Good teaching is often viewed as the practice of
creating situations that maximise student learning. Thus,
learner-centred teaching is often synonymous with good
teaching as it focuses on the learners, not the teachers.
So, what are some factors to consider in making our
teaching learner-centred? Broudy (1972) describes three
teaching modes namely:
- Didactics-a subject-centred approach emphasising
the transmission of knowledge from teacher to
- Heuristics-an experiential learning approach
encompassing the equipping of students with
methods or processes so that students can learn on
- Philetics-a student-centred approach (also known
as affective education) highlighting the importance
of looking at students' needs holistically.
Central to the philetic mode of teaching is the studentteacher
relationship. However, more often than not, the
cognitive-oriented education system we are familiar
with prevents us from seeing students as individuals with
aspirations, concerns and feelings. In addition, our taskoriented
culture often confines lecturers and students
to stereotypical roles of providers and recipients of
knowledge respectively. Indeed, most teacher-student
relationships are often short-lived, ending with the
completion of a module.
Building relationships with students requires us to
look beyond teaching methodologies and evaluate our
approaches in interacting with students. Thus, it will be
helpful if we can keep the following questions in mind
as we plan our lessons:
- Is the subject matter relevant and interesting to our
- Is what we are teaching contradictory to students' personal beliefs and values?
- Is our teaching style threatening to the self-concepts/
esteem of students?
- What is our attitude towards students?
- Do we make time to listen to students' concerns,
especially those pertaining to their learning needs?
Students learn most effectively when learning is selfinitiated.
As facilitators of learning, we can motivate
students and stimulate their interest in the subject by
incorporating affective learning in class. This requires
us to pay attention to how affective factors (e.g.
students' attitude, self-concept, motivation, interest and
engagement in learning the subject) are managed. If
handled well, these affective factors contribute positively
to students' learning experiences, making them selfinitiated
Another way to incorporate affective learning in class
is to do away with the assumption that all students
have the same level of motivation and learning
ability. Instead, gain students' confidence and trust by
addressing their doubts and fears in the learning process.
Lecturers who open themselves up to students are often
appreciated and respected. This can be achieved through
sharing of personal experiences and treating students
as equals. Such interactions make students' learning
experiences meaningful and communicate to students
that they are not just passive recipients of knowledge,
but active partners in the learning process.
Another critical factor to consider in the philetics
of teaching is the classroom's 'climate' and whether
it is conducive for student-teacher interaction. The
psychological distance (rather than the physical distance)
between students and us matters in promoting studentteacher
interaction in class. For example, we may be
teaching in a small tutorial room but the atmosphere
can be cold and tense. In creating a classroom climate
conducive for student-teacher interaction, we may wish
to consider the following:
- Is the class atmosphere friendly and warm, or
bureaucratic and cold? Is it conducive for learning?
- Does the class environment threaten the sense of
security students look for in a learning environment?
- Have we communicated the learning objectives and
outcomes of the course to students clearly?
- Do we make the necessary learning resources
available for students to complete their tasks?
- Have we considered how we should balance the
emotional and intellectual aspects of learning in our
- What have we done to alleviate students' learning
- How often do we share our feelings and thoughts
with our students without being dominating?
In essence, the philetics of teaching goes beyond a
lecturer's mastery of the subject and pedagogical
theories. It is about guiding and nurturing our students
as they embark on a learning journey.
Broudy, H.S. (1972). 'Didactics, Heuristics, and Philetics'. Educational
Theory, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 251-261.