Simron Singh, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development
Written by Arifeen Chowdhury, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE.
Dr. Simron Singh has always seen himself as a student, and the world as his classroom. This belief in borderless experiential learning was imbued in him as a child and has continued to define who he is. Whether it be working in tsunami-devastated areas or planning research excursions abroad, Singh advocates hands-on learning. His educational endeavours have led him to different corners of the world, providing invaluable experiences.
As an Associate Professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise, and Development, Singh’s international experience helps him draw parallels from different cultures and systems, connections that inform his course designs. “Students appreciate instructors who can connect course material with stories and facts about differences in culture and thinking from various parts of the world,” he explains. By integrating such facets, he helps his students stay engaged and active in class.
However, an international framework also poses some challenges, such as differences in student mentality, cultural protocols, and student-teacher relationships. Growing up in India, Singh observed that teachers are assumed to be model citizens and questioning their expertise is sometimes perceived as disrespectful. In contrast, Singh finds that students in Europe and Canada are generally forthright and tend to ask more pointed questions. He appreciates his students’ healthy skepticism, which not only fosters greater learning but also keeps him on his toes.
Singh is modest about his teaching role, partly, he says, because he is Sikh, a word that literally translated means “student.” He never thought of himself as a “teacher” because the responsibility of educating and being a role model seemed too great. However, he eventually realized that teaching is the logical extension of learning. As he puts it, “There is a fine line between learning and teaching, because teachers have to remain effective learners to provide value to the lectures and to engage students.” Experiential learning helps Singh balance these two roles, and helps his students develop a passion for their discipline that fosters deep learning.
In his capacity as a recently appointed Teaching Fellow, Singh has aimed to build on the work of his predecessor, Mary Louise McAllister. "I am thankful to Mary Louise," he says, "for setting up such a committed Teaching Learning Committee to work with. Mary Louise has been a champion of student-centred experiential learning, and this is something I really wish to take further." Along with colleagues, he is also redesigning the GreenTEA website, an online resource that not only helps instructors enhance their teaching, but also fosters mentorship and encourages instructors to seek a sustainable work/life balance.
Singh affirms that his mission is to make the world a better place through education. A desire to help people in need is what started his career and took him far from home. All of Singh’s journeys have started with one simple question: “Will the work I’m doing help the people who are closest to the earth?”
More about Simron Singh
- A trailer for a documentary entitled Aftermath: The Second Flood, featuring Simron Singh. The documentary explores how well-intentioned humanitarian aid destroyed a culture following the 2004 tsunami that struck the Bay of Bengal. Aftermath will be screened at the University of Waterloo on February 3, 2016. More information about the documentary is available here.
- Simron Singh's profile in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development
- A video interview in which Simron Singh discusses how to succeed as a graduate student.
Read more Teaching Stories
CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following: