Tembusians go from students to teachers

Tembusians are no longer just studying their modules – they’re teaching them too. This semester, a few select groups of Tembusians visited local Junior Colleges to deliver seminar-style lessons, as part of their final assignment for the module Biomedicine and Singapore Society.

Held between Apr 7 and Apr 10, the students went to National Junior College (NJC) and Anderson Junior College (AJC) to teach classes of between six and 16 JC1 students, most of whom were connected to the biology stream and several of whom were in training for the Biology Olympiad next year. The lessons were offered as enrichment / extracurricular activity beyond the normal curriculum.

Emma Fung, Melissa Lim and Letts Tan were the first group to go to NJC, with their lesson titled ‘Mental Illness and Responsibility’. This lesson – co-developed with Adeline Chang who could not make it to the school –focused on the case of former Miss Singapore World 2009, Ris Low, whose diagnosis of bipolar disorder became part of her trial case for credit card fraud.

Later in the week, Ryan Ee, Leoson Hoay, and Yap Zong Yao, offered a lesson co-developed with Song Xiaotian on ‘The Red Market’, which dealt with the demand and supply for blood transfusion and transplantation. Lum Zheng Kang, Ma Ming Wei, Leon Too and Toh Yi Long’s ‘Intervening in Obesity’ explored social policy solutions to the rise of obesity in society, and asked students to consider some of the complexities and downsides of government intervention.

A fourth group went to AJC with a lesson on autism called ‘Understanding Rainman’, after the 1988 movie with Dustin Hoffman. The students were Rachel Wong, Mai Wen Yi, Ho Kang Leng, and Samuel Bernadi Hartanoeh.

The focus on teaching is new this year, even though it builds on the previous years’ assignments to research a topic of the students’ own interest. Module coordinator and Tembusu’s Director of Studies, Dr Catelijne Coopmans, explained: “Because students are developing a lesson, they are ‘forced’ to think about not only the contents of their chosen topic, but also what kind of questions would spark discussion and what kinds of information would bring that discussion to a higher level.”

An NJC student offers his perspective during the lesson on 'The Red Market’

An NJC student offers his perspective during the lesson on ‘The Red Market’

Feedback on the lessons, as well as the initiative, was overall positive. Teachers at NJC and AJC appreciated how the lessons exposed their students to topics beyond the A level syllabus, and engaged them in thinking across disciplines by linking medicine to, for example, ethics or economics. They found the Tembusu students well prepared in terms of content, and enthusiastic in their attempts to engage the JC students.  Talks about how the arrangement could be further improved are currently in progress.

One Tembusian, Letts Tan, said: “The teaching experience in NJC was definitely one of the highlights of the module for me. I would recommend it to continue as I believe that we are not only benefiting the JC students but our very own Tembusu students as well.

“Pitching the lesson to students who have not been through the rigor of the entire module forces us to clarify and explain certain concepts during the delivery of the course. In that process, I believe, my team managed to learn much about bringing across complicated ideas and concepts in a coherent and clear manner.”


About the module:
Biomedicine and Singapore Society is one of Tembusu College’s longest-running Senior Seminars. It introduces students to different perspectives on what it means to “live well” – and the role of biomedicine in living well – individually and collectively in Singapore today. Students reading this module tend to be in their second year at NUS, with some in their first year, third or even fourth year of study. All come from different schools, departments and faculties.  The module is taught in the form of three-hour long discussion-based seminars, coupled with a series of optional special events outside of class.