• Katherine Pan

Review of ES2531: Critical Thinking And Writing

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Year took: AY19/20 Semester 2

Engineering students studying in NUS are required to read a critical thinking and writing module. ES2531 fulfills this requirement and it was in my recommended schedule. The assessment criteria are as follows:

1) Assignment 1: 35%

2) Assignment 2: 50%

- Assignment 2A: 15%

- Assignment 2B: 35%

3) Assignment 3: 15%

- Online engagement: 5%

- Class engagement: 5%

- End of course reflection: 5%

Note: The module handbook for ES2531 provides a clear overview of the assessment criteria and what to expect from the module.

There are no physical lectures, only tutorials that serve as sectional teaching. However, there are online lectures meant to help us prepare for class. These lectures are less than 30 minutes and it provides a general idea of what lessons will cover. Yet I felt that the information provided by the lecture was insufficient and not useful. I often refer to the content my tutor covered instead as it is more detailed than the one provided in lectures.

Did someone say nap time? (Source)

Before the semester started, I received an email from the module coordinator. It was regarding a talk that was compulsory for ES2531 students to attend. The talk took place in the first week of the semester and I went for the talk held by Vincent Chong, the CEO of ST Engineering. It was about the different roles that he took on in ST Engineering and the various challenges he had faced. I would recommend taking down notes during the talk because it will be useful later.

Tutorials started week two and the first 3 classes were preparation for Assignment 1. Assignment 1 is an in-class assessment that takes place on week 5 and it is done individually. In a nutshell, Assignment 1 is a case study requiring students to write about the leadership portrayed while using the RST framework that is created by CELC. Thus in the 3 tutorial sessions, I learned how to “think” critically using the RST framework and an engineering leadership theory.

The RST framework by CELC. (Picture sourced from my tutor notes)

In the weeks leading up to Assignment 1, I had participated in online forum discussions as well. The topic changes weekly for the forum discussion. However, the focus centers around testing the RST framework and the engineering leadership theory. Remember earlier that I mentioned it was important to take notes during the talk in week 1? It was because one of the forum discussions was about the talk attended in week one. There were 4/5 forum discussions in total and it is classified under the online engagement component for Assignment 3.

The marks for assignment one is not made public. However, we could read the comments left by our tutors on it. I read through the comments and it did not seem particularly good. While I was doing assignment 1, I did think that it was tricky. A pseudo-problem and an actual problem were encountered by the protagonist in the case study. Many other students including myself mistakenly wrote about the pseudo-problem, which was unnecessary. This caused us to have lesser time to write more about the real problem the protagonist had encountered.


Assignment 2 is split into assignment 2A and assignment 2B. In general, assignment 2 is an 1800 – 2200 words essay that tackles one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Assignment 2A is a full draft preliminary submission due in week 9 and assignment 2B is a final submission due in week 11/12.

Each team will write about the problem, causes, current measures, and solution(s). The solution(s) provided must have an engineering angle to it and has to be supported by strong evidence. Do not fret as your tutor will guide you through the process of writing the essay. Firstly, my team had to choose a country and a specific problem that we would like to tackle in the chosen country. Next, we came up with a flowchart that outlines the different points we will include. Based on the flowchart, my tutor pointed out possible loopholes and areas that can be improved on. My team’s focus was on the problem of unsafe water for consumption in the Indian city of Kolkata.

In preparation for assignment 2, my team and I went bonkers. We had to read through numerous journal articles that range from one page to over a hundred pages. My tutor emphasized finding reliable information, hence my team had to rely on journals or scholarly articles. My group called on average twice a week before the submission of assignment 2A. When we were editing our essay for assignment 2B, we called every day for a week to resolve any discrepancies and improve the overall essay. The calls would last for 3 to 4 hours and at the end of it, it still felt like we had plenty of unresolved issues. I would like to give a big shoutout to my team members as they were amazing individuals. They always keep their word and contribute to our teamwork wholeheartedly. It was amazing how well we worked together, and I wish them all the best in their future ventures!

Ngl this was my team every night prior to the submission of assignment 2B. (Source)

I am so glad this was not the case for my team. (Source)

After submission of assignment 2B, every team must prepare for the oral defense. It will take place in week 11/12 and two teams will be paired up. Each team will ask each other critical questions based on their respective essay. Fortunately, it is not graded as the questions can put one in a tight spot due to its extreme difficulty. The last submission for ES2531 is an end of course reflection and it is due a week after the oral defense. It is from 500 to 800 words and is classified under assignment 3.

All in all, I found ES2531 to be a demanding module. It forced me to think logically and objectively using the RST framework. Besides that, I had to do a lot of reading to find the information I need, and I had spent countless nights working on assignment 2 with my teammates. The workload will be heavy due to assignment 2 but I am glad to have met team members that were such great team players.

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