NUS Philosophy BA (Hons with Highest Distinction).
I'm currently a Trainee Teacher at the National Institute of Education. I taught General Paper at Millennia Institute as a pre-service teacher for the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
I was a teaching assistant for the philosophy department at the National University of Singapore. Student testimonials can be accessed here. My official performance report is available upon request.
My interests are in the philosophy of education and the philosophy of mind. I'm also interested in Camus, artificial intelligence, and the philosophy of the social sciences.
For me, teaching was not a calling. As a student of philosophy, I have always been more interested in the theory of teaching and the philosophy of education. To that end, I’m inspired by Malcolm Knowles’ (1984) andragogical approach to education. Following the Knowlesian tradition under which self-directed learning is exhorted, I firmly believe that the most effective teachers are not merely conduits of information. Instead, they are coaches and motivators who inspire their students to be self-directed learners who thrive outside of the classroom.
However, as I delved deeper into the various theories of education — especially the ones outlined by Thomas Stehlik (2018) — it became clear to me that theory cannot be separate from praxis. I think George Thomas (1968) puts it best in his Introduction to Philosophy:
“Education without philosophy is blind and philosophy without education is invalid.”
To me, this highlights two interdependent truisms. First, teaching is a craft that is necessarily informed by the teacher’s own theoretical conception of education — consciously or otherwise. Second, and more importantly, one’s philosophy of teaching, no matter how theoretically robust or rigorous, has little value if it is never put into practice. In other words, I realised that the validity of one’s teaching philosophy can only be properly assessed when it manifests itself in face-to-face or digital classrooms through actual instruction. Thus, while teaching did not immediately feel like a calling for me, it certainly came as an epiphanic consequence of my avid interest in the philosophy of education.
My teaching philosophy is inspired by the central tenets of Knowles’ andragogy. In turn, the way I conduct my classes is guided by the following principles:
I believe that the teacher-student relationship is one that is co-created. A key part of this co-creation occurs when I take my students’ interests into account when I plan and construct my lessons. To me, the value of personalising classroom content lies in its ability to give my students a heightened sense of ownership over their learning. In addition, catering to the specific interests of my students also encourages them to participate more actively in classroom discussions. This is important to me because of Rachel Lee’s (2016) observation that Singaporean students, despite their impressive test scores, are generally not confident enough to voluntarily articulate their views and opinions in the public sphere. Knowing this, it is imperative that I instill in my students the confidence and eloquence required of them to become vocal, proactive social agents in the future. Discussing topics that are of genuine interest to my students will motivate them to communicate their views more readily.
Creating Safe Learning Environments
This second principle is closely related to the first. In order to give the quieter students in my classes greater confidence to speak up, it is crucial that I enact a safe learning environment in which everyone’s views are respectfully engaged with. As the facilitator and mediator of classroom discussions, it is my duty to ensure that everyone’s contribution is heard and assessed critically, but also charitably and non-disparagingly. This can be achieved, I believe, by promptly flagging hurtful or insensitive comments and directing the discourse onto a more constructive path. The training that I've had leading discussions as a student teacher in an undergraduate seminar in Tembusu College and as a teaching assistant for the introductory philosophy module at NUS are certainly invaluable experiences that I can draw from to achieve this ideal balance of intellectual rigour and emotional sensitivity.
Enacting Effective Feedback Mechanisms
Engagement with timely, personalised (and legible) feedback is a key part of the learning process. Thus, I place equal emphasis on both assignments and student-engagement with assignment feedback. Often, once students receive their grades for tests or assignments, they do little or nothing to reflect upon the areas in which they excelled in and those in which they fell short. This is regrettable because this is a juncture where learning can be augmented. Our obsession with grades seems to be a cultural trait that cannot be rehabilitated overnight. What I can do now as a teacher, however, is to incorporate what I call “feedback assignments” into my teaching.
In these assignments, my students are asked to produce short meta-reports regarding their performances in tests and assignments; they highlight their strengths and weaknesses and suggest ways to improve on the latter. Apart from encouraging reflexivity, this exercise also helps me to assess if specific students need extra help in certain areas so that I can offer differentiated instruction, or if there are areas in which the entire class needs more scaffolded guidance so that I can alter the overall direction of my instruction altogether.
The three principles that I have outlined above are not mutually exclusive. They work together to achieve my goal of nurturing a community of self-motivated learners who are critical, tactful, and reflexive — and I include myself as a fellow learner as well. As I gather more teaching experience, the principles that guide my teaching should be refined and improved iteratively. Since philosophy, at its core, is the enterprise of critiquing and refining ideas, I believe that my training in philosophy will help me to be acutely critical of my own teaching style and methods. I am committed to continually learn as I teach.
Honours Thesis: "Meaninglessness and Dry Earth"April 2020
In this paper, I attempt to motivate the moderate meaninglessness theory as an alternative externalist response to the problem of empty natural kind terms (NKTs). I suggest that a moderate meaninglessness theorist can explain how empty NKTs can still be used in communication even though they lack semantic content: these terms pragmatically convey a cluster of descriptions. However, on pain of violating our modal intuitions, these descriptions are not to be confused as the meanings of the empty NKTs. Subsequently, I maintain that the moderate meaninglessness theory gives us a principled reason to bite the bullet and embrace the problem of negative existentials, which is a move that is unique and available only to those who hold that empty NKTs have no semantic content. Finally, based on Kroon’s (2011) Warranted Reference theory, I propose a general rule for determining the meanings (or lack thereof) of empty and non-empty theoretical terms in the sciences. I conclude by anticipating and responding to some objections against my proposed rule and against the moderate meaninglessness theory in general. The upshot of my discussion is that the externalists should not be too quick to reject the moderate meaninglessness theory.
Download (PDF): https://bit.ly/2Yz4baq