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Nov 2000  Vol. 4   No. 3
........   FROM THE FACULTIES  ........
Teaching & Learning Highlights


Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Using Astronomical Models to Promote Critical & Creative Thinking

A website on Astronomical Models has recently been created for the course PH2201 ‘Introduction to Philosophy of Science’, exposing students to multicultural traditions of cosmology (including Chinese, Indian, Arabic, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cosmological models). As the beginning of a wider project to cover multicultural contributions to mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, the website aims to raise questions about acceptable modes of inquiry to generate scientific knowledge by appealing to a multicultural message about the nature of such knowledge. Since the exercise itself is shaped by the medium of information technology, this effort attempts to integrate the medium (IT) and the message (multiculturalism) to promote examination of scientific modes of inquiry. The website will be developed more extensively and incorporated to teach a forthcoming course on ‘Scientific Method and Strategies of Critical and Creative Thinking’ for the Core Curriculum Honours programme.

 

 

Faculty of Business Administration
Fostering Active Learning through IVLE Discussion Forum

Based on personal experience, we at the Finance & Accounting Department felt that learning is most effective when there is self-discovery and peer discussion. Hence, we incorporated the Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) Discussion Forum into the learning and assessment package of the introductory BBA accounting course during the January 2000 semester to encourage students to learn from each other through discussion of issues raised by fellow students and instructors. We split up the large class into four separate forums with a course tutor in charge of each forum. In the course outline, students were told very clearly to pose course-related questions in their respective forums and seek peer opinions first before consulting an instructor. Given the Forum’s experimental nature, forum participation was worth up to 5% of the total course assessment. At periodic intervals, each tutor assessed the quality of the contribution of each student (as opposed to quantity) by reviewing the messages posted. Tutors also facilitated discussion by occasionally steering discussions back on track and posing relevant questions to get students to think beyond the confines of the course. In general, both students and instructors welcomed the Discussion Forum. Having gained some confidence from the initial experiment, the team teaching the course during the July 2000 semester has increased the weighting for the forum to 10%.

 

 

Faculty of Medicine
Physician Development Programme

The medical curriculum has been revised in response to a tremendous surge in new medical information and changing societal needs. The Physician Development Programme (PDP) in the new medical curriculum aims to enhance the art and the science of medicine. The objective is to blur the traditional divide between the pre-clinical and clinical years. Year One students are given early clinical exposure to experience the application of basic medical science in medicine and hence impart relevance to what they are learning. It will also enable students to see medicine as a whole and provide an early start to their professional development by exposure to humane attitudes, ethics, and good communication skills. Using common medical problems, the students are tutored in small groups by clinical teachers in interacting with patients and applying their medical knowledge. This is an important means of achieving the final objective of producing intelligent, competent, and caring doctors.

 

Faculty of Science
IT Instructional CD-ROMs for Science Students & Staff

As the number of Science modules with supplementary IT-based components increases, it is vital that students are not only computer literate, but also have the essential IT skills to cope with this new trend. Consequently, the Faculty of Science has developed a set of four instructional CD-ROMs containing information on IT resources and presentations on how to use Microsoft Windows, Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, email and internet facilities, as well as HTML programmes for web publishing. The delivery is in multimedia, including text, music, voice, animation, and demonstrations. Evaluated by experts on campus, this CD-ROM set makes it easier for our students to acquire IT skills through the use of a playback facility, not found in traditional learning from user guides. As of July 2000, these CD-ROMs have been widely distributed among Science students and staff, and are also available at all NUS libraries.

 

Faculty of Science
Literature Review Groups in SPS

Into its fifth season now, the Special Programme in Science (SPS) encourages students to explore science and pursue their interests through a variety of learning modes, e.g. problem-solving sessions, seminars, fieldwork, projects, and literature review groups. While the term ‘literature review group’ may seem mild, the host of activities that takes place under its auspices constitutes a formidable educational experience. Students and their mentors discuss and debate current efforts and achievements in an area of scientific endeavour of their choice. Adequate preparation for these powwow meetings entails careful readings of published literature, dialogues with scientists, doing background checks in laboratories, and synthesising the information and at times conflicting claims in a coherent manner. During a group meeting, members often indulge in heavy exchanges where ideas and hypotheses are put forth by some and severely challenged by others on the basis of current knowledge and plausible extrapolations. Such activities cultivate the students’ ability to comprehend and evaluate research work, and demand that they accomplish the homework that enables them to defend their views and positions rigorously. Topics for the various groups this semester include how plants flower, chemistry and genes, science and consciousness, and sex and violence in the insect world.

 

Faculty of Science
Training Graduate Tutors in the Mathematics Department

At the Department of Mathematics, we are very concerned with the quality of our teaching. So for the last two years, we have conducted a Graduate Tutor Training Workshop every year. Through this workshop, we wish to focus on issues specifically related to the teaching of mathematics, thereby supplementing the University’s course for graduate tutors. We also believe it is important for the department to monitor our graduate tutors. During the workshop, the workshop facilitator and graduate tutors first meet for one hour and talk about general teaching issues. Next, all the tutors are each videotaped for about 5 minutes while conducting their respective tutorials. Another meeting is then arranged during which the facilitator and tutors review and discuss the tapes. This opportunity for tutors to watch themselves and other tutors has contributed to the success of these workshops. Presently, the department is expanding the use of graduate students for teaching, making this programme even more important.

 

 

 

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Graduate Student Supervision: Resources for Supervisors & Students

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