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Keep It Real: Welcoming Sherlock Holmes into the Classroom
To better engage the young minds under her care, Deputy Superintendent of Prisons 1 Joyce Wong has incorporated pop culture references into her lessons.

29 March 2018 Joyce SPS HTA Feature
DSP1 Joyce Wong is committed to bringing new approaches to teaching into the classroom. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

All educators understand the challenge of keeping their teaching materials relevant, current and engaging. Sometimes, it takes Sherlock Holmes or Indiana Jones to drive home the message.

Enter Deputy Superintendent of Prisons 1 (DSP1) Joyce Wong, who works with her team to conduct courses for new Singapore Prison Service (SPS) officers, as well as leadership and milestone courses for serving officers. The 35-year-old has blended pop culture references into her teaching materials, so that her lessons can be better absorbed by her trainees. 

Tell us about your work at the Prison Staff Training School.

My team and I conduct classes for entrant and serving SPS officers. This ranges from basic training programmes to leadership and milestone courses. We’re constantly thinking about ways to improve our methodologies and curriculum. We also work closely with the Curriculum & Planning Unit within the Prison Staff Training School to ensure that our curriculum is updated and relevant.

How different are training methods now compared to 10 years ago?

With technological advancement and changes to the operating landscape for the Home Team, there are many factors to consider when we plan our programmes.

It’s not like the old days when teaching was a one-way street; we no longer use the top-down approach. Our trainees are now much more IT-savvy and they come with more advanced skillsets. So we started looking into how we can have greater participation during lessons, to help them understand the subjects better. We want the trainees to learn as effectively as possible so that they can apply their skills when they are posted to the ground units.

What have you learnt about the young trainees assigned to your team?

The younger generation doesn’t rely on just one source of information; they prefer to access a range of platforms to garner further insights. If there are certain things they aren’t sure of, they’ll be sure to Google for more information.

Textbooks alone don’t meet their expectations. In terms of learning, they’re so much more resourceful and very hands-on, and they want to be more participative and to acquire knowledge through application.

So, instead of just going through theories in class, we have more discussions, case studies, role-play and scenario-based training. These different methodologies are embedded into our classroom lessons so that trainees can learn better.

How did popular fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones end up as part of your teaching curriculum?

In the past, topics like verbal de-escalation or operational judgement would have been covered through classroom teaching. Now, we’ve supplemented these topics with short clips, so that trainees can have discussions afterwards.

We put ourselves in the shoes of our trainees as future Prison officers, and try to address how certain things in the clips can impact their operational judgement in real life. One example is a moment from the TV show ‘Sherlock' that revolves around investigative work and evidence analysis. We wanted to show our trainees assumptions could be made during investigations. In the clip, the protagonist was able to deduce that it was a murder instead of an apparent suicide based on the conditions surrounding the case. 

29 March BBC Sherlock

It’s elementary: When fiction helps trainees draw lessons that are applicable to their duties. PHOTO: BBC

How have your trainees responded to the clips?

We found that by making references to pop culture, they tended to absorb what we are trying to impart much better. We’re constantly reviewing our training to make it more enriching for our learners, and it’s possible that clips may be incorporated into other training curricula as well.

As a trainer, how are you seeking to upgrade your own skills and competencies?

The path ahead looks promising for current and new trainers at the Home Team Academy, given our revised Trainers’ Competency Development Roadmap, which enhances the instructional competencies and recognition of trainers. Being able to train and nurture new officers gives me a sense of satisfaction and achievement, and I'm proud to be able to contribute to the Home Team as a trainer!

Learn more about the Home Team's trainers:
Keep It Real: Guiding Young Officers with Compassion and Creativity
Keep It Real: Incorporating Ground Experience into Training

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 29 March 2018
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