Anthony Chan – TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award winner 2013Aug 23, 2013
Anthony Chan’s long-term affiliation with the Beedie School of Business has given him a unique insight into the needs of the students – one that not only benefits those he teaches, but as the winner of the TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award for 2013, has undoubtedly benefited him too.
Chan, a lecturer in Beedie’s Management Information Systems (MIS) area, actually studied for his undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser, where he majored in MIS. After graduation he returned to the Beedie School to take his MBA, again with a specialization in MIS, after which he was involved in the launch of the Graduate Diploma in Business Administration. It was during this time that he began teaching, initially in SFU’s faculty of Computing Science, before transitioning to business classes.
“I was a last-minute replacement for a class that needed a teacher, and fortunately they seemed to like me so asked me to come back,” says Chan. “I had always wanted to be a teacher so I did not feel overwhelmed, and it actually came quite naturally to me.”
After working for a number of online startup ventures Chan returned to the Beedie School in the role of Systems Administrator, a position he maintains to this day in addition to his teaching duties. It was while undertaking his PhD at Luleå University in Sweden, that Chan ultimately made the transition to teaching the Managing IT for Business Value, and Strategy classes at the Beedie School.
Having experienced the Beedie School of Business from a student’s perspective, Chan is in a position to tailor his classes to better suit what his students require.
“Having been a Beedie student myself certainly helps me understand what the students are dealing with,” he says. “I like to have a relaxed environment in my classes – when students feel more comfortable you can engage them to reflect and learn without pressure so they enjoy themselves more. I try to make my classes challenging, but in a way that is fun, relevant, and interesting.”
Ask any student that has taken one of Chan’s classes and they will tell you the lectures have a reputation for being fun. Chan takes care to incorporate an element of humour into his classes, while at the same time utilizing examples students can relate to. He also likes to push his students out of their comfort zone with some creative projects, with his most recent class project requiring them to develop database management software for fictional professor Antonio Chanini’s extensive wine collection.
“The project is about teaching students to solve a problem with minimal guidance, rather than on the technology,” says Chan. “The database technology is something we cover in class, whereas the problem solving is not – they have to research and come up with the answer on their own. Some of them are uncomfortable defining problems for themselves, which makes this a good experience for them.”
Having attended the Beedie School as both an undergraduate and graduate student, Chan has studied under a number of excellent teachers, many of whom are previous winners of the TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award themselves. It comes as no surprise that many of these distinguished names have had an influence on Chan’s teaching style.
“I took business strategy as an undergraduate under Neil Abramson, which is the class I mostly teach now, and my style is very similar to the way he taught me as a student,” he says. “I tend to focus exclusively on cases, and leave the students to read about the theory for themselves. In addition, Blaize Reich and Drew Parker both taught me MIS classes as an undergraduate, while Leyland Pitt and Michael Parent provided me with tips on the case teaching method I utilize today.”
Chan’s enthusiasm for teaching shines through in conversation, and it is easy to see why he was chosen for this year’s TD Canada Trust Distinguished Teaching Award. Asked what he is passionate about in teaching, he offers a simple response.
“Don’t take anyone’s word for it – that’s what I tell my students,” he explains. “I hope my students don’t take my word for anything and go away to independently verify what I say. I feel great when my students come back and say, ‘You’re wrong’. I always look for my students to challenge me. That means they have taken the trouble to find out the facts and they can prove somebody is wrong. When you can prove someone is wrong, you can prove you are right.”