NATIONAL CHENG KUNG UNIVERSITY, TAINAN, TAIWAN
BANYAN
Volume 6 Issue 9 - December 5, 2008
Commentary
Hua-Li Jian
Experiences of Teaching Engineering Students in Taiwan from a Western Perspective
Article Digest
Horng-Long Cheng
Thickness-Dependent Structural Evolutions and Growth Models in Relation to Carrier Transport Properties in Polycrystalline Pentacene Thin Films
Wei-Cheng Lo
Effect of soil texture and excitation frequency on the propagation and attenuation of acoustic waves at saturated conditions
Pao-Shan Yu
Support vector networks pruning on flood forecasting and data mining
Fu-Yun Yu
Experimental Comparisons of Face-to-Face and Anonymous Real-Time Team Competition in a Networked Gaming Learning Environment
Article Digest
Y.K. Fang
Dynamic Negative Bias Temperature Instability (NBTI) on Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon (LTPS) Thin Film Transistors
News Release
News
“Proper Health Care is the Most Economical”
Dr. Jyh-Hong Chen, Superintendent of NCKU Hospital won Outstanding Manager Award
News
Industry-Academia Cooperation between NCKU and Celxpert
Opportunities
Activities
Editorial Group
Experiences of Teaching Engineering Students in Taiwan from a Western Perspective
Hua-Li Jian

Associate Professor of Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, College of Liberal Arts, National Cheng Kung University

During the spring semester of 2005, the first author was a visiting professor in Taiwan. The second author invited the first author to give a technical course in English for a class of engineering students. The objective was to teach technical content and to help develop the students’ English language competence and foreign cultural understanding. This experiment also provided the third author with a unique insight into the lives of the Taiwanese engineering students. Furthermore, it allowed us to uncover how a foreign teacher and local students respond to each other. The third author’s speciality is the English language competence of Taiwanese students. She has throughout the experiment been a catalyst in the process and continuously provided advice on how to narrow the cultural gaps between the foreign teacher and the local students.

The class comprised 29 Taiwanese students that all were in their early 20’s. About half of the students were senior students, and the others were master students. No documentation of English abilities was available, and no language prerequisites were imposed on the students. It is the first author’s impression that the level of English varied greatly. Two of the students had very good English – both spoken and written. One student had lived in the US for a few years. Other students could not communicate fluently.

Selecting a textbook was not easy. A textbook should cover most of the syllabus, and the material should be covered in an understandable, pedagogical and correct manner. However, in Taiwan two more requirements emerged – availability and price. Textbooks easily available in the West can be hard to find in sufficient quanta in Taiwanese bookshops. Although English language textbooks are commonly used by local teachers, Chinese-language textbooks, or translations, are more common. Furthermore, locally printed books are less expensive than foreign imported books. Unfortunately, there are few locally printed English language textbooks. It was therefore necessary to select an imported foreign book with an acceptable price tag.

Much has been written about the Chinese and Taiwanese classroom versus the Western classroom. Western teachers often view oriental students as passive and plagiary, while oriental students often view Western teachers as unprepared, unauthoritative and not knowledgeable in their field. A “good” Western teacher is one that is dynamic and stimulates discussion and interactivity, while a “good” Chinese or Taiwanese teacher is an expert in the field, knows and provides all the answers and is a moral role model. Western exploratory teaching, i.e., to learn by trial and error, seems haphazard and unprofessional in a stereotypical Chinese or Taiwanese view. The Chinese and Taiwanese are taught to learn by copying the masters to reach perfection. The students are to learn to become like the teacher, who has to be an authoritative role model. Obviously, the concept of “imitating the master” is not compatible with Western teaching ideology where plagiarism is one of the worst academic offences. The first author only experienced this established Western view of the oriental classroom as partially true. Again, there was a noticeable diversity. A few of the students fitted the classic description perfectly, while others did not. It seemed that the interactivity of the students was more strongly related to the students’ language ability and personality. Students not confident in English may be too ashamed to speak up in public. Another reason could be that the students perceived the teacher as a Westerner. It may therefore be easier for the students to enact their role as “Westerners” in front of the Western teacher. It might be hard to do the same in front of a Chinese or Taiwanese teacher. Next, students were very conscious about their chance to practice English. This was probably a strong motivation to speak up, or see the teacher after class.

Copyright National Cheng Kung University