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This issue of CDTL Brief is the first of a two-part Brief that features the teaching practices of the 2004/2005 Annual Teaching Excellence Award (ATEA) winners.

August 2006, Vol. 9, No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Desire is the Root to All Learning— Light My Fire!
Dr Mahesh Choolani
Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

I enjoy teaching, I admire human curiosity and I love medicine. I teach not only because I am passionate about the science in medicine, but also because I want to share the knowledge with anyone who wants to understand and master it.

Early in my career as a doctor, I realised that doctors spend half our lives learning our profession by practising it and participating in an extensive programme of continuing medical education and practice. Thus, we owe it to society to spend the second half of our lives advancing the collective understanding of human diseases.

Advancing medical knowledge through research is complex. On the one hand, we need to enhance our basic understanding of disease biology, on the other, we need to ensure that this new knowledge is translated appropriately into technology that benefits patients. For each disease, we need a constant influx of young researchers who want to study about the disease, and young doctors who can simultaneously translate this research into diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for better patient health.

My students comprise A-level and polytechnic students, science and medical undergraduates, clinical postgraduates, doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and practising consultant clinicians-all playing critical roles in the healthcare industry.

In order to improve my presentation and delivery skills when I first started teaching, I attended innumerable symposia and workshops on audiovisual aids, adult learning, tone, pitch and delivery, but with little if any, impact on my teaching. It was then that I realised students will not be motivated to learn if they do not have the drive. Thus, instead of using a didactic approach to teaching, I focus on igniting students' desire for knowledge and keeping that quest for knowledge alive in them throughout the course. This has been my teaching strategy since.

Today, I only give didactic lectures occasionally or when specifically invited. At other times, I dedicate my first lecture entirely to inspiring my students to learn and give their best. I help students identify not only what I expect them to learn in the given time, but more importantly, why they need to learn it. That personal drive to learn created by such a lecture ensures focus, creates in students a thirst for knowledge and a better understanding of the subject, and generates enough momentum to keep students going throughout the course. Once students take off on a self-driven quest for knowledge, I review their progress at predefined intervals to ensure students are on the right track. Students do all the hard work and their rewards are knowledge, self-efficacy in learning and self-confidence.

As an educator of medicine, moulding young minds and inspiring in students a thirst for knowledge and a quest to better the medicine of our time is rewarding. Some of my students have gone on to pursue careers as scientists, doctors as well as academics, carrying with them the desire to inspire others and better the human condition.

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Inside this issue
Shy Teachers and Large Groups
Education is not Education without Research
Learning German Beyond the Classroom
My Teaching Philosophy and Approach: Connecting Teaching with the Real World
Desire is the Root to All Learning— Light My Fire!
Content Reduction vs. Independent Learning