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Monday
Jun242019

Getting to know your NP Teaching Award AY 2018/2019 Recipients!

Learners Together (LT) : Congratulations to all of you on  receiving the NPTA – The highest recognition in NP for excellence in Teaching & Learning practice.  We are here to find out a little more about our recipients so here we go…. 

Q:  As teachers/educators, all of us are guided by our own beliefs in teaching, so what is your belief as a teacher? What is your teaching philosophy?

Billy Tey (BT) : I would like to apply the iconic Nokia tagline of "Connecting People" to my teaching philosophy. I believe strongly in connecting myself to the students by proactively reaching out to the students. You will be surprised that often it is the little things that count – like calling students by their names will make them feel recognized and that you are paying attention to them.

Kenneth Sim (KS) : For me it is about shaping "Identity" and raising “resilience” among the students.  It is also about getting to know the students so that we are able to sharpen the T&L strategies used and design the lessons to enhance the learning experiences for them.

Serene Lau (SL) : I aim to help students see the applicability of what they are learning to the real world context as I believe students learn best and are motivated to learn if they see the relevance of what they are learning. I also think that teaching requires passion & enthusiasm as I believe that our positive vibes and love for the subject could be passed on to the students….and also the strong belief that my students are “adorable and teachable”… I must truly care and accept them for who they are, even if they are difficult …and eventually they will put in the effort and become passionate learners.  

Q: How do you think the role as “teacher” has evolved over the years?

BT: I think the role of teaching has evolved simultaneously with the objective of education. In the past, education was "paper-driven" as we were told that by obtaining paper qualifications, our futures will be secured. But now, it is not just about helping our students gain the qualification but also to develop our students to be industry ready professionals.

KS: Educators today wear many hats. ..students look to us as role models and sometimes a pillar of support. We have to shift our past educational paradigms that look only at academic development and look towards one’s mental, social and emotional resilience. Teaching today is not just about how rivers flow or how the roses bloom BUT the value of a rose in the bloom.

Q: Do you have a T&L story that has impacted you most as a teacher?

SL : My story is about my secondary school Principal who shaped the way I view teachers . Once, my grades in secondary school fell due to some issues at home and I was called to see the Principal. Instead of questioning me about my bad grades, she started by asking if everything was alright and asked if there was anything that she could do to help me. I was really touched by her concern and understanding of my challenges. I was encouraged by her gesture and wanted to do well as I did not want to disappoint her. I told myself that I must become an educator like her – someone who believes in her students and not judge them purely by their grades; someone who makes the effort to hear her students out, encourages them and imparts the right values to them.

KS : For me it is about my experience with my student Simon (not his real name) who is a highly dyslexic teenager. When I first met Simon, he was in Year 1 at NP.

Teaching and learning with Simon was not about classroom lessons, integration, interaction or participation but was about understanding his story and “rolling with resilience” with him by providing support including being a reader for his exams and being patient with him. It was also about working closely with his significant others, occupational therapist and lecturers. The journey was not easy but Simon eventually graduated against the odds and did his School proud by achieving the most prestigious award conferred by Motorola for his capstone project.

BT :  There was one incident which taught me not to quickly judge, be it in life or as a teacher. I had a student who was seen as "notorious" and “bad” in class as he did not seem to pay attention in class and was viewed as “disruptive” at times.  Yet, during group discussions, I saw a different side to this student who was willing to share and teach his fellow students. He was able to use different ways to explain concepts to his peers and was motivating them to learn. I think sometimes we tend to judge and label people too quickly. We as educators, need to learn to give our students time to “develop and mature”…. and sometimes that process and the outcomes can surprise us.

Q: Can you share with us some strategies that you have used in class?

BT : I think many of our students learn through memorising and they pass exams by practicing the “10-year series”.  But I want to give students the opportunity to engage with content differently in my classes….through discussions, learning from and with each other, and to be able to construct their own knowledge and understanding of subject matter…. so some of the strategies I use most often are peer instruction (Mazur, 1997) and active learning.

SL : I use different strategies depending on the subject matter - discussion-based, inquiry-based and collaborative learning - to give my students the opportunity to query problems and issues they encounter and to work together to resolve them. Sometimes I would organise debates in class to sharpen students’ critical thinking skills and get them to challenge each other’s assumptions. Other times I would scaffold questions to probe students to think deeper, prompt them to describe their interpretations and challenge their opinions. I would also often get students to provide feedback on each other’s drafts or presentation practices because I think students learn best from each other and by critiquing others’ work.

Q: What is the T&L issue that is closest to your heart?

 

BT : I would say student engagement with their learning in and out of class is one area…. particularly in the online learning environment where the engagement with students is different than in a face-to-face classroom.  Many of our students “learn” for the sake of exams/tests and not for understanding of the topics and they may not be able to make connections between the different yet related content acquired.

KS : Inclusive and collaborative learning (especially with SEN students). Educators in Singapore tend to only focus on getting course design right and for students to learn relevant content knowledge. However, taking reference from the wisdom of Maslow (Maslow, 1943), that if lower levels of needs are not met, one cannot move on to acquire the next level of need.  Therefore to me, it is more important to create a conducive environment for learning.  Students are social and emotional beings who need to be mentally, socially and emotionally ready to learn. And if they are “burdened” or if they’re having a bad day at home or with their friends, they’re not going to perform or learn, so we have to look beyond academics. As a holistic educator, I think we can certainly improve in this area.

SL : I “worry” about how prepared my students are for the rapidly changing workplace and to ignite that passion for learning so that they are constantly seeking ways to improve on their skills and competencies to face the challenges of an ever evolving world and economy.

What sometimes worries me is the lack of initiative or drive I see in some students, and how they tend to take learning for granted, expecting information to be fed to them or to be hand-held through their assignments. However, I stay positive by telling myself that there are always reasons for this inertia and that I must have the patience to uncover the reasons for the lack of motivation and unlock that desire to learn.

LT : Thank you all for your sharing about your beliefs, your practices, your “worries” and also your hope and wishes for your students.  We hope that you would continue to grow in your journey as an educator.

 

Reference

Maslow, A.H. (1943) “A theory of human motivation”, Psychological Review, 50 (4): 370-96

Mazur, E. (1997) Peer Instructions: A User’s Manual Series in Educational Innovation. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey