The Writing and Critical Thinking (WCT) module is no stranger to any USP student – they have all been through this foundation module which pushed their minds (and bodies) to their limits in the freshman year. Ever wondered how WCT is like from the perspectives of our professors who designed these classes? Poh Yu Ting (Sociology + USP, Class of 2017) spoke to Dr Leung Wing Sze to find out more about the newly offered WCT module on Human Trafficking (UWC2101F).
Ultimately, it is the professors’ hope that students would have developed critical thinking skills at USP, to think in a deep and meaningful manner and to argue logically – core skills invaluable to one’s intellectual development and future career.
With several years of experience under her belt, Dr Leung found that it was paramount for students to be interested in the topic in order for the WCT module to be engaging and beneficial. The newly introduced WCT module on Human Trafficking seeks to present a concrete way of exploring legal and theoretical responses to case studies of human trafficking. With her academic interest in the 18th century ethics, she sought to relate concepts of cosmopolitanism to a phenomenon like human trafficking which is still happening in the 21st century. How is a WCT module scoped such that a broad topic can be broken down into 13 weeks of seminars and consultations? Dr Leung shared that it took her an entire month to design the curriculum of the class after deciding on the topic. By having two assignments with the former being more preparatory and the latter being more exploratory, she hoped that students will be able to explore the topic more freely in the final assignment after learning about the topic and gaining writing skills through the first assignment.
Alongside a few other WCT modules, Dr Leung’s new WCT module is one that has moved away from the traditional WCT format. The variety of WCT modules available to USP students has allowed for more freedom to explore different learning and teaching styles within the community. With other writing programmes in the world changing as well, it remains pertinent for our WCT modules to evolve and cater to the needs of students. As Dr Leung remarked, “all WCT classes are united by common outcomes, but individual instructors have the autonomy to decide how their classes achieve the desired outcomes.” Ultimately, it is the professors’ hope that students would have developed critical thinking skills at USP, to think in a deep and meaningful manner and to argue logically - core skills invaluable to one’s intellectual development and future career.
Apart from her teaching duties, Dr Leung is also the Director of the USP Writing Centre. She enjoys interacting with students who have been trained to be Writing Assistants. She regards them as her colleagues and shared that the senior Writing Assistants had provided her with insightful feedback when she first started out as the Director. Observant students may have realised that there is currently a student feedback form for writing conferences at the Writing Centre. This new initiative was launched with the help of senior Writing Assistants who saw the need to help Writing Assistants identify their strengths and weaknesses when it came to assisting other students in their USP assignments. When asked about how Writing Assistants are recruited, Dr Leung remarked that students are interviewed and assessed based on their potential to ask good questions and their ability to guide others along instead of spoon-feeding them with answers. After Writing Assistants are recruited, they are put through training to prepare them for their role. Particularly, junior Writing Assistants are coached by their seniors over a semester, to improve and hone their skills. Such additional training sessions are on top of the annual training session whereby Writing Assistants explore different types of essays such as traditional and non-traditional WCT essays as well as essays for Inquiry modules. With an increasing number of non-traditional WCT classes, Writing Assistants also undergo refresher courses by attending meetings with professors of these classes to understand the needs of their students.
As a student who has benefitted greatly from WCT and gained invaluable experiences as a Writing Assistant, I truly appreciate the effort that our professors in USP have devoted to in building up WCT modules to what they are today.