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Reflections from the first cohort of Fellowship programme at Singaporean institution

23 Sep 2020 | Cheah Chin Wei, Nilanjan Raghunath, Norman Lee, Oka Kurniawan The Learning Sciences Lab (LSL) at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) launched the first round of an educational leadership initiative which leads participants towards an Advance HE Fellowship application. Here the participants reflect on their journey to becoming Advance HE Fellows and what Fellowship has meant to them.

The SUTD-AHE Educational Fellowship Programme is meant to build the leadership capability of senior and experienced faculty members in teaching. This program provides opportunities for nominated faculty members to undergo mentorship to prepare their reflective portfolio for the fellowship submission.

The first cohort of eight applicants submitted their applications at different times. At the time of speaking to applicants, all five who had applied for various categories of Fellowship had been successful.

We asked the four faculty members for their experience of participating in the SUTD-AHE Educational Fellowship Programme and what this has meant for them.

Dr. Cheah Chin Wei, Advance HE Fellow, Senior Lecturer, Science, Maths and Technology

Dr. Chin Wei joined SUTD in 2011 and has been teaching Physics 1 Classical Mechanics, Physics 2 Electricity and Magnetism, and Microelectronic Devices and Circuits. He is passionate in teaching and likes to work with students closely to enhance learning experience in the courses..

Initially when I was told of the opportunity to apply for Fellowship, I was excited but was also very concerned over the potential time and effort needed that could be difficult to commit amidst the heavy teaching duties. It is not easy to recall and review systematically work over many years, and identify the relevant evidence related to the work. However, after the application process started, I found the experience of doing the Fellowship very good and smooth as plenty of assistance and support was provided by Learning Sciences Lab (LSL).  

A very useful workshop was also organized at the early stage of the process which provided valuable learning opportunity for me to be aware of the important knowledge and values that an instructor should possess and focus on. The awareness gave me a good understanding of the framework needed in the application process and makes it easier to focus on the required essay writing.  

The writing compelled me to put my journey of teaching professional development over the years in perspective in a systematic way through plenty of reflections. The reflection efforts allowed me to realise how the various techniques that I am applying in teaching today have been developed through years of trial and error, and mistakes made in the past. It is a revision of my teaching and profession developmental journey, it is also a renewed reminder of the core belief of my teaching philosophy and values. Such experience puts the results I have obtained so far on a firmer footing, so it could serve as a solid foundation for further professional development. 

I would advise future applicants for the fellowship to attend the workshop organized by LSL, and also work closely with LSL on the review process.

Applicants need to be patient when working on the written submission, as several iterations are necessary for a coherent and comprehensive account of the professional teaching experience accumulated over the years. In fact, if one decided to apply for the Fellowship, it would be helpful for the applicant to start organising one’s work and related evidence systematically with regular reflections. 

I found this experience valuable to me, and it also helps me understand the work required for the next stage of my teaching career. There is now a clearer goal of what to work on in terms of continuous professional development, such as developing useful teaching techniques that could have more positive impact on students’ learning outcomes in STEM subjects. It is also important to be able to fully develop the ideas so it could positively influence in the field in order to benefit teachers and students on a larger scale. 


Dr. Nilanjan Raghunath, Advance HE Fellow, Assistant Professor, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Dr. Nilanjan teaches Digital Sociology, Gender Sexuality and Society, Shaping Futures and Sociology of Social Networks and Social Capital and has a Teaching certificate from Harvard Bok Learning Centre. She is also an SUTD teaching excellence award winner.

The Advance HE fellowship experience was pedagogically enriching, as it encouraged me to deep think how I teach and interact with students and enable them in active learning for sociology. 

One of the noteworthy features of this Fellowship process was the brainstorming through workshops that were held prior to the formal application by Learning Sciences Lab (LSL). 

We were able to get together with colleagues and share our ideas on things such as peer to peer learning and theories on pedagogy in a focused and collaborative manner. The other unique feature is the interdisciplinary education at SUTD, which helped this Fellowship process immensely.  

