4 Graduate Student Teaching Award Winners

We are pleased to announce that four of our graduate students have recently won the Graduate Students’ Teaching Award (GSTA) for Semester 2 AY2018/2019!


Aaron

1. What inspires you to teach?

Life in NUS gets hectic amidst the slurry of assignments, grades, and social life. The process of learning unavoidably becomes muddled, and I strive to constantly remind students of the need to learn efficiently.

Rather than rehashing content, I focus on illuminating the process of problem solving and imparting skills that are generalizable to other modules or aspects of their lives. Through this, I hope to make a lasting impact on the students by refining their approach to learning.

2. What are some of the major challenges you face as a teacher?

A key skill for teaching is the ability to communicate your ideas clearly. But this was not as easy as it sounds. This requires one to have a clear grasp on one’s thought process, something which I inevitably lack. Much of my approach to problems is intuitive, but this approach is rather useless when teaching. Thus, I frequently introspected my own thought process before tutorials to better communicate my thoughts during lessons. Of course, I still fail occasionally and stumble in explaining how I arrived at certain answers. The experience was humbling and taught me to better appreciate my tutors and professors. Possessing knowledge without the ability to share it severely devalues one’s ability as a tutor.

3. Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

My students have remarked that I am approachable and have a knack for distilling complicated concepts into simpler ones, usually using analogies or stories. I understand that approaching professors or tutors is an intimidating experience for most people, so I tried my best to highlight the fact that I am closer to the students rather than the professor. Someone mentioned that my vibe is like an uncle drinking teh at a Kopitiam instead of a tutor, which is slightly inappropriate as I prefer coffee.


Shruthilaya

1. What inspires you to teach?

As a graduate tutor and having been guided by many inspiring graduate tutors/mentors/teachers/professors, I find teaching as a process that is mutually reinforcing the learning for both the tutor as well as the students. As a tutor, with some level of extended knowledge, you lay a foundation and structure to impart certain learning objectives to students. At the same time, students come from different walks of life and experiences that may shed innovative insights and perspectives to a point of discussion in class. These are perspectives that have to be valued as no two people see the world through the same lenses. The process of imparting the learning points to the students serves to crystallize our own knowledge in the head, but also helps explore how tactfully you can reach the concepts to the students in a more simplified, clear, understanding manner. When students clarify doubts, you have to constantly look for ways to tailor-make explanations in an alternative manner. I enjoy this very process of mutual growth for both students and tutors, as there is no end to learning!

2. What are some of the major challenges you face as a teacher?

At a graduate level, you are bound to come across teaching topics that may be within our core work, but there are times when they may also be distant to one’s area of specialization. There could be times when I feel compelled to be able to offer answers for every doubt raised in a class. At such times, being able to lead the students in the right way of thinking may be a good starting point to kickstart a discussion. Sometimes, we do not have to answer every question, but rather take a step back and guide the students in the thinking process that may lead them towards the answers they may be seeking. I would find it challenging to exercise control in giving information versus eliciting information from students. At the same time, addressing any inhibitions students may hold about the thoughts they would like to share in class should be through acknowledging any level of participation by the students to keep the discussions alive.

3. Why do you think you are an effective teacher?

I do like to see students as friends whom I can learn from, and tutorials as opportunities for me to hone my skills of synthesizing and reflecting on the knowledge I may hold. That has heightened my need to “listen” to what students hold as opinions or bring as sharing points that are valuable to the class, upon which I like to build the class discussions further.

At the same time, I feel equipped when I can push my own thresholds, and do my extended readings beforehand for finding evidence-based facts or real-time experiences and examples that I can bring up in class and be able to offer something beyond what the students may be looking for.


 

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