OHR Paper HR 092/02. Procedure for Promotion and Tenure. https://wws.nus.edu.sg/staff/ohr/acad/apt/promo_tenure/ procedure-promo_tenure-HR092.doc.

Teaching at NUS: Aims & Objectives of Effective Teaching

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

—W.B. Yeats

What constitutes effective teaching may be subject to debate—it would be simplistic and reductive to insist on a monolithic definition of effective teaching, considering the multiplicity of factors that come into play—but most would agree that the basic purpose of teaching is to enable learning. The most effective teaching is that which results in the most effective learning. An elaboration on this is provided in CDTL Paper (T102)5. Briefly, it may be said here that higher education must do more than provide information and training, although undeniably these are relevant concerns. Higher education, in particular, should move beyond the lowerorder skills of acquisition and reproduction of facts.

Indeed, in a knowledge-driven society where information having increasingly short shelf life, it is important for teachers to focus on the longer-term goal of preparing our students for life, equipping them with more than a finite and rapidly obsolescent body of knowledge, and developing their faculties for understanding, applying and creating knowledge, as well as their ability to constantly refresh and upgrade their knowledge. A quality graduate is life-skills oriented, learning-enabled and lifelong capable. The aims and desired learning outcomes of effective teaching may thus effect positive changes in the following:


  • Discipline/profession-specific knowledge.
  • General knowledge: fundamental concepts that an educated person/university graduate should have, regardless of area of specialisation.
  • Awareness/familiarity across knowledge domains (i.e. ‘rounded’ education).


  • Ability to identify what information is needed and where to find it.
  • Evaluation of information and discrimination of what is valid and useful from what is not.
  • Application/adaptation of knowledge to problem solving and making of informed judgements.
  • Self-directedness in learning and the ability to sustain lifelong learning.
  • Capacity for independent research and knowledge.
  • Ability to communicate ideas clearly and structure arguments convincingly.
The most socially useful learning in the modern world is the learning of the process of learning, a continuing openness to experience and incorporation into oneself of the process of change.6


  • Questioning habit of mind with readiness to seek evidence/support for ideas/concepts presented, and to investigate/challenge established and controversial views including those which are generally taken as ‘knowledge’.
  • Awareness of the complexity and dynamic nature of human knowledge and the need for evaluation and re-evaluation of knowledge.
  • Enjoyment of learning.
  • Learning as a lifelong habit.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
—Oscar Wilde

  1. Prof. K.P. Mohanan. (July 1999). Concept Paper on Assessing Quality of Teaching in Higher Education. Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning, Doc. No. T102. http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/publications/assess/.
  2. Carl R. Rogers. (1969). Freedom to Learn. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company. p. 163.