I was encouraged by exchanging ideas with people from other disciplines such as Mathematics, Sciences, Engineering and Design related fields. Much of the writing involved research and reflection with ample feedback to develop a concise yet detailed portfolio, which was divided into various themes ranging from our contributions to continuous learning journeys. 

I was able to provide my achievements in detail, categorize them and think through things such as building rapport with students and how I helped my students to become passionate learners. This was reflected in the student feedback I have received over the years. 

The Fellowship process inspired me to get a teaching certificate from the Harvard Derek Bok center. Overall, I feel that teaching is an ongoing process for research and reflection, and I plan to include many of the ideas learnt to create new tools for online and blended learning in sociology and a possible research grant.  

For future faculty who wish to apply to this Fellowship, it is good for them to keep a log of their everyday teaching practices, student reactions, achievements, challenges and their responses as educators. They could also use this to publish pedagogical papers due to the reflective research process. Furthermore, this Fellowship will help them put their best practices forward, develop new ones and move above and beyond their personal goals as teachers.  


Dr. Norman Lee, Advance HE Fellow, Senior Lecturer, Information Systems Technology and Design

Dr. Norman currently teaches programming at SUTD, in particular, Python and Android programming (using Java). Norman is involved in several educational research projects using data analytics.

The Advance HE Fellowship application was a great way to take stock of what I have done in my teaching career. I am really grateful for this opportunity to reflect on my teaching practice and to see how it can be taken further in future.  

Initially, I thought I would just be writing about pedagogies that I have used, e.g. clicker questions. However, as the process of reflection and writing began, I found that it covered all aspects of teaching, from interacting with students to what I did for professional development.  

With the excellent advice and feedback given to me during the writing process by Learning Sciences Lab (LSL), I managed to overcome my initial difficulties in writing the portfolio in a clear and concise manner.  

I would really recommend all faculty with the ability and love for teaching to apply for this fellowship.  

Spend some time reflecting on your teaching practice and write down as much as you can. Even the seemingly insignificant aspects of what you have done can become a good part of your portfolio. Then, just start writing, and seek feedback when it is done! It can always be edited and revised later on.  


Dr. Oka Kurniawan, Advance HE Fellow, Senior Lecturer, Information Systems Technology and Design

Dr. Oka has been leading the largest Introductory Programming Course at SUTD from the year 2015 till 2020. He is an SUTD Teaching Excellence Award winner and is involved in various innovative active learning pedagogies to teach programming.

I really appreciate the experience guided by Learning Science Lab and particularly Dr. Nachamma Sockalingam in helping me to obtain the Fellowship. What I like most is the community journey instead of individual effort in getting the fellowship. We had a few workshops that helped me to reflect on my teaching practices. 

In the beginning, the framework was rather overwhelming. Nevertheless, the guide from Dr. Nacha, the discussion among fellow faculty members, and the activities done during the workshop helped me to see how actually all those components have been present in my teaching practices.

Digging up my memory and recognising that those activities fulfil the Advance HE framework truly helped me to realise how my teaching journey has been. It also gives me a framework on the areas that I continue to work on in the future in my teaching career.  

Writing the submission was truly a challenge as I need to find time to write each entry and revise it several times amidst my other work commitment and teachings. However, it turned out to be a worthwhile effort and time well spent. I really appreciated the internal feedback given by LSL as well as by Advance HE reviewer which really helped me to improve my submission.  

I would like to recommend this Fellowship to my faculty colleagues at SUTD as I am aware that many of them have a similar or even more experiences than me. I would say it is a worthwhile experience to reflect and to be recognized for our teaching work. This is even more true for those who are in the teaching track where their main duty is teaching. 


Fellowship demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Across four categories, from Associate to Principal, Fellowship provides individuals with recognition of their practice, impact and leadership of teaching and learning. Find out more here.


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