Past Projects

Keywords for Oceanic Literary Study

Nienke Boer | Assistant Professor of Humanities (Literature)

Project

Literary theorists have only recently begun exploring the potential of the ocean, both as environment and as connector, to enrich literary studies. Students in my literature elective Oceanic Frameworks produced a digital and hard-copy compilation of ‘keywords’ for integrating literary studies and oceanic studies, working at the forefront of this new methodological approach.

Each student was responsible for producing content for two to three self-identified keywords, which they rigorously edited in response to blind peer review and feedback from the instructor, similar to the process for academic journals. This assignment thus provides an authentic learning experience that more closely replicates the actual publishing process for academic authors than typical final class assignments. Students had to identify a gap in the existing theoretical literature, choose a keyword that addresses that gap, research and write their entries, perform and receive anonymous peer reviews, integrate the suggestions from their two review reports (one from a peer and one from the instructor), and revise and resubmit their entries. These keyword entries were aimed at a broader, non-specialist audience and have since been published digitally and in print.

Outcomes

The compilation of keywords was published both online (May 2019) and in print (September 2019). We celebrated the launch of the online website (www.yhu4228jan2019.courses.yale-nus.edu.sg) in May 2019, with an event that featured two speakers chosen and invited by the students. The final keyword entries are of an extremely high calibre, such that the booklet and website are useful resources for other students and researchers working on oceanic humanities projects. Student reflections on the assignment indicated that it was memorable, enjoyable, and meaningful. I presented on this project at the Fulbright University Vietnam conference on ‘New Approaches to University Education in Asia’ in April 2019. The presentation was framed as a case study approach to adapting assignment types to liberal arts education, in which I argued that traditional assignments in advanced classes in the humanities (longer research papers) might seem to model the work we as academic researchers do, but result in papers that are in almost all cases only read by the instructor (very rarely are undergraduate research papers published). Integrating peer review and a broader intended audience into assignment design allows for a much closer approximation of the academic publishing experience.

Decolonising Close Reading: A Student-Generated Compendium of World Literary Terms

Kevin Daniel Goldstein | Lecturer of Humanities (Literature)

Project

The Teaching Innovation Grant helped facilitate a semester-long project in which fifty-three Literature and Humanities I students produced a compendium of literary terms reflecting the diverse linguistic and cultural traditions of our syllabus: Sanskrit, Greek, Chinese, Mandekan, Arabic, Malay, and Italian. Working in groups of three, with careful scaffolding, the students researched and wrote multi-page entries on eighteen assigned terms, then presented the findings to their colleagues. I subsequently produced and printed digital copies that will provide a valuable resource not only for future Literature and Humanities courses but for world literature courses more generally.

Outcomes

These terms expanded my students’ critical vocabulary, becoming part of our collective discourse, both particular to a given tradition and potentially universal. For example, students productively applied the Sanskrit term rasa (emotional effect) both to Valmiki’s Ramayana and to texts beyond South Asia, such as Homer’s Odyssey: rasa helped to frame our discussion of Odysseus’ arrival in Ithaca, bringing to the fore the effect of the passage in a way that English critical vocabulary sometimes limits. These cross-cultural applications also prompted rich class discussions on the cultural work of interpretation, translation, literary universalism, and difference.

Due to the eurocentrism of standard volumes of literary terms in English, literature courses, even world literature courses, rarely include the study of non-European literary terms. Instead, the Western critical tradition dominates the process of interpretation, literally and figuratively setting the terms for textual analysis. Decolonizing the curriculum is not solely a matter of what texts we read, but how we read them. Compendia like this one have the potential to galvanize educators and scholars to rethink how volumes of literary and rhetorical devices are written while offering a new tool to decolonize pedagogy in the humanities and beyond.

Exploring Philosophy as a Way of Life Pedagogy

Matthew D. Walker | Associate Professor of Humanities (Philosophy)

Project

The ‘Mellon Philosophy as a Way of Life Network’ (https://philife.nd.edu/) is a new initiative based at the University of Notre Dame and supported, in part, by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The network consists of philosophy faculty – from the U.S. and abroad – interested in introducing students to traditions that approach philosophy in a distinctly practical way. The aim is to enable students to encounter philosophy not merely as isolated theory, but as an “art of living” in which theoretical reflection can enhance one’s ability to live well.

My TIG enabled me, as a network member, to participate in the inaugural ‘Philosophy as a Way of Life’ workshop at the University of Notre Dame in June 2019. At this event, which took place over five days and which was attended by dozens of faculty from around the world, I attended sessions and workshops, and shared my own experiences, concerning the following stated themes: “(1) Developing assignments that help students to connect philosophical arguments with their own day-to-day decision-making; (2) Equipping each other to teach texts and traditions from different cultures that offer visions of the good life; (3) Building diverse, collaborative learning communities and peer-led discussions around philosophy as a way of life themes; (4) Promoting research into philosophical approaches to the good life, especially on topics that are likely to translate to philosophy curricula.”

Outcomes

I benefitted enormously from learning about the many exciting assignments that other instructors have been developing to bring philosophy to life, both in the sense of making philosophy exciting and in the sense of showing philosophy’s relevance for living. On the basis of my experience at the workshop, I introduced a new assignment, and reconceived an old assignment, for my sections of Philosophy and Political Thought 1, which I taught in Semester 1 of AY2019-20. The workshop also gave me ideas for new assignments to explore in my Philosophy as a Way of Life elective, which I will teach again in Semester 2 of AY2020-21. Although the second Philosophy as a Way of Life workshop for 2020 was canceled on account of the COVID outbreak, I remain in touch with other network members via a Facebook group.
In January 2020, another network member, Bart Van Wassenhove (University Scholars’ Programme, NUS), and I shared our experiences from the workshop and our classes. We hosted a lunchtime event – entitled “Living Ideas: Immersive Assignments and their Learning Outcomes” – at Cinnamon College in UTown. We discussed our use of “immersive assignments” in our courses, how those assignments promoted course aims, and how we might refine those assignments in our future teaching. Faculty from Yale-NUS and various schools around NUS attended our session.

Feeling the Invisible: Building 3D Models of Molecular Structures

Stanislav Presolski | Assistant Professor of Science (Chemistry)

Project

Accelerated Organic Chemistry is a course on the structure, properties and reactivity of carbon-based molecules, which constitute most of our natural and artificial surroundings. While ‘ball-and-stick’ model sets have been used since the 1860’s by pioneers in the field, they can only capture the relative position of atomic nuclei in space, omitting the all-important electron density that is involved in chemical reactions. That is why chemists use molecular simulation software to model electron orbitals, but those computer visualizations lack the materiality of physical objects and thus remain peripheral to students’ learning. Our attempt to bridge that gap was supported by a Teaching Innovation Grant (TIG), which allowed us to purchase a 3D printer and invest the necessary time and resources into this project.

At the very beginning the course and the accompanying Organic Chemistry Lab, students were introduced to Chem3D – an extension package to the industry-standard ChemDraw software. Several assignments required its use to predict trends in reactivity, while at the same time classroom discussions were used to remind students of the quantum mechanical reasoning behind the rules of thumb they were learning from the textbook. Later in the semester, when the complexity of the reactions could not be properly explained by flat drawings on the board anymore, 3D printed models were used as instructional aids to a great fascination and appreciation by the students.

Outcomes

The culmination of this project was a final presentation in which students used 3D printed molecular models to rationalize the complicated reactivity of the compound they had prepared as part of the Advanced Synthesis lab. Niki Koh from Arts and Media was instrumental in overcoming the severe obstacles presented by the impossibility to directly print from the computer programs used in chemistry. He used a dedicated 3D modelling software to manually recreate the complicated shapes that we had to print to make this venture a success. Many molecular orbitals tend to be quite similar to one another, so in the future we can not only use the models that have been printed, by tapping into the small library of shapes that we created and modify them slightly in order to illustrate the reactivity of completely different molecules. Therefore, the 3D printer purchased with the TIG can be even more readily used in the future to enhance chemistry teaching and learning at Yale-NUS.

Exploring Models of Experiential Learning in Liberal Arts Colleges

Valentina Zuin | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Urban Studies)

Project

The TIG enabled me to travel to Williams College and Swarthmore College in September 2019, to learn how other liberal arts colleges conceptualize, fund, execute, and improve experiential learning in their institutions.

I met a total of 16 people, including 2 directors of the centres that support experiential learning at Williams and Swarthmore. I also interacted with the director of the Centre for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College.

Outcomes

During my trip, I identified thirteen different models that are used by faculty at Swarthmore and Williams to deliver experiential learning in the curriculum and their best practices in designing and implementing experiential learning in the curriculum. I plan to start experimenting with some of these models at Yale-NUS, in one of my elective classes.

This trip also enabled me to build a network of junior and senior faculty stakeholders interested in engaging students in service and experiential learning in a number of different disciplines and across them, and whose wealth of skills and experience can be tapped in the future. I am in discussion with one of the colleagues at Swarthmore about opportunities to teach a class with an experiential learning component together.

Applying Political Philosophy to Real-World Cases

Sandra Field | Assistant Professor of Humanities (Philosophy)

Project

Political philosophy can be doubly abstract for students in Singapore. First, some of the classic works in the field are deliberately removed from the messiness of real life for the sake of conceptual clarity. Second, the reality to which the classic works refer are American or European, and not Asian. My project was to structure my courses to overcome this abstraction, and to use theory to speak to real-world problems. Students wrote an opinion piece, drawing on the theories of the course but applied to a real-world topic of their choosing. The pieces were written for a broader audience of readers, and were displayed on a public website, read by the college community, and incorporated into teaching for subsequent cohorts of the courses.

The Teaching Innovation Grant allowed me to provide an optimal showcase for students’ work. I engaged a professional web developer to design an aesthetically beautiful and functional webpage. The TIG also allowed me to engage two student photographers to provide images for the site and a student associate to promote the website and for research assistance.

Outcomes

The primary outcome is the website Equality & Democracy (https://equalitydemocracy.commons.yale-nus.edu.sg). Students in each new iteration of the course have to negotiate with the arguments of the earlier groups, as they work towards adding their own new contributions to the site.

Beyond the website, the project snowballed into further pedagogical research and development, culminating in a publication in the Asian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (December 2019). I presented my research at the 8th Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference (September 2018); on the strength of this presentation, I was invited to run a seminar for faculty as part of the NUS CDTL Continuing Professional Development Programme (April 2019). The final publication included the findings of an IRB-approved pedagogical survey of student experience (January 2019).

Student work from the website has been favourably received. One student’s piece received an Honourable Mention in the Undergraduate Public Philosophy Award of the Blog of the American Philosophical Association, and was then republished on the APA’s Women in Philosophy blog.

 

Designing and Implementing the Yale-NUS Philosophy Student Survey

Malcolm Keating | Assistant Professor of Humanities (Philosophy)

Project

As a recipient of the Teaching Innovation Grant in AY 2018/19, I was able to design and implement a survey to study how students taking philosophy electives think about philosophy before and after their courses. The goal was to gather information on why students decide to continue in philosophy courses or declare a major, as well as how they think about the importance and relevance of philosophy for their own lives and careers. As part of the grant, Kristie Miller and David Braddon Mitchell (both from the University of Sydney), who have worked on similar empirical studies of philosophy students in Australia, came to campus to help with survey design.

Outcomes

I am analyzing the results of the survey with the help of Assistant Professor Paul O’Keefe from the Psychology department at Yale-NUS. While it is too early to make any assessments about the student body at Yale-NUS College, information from the survey may form the basis for hypotheses about why students choose a major in philosophy (or do not), which could be investigated further by the philosophy faculty. The TIG has given me an opportunity to consider more carefully the interactions between student demographics, classroom experience, and major choice.

Digital Tools, Pedagogy, and the Audio Essay

Heidi Stella Therese | Associate Professor of Humanities (Writing, Literature)

Project

Reading Dantes Divine Comedy for the first time is a confounding and exhilarating experience for anyone. Confounding because there’s so much stuff that you need to know to understand the poem; exhilarating because Dante presents to you the sublime and terrifying grandeur of his cosmic vision. The only prerequisite for reading is an experience of the human condition. So anyone can pick up the poem and get something out of it.

In the first semester of the 2015-2016 academic year—the third in Yale-NUS’s young life—I taught a course on the Commedia. It was my first time teaching my own seminar, the first time Dante was taught at the College, and, to my knowledge, the first time in Singapore. With the TIG, I was able to transform six student essays from this class on Dante into The Dante Journal of Singapore.

I was, as it were, the Virgil to a group of ten Dantes. For three months, for three hours a week, we read, carefully and intensely and philologically, every single word of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. We paid special attention to the historical, intellectual and social world of the European Middle Ages and the fraught legacy of the classical tradition (we also read the entirety of Virgils Aeneid, chunks of Ovid and the Bible along the way). We discussed theology and revelation, the state of souls in the afterlife, the primacy of poetry as an intellectual and spiritual activity, the nature of art and beauty, the relationship between pagan myths and Christian mysteries, and the medieval encyclopaedia of classical learning and medieval religious doctrine.

I am honoured to present six essays of the highest caliber in The Dante Journal of Singapore, which now exists in print and online thanks to the generous funding of the TIG. The essays in the journal represent the students travelogue, by now a two-year journey. These are all pieces of undergraduate research that make a real contribution to the 700-year old tradition of Dante scholarship

Outcomes

This publication allowed me to build an” authentic learning experience” for my students. Whereas most final papers in class are quickly written and then summarily hidden away and forgotten, we worked on them, refined them, and made them exponentially better than any end-of-term paper. By making them revise and then showcase to the public their hard work, the contributors learned the process of journal submission, revision, responses to the editor and peer review. Student editors also learned the process of running a journal. These are essential skills not only for the students who wish to go on to graduate school, but also for any professional field involving writing.

Writing a Collaborative Philosophy Textbook

Robin Zheng | Assistant Professor of Humanities (Philosophy)

Project

This Teaching Innovation Grant supported the first run of the Oppression and Injustice (YHU2280) Class Textbook Project. YHU2280 is an entry-level Philosophy course focusing on theories of resisting injustice, developed by and for oppressed groups. The course examines Black feminist thought in the first half, and postcolonial Latin American philosophy in the second.
Students as a class were assigned to jointly write their own textbook on the course material. In doing so, they encountered a number of issues explored in the readings: the challenge of theorizing about liberation in an non-exclusionary, jargon-free way, of reconciling alternative ways of knowing with a dominant epistemology that effectively functions as a kind of academic gatekeeping, and of organizing a diverse group of participants toward a shared long-term goal. The class was responsible for all stages of textbook production: selecting a target audience, planning and organizing the overarching structure of the text, writing individual chapters, and editing the final manuscript. Through the project, students needed to understand themselves not just as consumers but also producers of knowledge, to recognize the authority and responsibility they possess in virtue of their position in the academy, and to critically reflect on processes of knowledge production that form the basis of their own education.
The Class Textbook Project also represented a novel form of summative assessment for philosophy courses, which traditionally consists of writing argumentative papers. Yet much philosophy seeks also to explain and critically describe the world, e.g. by creating new concepts and terminology to capture phenomena that have previously gone unnoticed or unanalyzed, in the service of guiding political action in the world rather than as a mere theoretical exercise. The Class Textbook Project enabled students to undertake an authentic learning process in keeping with these aims, in which they were asked not only to acquire mastery of key philosophical concepts, but also to write clearly, concisely, and accessibly for a broad audience. By producing a textbook showcasing historically underrepresented voices with the intent of educating actual readers, they exercised these analytical and writing skills in service of the larger real-world project of overcoming injustice, which was the central subject matter of the course.

Outcomes

30 hard copies of the textbook were disseminated throughout the college. An electronic PDF version was also licensed for the public domain and made available here. Students gained from the reality of seeing their work published in a hard copy text.

The grant also enabled me to present the project at two pedagogical conferences where I contributed to the academic discourse on teaching this material: the 22nd American Association of Philosophy Teachers Workshop-Conference on Teaching Philosophy in Greensboro, N.C. (USA), and the Athens Institute for Research and Education 6th Annual International Conference on Humanities & Arts in a Global World in Athens, Greece. I received valuable feedback on how to improve the project and make it sustainable for the future, as well as potential ways of adapting the project to a variety of different courses, institutional contexts, and student demographics.

Assessing the Efficacy of Problem-based Learning in Chemistry

Chan Kiat Hwa | Assistant Professor of Science (Chemistry)

Project

My project sought to model “YSC2225: Physical Chemistry” on the guiding principles of Problem Based Learning (PBL), a student-centered teaching pedagogy designed to help students become more independent in their learning. PBL uses real-life situations and problems that allow students to acquire new knowledge through the process of identifying relevant issues and solving each issue in a systematic way. Due to its emphasis on small group learning, it is best suited for small class sizes, where students have access to a high level of instructor attention.

The Teaching Innovation Grant enabled me to conduct a semester-long study on the efficacy of PBL in my Physical Chemistry elective. Students in the elective were assigned into groups to solve complex real-life problems building on straightforward questions that tested course concepts. Further, the lab component was designed as a semester-long real-life research problem that would have to be solved by the student through discussions with their classmates and the instructor. To monitor student responses, a series of surveys was designed and administered over the course of the semester.

