【如何讀好基礎課程】大雄博士拆解文科心理包袱(上)How to do well in ‘In Dialogue with Nature’ – Interview with Dr. Wong Wing Hung (Part1)

book-drive

大通報【如何讀好基礎課程】的系列將會專訪大學通識基礎課程的老師,和大家分享一下多年教學經驗和觀察,教大家如何進入經典世界的各個範疇。

第一篇我們有幸請到王永雄博士和大家分享一下如何讀與自然對話。究竟文科生讀與自然對話是否會先天不足?抑或只是心理包袱?應該如何理解科學的種種概念?

如果感到困難,又應該如何自救?與自然對話的老師又如何看文科學生?

事不宜遲,有請大雄博士!


大通報:在你多年教學的經驗中,所謂「文科生」的學習有沒有比「理科生」困難?抑或只是一個心理包袱?

大雄:先說事實。從2009年試教的階段開始(當時「與自然對話」叫「經典中的科學」),拿F的同學之中,既有文科生,也有理科生。拿A或A-都是理科生吧?非也。其實兩類都有。「文科生」和「理科生」這兩個標籤只表達人的經歷,而非人的能力。

的而且確,很多文科生只要想起「與自然對話」這名字就感到焦慮,真箇是聞風喪膽。當然,在學習時完全沒有焦慮是不好的。正所謂:沒有焦慮,人就會頹。理科生讀書讀得頹也得拿F。適當程度的焦慮是可貴的,它能推動我們努力學習。太多的焦慮才是問題,需要正視。處理焦慮需要時間,不能一蹴即就,但先提醒自己以下幾點,對處理焦慮必定有幫助:

  1. 我也是普通人:「與自然對話」已推行多年,內容已調整多次,亦已有不少文科生修讀過。既然這些前人都有能力順利讀完,為何我不能呢?
  2. 我也能明白:要記住,「文科生」標籤的是經歷,而非能力。你的經歷不會減少你明白科學概念和數學語言的能力。這些能力,一般人都有。
  3. 人人都犯錯:很多文科人擔心容易在討論課中犯錯出醜。要記住,與自然對話絕對容許犯錯。我們鼓勵同學在錯誤之中,透過討論一起尋找正確方向。
  4. 熱心的老師:與自然對話的老師樂意幫助同學,快去找他!這一科也有很多輔助教材,例如reading guide和DiaNable App,都是老師精心編製出來幫助同學的。

大通報:在你的眼中,文科生是怎樣的?

大雄:文科生一般比理科生更願意細緻表達自己的想法,這對於參與課堂討論和寫論文甚有幫助。我想分享自己的經歷。有好幾年,我下班後就去唸神學。唸神學要經常寫論文。可是,寫神學論文是用不上數學公式和XY圖的,我這個習慣用數學、用圖表的物理人一時之間變得有口難言。那時我真羨慕文科生啊!我只好硬著頭皮運用文字,嘗試把自己的想法表達得細緻、清楚,沒有容讓經歷來決定我的能力。最後我都能做到了,能順利畢業。

文科生閱讀文本非常認真。我見過幾位文科生的課本,到處都是筆記、心得和不同顏色筆的痕跡。我真想把這些課本據為己有!他們對文本的理解可能比我更深哩!曾遇見幾位英文系的同學,她們說不喜歡看reading guide,因為reading guide會影響她們對文本的理解。她們要自行理解文本,與文本對話。啊!這不正是這一科的精神嗎?我們不鼓勵同學看二手資料,而是自行面對文本。這幾位英文系同學做到了,而且成績不俗。我相當佩服她們。有一位中文系的同學則每周都來找我,不問過清楚明白誓不罷休。有好幾次她問得深入,使我對問題都有更深刻的體會。我十分感激她。

大通報:在與文科生的交流中有沒有什麼特別的經歷?

大雄:我想分享一件趣事。有一天有位文科生來問我:「既然南北極這麼冷,只要太陽往極地照射更多陽光,那裏的氣候就會溫暖得多。為何太陽沒有這樣做?」我弄了半天也想不明白她要問甚麼。啊!原來她用了擬人法,假設太陽像人一樣有意志,可以決定如何分配陽光,這裏多射一些,那裏少射一些。後來她恍然大悟,明白科學所描述的太陽是死物,沒有意志。我則發現科學所揭示的世界其實是個無情的世界,也恍然大悟。但是………我又如何肯定太陽沒有意志?

 

王永雄博士(大學通識教育部副主任、通識教育基礎課程副主任)

學術興趣:理論物理、基督教神學、科學與宗教對話、普及科學、以通識為本的經典教學

The series of [How to do well in UGE courses] in UGE News will be interviewing teachers of the UGE courses and asking them to share the observations and experience in their teaching career. By doing this, we hope the readers will get to know how to go into the world of the classics.

In the very first interview, we are honoured to talk to Dr. Wong Wing Hung about how to manage to do well in In Dialogue with Nature. Are students from the Arts discipline disadvantaged in this course? Or is it just some unfounded speculation? How are they supposed to understand the different kinds of concepts in science?

If students feel frustrated, what should they do? How do teachers of In Dialogue with Nature think about these arts students?

Let’s get started! Hi Dr. Wong!


UGE News: In your many years of teaching, do you think it is harder for the so called “arts students” to do well in this course than those “science students”?

Dr. Wong: Let’s start from the fact. Starting from the trial-teaching periods in 2009 (In Dialogue with Nature was called The Classics in Science back then), the students who failed the course included both kinds of students. And you think those who got A range grades are all science students? Not really, both kinds of students did get A in the course. Obviously, the names “arts students” or “science students” are just labels of their history, not of their ability.

Undoubtedly, many students from the arts discipline are worried when they hear the name of this course. But being worried is sometimes good for one’s studies; worries sometimes do push us further! If science students do not put efforts into it, they will end up failing too! So a moderate amount of worry is needed, because it prompts us to do better. What’s a problem is the excess of it. It takes time to deal with the anxiety of a person. Keep in mind these few points, they will help:

  1. I am like other people: In Dialogue with Nature has been offered for years and its curriculum is adjusted for a few times already. If the previous students from the art disciplines can do it, why can’t I?
  2. I can understand too: remember, what the label “arts students” tells is only your history, not your ability. What past training your received would not make you unable to understand mathematical concepts. These are faculties common to all.
  3. Everyone makes mistakes: many art students are afraid of making mistakes in front of others in class discussion. Keep in mind that it is ok to make mistakes in this course. We encourage students to learn by making mistakes, and by discussion we can find out what is the right answer.
  4. Our wholehearted teachers: the teachers of this course are always willing to help, go to them if you need help! There are also lots of supplementary learning materials for this course as well, such as reading guide and the DiaNable App. They are especially made to help students in this course!

UGE News: what do you think about students from the arts discipline?

Dr. Wong: They are generally more willing to express their opinions in a detailed and precise manner, which is an advantage for their participation in class discussion and essay writing. Let me share a bit of my experience. There were a few years of time which I took Theology courses after work. The course required students to write a lot of paper. But as a science student, I was used to expressing thoughts and ideas in terms of abstract formula and graphs, and I became totally illiterate at first. I wished I was an arts student! So all I could do was trying to express myself clearly, concisely, not letting my history determine my ability. I made it at last and graduated successfully.

Arts students are usually more careful readers. I have seen some textbooks belonging to arts students before, and their notes were written all over the pages with different colours. I wished my textbook was like that too! Their understanding might be more in-depth than mine! I have also met some English major students, telling me that they do not prefer reading the reading guide provided because that might affect their understanding of the text. Isn’t that exactly the aim of this course, to encourage students read not secondary but primary text? These students from the English department did it, with good grades from this course. I truly admire them. There is also another student majoring in Chinese. She came to me almost every week to ask questions about the text, not leaving until she made sense of the content. There were a few times when she made really in-depth questions, and that deepened my understanding of the text too. I am really grateful for that.

UGE News: Any anecdotes with arts students that you can share with us?

Dr. Wong: I remember once an arts student came to me and asked: Why doesn’t the Sun shed more light on the polar regions to warm them up? Would that not make the regions much warmer? I was so puzzled at first, not able to understand her questions. Then I realized that she was down with personification, assuming a kind of human will in the Sun, enabling the Sun to decide which portion of the Earth to shed more light on. She later understood that the Sun as described in science is a not a living thing and has no will. Her question also prompted me to realize, popping into my head, that the world science aims to reveal is that without emotion and will. But……how can I be sure that the Sun has no will?

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Dr WONG Wing Hung (Associate Director of University General Education and Associate Programme Director of General Education Foundation Programme)

Academic Interests:Theoretical physics, Christian theology, Dialogue between science and religion, Popular science, Teaching classics for general education