Teaching philosophy and the student’s learning approach

by Dr Lew Tek Yew

As universities aspire to produce graduates who are knowledge users and equipped with problem solving and critical thinking skills, educators are constantly striving to find teaching strategies that inculcate meaningful learning among their students, so that they are ready to join the workforce and solve real-world problems.

Application of concepts and understanding of the business discipline is vital for business graduates, as they will assume intellectually demanding positions in the industry, such as consultants, market researchers, advertising executives, policy-makers and chief executive officers.

This requires students to go beyond the rote memorisation skills that characterise surface approaches and develop deeper research and analytical skills. Hence, business students are encouraged to adopt the deep learning approach with the intention of achieving high quality learning outcomes such as analytical and critical thinking skills.

The deep approach to learning is characterised by a personal commitment to learning and an interest in the subject. The student approaches learning with the intention to understand and seek meaning, and consequently, interprets knowledge in light of previous knowledge structures and experiences. This approach is likely to result in better retention and transfer of knowledge and may lead to quality learning outcomes such as critical thinking skills.

On the other hand, a surface approach to learning is characterised by an intention to acquire only sufficient knowledge to complete the task or pass the subject, and the student relies on memorisation and reproduction of material.

My teaching philosophy is ‘to teach and help students to learn to maximise their potential and grow as global citizens who are forward looking in their thoughts and actions’. I believe in the students’ infinite potential to learn and grow as useful citizens who are able to contribute towards the nation’s development.

This belief guides me in my commitment to teaching and adoption of student-centred approach to teaching. I believe that this approach is most suitable as it facilitates student learning and goal-setting, recognises and respects their previous knowledge and experiences, inculcates their ability to learn and, most importantly, motivates them to learn.

I realised that growth in students’ potential as engaged and constructive learners is developmental and requires time and patience. Hence, as a lecturer, I am the agent of growth and change for my students to internalise the intrinsic motivation to learn and excel.

Furthermore, I enrich students’ learning experiences by motivating them to excel and meet challenging learning outcomes. I believe that if we, as lecturers, teach and engage with students from our heart, they will optimise their potential to learn and grow as useful global citizens when they graduate. Thus, my main role as a lecturer is to guide students in their journey towards achieving success in life as I am a strong believer of the importance of the university experience in shaping one’s success in life.

My students are my top priority and I convey this to them through my passion and strategies in teaching and in the time I devote to teaching. I also believe that to be effective, teaching must be fun to the students, and one of the best learning experiences is one where every student leaves the classroom with more questions than answers.

I also demonstrate my love and commitment to teaching by explaining lecture topics in simple terms and relate lots of real-life examples of current happenings in the corporate world, such as economic crises, corporate success stories, and the latest developments in Malaysia such as the 1Malaysia concept and the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

In tutorials, my students have the opportunity to actively engage in learning through analysis of real case studies, drawing mind maps, presenting critical analysis of journal articles, as well as facilitating the tutorials, during which they would demonstrate their preparation for the tutorials by sharing their reading and research about organisations, and the application of knowledge.

It helps to give feedback to students’ assignments, exercises, presentations and exams so that they understand what they need to do to get a better mark in the future. I also believe in utilising technological learning tools such as Moodle to manage my engagement with my students. I use Moodle to put up updated learning materials and engage in active discussion with the students beyond the formal teaching hours.

The enhancing of relationships between employers and employees to develop desirable attitudes and behaviour amongst employees is my primary area of research within the broad discipline of management. For me, research and teaching complement and support each other. Thus, I frequently share my latest research findings on employer-employee relationships in my PhD study and journal publications in my classes to strengthen student learning.

I insist on hard work and the best efforts from my students. I always tell them that success only comes with hard work and commitment. In return, when I know that my students are putting in their best, I would go the extra mile to give them all the support and guidance that I can during consultation time and also through Moodle.

In addition, I continually emphasise to my students that they must be active and critical learners in order to be successful as management students and later on as effective managers when they graduate.

In sum, the teaching philosophies of lecturers directly precipitate the learning outcomes of students. In other words, to produce critical thinkers, lecturers need to adopt teaching strategies that challenge the students to think likewise on a regular basis. This approach to teaching and learning will continue to challenge my own views and assumptions about management education in general.

As the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, my attitude towards teaching continuously reflects on the effectiveness of my teaching and engages in lifelong learning.  For the rest of my teaching career, I will be looking ever forward, trying to be the best lecturer I can possibly be.

Dr Lew Tek Yew is a senior lecturer in management at the School of Business at Curtin Sarawak. He teaches management related units and has published many articles in international journals and conferences. His research interests include human resource management practices, perceived organisational support, employee commitment and turnover.  He can be contacted by e-mail to lew.tek.yew@curtin.edu.my.