Outcomes

The students’ responses show that they found physical chemistry concepts, although not immediately apparent, are relevant to real-life situations. The laboratory experiments were also generally successful in helping the students to grasp the concepts in class. Students were more open to collaborating with each other in the lab than in the classroom. However, they tended to approach the instructor for help instead of taking the initiative to troubleshoot amongst themselves. Although the laboratory experiments were pitched as an opportunity for the students to troubleshoot and increase their resilience to failure, this was not well received by students. As such, their team-specific problem-solving skills did not perceptibly improve at the end of the semester.

Considering the time limitations of a 5 MC course, which allots students 12.5 hours per week (inclusive of lectures, seminars, laboratory sessions, assignments and self-study) for that particular course, students may not have felt it economical to allot more of their time towards team-based problem solving when faced with the additional need to study coursework individually, as well as other responsibilities for other courses.

The effectiveness of PBL as a teaching approach for Physical Chemistry at Yale-NUS specifically is hence debatable. PBL contains numerous moving parts – syllabus material, amount of time available for self-study, student life culture, facilitator competence – that have not been investigated individually and rigorously at present. PBL as a teaching method within Yale-NUS for Physical Chemistry should hence be reconsidered, or, at minimum, redesigned and executed with close supervision and collaboration by the instructor with other facilitators who have had more experience with implementing PBL successfully. This allows educators to identify which aspect of PBL is the most effective and worth using in their own classrooms.

Developing Effective Strategies for Undergraduate Mentorship in the Life Sciences

Nicholas Tolwinski | Associate Professor of Science (Life Sciences)

Project

This project exposed students to the global science community sharing process. Through the TIG, I was able to bring three undergraduates for whom I have supervised senior capstone projects to participate in the 59th Annual Drosophila Conference in Philadelphia. My students and I gained a wealth of insights regarding the latest developments in Drosophila research, ranging from molecular cell biology and neuroscience to evolution and genetic tools. We attended several panels concerning pedagogical tools and strategies for science education and were able to share about the Yale-NUS experience with multiple interested parties. The experience also created opportunities for authentic learning where by the students had professional interactions with the global scientific community. Here, students were mentored on their research as they shared about their capstone research and gained valuable insight and learning from their respective feedbacks in the process.

Outcomes

Through this conference, I got the opportunity to discuss pedagogical tools and strategies with professors from around the world and gain valuable feedback regarding my own personal teaching style. I hope to implement some of these suggestions in my future courses and share these insights with my colleagues at Yale-NUS. Specifically, I am excited to explore the possibility of using citizen-science platforms in the common curriculum as a fun way to introduce undergraduates to science research. Through the various panels, lectures, and interactions with my colleagues, I learnt about several interesting new discoveries and lines of research that I hope to integrate into my future Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology courses. It is my hope that drawing upon such innovative research in my lectures will make the theory more exciting and relatable for the students, inspiring them to think more deeply about the practical applications of the lesson content.

Finally, from their exposure to the broader scientific community, my students gained valuable insights and feedback for their capstone projects that was directly translated into the excellent quality of their final presentations. The students were also able to formulate concrete next steps in the development of their research ideas, with the aim of publishing their results in the near future. They will be sharing their takeaways from this conference with their underclassmen and therefore helping the larger Yale-NUS community improve the quality of future research projects. Seeing all the benefits that have arisen from this opportunity, it is my hope to expose more students to such academic environments in the future.

Additionally, the students who went on this conference have begun the process of transmitting their findings, both about academia and academic conferences and about the specific experience of conducting their research projects. Through doing so, these students will work to build a longitudinal base of knowledge to be transmitted through successive years of students which will facilitate learning outside the classroom.

Exploring the Role of Contemplative Inquiry and Education at Yale-NUS

Keng Shian-Ling | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology)

Project

The Yale-NUS Teaching Innovation Grant enabled me to invite Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Professor of Contemplative Education and Pedagogy from Naropa University in Colorado, USA to offer a series of lectures and workshops on contemplative approaches in higher education on our campus. These events included: a public lecture on methods for incorporating contemplative methods in the classroom (‘First-Person Inquiry in Contemplative Education: Methods for the Classroom’), an academic contemplative writing workshop (‘Words and Sense: Contemplative Academic Writing’), and an open classroom session involving the demonstration of contemplative pedagogy approaches with students. Additionally, I chaired a panel session on contemplative pedagogy in higher education, with Dr. Simmer-Brown, Dr. Parashar Kulkarni, and Ms. Ho Gia Anh Le as panelists.

Outcomes

In part thanks to support from the Dean of Faculty, one exciting outcome arising from Dr. Simmer-Brown’s visit is the emergence of the Yale-NUS Mindfulness in Education Initiative, which consists of a series of ongoing mindfulness practice sessions offered for faculty members and staff at Yale-NUS College since April 2019. The sessions aim to support faculty and staff members in cultivating mindfulness and contemplative practices in their daily life, the classroom context, as well as in the context of writing and research. The sessions are facilitated by Ms. Ho Gia Anh Le, a mindfulness educator and former lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS). A core group of faculty members regularly attended the sessions, and participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to co-create a safe and supportive space where they engage in self-care and explore the incorporation of mindfulness practices into their personal life, teaching, and research.

Overall, these events were well received on campus. I benefitted greatly by learning from Dr. Simmer-Brown’s expertise and experience in contemplative teaching. In particular, I find her four levels of contemplative engagement framework (embodiment of mindfulness by the instructor, creation of a community learning environment, incorporation of contemplative teaching methods in the classroom, and complete curriculum innovation) to be immensely helpful in thinking about contemplative education more broadly. Such a framework is consistent with Yale-NUS’ liberal arts and sciences curriculum, which draws from diverse intellectual traditions and modes of learning to benefit students. Within this initiative, there is now a growing community of faculty members dedicated to incorporate mindfulness and contemplative approaches into teaching and learning at Yale-NUS.

