NUS BBA 21 August 2018

Make the most out of your classroom experience

In part two of the two-part series on the tertiary teaching-learning experience for Teachers’ Day, we have Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon, Department of Marketing, share her thoughts on how students can make the most out of their university classroom experience, and how teachers can help their students. With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Swee Hoon mentors students from the undergraduate to the postgraduate (doctoral) cohorts. She is a winner of multiple teaching excellence awards in NUS and frequent faculty advisor for student teams who participate in overseas case competitions.

Swee Hoon (left) with the winning team at the Belgrade International Case Competition in 2016

#1 Be Inspired

American writer, Arthur William Ward, once wrote, “The mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; the great teacher inspires.”

One of the responsibilities of a teacher is to inspire students. Knowledge can be gleaned from books and the Internet. Take advantage of the time in University to learn from teachers who do more than impart knowledge; they also educate students about life and living.

These teachers instill in students how to sieve from the tons of information, discern the more critical ones and integrate them to draw deeper insights. Beyond such knowledge skills, they inspire students to live the best that they can, continue learning and be better people.

#2 Get Engaged

Passion can be contagious.

Successful teachers keep the subject and desire for knowledge alive and they expect students to respond by engaging through discussions and debates.

More than conveying well the concepts, this two-way exchange stokes curiosity, excitement and motivation to learn more. This is the essence of lifelong learning.

Swee Hoon (second from right) with her students on a visit to Eastern Europe

#3 Push the Boundaries of your Comfort Zone

Do not be afraid to question; not any question but questions that are constructive and add value to the lesson. Be prepared for teachers to elucidate sharp questions from those that can be improved on so that students learn the critical questions to ask.

Be prepared to be questioned as well.  As important as what to ask is also how to answer. Students ought to be sharp and thoughtful in their analyses. They should learn that they will always be questioned and not take things for granted.

Both learning what to ask and how to respond require pushing students out of their comfort zone. A safe and inclusive environment needs to be cultivated so that students know they are free to question and respond, but they must be prepared to be corrected to learn but not at the expense of humiliation.

#4 Teach from the Heart

Another fundamental teaching principle that teachers should hold to is that the heart of teaching is teaching from the heart. What good is man if he has no heart? Besides a genuine passion for the subject matter, teachers should have a sincere interest in the welfare of their students. When a teacher is genuine, students appreciate him/her more and in turn, they become compelled to do their best.

I remember an Accounting student who, at the end of my first lecture, came up to me and thanked me for the lesson. She asked what made me want to teach. I explained to her my passion and she replied that she is motivated to do well.

#5 Apply and Believe in Yourself

For students exploring second majors or minors, be open minded about various disciplines so as to be able to discover something about yourself .

I once had a student from Chemical Engineering. Betty was so enthused by my lectures that she remembered well how to market an idea – present from the audience’s perspective. So when she went for an exchange programme in the United States, she entered her engineering research proposal for a competition from a marketing perspective. Her presentation was so convincing that not only did she win the competition, NASA even offered her an internship. Betty believed that even though she is an engineering student, she also has the hallmarks of a marketer.

Betty has since graduated and is now working as a research scientist for a multinational corporation.