Xiaoqian Liu - First Place Queen's 3MT 2013
By Sharday Mosurinjohn
28th March 2013
When Xiaoqian Liu (left) brought the grades she’d earned in school home to her mother, she’d often tease: “is that all you’ve gotten in exchange for my tuition money?” So Liu set out to discover what else there was to a grade beyond just a number. Her M.Ed thesis, “Grade: an indicator more than achievement" investigates the grading practices of 214 Master of (Arts) candidates who are involved in teaching Chinese as a second language in Beijing. She’s done this by separating what she calls “achievement factors” from “non-achievement factors,” to find that teachers often place a high priority on non-achievement factors such as attendance, effort, progress, and ability, to the extent that student’s grades may not wind up reflecting their true mastery of the course material.
Liu, herself a native Chinese speaker, knows firsthand what it’s like to learn a second language. In fact, says Liu, “I was reluctant to enter the 3MT competition because I thought my language skills would put me at a disadvantage.” But in reflecting on rising to the challenge, she offers a different way of understanding her situation: “In retrospect, I think presenting in my second language forced me to pay special attention to explaining my project clearly and to avoid jargon.”
The extra push that Liu needed to enter the competition came from her supervisor, Dr. Liying Cheng, to whom Liu is “extremely grateful.” “She forwarded the call for participants to me and really encouraged me to enter. Faculty of Education even set up a special practice run with some other members of the Faculty of Education so that I could polish my presentation.” But once she was persuaded, Liu put in just as much effort on her own initiative. She videoed herself delivering her three-minute talk, sought the advice of colleagues on timing, and appealed to her friends to keep her focused on enjoying the process – “don’t forget to have fun!” Liu counsels prospective competitors in future iterations of 3MT, “it’s more than a competition; there’s a lot of teamwork involved, too.”
And if taking first place at Queen’s 3MT wasn’t enough excitement for this week, Liu is thrilled to have just received an offer to continue her research in the field of Education as part of Queen’s Faculty of Education PhD program. Grinning, Liu admits she looks forward to reporting back to her mother just what she’s been doing with her hard earned tuition money.