | Issue 20

Dr. Noel Siu: Students are precious lives worth treasuring

Recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Teaching 2002

On the whiteboard in the office of Dr. Noel Siu, Associate Professor of Department of Marketing, School of Business, there is a quote from Professor Yang Chen-ning: “Education aims at nourishing children’s ability to explore and solve problems”. The quote inspires Dr. Siu to guide her business students to be conscientious and ethical. “I understand that teachers are not magicians. We can’t make all our students equally good, but I’m constantly adjusting my teaching method and hope to help students learn about the business world by exposing them to multiple perspectives.” All this is simply because she regards her students as precious lives worth treasuring.

Dr. Siu is very fond of her students and says teaching has been more fun than she ever imagined. “Once you love your students, you will enjoy being a teacher,” she says. For her, all her students are unique. She believes her bounden duty as an educator is to train them to be independent.

Making improvements
When she started her teaching career at University of Derby in the United Kingdom many years ago, Dr. Siu found the job challenging. “In my first year of teaching, my performance was poor and the students were unhappy,” Dr. Siu recalls. “Due to the differences in culture and language, the pronunciation, speed and use of slang in English were communication barriers. For example, “when I said ‘salary’, my student misunderstood it as ‘celery’."

As the saying goes “Start your journey again at the place you faltered”, Dr. Siu was determined to change the situation for the better. For over a year, she watched television programmes to improve her English pronunciation. The relaxed teaching style of her colleagues also inspired her to craft her own teaching methods. By observing others’ classes, she understood that before she could help students enjoy their lessons, she needed to enjoy teaching first. What’s more, she did her best to be friends with her students. “Friendship between teachers and students fosters communication and turned out to help both of us to be more committed to teaching and learning.”

What’s in a name?
"When I was a student, I was very happy if teachers remembered my name,” she says. Now as a teacher, Dr. Siu memorises all the names of more than 50 students in her class and recognises their unique personalities. By doing this, she hopes to convey to students that she respects them and is keen to know more about them. Often when Dr. Siu calls a student by name and reminds him to concentrate, the student is stunned.

Facilitating learning
"I’m not just a teacher, I’m also a facilitator,” Dr. Siu says. Students usually mistakenly assume that the teacher’s job is consolidating notes. However, she emphasises that the real duty of a teacher is to stimulate students’ curiosity. "Learning by interaction and engagement is the core of education,” she says. In view of this, she creates a study atmosphere that makes students realise that they are a part of the learning process. “Once they are willing to learn, I’m willing to give more.”

"My lectures are rich in content. For example, we have case studies, classroom exercises and Q & A sessions. It’s almost impossible for students to remain silent,” she smiles. Having been immersed in the traditional examination-focused education style for over a decade, most students are very passive and rarely express their thoughts. To encourage the reticent students to participate more actively, Dr. Siu assigns 10 per cent of her grading to class participation. In the first five minutes of each lecture, she also tests students on their understanding of the content of the previous lesson. “When students are willing to respond to my questions, even the answer is not perfect, I will give them marks.”

"Students explore subject-related information more often, whether inside or outside the classroom, will enrich their knowledge and expand their vision,” Dr. Siu says. She herself has remained curious and never misses opportunities to broaden her horizons. In recent years, Dr. Siu has served as a member of The Marketing Advisory Board of Vegetable Marketing Organisation. “For most assignments, you must throw yourself into it before you can truly understand and experience it. And it’s funny how many things are actually related to marketing.” She hopes that her students will exhibit this kind of determination to learn and explore as well.

Vivid examples
For Dr. Siu, teaching is also a learning process. Every semester, she works hard to figure out the thoughts and needs of students, and then adjusts her teaching method. As there are many abstract and difficult concepts in marketing, Dr. Siu uses vivid examples to illustrate them. She shares an example that always makes students laugh: “A boy meets a beautiful girl at a party. He wants to date her and says: ‘I’m rich, marry me’. This is a kind of ‘advertising’; however, the girl slaps him. This is ‘customer feedback’ and shows that she doesn’t like the boy.”

Ethical business
Is the business world dirty? Having worked in the commercial sector, Dr. Siu witnessed quite a lot unethical business practices. She thinks that Business and Corporate Social Responsibility is a particularly important subject for students. "There is no standard answer when it comes to ethical questions,” she says. Therefore, she hopes to guide students to cope with different moral issues in appropriate ways. “In addition to finding solutions to problems, it’s important to figure out what your moral stance is.”

As an international financial hub, Hong Kong needs a lot of talents. Dr. Siu affirms the value of the School of Business in grooming the necessary workforce and stresses: “We are not training a group of people who only mean to earn money any way they can. Our society needs conscientious and ethical business people.”