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This issue of CDTL Brief is the second of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2005/2006 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.
September 2007, Vol. 10 No. 4 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Teaching: A Learning Process for Both the Teacher and Student Alike
Associate Professor Daniel Goh YT
Department of Paediatrics

I have been blessed with the special opportunity to shape the knowledge and minds of aspiring doctors. Teaching, to me, involves imparting knowledge to students and developing their skills through a process of training, education as well as learning by example. Central to this process is stimulating and sustaining students' interest in the subject and developing their passion for it. To accomplish this, a teacher needs to have the ability to understand students and bring the subject to a level that they can understand and digest.

My teaching style and approach have been shaped very much by my past experiences as a student, a teacher as well as a doctor. I have been taught by many different teachers with as many different styles and approaches. Some were brilliant; they expounded the minutest of details on the topic but lost the students even before the lecture started. Then there were also teachers who simply rattled off facts in a raw manner, neither attempting to make the lesson interesting nor relevant.

Teaching in a medical school is certainly different from that of a regular school. Our medical and dental students are expected to be mature and be able to learn independently and responsibly. Many come from an education system where facts and lecture notes are memorised and simply reproduced in exams. Thus, it is particularly important for teachers to help students understand that learning in medical school is much more than just memorising facts and then regurgitating them in exams. It involves understanding and applying the knowledge to new scenarios and questions which I believe is crucial in a field like medicine. Students should have a love for the subject, the desire to apply his/her knowledge and develop an inquiring mind in order to cultivate new areas of research and study.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction when I see my students enjoying the learning process, forming their own approaches towards clinical problems and applying their knowledge to solve these. However, students need to have a certain level of maturity to understand the essence of this learning process and not focus solely on the examination grades. The teacher also needs to adapt to changing needs and demands, and make necessary modifications in his/ her teaching approach. No two students are alike and certainly no two cohorts are similar. Hence the teacher has to have a feel of students' strengths and weaknesses as well as their learning styles in order to bring out the best in them. This is the challenge in teaching each new batch of students, but also the most exciting part. Hence, students do shape the teacher's approach and style, and we can learn how to teach better if we take the trouble to listen and understand students better.

As a doctor, I have also been very fortunate and blessed to be given opportunities to learn from the patients I see everyday. Every patient has a different story (i.e. clinical scenario or history) even if the diagnosis may be the same. Learning from my patients has helped shape my thinking and my clinical practice. Seeing critically ill children as well as families who have to face and cope with the tragic loss of a child has changed my views of life. My patients have also taught me patience and communication skills and that every patient needs (and deserves) care and concern as well as information that is due to them. Through it all, I have learnt to express my thoughts and convey the relevant bits to the patients and their families (especially since I am a paediatrician), not just to clarify their understanding but also to address their fears, concerns and queries. Meeting and dealing with children everyday has enabled me to relate to children in the ward as my own. It can be said that while the doctor teaches the patients the right things to do to achieve good health, treat diseases and prevent illnesses (where possible), the patients teach the doctor much more about life, loss, pain, suffering and communication. I thank my patients for the lessons they have taught me and I hope to continue to be a good student of life so that I can be a better teacher and mentor to the next generation of doctors and doctor-teachers alike.

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Inside this issue
Teaching the Weightier Matters of the Law
Plus est en vous
Joining the Dots
Teaching: A Learning Process for Both the Teacher and Student Alike
My Contributions to the International Mission for Pharmacy Education
The First Few Moments