TEHE Assistant Professor Dr. Benji Chang Promotes International Research and Collaboration in the Asia-Pacific

Posted on March 04, 2020

In August and November 2019, UNCG’s Dr. Benjamin “Benji” Chang participated in a series of keynote and plenaries at three Schools of Education in East Asia.  Benji Chang is Assistant Professor of Equity Education in the Department of Teacher Education & Higher Education, and Affiliate Faculty in the International & Global Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. 

For more than 15 years, Dr. Chang’s teaching and research have been involved with diverse and diasporic communities, including those from the Asia-Pacific region such as Australia and Southeast Asia. For the talks in 2019, he drew upon his on-going research projects and collaborations with pre- and in-service teachers and researchers in Kazakhstan, mainland China, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

Professor Chang’s first talk was entitled, “Social Justice Praxis in Hong Kong, 2014-2019: Youth Resistance, Community-Engaged Teaching, and Teacher Education at a Historical Moment” and took place at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Education on August 20.  Chaired by HKU’s Dr. Carlos Soto Pineda, the talk chronicled Dr. Chang’s 5 years of equity work with Hong Kong students, activists, and classroom teachers, and the implications of such efforts towards the massive protest movements that have emerged in the area.  Prior to UNCG, Dr. Chang was faculty at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), which is the leading provider of teacher licensure in Hong Kong and ranked 2nd in Asia for educational research (QS World University Rankings).  Dr. Chang’s presentation discussed the successes and challenges of EdUHK’s teacher programs in trying to apply critical and sociocultural approaches to learning.  The talk attracted a variety of students, faculty members, and administrators, including those from the Faculty of Law and the Department of Social Work & Social Administration, as well as schoolteachers, community organizations like The Hong Kong Nepalese Foundation, and faculty from other institutions like the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Professor Chang’s second talk was for the Center for Global Teacher Education at Gongju National University of Education (GNUE) in South Korea.  The conference was titled “The Present & Future of Student Teaching Support” and took place on August 28.  For GNUE’s conference, Dr. Chang’s plenary, “An Educational Pipeline Model of Teacher Education,” focused on the Project for Critical Research, Pedagogy & Praxis (PCRP), a research team and educator pipeline project that he has coordinated since 2015.  PCRP was created in order to address a common gap in teacher education programs around the US and the Asia-Pacific Rim: the divide between progressive theories taught at university programs and teacher candidates’ lack of experience in observing and applying such theories.  PCRP has worked to address this gap through re-envisioning core preparation courses and collaborating with student-teachers to run monthly workshop meetings, bi-annual conference presentations, and annual research symposia. In addition, mentorship to students was provided by Visiting Scholars who were renowned social justice-oriented scholars from around the world, including the University of Washington, Beijing Normal University, and the University of Calgary.  Through the GNUE presentation, Dr. Chang challenged the idea that teacher educators and researchers in Asian schooling contexts could not build educational equity within their ‘conservative’ teacher development programs and scholarship, when compared to the ‘liberal’ institutions of North America.  The conference took place in Daejeon and was also broadcast online. Questions and comments came from Korean educators from around the country, with GNUE Professor Hyeunju Choi as discussant.  

The final talks took place on November 16-18 at the annual International Conference on Critical Pedagogy in Guangzhou.  This year the conference was hosted by the Research Centre for Modern Education at South China Normal University, one of China’s Top 5-ranked Schools of Education.  Dr. Chang’s talks included a plenary and seminar, which were titled “Critical Pedagogy with Students of Asian Heritage in the US & Greater China,” and  “Theoretical Application & Methods Selection – A Case Study of Chinese American Studies.”  Attended by scholars from the UK, Japan, Ukraine, India, the US, Rwanda, and other nations, Dr. Chang’s presentations focused on lessons learned in teacher education with diverse students in the US and Hong Kong, and implications for teaching and teacher education research in China.  In addition, Dr. Chang was also asked to do training on critical research methodology with teachers and graduate students working in schools and neighborhoods.