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This issue of CDTL Brief is the first of a two-part instalment featuring the teaching practices of faculty members who have won the Excellent Teacher Award for three consecutive academic years (2001/2002–2004/2005).

September 2005, Vol. 8, No. 6 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach
Professor Koh Khee Meng
Department of Mathematics

Teaching Philosophy Teaching is an interactive activity; the teacher learns from his students as much as the students learn from him. To facilitate learning, a teacher must impart analytical and problem-solving skills to students so that they can think critically and independently.

In addition, I believe that a teacher must be knowledgeable, especially in his area of specialisation. He must be scholarly, active in research and constantly keeping up with the latest in his field. A teacher's task does not end in conveying the required knowledge to students, but he should also be capable of stimulating students' interest in the subject. Such a teacher is also probably able to incorporate relevant pedagogical methods in his teaching and is constantly striving to improve his teaching by encouraging student feedback.

Teaching Practice

Foundation. A solid knowledge of fundamental concepts and theories of a subject would enable one to pursue it further. Thus, in my teaching, my primary task is to help my students gain a good knowledge of fundamental mathematical concepts and theories. To achieve this, it is essential to explain difficult or abstract concepts to students clearly and plan my lectures carefully and systematically.

Problem-solving. The ability to solve problems is an invaluable life skill. During my lectures and tutorials, I often discuss with my students the study and application of heuristic methods and processes in solving problems. To me, it is not important whether students can solve the problems completely. However, it is crucial that students get to experience the setbacks and successes in the process of problem-solving. I also show students that there are various ways to solve a problem depending on one's perspective and that there is no 'standard solution'. Students are constantly encouraged to solve problems using their own ways, and learn to appreciate their peers' ideas. While solving easy or routine problems all the time would not help to improve one's problem-solving skills, solving more challenging problems requires time and perseverance. I often encourage students not to give up too easily whenever they encounter difficulties in problem-solving.

Mathematics is not boring. Many students have the perception that mathematics is boring. To them, mathematical results are just collections of definitions, lemmas, theorems and corollaries, mixed with some inexplicable notation and symbols. As a mathematics teacher, I help my students appreciate the subject better by highlighting the historical background, meaning, significance, impact and application of mathematical findings wherever appropriate. This has made my lectures more interesting and lively.

When we study the results of mathematicians in class, I like to show students pictures of the mathematicians. This helps students pay more attention to what is taught and remember the materials better. At the end of the course, it has been encouraging to hear many of my students commenting that mathematics can be interesting, lively and relevant.

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Inside this issue
Teaching and Learning: The Journey of an Educator
"I teach to watch the lights come on": Reflections on Best Practices
Personal Touch of a Teacher in the Learning Expedition
Getting Students to Assess Each Other
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach