PhD student honoured for dedicated work as teaching assistant

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A PhD student from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University has won a prize for his work as a teaching assistant at the University.

David Afolabi won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award at the XJTLU Annual Teaching Prizes for his work on a module focused on computer programming, which introduces the basic concepts and theories of computer programming as well as requires students to design, build, programme and road-test robot models.

The module is popular among XJTLU students, with nearly 500 from the departments of Mathematical Sciences, Industrial Design and Biological Sciences, among others, signing up for it last academic year.

David, along with 10 other teaching assistants, spends at least 10 hours a week assisting students on the module. Last year, as the lead teaching assistant, David not only helped students himself, but organised other teaching assistants to use their expert knowledge and experience to support students, highlighting his excellent management and leadership skills.

PhD students at XJTLU have the chance to work as teaching assistants while completing their doctorate, giving them the chance to develop crucial academic skills.

David was delighted at being awarded the prize: “It was such a surprise that I had been nominated for this year’s award by both professors and students. It gives me such joy that my work is being acknowledged,” he said.

He said he was motivated to be a good teaching assistant by his supervisors, who he has learnt a lot from: “I owe much to them and I admire them because of their dedication to teaching. They are my role models,” he added.

David came to China from Nigeria seven years ago to study at XJTLU. Under the guidance of his supervisor, he published academic papers when he was an undergraduate student at the University before doing some teaching work in his third year. Inspired to pursue an academic career, he chose to study a PhD at XJTLU and took a role as a teaching assistant.

“Through my undergraduate courses at XJTLU, I learned a great deal from the way my professors interacted with students and the way they help them to improve themselves. I have attempted to replicate this in my dealings with other students,” he said.

David and his supervisor, Professor Shengwei Guan, recently helped Bingzhang Wu, a Year Two student, conduct a project as part of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme. The project led to the team being invited to participate in the SAZBIST International Multidisciplinary Conference, which focused on contemporary trends and issues in the fields of computer science and was held in Dubai in January.

“The University has given me more than I can ask,” David said. “I consider it my duty to not only maintain the great quality of teaching and support which I received but also enhance it through advanced preparation, punctuality, and meticulous dedication.”

Organised by XJTLU’s Academic Enhancement Centre, the annual teaching prizes aim to identify and share best teaching practices across the University and are awarded to those staff who have made an outstanding contribution to teaching and the enhancement of students’ learning experiences at XJTLU.

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