We are proud that three of our graduate students have won the inaugural FASS Graduate Students’ Teaching Award for teaching done in semester I AY2009/2010. Congratulations to Stephen Lim Wee Hun, Lee Li Neng, and Yu Hui! Well done and keep up the good work!
To find out what made them such effective teachers, we asked them a number of questions. Read more to find out the secrets to their success.
What inspires you to teach?
SL: I believe in building lives and the value of wider impartations beyond immediate classroom settings. It has always been a pleasure to work and walk with students through and towards their academic life and career.
LLN: A deep sense of curiosity. It may seem strange, but I find that teaching was part of the process of learning for me, and the driving factor for the desire to learn more stems from the curiosity that I had. Teaching to me is to explain to others what I have learnt, and how I have learnt it. Through the process of explaining something, it actually clarifies the learning for me personally. Another factor is a desire to share what I have learnt. I believe that good things are meant to be shared, not hoarded.
YH: Students in NUS are a group of intellectual young adults with their own ideas and thoughts of the world. At the same time, we have goals for our students: to be critical thinkers and well grounded in knowledge. It is challenging yet rewarding to interact with them, and try the achieve the educational objectives.
What are some of the guiding principles you adopt in your teaching?
SL: I have always sought, on every teaching platform, to train my students to emerge as independent scholars who are skilled and earnest to create new knowledge.
- Don’t waste your own life and the lives of the students. If there are 20 students in each class, then a total of 20 x 2 hours = 40 hours is given to me each tutorial; time that cannot be refunded. Make it worth their time.
- Make things interesting. Yes, sometimes certain topics may be a bit dry and boring, but there are always ways and means to make it more interesting and relevant.
- Scaffold. We are all in a journey of learning together. Understand where the students are in their journey, and explain it in a way they can understand. Do not assume that they would understand simply you think it is easy for you.
- Laugh. Injecting humor livens things up.
YH: The fundamental value underlying my teaching principle is respect. Our students are bright, self-motivated, and responsible young adults. We can’t treat them as children to be taught, but potential colleagues to engage with on an equal footing.
Why do you think you are an effective teacher?
SL: I offer systematic guidance in my instruction while allowing good degrees of freedom for students to evaluate and solve issues independently.
LLN: The reasons are probably due to the guiding principles that I adhere to.
YH: I connect with the students, understand their needs and concerns, and try to help them with admin matters. On the other hand, I am strict on their academic performance. Students received my immediate feedback (in as many chances as possible), and constructive advices on how to improve were discussed together with them. Based on this “contingent reinforcement” model, students know their strength and weakness, and the study objectives effectively.
At the end of the day, what makes teaching worthwhile for you?
SL: To see my students graduate, knowing that I have made a difference in their lives.
LLN: That other people become interested in what I’m interested in as well.
YH: I always think that being critical and responsible are the most important characteristics of a scholar. I am happy to see many students endorse this idea and start training their mind and behaving responsibly. It is really fulfilling to know that students have learned something even beyond the domain knowledge in my class.
About our award winners:
Stephen Lim has served with the Department of Psychology as a Teaching Assistant since August 2005. While he has tutored developmental and social psychology in the earlier years and, more recently, the introductory module, his main teaching areas had been research methods and statistics.
Lee Li Neng has been teaching various modules for the past 3 years that he has been a Teaching Assistant. These modules include: Introduction to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Adolescent Psychology, Atypical Development, and Social Cognition.
Yu Hui has taught Biological Psychology (7 tutorial classes), Abnormal Psychology (2 classes), and Social Cognition (3 classes) in semester 1, Academic Year 2009-2010.