Through a study-abroad program funded through her university, Wu is spending the year at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS) observing classroom instruction and studying UofL’s Ideas to Action (i2a) initiative. i2a aims to cultivate critical thinking strategies to help students learn not only the subject matter but also how to use their knowledge to address community problems and issues.
Wu first learned about UofL after meeting SPHIS professor Robert Jacobs during his visit to China in 2011 as a Fulbright teaching scholar.
Most Chinese professors in the sciences primarily lecture and students rarely ask questions in the classroom, said Wu, noting that this style can limit creativity and complex problem-solving.
“While I am here, I hope to define critical thinking for the Chinese culture — since the word ‘critical’ can have a negative meaning in China; observe how faculty involve students in discussion and complex thinking; and propose a similar type of teaching-learning style for China,” Wu said.
Wu said she already has seen many positive aspects of Jacobs’ teaching style. She described his classroom atmosphere as being “active,” noted how students can interrupt a professor in the middle of a lecture to ask a question and said she likes how daily quizzes are structured to focus on gaining knowledge.
Small group interaction and discussion also are important components of his classroom, she said.
Her Chinese students could benefit from a similar style of learning, Wu said.
“We have some complex environmental issues in China — including air and water pollution,” she said. “My students are the future leaders of the country and need to cultivate critical thinking skills to make the country a better place to live.”