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Oon-Seng Tan

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Dr Oon-Seng Tan is Associate Professor of Psychological Studies at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Oon-Seng is the First Asian Fellow of the UK Staff and Educational Development Association and has pioneered many staff development initiatives in Singapore. As Director of the Temasek Centre for Problem-based Learning, he won The Enterprise Challenge Innovator Award from the Prime Minister’s Office (Singapore) for co-pioneering a project on Educational Innovation for the Knowledge-based Economy. He was Chairman of the International Advisory Committee for the 2nd Asia-Pacific Conference on PBL (2000) and a keynote speaker for the 3rd Asia-Pacific Conference on PBL (2001) in Australia. Oon-Seng was also amongst the very privileged few to be appointed as a National Assessor for the People Development Award of the Productivity & Standards Board, Singapore. He is currently an external assessor for the School Excellence Model for educational institutions in Singapore. He is also an Executive Committee Member of the Educational Research Association of Singapore.

Oon-Seng has been a consultant to many multi-nationals and organisations including Singapore Airlines, Asian Development Bank, Datacraft Asia, Philips DAP, Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries, Kodak, SNP, National Heart Centre, Singapore General Hospital, Precicon Automation, Japan International Corporation Agency, Colombo Plan Staff College, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation, Ministry of Defence (Singapore) and Ministry of Education (Singapore). He has also been consultant to various government establishments in the region including Australia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Dr Oon-Seng Tan’s research breakthroughs include amongst other things the discovery of key cognitive functions pertaining to creativity. He has been cited as a creativity expert by The Straits Times and his views on creativity have been published in several news columns and articles. He has co-authored 5 textbooks on mathematics as well as a book on physics. He has published in areas pertaining to teaching, learning and curriculum development. He is currently co-authoring a book on educational psychology for the Asian context. His current research interests include studies related to cognitive education and problem-based learning. He is the main editor and co-author of the book Problem-based Learning: Educational Innovation Across Disciplines. He also co-edited a collection of papers entitled On Problem Based Learning: Experience, Empowerment and Evidence.

Key Cognitive Processes in PBL Practices: Insights for PBL Facilitators

The implementation of problem-based learning (PBL) entails not only the re-design of curriculum but also the development of effective facilitation-cum-coaching approaches. PBL curricula innovation typically involves a shift in three loci of educational preoccupation: from what content to cover to what real-world problems to present; from the role of lecturers to that of coaches; and, from the role of students as passive learners to that of active problem-solvers and self-directed learners. This workshop will highlight some insights on cognition and mediation in relation to the problem, the coach and the problem-solver. Effective PBL calls for the design of problems and learning environments that stimulate cognition. PBL tutors are not only facilitators for information, inquiry and resources but more importantly coaches in helping students develop key cognitive skills. Cognitive processes pertaining to collecting, connecting and communicating information is often taken for granted. The workshop aims to enhance tutors’ understanding of students’ cognitive functioning in PBL (for example, clarity of perception, systematic exploratory thinking, overcoming “locked-in” perceptions, broadening of mental fields, precision and accuracy in data gathering, restraint of impulsivity, planning behaviour, flexibility of thought, elaboration, multi-dimensional thinking, divergent thinking for ideas and solution generation and so on). Cognitive coaching is thus needed to help students learn how to identify, define and delimit problems, gain a repertoire of heuristics and gain process skills in solution construction, validation, evaluation, and inventive and open-minded thinking.

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