When I was asked to share my teaching philosophy
and what I think are the qualities of an excellent
teacher, my first concern was that I would end
up saying things that are rather cliché and have
probably been rehashed countless times by many
others. Anyway, I will let the readers judge for
For instance, it should not surprise us that an
excellent teacher would put in more than 100
percent commitment into designing, preparing and
delivering a module even if he has been teaching
it for the umpteenth time. Without doubt, an
excellent teacher is one who gives top priority to
teaching. By this, I mean that the time he spends
on the entire process (i.e. preparation, delivery
and student consultation) is never residual time
but dedicated time.
An excellent teacher updates his module's
contents proactively and keeps abreast with the
latest trends and developments in his field while
paying adequate attention to the fundamental
concepts and ideas in the literature. Being an
active researcher would certainly help keep
his module's contents fresh, ideas exciting,
assignments challenging and delivery passionate.
However, while constantly beefing up his
materials, an excellent teacher should ensure that
his module is pitched at the right level and kept manageable for students. This means neither
dumbing the contents down nor overwhelming
students with information.
An excellent teacher
should make sure that the module has sufficient
breadth and depth.
An excellent teacher is neither a tech-fanatic nor a
tech-dinosaur. He would use the latest technology
to aid his delivery, but only if it facilitates or
enhances learning. After all, it is the substance,
not the form that matters.
He does not practise spoon-feeding, but provides
enough leads to facilitate student learning and
sufficient information to motivate students to go
beyond what is covered in lectures and tutorials.
While he encourages individual effort and some
healthy competition, he also emphasises teamwork
He is pre-emptive in his approach to module
administration, anticipating problems before they
appear. This may involve ensuring sufficient
copies of the textbook and course pack for sale to
students or that e-journal articles, media resources
and course materials are made accessible to
students ahead of time.
An excellent teacher keeps track of what is
happening on the ground. He is responsive to
students' queries and questions, and is quick to reply emails and address students' concerns.
He gathers feedback on a regular basis through
various means, but mainly through an open-door
policy and interactions with students. While he
has a game-plan for reaching out to students, he
is flexible enough to make necessary adjustments
and modifications along the way. After all, a
game-plan is only as good as its effectiveness in
achieving its objectives.
An excellent teacher comes across as genuinely
friendly, compassionate, understanding, caring
and nurturing. He puts students at ease, affirms
them and brings out the best in them.
He is real and does not put on a show. His students
regard him as firm but fair, someone who
provides honest, even if negative, feedback with
the intention of building up, not tearing students
down. He is therefore not just a nice guy without
any strong convictions or someone who tries too
hard to please by being politically correct.
The bottom line is this: an excellent teacher
knows in the final evaluation (I am referring to
his own self-evaluation) that teaching is neither
about putting on a good show nor about winning
a popularity contest. Rather, teaching is about
developing in students an ability to think critically
and creatively, and a passion for lifelong learning.
Of course, an excellent teacher would also desire
to see his students become good and active
citizens with positive self-image, humility, solid
morals and a genuine concern for the well-being
of fellow human beings.