The two Ps of teaching

LET me be upfront: teaching is hard. A large majority of us, I reckon, severely underestimate the intrinsic value great teachers bring to the table, as well as the complexities which surround the burdens attached to the teaching profession. That is further exacerbated by our lacklustre learning experience when we ourselves were students – just do a quick survey among your peers and you’ll see.

Great teachers are hard to come by; not everyone is cut out to engage in the profession.

Yet, the profession itself is not given due credit because, unfortunately, when we think of teaching, we linearly and simplistically associate it with mere knowledge transference.

We may be oblivious to the intricate mechanics that underscores the profession. Indeed, teaching is both a science and an art.

Those familiar with academia or the literature with regard to teaching would know that teaching constitutes both pedagogy and personality. Having only either component is not optimal and renders the teaching experience ineffective.

With educators deficient in personality competence, the use of learning models in education falls stiff. The personality of the teacher is the visceral imprint in the mind of the learner and this supports the flow of learning in the classroom setting.

To illustrate, if the teacher is rather bland in character, in teaching subjects that require critical thinking, students might find the experience to be boring and hence, be demotivated to participate in the learning process despite the well-thought-out lesson models.

Conversely, a teacher who exudes charisma and passion, and is humorous will stoke the interest of students to be involved in the learning process, thereby eliciting greater student motivation to collaborate with present learning models in the classroom.

A calm, intuitive-sensing teacher profile might also arouse interest to model and express intuitive and sensing traits in the student’s approach to learning itself.

To qualify myself, great teachers do not have to be extroverted. Extraversion is not equivalent to the constitution of a compelling teacher personality.

The traits that matter most in the teacher’s personality aren’t fixed. What matters is the ability of the teacher’s personality to facilitate the compassion, empathy, emotional constancy, and cultural competency needed to create an environment of mutual trust and understanding with students to support the delivery of a sound method.

In their formative years, teachers are more than just learning managers; they are also coaches who have the capacity to set students up for a lifelong positive trajectory in the future.

Hence, the contribution of a teacher’s personality towards lifelong learning is not an inferior component.

Over-reliance on teacher personality, however, renders the learning experience to be lopsided.

Although students may have been initially drawn towards the personality of the teacher, without sound methods to facilitate learning in context, the interest of students in the learning process will wane quickly over time.

Pedagogy is just as critical to achieve educational outcomes. So, you see, both pedagogy and personality work hand in glove to achieve learner goals. I am grateful in my lifetime to have witnessed this for myself.

Recently, I caught wind of a few dedicated teachers who had infused both components. One was a teacher who had creatively converted his school’s garden to a fun environment for learning math with the use of augmented reality and digital tools, coupled with his compelling charisma.

The other teacher had established the first multimedia studio for specially-abled students to hone communication and presentation skills in a simulation manner. The teacher’s dedicated nurturing throughout the learning process had increased the confidence of his students, and a particular student living with cerebral palsy opened up to him where no other teacher had reached that level of accessibility with the said student.

Thus, the harmony of both components can and should contribute to student-centred learning, a paradigm shift from what was previously understood of teaching. Within the concept of student-centred learning, students become co-creators in the learning experience. They are given the opportunity to decide what and how to learn.

Learning is very much student interest-driven and associated teaching methodologies support practical connection between the curriculum and student interest.

Learning is customised and there exists meaningful engagement and feedback between teachers and students.

Teachers previously seen as content dispensers now become content resources for an established community of students driven by interest for specific learner goals. When there exists a synergy between pedagogy and personality, its contribution to the implementation of student-centred learning heightens.

One can expect such phenomena to produce high-quality individuals who have the capacity and propensity to creatively and professionally contribute solutions to the multivariate issues of today.

The calling for teachers is high, requiring them to be nimble and adaptable to the changing landscape for education to maintain the high standards expected of an educator.

We have seen that in the past two years, especially during the several phases of the movement control order, where institutions and educators had pivoted and adapted in personality and pedagogy to deliver their lesson plans.

The trend will only move upwards from here in the near future.Teaching is not an afterthought profession. Happy Teachers Day!

Josephine Tan is Taylor’s University International Relations pro vice-chancellor and Taylor’s College campus director with over 30 years of experience in both corporate and education sectors.

Her extensive experience in the field of media and communication covers the areas of organisational culture, corporate communication, human communication, as well as crisis and conflict management. Tan is also part of the External Panel appointed by Monash University, Australia, for its communication degree programmes conducted at its Malaysian branch, as well as the External Examiner appointed by the University of the West of England (UWE) for its dual degree business programmes.

She has established the South East Asia Research for Communication and Humanities (SEARCH) Journal, which has been indexed by citation database Scopus since 2009.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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