5 September 2019 – NUS Computing Senior Lecturers Dr Lek Hsiang Hui and Dr Steven Halim were conferred the Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) for Academic Year 2017/2018 on 8 March this year. The award will be presented at the NUS Festival of Learning held on 19 November.
ATEA is awarded to outstanding faculty members who have displayed a high level of commitment to their teaching. Three-time award winners will also inducted into the Honour Roll as a recognition of their sustained excellence in teaching. A total of 46 recipients were chosen for the award this year. This is Dr Halim’s second time winning the award and Dr Lek’s third time. Dr Lek will also be inducted into the Honour Roll for being a three-time ATEA recipient.
Nominees for the award are assessed on a wide range of criteria such as student feedback, student assessment design, teaching range, module development, project supervision, educational leadership activities and professional development.
The learning experience
For both Dr Lek and Dr Halim, they believe that good educators are able to strike the balance between challenging academically stronger students and making learning manageable for the others. “I aim to teach students at three levels: a reasonable pace for 68 percent of my class, a more challenging level for the top 16 percent without neglecting the last 16 percent,” said Dr Halim.
Dr Lek echoed the same sentiments. “Academically strong students need to go beyond being “safe” by scoring well for assignments and projects. They need to challenge themselves by taking riskier and more ambitious ideas,” Dr Lek added.
To strike the balance, Dr Lek would step into the shoes of his students to preempt their challenges with the course material. “One good exercise I do is to reflect upon my experience as a student and the frustrating situations I faced back then. This helps me to consider if there were anything we (as students) hope that our instructors would have done.”
Ultimately, both educators hope that learning goes beyond the textbook. “I hope that my students will have a love of learning and algorithms after my class,” said Dr Halim. “The lesson I hope my students learn from their time in NUS is to remember the journey they went through – the struggles and pains they endured and the victories they experienced after overcoming those challenges,” Dr Lek added.