Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Justine Chien

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Pioneer Spotlight
Dr. Justine Chien
March 4, 2016

Dr. Szu-Yueh Justine Chien, originally from Taiwan, is an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s School of Education. She earned her undergraduate degree in English language and literature in Taiwan, and after teaching high school there became increasingly interested in the fields of instructional design and educational technology. She then earned her master’s degree from UW-Madison in education communications and technology, and her doctoral degree in learning, design and technology from University of Georgia. She started teaching at UW-Platteville in fall 2015.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I finished my undergraduate degree [in Taiwan] in English language and literature. At the same time, because I always wanted to be an English teacher, I also pursued a teaching certificate to be able to teach high school in Taiwan. I taught in a rural area, and I felt like the resources the kids in the rural area could get were quite limited, but also at the same time the Taiwanese Ministry of Education tried to encourage teachers to use technology. I felt like there was a gap between what they could get and what the government actually wanted us to give. Also I feel like there is a lot of misunderstanding and teachers’ lack of knowledge about how to use technology, and I was a little bit disappointed to see my students – about six years difference – still using the textbook that I used when I was in high school. That’s why I started being very interested in instructional design and technology integration.

You recently returned from China, where you taught for UW-Platteville’s Master of Science in English Education Program; how was that experience? 

The teaching part was very fulfilling to me. The students said they never did research before, even though one-third of them had a master’s degree. They did secondary research, so they didn’t really need to do research design. But I am from a research university so all my training is about doing real research, so I talked to them about how to start it and I shared a lot of experiences. By sharing the experiences with them, I feel like it was eye-opening to the Chinese students.  Also they have the cultural shock, because in China they don’t need to deal with IRB [Institutional Review Board], so when I introduced IRB to them, I felt a lot of resistance, but I tried to help them see that as researchers it is something we really need to think about. Some research you think is okay, but that’s from your perspective; for the participant it can be very dangerous. During just almost two weeks, the students improved so much. At the end of the session, most of them could present a very basic design, and critique each other’s research.

What do you hope students take away from your classes at UW-Platteville?

One thing I keep asking them is to be creative, and also learn to use different ways to express themselves. We all know we have different learning styles, but I feel like that’s something that a lot of times we don’t focus on. One of my major theories in my dissertation is about multi-modality, and I encourage people to use different ways to express their ideas.

What qualities do you see in UW-Platteville students that impress you the most?

The students are really active learners; when they have questions they will ask. That is good, because they are going to be future teachers, and they can carry that attitude toward their students and their students can see a role model.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think the most enjoyable part is the learning process. It’s interesting, because my belief is teachers and students are mutual learners. When students are learning from me about the knowledge, I’m learning from them about their learning process. When I’m sharing with my students they can give me another perspective and a different insight, because we all have different life experiences, and that totally reflects on [John] Dewey’s belief that we learn from experiences.

Interview conducted by Alison Parkins, University Information and Communications. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact


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