Psychology in the Public: Website Development for Student Coursework

Jean Liu | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology)

Project

This project exposed students to the global science community sharing process. Through the TIG, I was able to bring three undergraduates for whom I have supervised senior capstone projects to participate in the 59th Annual Drosophila Conference in Philadelphia. My students and I gained a wealth of insights regarding the latest developments in Drosophila research, ranging from molecular cell biology and neuroscience to evolution and genetic tools. We attended several panels concerning pedagogical tools and strategies for science education and were able to share about the Yale-NUS experience with multiple interested parties. The experience also created opportunities for authentic learning where by the students had professional interactions with the global scientific community. Here, students were mentored on their research as they shared about their capstone research and gained valuable insight and learning from their respective feedbacks in the process.

Outcomes

As the key outcomes of the TIG, I created the following two websites:

Website 1: The Science of Love thescienceoflove.org

In AY2018/19, I developed a new course on the science of love (‘Topics in Psychology: Love in an Age of Technology’). As the primary assignment, students spent the semester creating an online toolkit supported – through backend web development – by the TIG. To construct the toolkit, our class identified meta-analyses and review articles discussing how romantic relationships are formed. In seminars, we then debated the current state of the evidence, and the extent to which these findings inform the online dating industry. The final toolkit, modelled after ‘What Works’ websites in the UK, was then launched at a public event for CEOs of dating platforms, government agencies, and the academic community.

Website 2: A College Portfolio of Nudge Projects

As a longer-term project, I have also developed a template for a second website supported by TIG funding. This website will showcase home-grown projects where our students apply psychology to optimize policy outcomes. To date, we have run eight such projects through a psychology course (Lab in Psychology and Public Policy), and five other projects through capstones, independent study modules, and extracurricular work. This website wil be launched when a critical mass of projects has been reached.

Promoting a Growth Theory of Interest Among Yale-NUS College Students

Paul A O’Keefe | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology)

Project

My research has shown that the beliefs people hold about the nature of interest have important educational consequences. Compared to people who believe that interests are inherent and relatively unchanging (a fixed theory), those who believe that interests can be developed (a growth theory) tend to express more interest in new or different topics, and they tend to maintain a new interest even when it becomes difficult to pursue. In a recent field experiment with first-year college students, I also found that a brief growth-theory intervention (vs. control) has these educational benefits up to two years later. Given the success of this intervention, I wanted to conduct another and improve upon it by examining the potential of a growth theory of interest to increase student well-being.

Outcomes

The Teaching Innovation Grant helped me prepare for this study by funding my participation at the International Conference on Motivation in Aarhus, Denmark. There, I presented my intervention research and met with leaders in the fields of motivation science and psychological interventions. Those meetings were integral to the design of my current intervention study, which will continue to run through the academic year. I hope to find that a growth theory of interest helps students cope with the difficulties they face in courses outside of their pre-existing interests, and helps reduce stress during their first year of college.

Creating Authentic Learning Through the Dante Journal of Singapore

Andrew Hui Yeung Bun | Associate Professor of Humanities (Literature)

Project

Reading Dante’s Divine Comedy for the first time is a confounding and exhilarating experience for everyone. Confounding because there is so much one needs to know to understand the poem; exhilarating because Dante presents one the sublime and terrifying grandeur of his cosmic vision. The only prerequisite for reading is an experience of the human condition. So anyone can pick up the poem and get something out of it.

In the first semester of the 2015/16 academic year — the third in Yale-NUS’ young life — I taught a course on the Commedia. It was my first time teaching my own seminar, the first tame Dante was taught at the College, and to my knowledge, the first time in Singapore. The TIG enabled me to transform six student essays from this class on Dante into The Dante Journal of Singapore.

I was, as it were, the Virgil to a group of ten Dantes. For three months, for three hours a week, we read, carefully and intensely and philologically, every single word of the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. We paid special attention to the historical, intellectual, and social world of the European Middle Ages and the fraught legacy of the classical tradition (we also read the entirety of Virgil’s Aeneid, chunks of Ovid and the Bible along the way). We discussed theology and revelation, the state of souls in the afterlife, the primacy of poetry as an intellectual and spiritual activity, the nature of art and beauty, the relationship between pagan myths and Christian mysteries, and the medieval encyclopaedia of classical learning and medieval religious doctrine.

I am honoured to present six essays of the highest calibre in The Dante Journal of Singapore, which now exists in print and online thanks to the generous funding of the TIG. The essays in the journal are all pieces of undergraduate research that make a real contribution to the 700-year old tradition of Dante scholarship.

Outcomes

This publication allowed me to build an ‘authentic learning experience’ for my students. Whereas most final papers in class are quickly written and then summarily forgotten, we worked on them, refined them, and made them exponentially better than any end-of-term paper. By making them revise and then showcase their work to the public, the contributors learned the process of journal submission, revision, responses to the editor and peer review. Student editors also learned the process of running a journal. These are essential skills not only for the students who wish to go on to graduate school, but also for any professional field involving writing.

Collaborating with peers at Yale University and University of Wisconsin on IAALLT 2017 project

Eduardo Lage-Otero | Senior Lecturer of Humanities (Spanish) & Deputy Director of Language Studies

Project

Language instruction is a robust programme at Yale-NUS College, covering Chinese, Spanish, and several other languages. The Teaching Innovation Grant offered me resources to visit Language Studies centres in the United States to learn about their course-sharing initiatives and find ways to enhance our programmes at Yale-NUS.

At Yale University, I met with colleagues at the Centre for Language Studies (CLS) to strengthen our ongoing collaboration on language instruction via teleconferencing. I also visited the Department of Spanish and Portuguese to learn about how they accommodate growing numbers of students taking Spanish, and how they create opportunities for students to practice Spanish outside the classroom. I also attended a symposium on community-based language education hosted by CLS where I learned about creative ways to extend language learning beyond the classroom and weave community resources into the curriculum. I also visited the Yale Centre for Teaching and Learning to learn about their initiatives to enhance teaching across the university in face-to-face and online settings.

