Ziqing Ma, TESOL '23: Getting an Education Just for the Sake of It

Aug 17 2023

Ziqing Ma had everything ready when her plan to study abroad was thwarted by the global pandemic. Ma went on to pursue her career instead, in Shanghai, as an English teacher, a profession that she had dreamed about  since junior high school, one that many of  her relatives and teachers had affirmed with her that she would excel in.

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Ma teaching a class

A year into her job, Ma was doing well. However, she also knew that she wasn’t going to give up on getting a global education. “There is a whole world out there. Shouldn’t I explore as much as I can while I’m still young ?” To Ma, the TESOL program jointly offered by NYU Shanghai and NYU Steinhardt, one that was designed to accommodate working professionals, was the perfect choice. “I was extremely delighted to find this program, where I can fulfill my dream for a top-notch and global graduate education while keeping my career going,” Ma reminisced, “For me, joining this program wasn't about utilitarian reasons, but about my passion for the field of education and curiosity for the knowledge unknown to me.”

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Ma at the 2023 Graduate Convocation

In May 2023, Ma graduated as part of TESOL program’s sixth cohort and one of the first ever graduates whose degrees were conferred on NYU Shanghai’s New Bund campus.

Ma’s capstone project, titled “Primary School EFL Learners’ Perceptions Towards Multimodal Homework on Shanghai Digital Platform for Teaching and Learning,” sat at the intersection of education and technology. Her analysis, based on extensive qualitative research, discovered that students had a generally favorable view toward "Homework Tutoring Assistant", an interactive e-learning tool which specialized in digitized tasks and automatic grading, featured in "Shanghai Digital Platform”. Speaking on the issue of how technology can impact education, Ma holds an optimistic view, “I believe technology is not a threat to education. E-learning tools and generative AI could be a helpful presence in executing cognitively repetitive tasks and brainstorming ideas.” Ma is convinced that the essence of education, which is teaching a class, something she is doing on a daily basis, can never be fully carried out by a non-human actor. “The process is simply too interactive, emotional and collaborative for an AI.”

To Ma, her first class in the program felt like yesterday. It was “Teaching World Languages: Theory and Practice” by Professor Frank Tang and Professor Robin Harvey. “I was immediately overwhelmed by the depth and workload of the class.” She recalled. Ma’s anxiety was soon soothed by the professors, who provided detailed and encouraging feedback to all her assignments. “I was really impressed by how much effort our professors put in. One time, before our final exam, Professor Tang insisted on having one on one meetings with us to make sure we were well prepared.” Through this class, Ma developed a holistic view of language teaching, a good command of new methodologies and a whole new range of perspectives. “This was an amazing start that continuously powered me through the program.” Ma opined.

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Ma with NYU Shanghai Leadership

Apart from the professors, another force to be reckoned with in Ma’s TESOL experiences was her classmates. “I was constantly amazed by how active and supportive our cohort was,” Ma remarked. Ma and her classmates, as she vividly remembered, would hold a discussion and give each other advice before going about an assignment. “We weren’t competing against anyone and we wanted everyone to have an optimal learning experience.” After each assignment was uploaded, some classmates, especially the more experienced ones, Ma recalled, would leave constructive feedback in the comment section, detailing how they thought the assignment could be improved. “The friendship and connections I built were truly priceless.” Ma commented.


Ma with her fellow graduates

Ma believes that the education of the young minds will be what she will pursue as a profession long-term. “I look forward to examining different realms within education. There’s a whole world out there.”