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Professor Deng Liming: One of the 13th “10 Great Teachers” at Wuhan University
Author:Li Jing  Date:2023-01-30  Clicks:

“Ms. Deng has led me into the academic field of discourse research, which is a whole new world for me.” “I felt most lucky to be one of Ms. Deng’s students. She has boosted my academic confidence and improved my mentality.” “With the exposure of Professor Deng’s influential instruction, I have now become a dedicated teacher.”

Professor Deng Liming

When asked what they would like to say about their supervisor, Professor Deng Liming, all the students responded actively, full of appreciation for her help in research, study, and life. It is the essence of these heartfelt words of appreciation that has driven Professor Deng to be awarded the title of ‘10 Great Teachers’ in the 13th “10 Great Teachers” of Wuhan University (WHU) competition, which was officially granted in November 2022.

Professor Deng is a Level-2 Professor (professors in China are categorized according to four levels) and a Doctoral Supervisor of the English Department in the School of Foreign Languages and Literature at WHU. She has published more than 80 high-level research papers in international SSCI top journals such as Applied Linguistics, English for Specific Purposes, Journal of English for Academic Purposes and domestic CCSCI and other journals. She has also published four academic monographs focusing on genre writing and teaching in Springer and other publishing houses. She has undertaken two China National Social Science funded research projects. For three consecutive years, Professor Deng has been listed as one of the “National Most Influential Scholars in Humanities, Social Sciences, and Foreign Languages”.

A committed researcher

If one word should be chosen to summarize Professor Deng’s research focus, “genre” is not to be missed. It is terminology in linguistics, the study of which focuses on the type, structure, and feature of language typically used for a particular purpose in a communicative context, such as interview, diplomatic speech, business negotiation, etc. “Genre is a compass for language-users to construct their written and spoken discourses, and thus it is very practical and down-to-earth,” Deng explains.

Inspired by her doctoral supervisor, Professor Vijay Bhatia at the City University of Hong Kong, Professor Deng began her research in genre writing in 2006. Decades of research have yielded several prominent research achievements, but Professor Deng has never been deterred from her research. Deng elucidated, “I have been really loving this field of study—from the 1980s when we could only imitate pronunciations by recorders. This passion, along with the persistence and the accumulation, led me to where I am today.” In addition, her students are also a great impetus for Professor Deng to improve her studies. “My son used to joke, saying that he was afraid to be a professor like me since I always stay up late working far into the night,” Deng laughed and then uttered, “but all the exhaustion simply fades away once I walk into the classroom.”

Professor Deng at an international conference

It has always been Professor Deng’s top priority to bear the students in mind. The ultimate purpose of her research is undoubtedly linked to teaching. For example, English for Specific Purposes, a selective course she conducted with the genre-based view for English majors, is meant to help students promote their professional communication competence within various professional contexts.

A devoted teacher

A light, active, and autonomous class is very characteristic of Professor Deng’s teaching, which can not only augment students’ participation but also inspire new ideas beneficial to their academic exploration. From undergraduates to doctoral students, Professor Deng’s class atmosphere takes such a manner that it has received good comments from the students. Hong Yipeng, a graduate student from the School of Foreign Languages and Literature, said that Professor Deng often adopts an interactive teaching method that gives full play to their autonomous learning ability in class presentations and assignments. “It is very comfortable to be in Ms. Deng’s class. We can both learn new knowledge and receive proper encouragement and warmth,” added Zou Ziqing, an English major undergraduate.

Such a free and enlightening class atmosphere has a lot to do with Professor Deng’s choice of flexible teaching methods. “There is a set of methods for teachers to follow, but there should be no fixed ones. I adopt different teaching methods according to curriculum provision and students’ needs,” said Professor Deng. Among project-based, task-based, genre-based, workshop-based approaches, and so on, the portfolio approach that Deng used when teaching Basic and Applied English Writing, a compulsory course for English majors, is an innovative method that brings a great sense of achievement to students.

With the portfolio approach, every student needs to prepare a writing portfolio from a genre analysis perspective throughout the term. The works, including individual textual analysis, individual topic writing of different genres, group textual analysis, peer review, teacher feedback, and individual personal reflection, are all put within the writing portfolio. “When students are asked to write an article, I suggest they construct it from macro to micro—from the overall generic structure to the diction, figures of speech, and so on, which must be appropriate to the specific genre,” Deng added. This portfolio is concluded at the end with a personal reflection upon the course practice, and students can find clear guidance for writing improvement. Looking at a ten-thousand-word portfolio at the end of the semester, students were all amazed at their efforts and progress.

Years of teaching practice endows Professor Deng with proficiency in class design, yet a fluent class can never be presented without reflection and modification. “From lesson preparation to the after-class conclusion, a class is composed of many teaching links. Though I can improve myself when searching for and sorting out teaching materials, it is the interaction with my students and the feedback therein that constantly encourage me to design better classes,” Professor Deng stated.

Every “great teacher” was once a student

Professor Deng Liming

Awarded the designation of one of ‘10 Great Teachers’ in the 13th “10 Great Teachers” of Wuhan University competition, Professor Deng recalls her role models from whom she received much help and inspiration. “Professor Qiu Congyi, my B.A. thesis supervisor, my master’s supervisor, Professor Gao Lansheng, and my doctoral supervisor, Professor Vijay Bhatia… These great teachers, though focusing on different fields of research, all have something in common: they are friendly and tolerant towards students, and strict and fully dedicated in their work.” Professor Deng also mentioned her parents, who are also excellent teachers who wholeheartedly committed themselves to teaching. Under the influence of these role models, Professor Deng gradually developed her teaching experience and style, making her contributions to Wuhan University.

For students who want to become researchers, Professor Deng also has some advice. She suggests that students should have clear and well-organized targets and improve their comprehensive quality without shifting their major focus. Furthermore, the acknowledgment of one’s major as well as its social value is also significant. Accumulation is another keyword that Professor Deng wants students to pay attention to. “It is the very accumulation that distinguishes a sophisticated scholar and a green hand in the area. A rich accumulation is beneficial to one’s research perspective and critical thinking.” Last but not least, Professor Deng reminds students to be positive and optimistic, especially when encountering ups and downs during the study. As every great teacher was once a student, students should believe in themselves and spare no efforts to chase after their goals.

In the future, Prof Deng Liming will continue devoting herself to the research of genre writing to increase students’ genre appropriacy in various areas of academic and professional communication and to help students be better able to tell China’s stories on different international platforms. Like Professor Deng, the faculty of WHU are always earnest and determined in their roles as researchers, teachers, and beacons of students’ life journeys.

Photo by Deng Liming

Edited by Hu Zheng, Zhang Yilin, Sylvia, Xi Bingqing


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