Following this, I travelled to the Language Centre at the University of Chicago, where I learned about their course-sharing initiative within the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Subsequently, I travelled to Madison to visit the University of Wisconsin Collaborative Language Program and met with its programme director, Lauren Rosen, who has been working on tele collaborations for over 20 years, to discuss the structure and evolution of her programme. We collaborated on a panel presentation, ‘How collaboration builds sustainable programs: Growing and diversifying language offerings on a dime’, for the June International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT). The presentation highlighted several models of enhancing and increasing language study opportunities via collaborations while discussion the implications of this type of effort for the institutions involved. While at Madison, I was also able to participate in a Teaching Symposium at the University of Wisconsin where teaching and learning theories and practices were discussed.

Outcomes

I was able to meet with colleagues working in related fields, and who have undertaken similar or more ambitious programmes. I continue to reflect on the Yale-NUS College language programme and adapt some of what I have seen to our Liberal Arts context here in Singapore.

This project also enabled me to present my work at an international conference on our practices at Yale-NUS. As we continue to expand the language opportunities available to our students, this type of collaboration and idea-sharing will be crucial to ensure that we meet our intended learning outcomes.

Classifying Signals Supplement

Philip Johns | Senior Lecturer of Science (Life Sciences)

Project

The TIG enabled me to better understand the use of a portable sequencing device, the Nanopore Min-ION, for teaching and research applications. Sequencing technology has revolutionised how people think about genetics, ushering in the age of genomics. The challenge is that most equipment used to generate DNA and RNA sequences are large and very expensive. Sequencing becomes something of a black box: we send off samples and wait weeks or months to get DNA and RNA sequences back. For some applications, especially in teaching and in field research, being able to generate genetic sequences on-site and in real time is not only convenient but also instructive. The Min-ION stands out from other sequencers due to its portability and affordability, and addresses the demands of teaching and field research.

The goal of this project was to generate protocols that students could use in modules for in-class projects, so they could analyse sequences on-site and in real time. The Min-ION and other similar devices could be an integral part of science modules at Yale-NUS College.

Outcomes

My students and I were better able to understand the use of the Min-ION for our work. Based on our protocol, the results can be further developed in a few directions — e.g., to ‘barcode’ samples with which we can identify species by DNA sequence, or to measure gene expression of genes of interest. Either of these applications can be used in teaching field-based courses with a genetics or genomics component, such as a Genomics LAB in forests, or a Conservation Biology course built around ecological genetics.

Implementing Collaborative Peer Feedback in “Proof”

David Andrew Smith | Assistant Professor of Science (Mathematics)

Project

This project sought to address some of the shortcomings of traditional peer feedback models by implementing an online and in-class peer feedback model in Proof. Proof is an MCS module pitched to second year students that serves as a gateway to higher level modules in mathematics, computer science, and statistics. In this module, the potential drawbacks of peer assessment are magnified, as the likelihood of a student providing valuable feedback is low, especially towards the beginning of the module.

The TIG enabled me to implement the following peer feedback model for Proof in semester 1 of AY2016-17. Before a class, students submit their work as a LaTeX document through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The instructor pseudonomyses the submissions, and distributes the submitted work as PDFs to feedback groups (randomised groups of 3-4 students). Feedback groups must arrive at a consensus on each piece of feedback before recording it, as dialogue equalizes the quality of peer feedback generated and also greatly raises the quality. The peer feedback exercise is run in class time in order to encourage students to view the exercise as a valuable learning activity. The instructor ensures that the feedback groups are operating collaboratively. After the class, the instructor scans the peer feedback, matches pseudonyms to the students’ submitted work, and distributes the feedback via VLE. Students are then required to assimilate the feedback they received by submitting a paragraph of reflection through the VLE. This is designed to enforce some engagement with the peer feedback, closing the learning cycle.

Outcomes

Student evaluations reveal generally enthusiastic responses to the learning activities. The proposed model for collaborative peer feedback was successful in avoiding some significant drawback of peer feedback. Increased automation will further improve the faculty experience, without affecting the student experience. Findings from his effort were presented at the International conference on Educational Technologies in December 2017 in Sydney, Australia, with support from the TIG. A write up of this approach was published in the ‘Proceedings of the 2017 IADIS International Conference on Educational Technologies’

Database of Teaching Resources for CSI

Anju Mary Paul | Associate Professor of Social Sciences (Sociology and Public Policy)

Project

Over the course of the last four years, the CSI teaching teams have developed a wide range of in-class activities, lecture notes, and other teaching materials, which have enhanced the pedagogical effectiveness of the course and made it an innovative and interactive course within the common curriculum. The Teaching Innovation Grant allowed for the collection and curation of these existing resources for the benefit of future teaching teams, reducing overall time spent developing teaching resources from scratch and ensuring higher overall level of quality in teaching.

With the support of the TIG, I was able to hire a student associate to work with me on developing the repository of CSI materials. We received support from the Educational Resources & Technology (ERT) office for integration of the repository with our college directory. We spent the summer designing the structure for the CSI database to make it both intuitive and accessible. Then, we reached out to all past CSI facilitators and teaching faculty (from across the last four years) to ask them for all the materials they had used for CSI, from lecture slides, to teaching notes, to useful URLs, to past quiz questions. We also collated all the readings that were ever assigned as part of CSI and all this material was organized by academic year and week.

Outcomes

We have successfully created a comprehensive repository of CSI material to date. This CSI database is currently accessible only to CSI teaching team members but, starting next year, we hope to make it available to all Yale-NUS faculty.

In doing so, we provide the CSI teaching faculty with a mechanism to document some of their contributions to the common curriculum. By allowing them to upload teaching materials (in-class exercises, lecture materials, assignment guidelines, rubrics, etc.), they can then be adopted by other faculty within the college outcomes (for individual faculty and teaching teams). Others can learn from their peers and adapt for their own teaching contexts, either within the Common Curriculum or elsewhere.

