Man-Wai Chu | Top 40 Under 40 2020

Man-Wai Chu transforms tests and exams from dread-inducing to fun in order to keep students interested in learning.

Hair by Michelle Truong, Diva Salon Spa, makeup by Kristy Bond, Artists Within. Photograph by Jared Sych.

Age: 39

Job title: Associate Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Why she’s a 2020 Top 40 Under 40: Man-Wai Chu transforms tests and exams from dread-inducing to fun in order to keep students interested in learning.

Man-Wai Chu knows that students’ distaste for a subject can often stem from the way they’re being assessed — the test, homework and marked assignments — rather than the topic itself.

“Assessments could be the reason why students have anxiety against learning a specific subject — maybe they’re not against the subject, but they are against the assessment,” says Chu. “But assessments can also be a very valuable and necessary tool in the learning process.”

Breaking the assessment status quo is at the core of Chu’s research at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. Chu, who began her career as a high school science teacher with the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD), develops assessments that tread off the beaten path, creating alternatives that students enjoy while improving the way teachers can understand their students’ strengths.

One of her latest projects, a video game developed with local non-profit MindFuel, sees students learning about storms in an interactive setting, complete with coins as rewards which can be spent in-game on cars and other incentives. While she admits early video game efforts have been described by students as “fancy worksheets,” Chu notes the MindFuel collaboration has had students re-playing the game to gather more coins on their own time.

Chu’s research as a principal investigator, co-principal investigator and collaborator, has received around $1 million in funding, including $90,123 worth of grants to work with the CCSD to help improve assessments.

And for her own teaching, she has received several accolades, including a University of Calgary Teaching Award for Full-Time Academic Staff (Assistant Professor) in 2020.

“I get to work with a lot of people, many of whom are my friends. The collaboration is what makes my job so much fun,” says Chu. “Together I know we’re all improving each other’s passion and vision of what education could be.”

This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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