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Chinese professor gains perspective on UofL critical thinking strategies

Chipeng Wu, an associate professor from Jinan University Medical College Department of Public Health, is learning how to encourage students to think critically. Through a study-abroad program funded through her university, Wu is spending the year at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences observing classroom instruction and studying UofL’s Ideas to Action (i2a) policy that cultivates critical thinking strategies to foster student learning and community engagement.


She first learned about UofL after meeting SPHIS professor Robert Jacobs during his visit to China in 2011 as a Fulbright teaching scholar.

Wu says most Chinese professors in the sciences primarily lecture and students rarely  ask questions in the classroom, but points out 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.

According to Wu, she already has observed many positive aspects of Jacobs’ teaching style. She describes his classroom atmosphere as “active.” She notes how students can interrupt the professor in the middle of a lecture to ask a question and likes how daily quizzes are structured to focus on gaining knowledge. Small group interaction and discussion is another important component.

Wu says she feels her Chinese students could benefit from a similar style of learning.

“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.”

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