2015 Winners of the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award

This year, seven faculty members of the department won the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award for their teaching done in 2014/2015. Below we invite two of the winners–Dr Graham Wolfe and A/P Mie Hiramoto–to share their thoughts on teaching and education.

Dr Graham Wolfe teaches theatre
Dr Graham Wolfe teaches theatre

Interview with Dr Graham Wolfe

1. Firstly, what are some modules you teach and what do they cover?

At the moment I teach three modules: “The Theatre Experience” (GEK1055), “Major Playwrights of the 20th Century” (TS2239), and “Theatre and Postmodernism” (TS4218). “Major Playwrights” is a module that I always love doing because it’s focused on an era of theatre that I never get tired of learning more about. We look at some well-known 20th-century playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Caryl Churchill, but we also investigate some lesser-known but influential theatre movements. In “Theatre and Postmodernism”, we look at some very daring and innovative playwrights like Tom Stoppard and Alfian Sa’at, as well as some contemporary films and music videos, and we explore how different kinds of philosophy and theoretical writing can be applied to performance.

2. How do you hope your modules will impact students? What’s the value of your modules?

I’ll comment mostly on my GEK module, “The Theatre Experience”, which any student at NUS could take, even if they have no background in theatre. I often have students in the class who have never seen a play or gone to the theatre before, and I’m glad to have them. The module is intended to be very accessible, but I also try to make it appealing and challenging for students who do have background in theatre and are hoping to learn more. It’s focused on the roles that theatre plays in the world today, and it asks questions like, what are the attractions of theatre and what features make it different from film or TV? How can going to theatre enrich our understanding of society and human cultures? We explore different theatrical styles and forms, and we examine how cultures influence each other through theatre, and how theatre can provoke change in society.

3. Can you share some thoughts on how you approach your teaching?

As an instructor I often work with students intent on a career in theatre and drama, and I consider it my job to help provide these students with the skills that can help them actualize their goals. In many cases, however, the students in my classes are studying theatre and drama while on the road to a career of a different kind. In either situation, my aim is to help promote a life-long interest in the subject, encouraging students to look on theatre as an ongoing and vital means of exploring and appreciating the complexities of our lives, and of confronting questions and challenges that face us. I strive to find methods of presenting module material that are engaging for the specific group of students that I’m working with. I accentuate its relevance to contemporary experience and make frequent connections with issues and artworks that my students are familiar with. My aim is to promote what I call “intertextual” modes of thinking and seeing. I think that some of the best kinds of learning can happen when students are watching a TV show in the evening and start making connections of their own with the plays, theories, or ideas that they’ve been exploring in class.

4. Do you have any advice for a young person today who is presently undergoing his or her undergraduate education?

I think my main advice would be: you still have lots of time to get good at something that you don’t think you’re good at right now. For instance, I often come across students who warn me that they’re “no good” at writing and never will be. In so many cases, these students could be excellent writers if they worked on a few key things. I was a pretty bad writer as an undergrad student and I didn’t get better at it until later. Sadly, I think students often come out of high school with a pretty rigid conception of what they can and can’t do, but I think that people can develop themselves massively in their twenties and beyond. Incidentally, the same goes for acting. Students often tell me that they’re the “worst actor in the world”, but they end up delivering great performances later in the term.


A/P Mie Hiramoto
A/P Mie Hiramoto teaches sociolinguistics

Interview with A/P Mie Hiramoto

1. Firstly, what are some modules you teach and what do they cover?

I teach sociolinguistics under the English Language and Literature Department in FASS, currently teaching EL3211 Language in Contact and EL4253 Language, Gender, and Text (AY 14/15 Semester 1). The former is a study of the phenomena of language contact which explores the linguistic properties of contact languages such as Chinese Pidgin English and Singapore Colloquial English, as well as the theoretical issues of language emergence. The latter is critical analysis of the relationships between language, gender, and social practices. It aims to challenge students to think beyond stereotypes and question issues related to gender and sexuality for a more critical understanding of the political and intellectual issues at hand.

2. How do you hope your modules will impact students?

My hope is for my students to take away valuable analytical skills that enable them to engage with pertinent social issues in a critical manner that can impact change in society. Challenging students to tackle difficult social issues head on in classes opens up a space for discussion where perspectives and minds can be broadened.

3. Can you share some of your ideas about teaching?

I believe that teaching is a two-way street. Teaching is learning to me, and I have to keep my mind open to new ideas that students bring to the classes. I am always learning together with them.

4. Do you have any advice for a young person today who is presently undergoing his or her undergraduate education?

Don’t take everything your teachers say to be the only truth. It is good to question and challenge ideas.

Results of the Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Competition 2015 – Drama

We are very pleased to announce the results of the Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Competition 2015 – Drama. Congratulations to the prize winners!

2nd Prize ($6,000):  Isaac Lim Jue Hao for “Whither Are We Going?

Joint 3rd Prizes ($4,000):  Pooja Pandey for “Under The Mango Tree” and Barney Gopalakrishnen for “Cycle of Morality”

Special Commendation:  Eugene Koh Wen Jun for “Baofa”

The judges decided not to award a first prize this year, as most of the entries feel unfinished or at best, works-in-progress. None of this year’s entries stands out as a piece of work quite worthy of a first prize.

Many of the entries are strong in terms of their writing but the judges were a little disappointed by the limited range of issues the writers chose to engage. A majority of the entries deal with the personal and the domestic, which in themselves are worthy subjects, but many entries focus on these at the expense of the larger and wider implications for humanity and its politics.

Having said this, the second prize winner, Whither Are We Going, is strong. The judges were impressed by its use of language and its dramatic and theatrical flair. The entry is overly didactic in parts, but is worth further development and the judges strongly recommend that the writer continues to work on it. The first of the joint third prize winners, Under The Mango Tree, has good strong characterization and a sound plotline but is over-written, and notwithstanding that feels unfinished. The second joint third prize winner, Cycle of Morality, innovatively uses devices from allegory and symbolist drama but needs to go further than its appropriating of literary and theatrical forms. The judges also felt strongly about Baofa. Although this entry does not quite make the grade, they felt that its story-telling and its conviction are worthy of a special commendation.

The judges congratulate all four writers on their work and look forward to their future contributions to play-writing in Singapore.

The biennial Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing Prize was established by Dr Sylvia Goh with an endowed gift to the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore in memory and recognition of her late husband, Goh Sin Tub, who was one of Singapore’s best-known local writers.

Goh Sin Tub and Dr Sylvia Goh are both alumni of the University of Malaya (UM), one of NUS’ predecessor institutions. The Prize commemorates Goh Sin Tub’s life, achievements and support for education.

The genre for this Competition is drama. Subsequent competitions will feature other literary genres. The competition is open to all members of the NUS community at the time of submission of entry.

The closing date for the competition was 30 August 2015. Twenty-three qualifying entries were received.

Judging Panels

The judges for the first round of adjudication were Assoc Prof Ismail Talib and Dr Robin Loon from the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS; and Mr Lu Zhengwen, currently a Masters by Research student in English Literature at NUS.

The judges for the second round of adjudication were Assoc Prof Ismail Talib and Dr Robin Loon from the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS.