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Posts under ‘Student Achievements’

Graduate Students’ Teaching Award: Reflections by Semester II AY2012-13 winners Anna Filippova and Galvez Victoria Francesca

Learning how to make facts live: a reflection on teaching challenges

Anna Filippova, Department of Communications and New Media

“The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts but learning how to make facts live.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Enough time has passed for me to be able to admit that I was completely terrified when I walked into my first tutorial. My mouth was dry, my hands shook when I put the attendance sheet down and pulled out my materials. Will I remember to tell them everything they need to know this week? Will we have time to talk through all the questions?

The class went smoothly. Everyone’s attendance and participation was recorded. All announcements and introductions were made. The answers were discussed. I walked out feeling like I’d done reasonably well. It was only later that I began to understand this wasn’t going to be good enough.

One day, at the end of class, I got a question I couldn’t immediately answer. We had been discussing social media phenomena, and like all good questions, it started with a “why”. Why is this so? Why indeed?

I don’t know.

I don’t know, but let’s figure it out together.

I read through some academic papers. It was a very good question, and a surprisingly small amount of research was done in the area.

“I don’t know,” I told my student as we discussed the extra material I’ve read. “And many very smart people haven’t figured it out completely yet. Why don’t you give it a go in Honours year?”

I’ve grown to believe that learning, and by extension teaching, is not just about getting through all the facts. Neither is it about having the answer all the time. It is about discovering the tools, some of which are already inside us, that allow us to examine the world around us, form opinions, ask questions and continue to add facts to the body of human knowledge. This for me has been the biggest challenge in teaching so far – supporting this process of self-discovery. How do you give an answer without giving the answer away?

I am sure that everyone who has had the privilege to teach a class has a different way to address this particular challenge. I am equally sure that this is a constantly evolving process. At the moment, context is my tool of choice.

Context helps to answers those difficult “why” questions, like “Why is this important?”. Context highlights how material is relevant to the broader themes of the module. It makes connections to current and familiar events, and helps to understand not only how but why a tool is used.

Context is more facts, but facts that provide perspective.

We live in a time of unique opportunity when facts are so readily available, they may easily overwhelm us. Our real challenge, of course, is to navigate the wealth of information available, and I believe this to be an increasingly important part of teacher-student interactions. Rather than being the keepers and disseminators of knowledge, we are increasingly learning to facilitate the individual knowledge gathering processes of our students.

Now I actively encourage my students to ask me ‘why’ more, and though I may not always have an answer, I try to provide more background and a broader overview that might in turn stimulate more questions. It is my hope that this will contribute not only to learning the facts in our course material, but also in helping the facts come alive and stay with our students beyond their university experience.

And together with my students every semester, I too, am continuing to learn.

 

Reflections on what makes an exemplary educator

Galvez Victoria Francesca, Department of Sociology

My three years of postgraduate education in the National University of Singapore have been instrumental to my growth and wisdom as an educator. I have had the fortune of observing a range of teachers and teaching styles or methods. In addition, I have had the privilege of tutoring undergraduates of various academic abilities, disciplines, and interests. These three years of ‘participant observation’ – a term that qualitative researchers deploy to refer to an in-depth observation, immersion, and participation in the social milieu of their research subjects – have yielded numerous insights into the teaching profession. They have also enabled me to craft my teaching philosophy, which I will lay out below.

I strongly advocate that a competent educator is an all-rounded individual. Ideally, he should be extremely knowledgeable in his field of study, and is able to work well with his lecturer or module coordinator. Moreover, an effective teacher should be able to deliver a lesson in an effective manner, and cultivate in his students a thirst for knowledge that transcends classroom learning.

An excellent tutor is usually well-versed in his field of study. When I teach a particular topic, I endeavour to acquaint myself with both the foundational and seminal works and authors in the area of concern. Furthermore, I keep abreast of the changes and overall trends in the field. What are the gaps in the current body of research? What are the suggested trajectories for future research? What does the latest research reveal about a given social phenomenon? Thus, I consider the preceding questions to check that my content mastery skills are in tip-top condition.

It is also crucial that I work closely with the lecturer or module coordinator. The lecturer may supplement and build on my content knowledge of a subject. He may consult me when designing the course too. More vitally, I keep in tight contact with the lecturer in order to tease out the overall approach that he employs in the module. What are the overarching messages and learning points that the lecturer desires to convey in the course? What does a bird’s eye view of the module look like, and how do individual topics fit into this aerial orientation?

After a teacher has mastered the relevant content and consulted the lecturer, he needs to seriously contemplate how to convey this stock of knowledge to his students. Lesson delivery techniques are paramount here, and they refer to the skills and process of preparing, breaking down, and delivering a lesson. I frequently ask myself if my lesson has been taught in a clear and succinct manner. Moreover, has my tutorial been ‘student-centric’? Have I catered to and fulfilled my students’ learning wants and needs? Are my students able to grasp my points, and proceed to question, challenge, and embellish them? Also, has the lesson been delivered in an engaging, interactive, and (intellectually) conducive environment? Have I been able to glean pearls of wisdom from my students, even as they learn from me?

Finally, I contend that an exceptional teacher sparks an interest in his students that goes beyond classroom learning. During the process of carving out my role as an educator, I discovered that I have grown much in my academic imagination and my sense of empathy. In a similar vein, I strive to ignite and stretch my students’ sociological imagination and curiosity in their social world and life. I also hope to impart skills – sharp critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills – that serve the students well in their university education. Ultimately, I labour to instil in my students a sense of understanding and appreciation for diverse social groups, issues, and problems. I too, wish to inculcate in my students, a desire to effect social change in their own social milieu. Such change need not be revolutionary or groundbreaking; it suffices that my students seek to alter their world in small but substantive and meaningful ways.

The Accidental Cardboard Architect

bart ting

NUS Human Trafficking Conference: Friday, 10 January, NUS UTown

NUS.Trafficking.Poster

While sex trafficking has garnered much of the public’s attention, labor trafficking is arguably increasing in both volume and scope, especially in the fishing and construction industries, as well as domestic services in Southeast Asia.

This interactive conference is a rare opportunity where a diverse array of both international and local academics, activists, practitioners and policymakers will come together to have a fruitful exchange of ideas and perspectives.

Please join in the discussion with our speakers, as they debunk commonly-held beliefs about labor trafficking in the various sectors, and challenge conventional wisdom and traditional policy responses in mitigating this growing problem.

Title:  NUS Human Trafficking Conference
Date:  Friday, 10 January 2014
Time:  9am – 5pm (morning panel; lunch; afternoon panel)
Venue:  Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, Level 2 Education Resource Centre, NUS UTown

EmancipAsia, a local NGO that is dedicated to addressing human trafficking issues in Singapore, has generously agreed to display a relevant photo exhibit titled, Bought and Sold, during the beginning of the semester at UTown.

The event is open to the public. *Admission is free.*

Due to limited capacity, your seat(s) will only be confirmed upon registration; hence, if possible, please kindly register by 8 January 2014, 5pm at: https://esurvey.nus.edu.sg/efm/se.ashx?s=1CC7023E224546B9

 

FASS Office of Programmes and EU Centre in Singapore organize Creative Writing Competition 2013

FASS’ own Vina Jie-Min Prasad receiving her prize from His Excellency Dr Michael Pulch.

The FASS Office of Programmes, in conjunction with the European Union (EU) Centre in Singapore, organised the very first Creative Writing Competition in September this year. More than 40 entries were receive d from students across NUS and assessed by a panel of adjudicators that comprised of Associate Professor Reuben Wong (NUS-FASS’s very first Jean Monnet Professor and Director of Studies, College of Alice and Peter Tan), Dr Barnard Turner (Academic Convenor, NUS-FASS European Studies), and Dr Yeo Lay Hwee (Director, EU Centre in Singapore).

The three winning entries can be accessed below:

Winner                                : Mr. Lim Yejie’s (Business) entry
First runner-up                  : Miss Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s (History) entry
Second runner-up             : Mr. Lam Pak Nian’s (Law) entry

“This Competition was conceived as part of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness among our students towards the Euoprean Union and its progress, and we are delighted to have received numerous high-quality and creative submissions”, remarked Dr Stephen Lim, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies who currently oversees the FASS Office of Programmes.

The student winners received their awards on 6 December 2013 from His Excellency Dr Michael Pulch, Ambassador and Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to Singapore, who also discussed the EU’s successes and future challenges through an informal dialogue session.

Dr Stephen Lim (Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies – Office of Programmes), Assoc Prof Reuben Wong (Jean Monnet Professor; Director of Studies, CAPT), Dr Barnard Turner (Academic Convenor of NUS-FASS European Studies), Mr. Lam Pak Nian (student winner; Faculty of Law), Miss Vina Jie-Min Prasad (student winner; FASS – History), Mr. Lim Yejie (student winner; Faculty of Business), Dr Yeo Lay Hwee (Director of EU Centre in Singapore)

History Student Wins EUC-FASS Creative Essay Competition

Congratulations to Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Year 4 history student) for winning in the EUC-FASS Creative Writing Essay Competition! Her submission came in the form of a letter to the EU written by a long tailed shrike! She will be receiving her prize from EU Ambassador to Singapore Dr Michael Pulch, who will also be holding an informal dialogue session at UTown Stephen Riady Centre, 4.30pm-6pm, 6 December. To read Vina’s essay (very creative indeed!) and register for the event, please visit: http://www.eucentre.sg/?p=6076

Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia reflections by Felicia Choo

When I first saw that NUS was offering a module on human trafficking, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Human trafficking was something that I had only read about in the newspapers on seen on TV; I wanted to learn more about it so I could help to combat trafficking in the future. Specifically, I was most interested in sex trafficking, since I feel strongly about women’s causes.

Going on the fieldtrip to Cambodia and Thailand and having dialogues as a class with various anti-trafficking and sex workers’ rights organisations was an eye-opener. By the end of the module, I realised that the problem of trafficking was even bigger than I thought and it remained open to debate whether local government or foreign intervention is more effective. Yet in my mind, there was still one issue that remained unresolved:

Is prostitution inherently wrong and degrading?

Somaly Mam, famed survivor of sex trafficking, and who currently runs several anti-sex trafficking organisations, would have you think so. I certainly agreed, before I met with The Women’s Network for Unity and Empower Foundation. These two organisations champion sex workers’ rights, a contentious issue in their home countries of Cambodia and Thailand, respectively. They provide support – monetary and emotional – to female and transgendered sex workers. Some of these people had been victims of sex trafficking.

It was impossible not to be affected as I listened to sex workers talk about how the money they earned from their profession provided them, and sometimes their families, with a living. Or when one transgendered sex worker (from The Women’s Network for Unity) spoke of transgendered people commonly being ostracized by society, and how she herself had been cast out from her family and chose prostitution to survive.

While sex workers acknowledged that sex work would not have been their first choice of job, they insisted on wanting to be respected. Empower’s sex workers manage and work in their own bar, called the Can Do Bar. From a sociology student’s point of view, I thought it was great that in a profession where women are commonly seen to be the exploited, submissive victims of men, men’s power had been subverted and these women were now in charge of their work, and to a greater extent, their lives.

I still think that prostitution should be discouraged, especially forced prostitution. But I have definitely come to respect these sex workers for their will to survive and succeed on their own terms.

Lecturer Dr Kevin McGahan (centre, in white shirt) and his class on the fieldtrip. Felicia stands beside him on his right.

 

Most Accessible and Captivating Accolade in the Humanities

Congratulations to Dr Thomas Barker, our recent PhD graduate, whose thesis won the ‘IBP Reading Committee Most Accessible and Captivating Accolade in the Humanities’ at the recent ICAS Conference in Macau.

Dr Thomas Barker is currently an Assistant Professor at the School of Modern Languages and Culture, University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus.

FASS Forward: Reading Articles & Writing Essays

If you would like to learn how you can dissect academic readings or pick up tips on crafting your essay assignments, this session is just for you! 

Our very own FASS lecturers (Geography, Psychology, Sociology) together with top-performing Honours-level students will be there to share their personal experiences!

 

Register HERE

 

Upon registration, please be sure to attend the talk or find a replacement if you are unable to make it. 

 

If you have any queries, please contact Ms Lim Peiying at faslp@nus.edu.sg or 6516 7274.

 

Please come with any feedback and questions you might have.

 

Thank you and we look forward to meeting you soon.

 

 

 

FASS Graduate Students’ Teaching Award (GSTA)

We would like to congratulate the following recipients for teaching undertaken in Semester I, 2012-2013.

1. Shobha Vadrevu Department of Communications and New Media
2. Jiow Hee Jhee Department of Communications and New Media
3. Joel Gn Hong Zhan Department of Communications and New Media
4. Li Jingping Department of Economics
5. Wang Peng Department of Economics
6. Nandabalan Panneerselvam Department of English Language and Literature
7. Chang Qizhong Department of English Language and Literature
8. Chin Wei Jun Department of Geography
9. Tan Xu En Department of History
10. Wong Lee Min Department of History
11. Zou Kunyi Department of History
12. Mary Kristen Riley Department of Philosophy
13. Gan Zheng Qiang Daniel Department of Psychology
14. Yeo Geck Hong Department of Psychology
15. Galvez Victoria Francesca Department of Sociology
16. Sapitula Manuel Victor Jamias Department of Sociology
17. Lavanya Balachandran Department of Sociology
18. Choong Wen Tai Wayne Department of Sociology
19. Himanshu Jha South Asian Studies Programme

 

Beyond the Classroom

Our students Faizal (Geography major) and Michelle (English Literature major) shared their experience and thoughts about being FASS students in the Brightsparks magazine.

Read the full article here.