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Adopting learner-centred strategies has major implications for faculty and individual students. This issue of CDTL Brief on Learner-centred Teaching/Learning explores how certain learner-centred approaches may be adapted to improve student learning in various contexts.

April 2006, Vol. 9, No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
The Philetics of Teaching
Ms Chua Siew Beng
Department of Management & Organisation, HRM Unit

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:

  1. Didactics-a subject-centred approach emphasising the transmission of knowledge from teacher to students.

  2. Heuristics-an experiential learning approach encompassing the equipping of students with methods or processes so that students can learn on their own.

  3. 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:

  1. Is the subject matter relevant and interesting to our students?

  2. Is what we are teaching contradictory to students' personal beliefs and values?

  3. Is our teaching style threatening to the self-concepts/ esteem of students?

  4. What is our attitude towards students?

  5. 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 learners.

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:

  1. Is the class atmosphere friendly and warm, or bureaucratic and cold? Is it conducive for learning?

  2. Does the class environment threaten the sense of security students look for in a learning environment?

  3. Have we communicated the learning objectives and outcomes of the course to students clearly?

  4. Do we make the necessary learning resources available for students to complete their tasks?

  5. Have we considered how we should balance the emotional and intellectual aspects of learning in our classes?

  6. What have we done to alleviate students' learning anxieties?

  7. 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.

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Inside this issue
‘Divide and Conquer’: Breaking a Big Class into Small Teams for Tutorials
Teaching Patient-centred Care in the Community
Case-based Tutorials
Learner-centred Practices and the Necessary Changes
The Philetics of Teaching
Teaching Students with Different Learning Styles
Student-led Tutorials