We are thrilled that Chen Si from the Department of Psychology has snared the coveted 2019 Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Prize (OURP), on the basis of her recent honours thesis research mentored by Assoc Prof Stephen Lim and Instructor Sarah Wong of the Cognition and Education Laboratory@NUS.
The extent to which cognitive psychological principles really work in the real world is a question of much ongoing interest. At the same time, music educators and practitioners are constantly searching for what might be the best learning strategies for not just musicians, but also non-musicians. Through this project, Chen Si (pictured, left) bridged the gap between cognitive science and music education. Specifically, she designed a novel programmed intervention that compared two strategies to enhance non-musicians’ learning and identification of musical intervals: blocking (drilling each interval type several times before going on to the next) versus interleaving (learning different interval types interspersed). Chen Si also delineated the learning contexts in which interleaving is effective and, in turn, offered significant insights to guide music educational practice.
“The task of aurally identifying musical intervals is a challenging one even for musicians. However, in this study, we show that even novices’ performance can be enhanced with the use of effective strategies informed by the cognitive science of learning. We are proud of Chen Si for competently undertaking this scientific research, which offers potentially valuable practical applications for music education,” said Instructor Sarah Wong (pictured, center).
Reflecting on her research experience, Chen Si shared:
Through the project, I have learnt that research is an arduous yet fulfilling endeavour. There were many instances of disappointment and setback, but what pushed me on was the desire to unravel the mystery behind human learning (i.e., learning mechanisms, capacity, etc.).
As a music learner before, I have struggled with musical interval identification and often blamed myself for my incompetency. Recognizing that there may be other individuals like myself, and that the findings from my project could potentially benefit these learners, I was more determined to push forth and discover new interventions to enhance musical learning. Furthermore, through this endeavour, I learnt, first-hand, the importance of passion and curiosity in my field of research—the core ingredients that sustained and propelled me forward on this journey.”
Chen Si added, “I am very grateful to Ms. Wong for her invaluable input and guidance throughout my entire thesis journey—from the conceptualization of the research to its fruition and the manuscript write-up. I am truly humbled to have crossed paths with her in my final year. I would like to also extend my heartfelt appreciation to Prof. Lim, who has truly shaped and transformed the way I see research, learning, and education—the OURP is a testament to the endless hard work he has invested in educating, nurturing, and developing his students. As I step into the workforce to be an educator myself, I will always be reminded of the precious lessons they have both taught me.”
Assoc Prof Stephen Lim (pictured, right) commented, “Chen Si is 100% committed. Even when she is not (supposed to be) at it, she thinks about it—all the time. I know this for a fact from the way she engaged me at every of our discussions. In fact, many of her questions and ideas have led up to further important and researchable questions. Chen Si is, deservedly, an outstanding undergraduate researcher.”
Our warmest congratulations to Chen Si and the CogEduLab@NUS!