In the long run, this database should help develop greater consistency across sections within CSI. All faculty within the teaching team now have access to the same repository of tested teaching resources, which is particularly important for new members of the teaching team.

Sharing Strategies for Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities at ASLE Conference 2017

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Environmental Studies)

Project

The Teaching Innovation Grant enabled me to attend the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in June 2017, where I appeared on a panel titled ‘Climate Justice Pedagogies: Affect, Action, and the Anthropocene’. As the title suggests, this panel was an opportunity to discuss pedagogical strategies for teaching humanities courses focused on climate change, environmental justice (the way that environmental issues affect different communities in different ways, based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, and nationality), and the Anthropocene (our current geological age in which humans act as a world-shaping force).

The number of humanities courses that touch on climate change are growing, along with the umbrella category of ‘environmental humanities’, which includes literature, history, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, and art history. I presented a paper on ‘Performative Pedagogy: Modelling Affect in Climate Change Courses’, which argued that instructors in climate change courses serve (for better or worse) as emotional and behavioural models, since most students lack a ‘cultural script’ that guides their response to this emotionally challenging material. This was an extremely popular panel, attended by at least 100 people.

Outcomes

The papers that appeared on the panel, by scholars of environmental justice, art, literature, music, and philosophy, have been submitted as a special section on teaching climate change in the humanities, currently under review for publication in the journal ‘Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities’. The panel itself, and my discussion with my co-panellists afterward, have led to the sharing of some exciting pedagogical strategies, which I will be applying in my ‘Foundations of Environmental Humanities’ module next semester — particularly relating to the grounding of climate concerns in local or regional issues, the value of assigning both critical and creative assignments, and an awareness of the emotional dimensions of environmental humanities courses. More broadly, the TIG gave me a welcome push to learn more about pedagogical theory and strategy, and an entry into a network of scholars dedicated to innovate and effective teaching in my field.

Sharing Analyses of “Biolab” at The Drosophila Research Conference

Nicholas Tolwinski | Associate Professor of Science (Life Sciences)

Project

The TIG enabled us to evaluate the success of strategies designed to develop skills in laboratory research and experimental analysis in the Biology major at Yale-NUS. We performed an analysis of the course ‘BioLab’, which is a required course in the biology major. BioLab is a strong contrast to the traditional model of biology laboratory education. While the traditional model of lab education tends to be centered on the idea of a supplementary lab section which re-enforces concepts discussed in lecture, BioLab treats laboratory skills as a supplementary lab section which re-enforces concepts discussed in lecture, BioLab treats laboratory skills as a subject deserving its own rigorous treatment.

Given trends in science education, the importance of not only practical laboratory skills but also ‘soft skills’ in the laboratory environment such as troubleshooting, scientific writing, identification and minimization of experimental error, experimental analysis, etc. is clear. Therefore, BioLab was developed using an inquiry-based pedagogical model which was designed to promote the development of high-level skills which would be applicable to biology students who would later conduct original research as part of their Capstone. The TIG supported a student and a faculty member’s travel to The Drosophila Research Conference in order to present pedagogical advances in teaching, based on our experiences in BioLab.

Outcomes

When analyzing BioLab, we took significant steps to identify learning opportunities that existed outside the traditional lecturer-student dyad. Students were encouraged to have casual, honest conversations with instructors and each other about the practicalities of lab experience. Furthermore, instead of punishing students for failing to obtain or replicate a desired result, failure was considered an instrumental component of the pedagogical approach. Indeed, students were encouraged to interrogate all findings, regardless of whether the result was positive or negative.

Our research was supplemented by semi-structured interviews with 9 of 10 eligible students who took the course, which revealed that students overall found the course to be a successful way of teaching crucial laboratory skills as well as developing soft skills in scientific writing and reasoning.

The student involved has taken the lead in running surveys of students who have completed the course, and in writing two manuscripts detailing the work. We will be presenting the findings at a conference in the US. The grant is to further support the publication and analysis of the work done so far.

Collaborative Teaching for Advanced Chinese

Hu Jing | Former Senior Lecturer of Humanities (Linguistic)

Project

For this project, I was primarily interested in developing new opportunities for students pursuing advanced Chinese courses at Yale-NUS College through collaborations with other institutions. The Teaching Innovation Grant enabled me to visit the Chinese Programme and Language Cenre at Yale University in the last week of November 2016 and the Chinese Programme at Swarthmore College in the first week of December 2016. In these visits, I interacted with Chinese language faculty in these institutions and organized classroom observations.

These visits were aimed at laying the groundwork for a collaborative online network between Chinese language students from all three campuses to increase opportunities for learning and practice. To do this, I created a class blog and a video conferencing platform to allow students from all three campuses to participate in distance learning in advanced Chinese courses.

The project had two learning goals. First, it offered students the opportunity to learn from, and with, their peers from these institutions. Second, it also allowed me to share pedagogical methods, teaching materials and knowledge in the field of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language with my colleagues from the two colleges.

Outcomes

The TIG supported my efforts to establish an international collaborative network in Chinese language studies and opened opportunities for further collaboration. My American colleagues showed great interest in our teaching methods and learning outcomes at Yale-NUS during the discussion sessions after classroom observations. Both institutions expressed a desire for further collaborations, and I remain in contact with them, sharing new ideas and pedagogies. We have also continued communication between our students as part of the broader language learning process.

The TIG also allowed my teaching at Yale-NUS College to incorporate best practices at other international institutions. I am applying several different approaches that I learned on my trip to my courses and will continue collaborations with Yale University and Swarthmore College.

As a part of showcasing the outcomes of this project, I also attended the New York International Conference on Teaching Chinese in May 2017. At this conference, I was able to share what I learned with my colleagues and contribute to discussions on liberal arts pedagogy in the languages.

