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WATE PGR 2020 Commendee: Neo Poon (WBS)

Why did you start teaching? What (or who) inspired you?

At first I just wanted to put some teaching experience on my CV, but I ended up liking it.

Dr Henrik Singmann and Professor Thomas Hills especially helped me a lot in developing my teaching style and finding my voice.

What pearls of wisdom have you been given over the years that have helped you with your teaching?

"Over the years, I have learned two uncomfortable truths related to learning. First: skills take time and effort to master. And second: many things aren't fun until you're good at them."

Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Students have different needs. It is easy for academics to forget that not everyone want to do a PhD.

When a student doesn’t care about a particular aspect of a course, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about learning. They just have different interests and priorities, and there is always a way to help them.

If you were mentoring a first-time teacher, what advice would you give?

  • Tell students why a certain topic is important in your field.
  • Tell students why a certain topic is important to you.
  • Tell students why a certain topic is important to them.

What advice/top tips would you give to more experienced teachers?

I would suggest the same advice as above.

What does being recognised through WATE PGR mean to you?

It is an honour.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching? What’s the best part of your job?

I enjoy talking to students in person during e.g. after breaks. It is important to know them better.

What new technologies are you currently using to enhance your teaching? What are your top tips for using them?

Classroom voting systems are always useful.

For statistics, interactive visualisation tools such Shiny or D3 are very cool.

In fact visualisation is the most important part of teaching statistics.

What are the biggest challenges faced by teaching staff? How do you overcome these?

Marking has always been stressful, especially when the class is large. Unfortunately, it is the bullet that we just have to bite.

What lessons have you learned from your students?

From time to time, I still learn new statistics or programming tools from students. There are always some students who come from a less usual background (compared to the rest of the class) and bring interesting concepts to the table.

Enjoyed hearing from Neo? See the full list of 2020 winners and commendees and read other interviews.