Teaching and learning. When we
talk about teaching
and learning, we must know what kinds of graduates
we aim to produce. For example, we are aiming
to produce mobile graduates who not only serve
Singapore, but also the region and the world. Globalization
is very important and, in this sense, we
have to build culture and languages of the region into
the curriculum. Of course, we are looking at all-rounded graduates. This is what the core curriculum
is working towards, introducing topics like the history
of Singapore and other subjects to make our
graduates more rounded.
We want students who are flexible, self-motivated and self-learning, people who are capable of learning
how to learn and keeping themselves up-to-date. We
must teach students to learn how to learn and our
teaching methods should encourage decision making
and problem solving. You may say that our students
are rarely involved in making decisions. This is not
true. And when we look at particular problems, it’s
not the answer that is important, but the thought
process. How did the student arrive at certain assumptions,
develop design parameters and, finally,
come at the answer?
Of course, entrepreneurship and enterprise
development should also be part of the curriculum, as well
as multidisciplinary teamwork in projects that encourage
students to be team players. We want to put
students together and harness the capabilities of other
faculties to promote these kinds of results.
Information technology. We all
realise that IT has
had a tremendous impact on teaching and learning.
Video, for example, conveys a lot more information
than static words or pictures. But it’s very difficult
to produce a good video and, very often, videos
which are useful to another university may not be so
applicable to us. That’s one reason why video isn’t
coming across as quickly as it should.
IT can also be used to run tutorials and assess
students. Engineering has started this with help
from the University of Western Australia and a visiting professor,
Professor Brian Stone, who was
noted the best professor in the whole of Australia.
Using Stone’s programme, students sit in front of
computers and try to solve computer-generated
tutorial problems. If they get stuck, they can ask for
a hint but, the more hints they ask, the lower the
final mark awarded to that question. The student’s
progress is sent to tutors sitting at master screens
where they can tell which students are trailing
behind and which problems are difficult for everybody.
This is very useful for monitoring the entire
class. We’re developing this and if it works well, we
will hold a seminar and share our experiences with
Self-assessment. Peer review is
indeed a useful
way to assess staff performance. Of course, we
should also help our staff, especially the younger
ones, plan their career path. There is no point in
telling him just before the promotion period: you’re
no good, you won’t get promoted. Three to five years
before he/she really gets on the path, we should
coach him/her on ways to improve.
Management infrastructure. We’ve
general manager of the Faculty of Engineering at
the University of Melbourne to visit us and tell us
how administration is carried out in Melbourne. I
was absolutely amazed last year when the dean told
me they only have three committees in their faculty.
We have more than thirty committees and, recently,
we’ve been thinking of setting up another committee
to reduce the number of committees. Hopefully that
committee will close after the job is done!