Teaching Philosophy Writing

Matthew D. Walker | Associate Professor of Humanities (Philosophy)

Project

In March 2017, my Teaching Innovation Grant enabled a visit to Yale-NUS from Dr. Jyl Gentzler, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Writing Centre at Amherst College. In addition to having published many highly regarded papers in leading philosophy journals (including the winner of the 2200 Philosophical Quarterly Essay Prize), Gentzler is the co-author of Mastering the Art of Philosophy: A Guide to Philosophical Writing, with Seven Exemplary Essays (Routledge, 2018).

All Yale-NUS students take Philosophy and Political Thought. Many Yale-NUS students also major or take advanced courses in either Philosophy or Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Such courses emphasize a special kind of writing, one whose analytical, argumentative, and evaluative character is essentially linked to the distinctive goals of philosophical thinking. Virtually none of our students, however, has previous exposure to writing in this genre before college. Given its novelty, many students find mastering this genre uniquely challenging. My grant aimed, then, to provide Yale-NUS faculty members and students with additional insights on, and resources for, philosophy writing pedagogy.

Outcomes

During her visit, Dr. Gentzler led a workshop for the philosophy faculty and the Writers’ Centre staff, in which we examined the philosophy essay as a type of writing. What are the virtues of a good philosophy paper? What particular skills do students need to write such a paper?  How, specifically, are the aims of philosophical writing and philosophical thinking connected? Those who attended the workshop all learned from Gentzler’s teaching experience, practical advice, and useful learning materials, which promise to inform future efforts in teaching writing. In the following days, Yale-NUS faculty benefitted from informal opportunities to discuss ideas from the workshop with Dr. Gentzler and to learn more about her own work teaching philosophy at Amherst.

In addition to giving an excellent talk on Plato’s Republic and getting to meet the CTL staff during her visit, Dr. Gentzler also led a Philosophy Café for students on “The Art of Philosophical Writing”. Here, Yale-NUS students got the special chance to discuss their particular concerns and aspirations as philosophical writers with a seasoned expert in the field. The Philosophy Café provided a forum for lively conversation, which continued on during a dinner with Dr. Gentzler and our students.

Learning Diversity in Conceptual Calculus & Applied Calculus

Matthew Stamps | Former Associate Professor of Science (Mathematics)

Project

My students come from a variety of gender, social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as subject competencies. The diversity of experiences results in learning differences that are difficult to address in the classroom. The Teaching Innovation Grant enabled me to develop more effective techniques for enhancing team-based learning in entry-level math and science courses in order to promote self-awareness, better team communication, and strengths-based teamwork. This was done through established methods rooted in positive psychology, and in close collaboration with the Dean of Students’ Office Intercultural Engagement Manager.

Building on traditional approaches to team-based learning in the mathematical sciences, we used the online assessment tool, StrengthsFinder, to assemble balanced teams with a variety of individual strengths represented in each. Our primary objective was to help our students develop team-building skills for creative problem solving in a multicultural context, recognizing that every team member brings unique strengths to the team. As a secondary goal, we hoped to learn how this strengths-based approach might lead to improved individual and team performance.

Students learned about their own strengths and how to interact with individuals of different profiles. In-class teamwork was monitored throughout the semester, student feedback was collected at the end of the term, and individual performance analytics were collected through WeBWorK, an online homework system developed by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA).

The TIG also enabled me to attend a workshop at the Qatar Institute for Intercultural Communication. As a result of what I learned in this workshop, I was able to adapt several new methods from Intergroup Dialogue at Yale-NUS to the classroom, and I designed a mid-semester course survey with an emphasis on intercultural communication.

Outcomes

Intercultural communication influences student learning both inside and outside the classroom. These activities show us how we can effectively change classroom dynamics to benefit the student. Finding connections between what students learn in the classroom and residential living has been a positive outcome. This project has helped us find ways to bring activity-based learning from student life workshops and dialogue programs into the classroom to enhance student engagement with the material and with their peers. The findings from this project were presented at the Yale-NUS STEM Innovation Symposium in April 2017. Students and faculty in mathematics and STEM fields were able to learn about our research and changes I have been able to make in my classroom to better address diversities of learning and previous knowledge.

Psychology in Public Policy

Jean Liu | Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Psychology)

Project

A common critique of psychology education is that students who do not pursue graduate school leave college with disparate facts regarding human behaviour. It is common for students who have taken 1-2 psychology courses (and even for those who have majored in psychology) to report having little recollection and practical usage of psychology content post-college. One problem is that psychology is usually taught as a basic science, and students do not get enough experience applying psychology to optimize outcomes.

Based on these observations, I used the Teaching Innovation Grant to develop a module titled “Psychology in Public Policy” in Semester 2 of AY2016/17. The TIG enabled me to invite experts to convene at Yale-NUS for extensive discussions on creating a new syllabus from scratch. I hosted Dr. Martin Day, who had taught a similar course, titled ‘How to Nudge’, at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology.  Dr. Day’s time in Singapore included interactions with both economics and psychology students, and also attended a capstone economics seminar with Dr. Guillem Riambau.

Outcomes

The primary outcome of the project was a course that allows students to run real-life randomized trials where psychology principles are applied to resolve issues raised by the local government in the Singapore Town Councils.

The course is the only one of its kind in Singapore, and addresses the need of psychology graduates to find ways to make the discipline applicable to their careers. In the class, students had the opportunity to test theoretical hypotheses, collect data through fieldwork and analyse their findings. The class aimed to equip students with the skills to apply psychology to policy making. For their final presentation, students also presented their findings to representatives from the various agencies such as the town councils and the Ministry of Water and Environment Resources. The presentations demonstrated the potential that behavioural insights held for future policy making by these stakeholders.

Students have shared that the experiential component of the class made the class material more engaging. Considering the positive response to the class by both students and external stakeholders, I will continue to teach this class with new opportunities. More government agencies have expressed an interest in what the students are doing, so future iterations of the class would hopefully offer a greater variety of projects.