Teaching: On the front line

August 27, 2004

What is your experience of teaching?

Name : Paul A. Singh Ghuman

Age : 60-plus.

Job : Personal chair in ethnic minority education, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Salary : £45,000 a year.

Qualifications : BA (Panjab University, Chandigarh, India) masters in education and PhD (Birmingham), DLitt (Wales). I am a fellow of the British Psychological Society and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts.

Background : After graduating from Panjab University in maths in 1957, I worked as a bus conductor in Birmingham. I then worked as a secondary school teacher from 1959 to 1966. During this period I took a year out without pay to do a masters in education. I then worked at City of Birmingham College of Education in1966-71 and joined the University of Wales in April 1971. I got my PhD from Birmingham in 1974 and was given a personal chair in ethnic minority education in 1998; I got my DLitt in the same year. From 2000 to 2003 I was head of education.

Hours spent teaching : Ten a week.

Hours on red tape : Five a week.

Hours on research: 35-plus a week. My main research interests are ethnic identity issues in minority group adolescents, the child-rearing practices of ethnic minority groups, scholastic achievement among ethnic young people, issues relating to bilingualism and biculturalism, and the teaching of community languages in supplementary schools. My book Double Loyalties: South Asian Adolescents in the West (2003) deals with some of these issues.

Teaching bugbear : Unmotivated students.

How did you solve it? I divided students into groups to watch a video on Piaget's cross-cultural research and did some practical exercises on self-esteem and the problems of adolescents.

Worst teaching moment? Students complaining that they should have handouts and seminars in Welsh. I feel it is entirely my fault that, despite being head of education of a bilingual department, I have not learnt to communicate in Welsh.

Best or funniest? A field trip to Birmingham to show students multicultural schools and visit to a Sikh gurdwara (place of worship) and a Hindu mandir (temple). Students saw the relevance of theories in a flash.

Teaching tip : Engage students by using a variety of techniques that highlight the relevance of research, personal development and the social educational implications of research. For instance, I refer to my own cross-cultural experiences by using anecdotes.

Outside interests : Travelling, listening to ethno-cultural music, dancing and gardening.

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