Educator-in-Residence Programme (EiRP)

EiRP facilitates active exchanges between the NUS academic community and distinguished educators from around the world

EiRP Public Lecture 2017

 

Quality Teaching:
Why it matters and how it contributes to an excellent student experience

Rebecca Seah
CDTL Student Journalist

 

Why should an excellent student experience matter? What is quality teaching? These are two key questions addressed by Emeritus Professor Denise Chalmers at the EiRP-Ruth Wong Memorial Lecture on Education 2017 on 24 August 2017.

Titled “Why Recognizing and Rewarding Teaching is Critical to Achieving an Excellent Student Experience”, the talk started aptly by addressing the fundamental question on how teaching is positioned in research-intensive universities. More often than not, as Emeritus Professor Chalmers highlighted, teaching has been overshadowed by the pressure to produce quality research. She reminded us that while research is crucial, the positive impact of building an excellent student experience can be just as significant.

On why an excellent student experience matters, just as excellent research boosts university rankings, quality teaching and learning likewise enhances institutional prestige and reputation through word of mouth, namely by students who graduate with strong school pride.  Additionally, in providing its students with quality education, a school fulfills its obligation to the community and nation by value-adding its students to contribute more to society. Equally important, given that most reputable tertiary institutions are moving towards producing world-class research, a key pillar distinguishing a quality institution from others is its ability to create excellent and memorable student experiences.

 

“If we’ve accepted those students into our institution, we have an obligation to do what we can to make sure that they have every opportunity for success. Of course the students have to work, of course they have to learn, but we should not be putting any roadblocks in front [of them].”

Prof. Chalmers on why an excellent student experience matters.
[Click on the photo or this link to watch the video.]

 

 

On what constitutes an excellent student experience, Prof. Chalmers’ response was  that it varies widely from student to student—ranging from an environment that encourages robust teacher-student interaction, to one which exposes its students to a diversity of viewpoints, to the freedom to choose modules according to interest.

On what makes a teacher outstanding, Prof. Chalmers shared insightful perspectives. She questioned the wisdom of placing too much emphasis on charismatic classroom teaching.  Instead, she called for the use of grounded practices and established frameworks and criteria that take into account multiple aspects - input from students (feedback and achievement), peer feedback on curriculum and classroom teaching, and self-reflection.  

 

 

“He (an outstanding teacher) won an award not because he was a star performer but because he was a complete teacher.”

Prof. Chalmers on the importance of establishing criteria for quality teaching
that consider other factors besides charismatic classroom teaching.
[Click on the photo or this link to watch the video.]

 

 

On what constitutes an excellent student experience, three students who were asked prior to the talk had this to say (which seems to exemplify Prof. Chalmers’ views):

 

“… most crucially a buzzing environment where they (students) can not only talk about their ideas, thoughts and not receive blank stares, but also receive the warm welcome from their academic seniors who discuss and not mollycoddle.” - Ching Ann Hui, Year 2 Medicine

“My personal opinion on excellent student experience—an environment where students enrol in modules out of interest. Learning should be passionate, and lecturers should make an attempt to make their subjects universally appealing.” - Dean Tin, Year 2 Biological Sciences

“... a diversity of perspectives, as well as ample time for reflection and meaningful conversations would be especially important in shaping an enriching and stimulating experience for us.” - Rebecca Seah, Year 2 English Language & Literature

 

On recognising and rewarding quality teaching, Emeritus Professor Chalmers advocated concrete incentives such as awards, promotion and pay rise. In responding to the contentious issue of placing too much emphasis on extrinsic motivation, her response was that good teachers are already intrinsically motivated. Rewards are incentives that the university leadership could use to further encourage and inspire quality teaching for the rest of the teaching community.

We all have had amazing teachers who were instrumental in shaping our notion of an excellent student experience, and it might occur to us that they can have vastly different teaching styles. Yet, even now as we feel the echoes of their affirmative influence on us, we know that Prof. Chalmers’ words ring all the more true and encouragingly so. 

While we may not all fully agree on what quality teaching constitutes and how quality teaching can be encouraged, it is possible to formulate criteria that describe it. Doing so can help us recognise it better, thereby resulting in what we can agree is important: an excellent student experience for everyone.

This is one dialogue that should continue...



About the Author

Rebecca Seah is a second-year undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, majoring in English Literature along with a minor in Chinese Translation. Outside of school, you can find her curled up with a book, in the company of food documentaries, or in search of her next favorite tune.