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On 21 February, CDTL organised a seminar entitled “NUS Strategic Plans: Where are we and where do we go from here?” led by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Chong Chi Tat. Associate Professor Tong Chee Kiong, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Professor Andrew Nee, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, served as discussants. In this first issue of CDTLBrief, we are pleased to bring you the following summary of the seminar presentations and discussion.
April 1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Session 3
Prof Andrew Nee
Dean, Faculty of Engineering

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 you.

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 invited the 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!

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Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Q & A Session