Fostering creative human beings 21st century challenge
LEARNING PROCESS: Teaching and assessment should be so
structured to guide students to indulge themselves into a deep learning
activity as opposed to that of a surface learning or strategic learning
This principle should apply to every student, irrespective of his/her
background, gender, culture, ability level etc., so that at the end of
the course each student is a better practitioner of deep learning,
minimising at the same time any possible involvement in surface learning
and the like.
It is important to stress on the fact that the comparison as a better
practitioner of deep learning, minimising at the same time any possible
involvement in surface learning as a better practitioner of deep
learning is made with respect to the state where he/she started the
course, rather than with another student.
Teaching and assessment should be structured so as to guide students
to take control of the learning process as opposed to a purely didactic
approach to teaching in which the teacher takes complete control.
This principle focuses on giving students an active role in the
learning processes. Such an approach helps students to build confidence
in their own abilities and increased independence to manage the learning
It provides more flexibility for students, with different backgrounds
and characteristics, to involve in the learning process to suit their
situations and aspirations, within a broader framework introduced by the
teacher. Further, stressing on the importance of taking care of one's
learning and guiding the students towards achieving it, are the key to
putting into practise the well accepted notion of life-long learning.
Teachers should motivate students by giving benefits, not only of
studying a particular unit, but also of a particular learning approach
used. Further, students should be given a positive impression that the
learning objectives can be achieved.
The subject should not be shown more demanding than it really is. It
contrasts from giving a negative impression with comments implying the
content is hard to master or the education level of students is
inadequate, based on some prejudices or malformed information
etc.Teachers should respect students and student learning. They should
not be presented as omnipotent gods possessing boundless knowledge.
Instead, they should be presented as facilitators who provide
guidance to students to take control of their own learning. They should
be flexible in their approach to teaching/learning process than
presenting themselves rigid in their view points.
They should accept the possibility that there could be more
intellectually capable students than themselves in a random student
community, though not necessarily in life-experiences and amount of
information exposed to.
Contents of a unit should be so structured and formulated to be
strong enough in concepts, while narrow enough in detail, so that
students can take part in effective learning process such as a deep
learning activity. This contrasts from paying more emphasis on
unnecessary detail within a limited period of time thus minimising
opportunities for students to conceptualise and reflect.
The assessment of a unit must be carefully structured to align with
the objectives of encouraging deep learning. For example, as an easier
management technique of a large class, use of multiple choice questions
or short answers should be avoided as it promotes surface learning.
Recent research shows that a category of highly capable students who
are referred to as visual special learners, struggle with multiple
choice questions as they find more than one correct answers by looking
at it from different points of view.
For example, when a deep learning process is emphasised, a student
who rationalises, conceptualises and reflects well on material must be
given a higher rank than a student who provides a higher number of facts
accurately within a limited period of time.
The time factor of an examination component of a unit must be
carefully structured so that whole student community gets a fair
The time allocated for each question should include allowances for
students not only for writing the answer, but also for reflecting on the
question and planning its answer.
This is a very important factor in assessment as recent research
shows that a highly capable category of student community struggles with
timed tests as they use more time on reflecting on possible answers.
Further, the same student category was found to be weak in hand
writing, that is, in speed and clarity due to the fact that their
cognitive domain operates much faster than the psychomotor domain.
The whole evaluation process of a unit should contain as many
different evaluation techniques as possible. For example, it is better
to have a non time-constrained component in addition to a timed
component (still carefully structured). It helps to minimise the
disadvantage, specifically on the same student category referred to
A higher number of varied assessment components would give a fairer
evaluation, provided that they all focus on deep learning of students.
Unit material must be presented in a wide range of methods. For
example, in addition to presenting them in lectures, a comprehensive
version of that can be made available on the web so that as a student
who prefers a visual method ahead of an auditory method is not
Another example would be to include clear diagrams as much as
possible will help students who prefer visual objects. Further, such an
approach increases the flexibility in presentation, addressing preferred
styles of a wider range of student community. It focuses more
importantly on diverse human characteristics than on diverse social
groups, because the former is very likely to be found even within the
same social group.
Unit contents, the teaching context and evaluation techniques should
be broadly focused on long term benefits to students. It contrasts from
narrowly focusing them on a particular situation or an environment for
short term benefits.
This aspect is related to the idea of internationalising a
curriculum. But the internationalisation should not be restricted only
to the curriculum, but also to other areas such as teaching contexts and
evaluation techniques. In other words, the whole teaching/learning
process should focus on directing and guiding students to achieve their
Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist, refers to this aspect of
achieving one's fullest potential, as a human being, with greater
creativity as self-actualisation.
While it is essential that teachers be aware of certain disabilities
in some students, it is equally important that they carefully
differentiate between a wide range of healthy characteristics of
different students in the community and specific disabilities. For
example, a highly capable visual spatial learner, who has poor auditory
skills, should not be tagged as a person with Attention Deficit Disorder
Another example would be, as mentioned earlier, a highly capable
student who takes a long time to reflect on timed examination questions
or who is a slow writer should not be tagged as having learning
disabilities or a slow learner.
Instead, it is the responsibility of teachers to develop not only an
inclusive curriculum, but also a whole teaching/learning process to
cater all students in the community, possessing different healthy
characteristics. The concept of diversity of the community, within an
educational environment, must be seen from this perspective.
Teachers should avoid referring to stereotypes based on gender, age,
culture, religion etc., which can be seen differently by different
sections of a student community.
They should generalise such stereotypes beyond the given boundaries
and use references that are common to every student as a human being.
For example, if a particular culture invokes certain limited freedom on
its members, the resulting situation should not be seen as a cultural
implication, but as a deprived freedom on human beings in general.
In other words, if the same freedom was constrained on members of
another cultural group, the same implications would have resulted on
them as well. This point is well explained by Abraham Maslow in his
pyramid of hierarchical needs presented as applicable to human nature,
rather than a particular culture or a section of human beings.
Teachers should attempt to refer to material presented to students in
a self-contained manner based on fundamental principles, while referring
to any related detailed material only if essentially required. That is
the relationships of the presented material to fundamental knowledge
should be highlighted so that students get a firm base to involve in a
process of constructing meaning.
It contrasts from giving students a large number of isolated
information. This principle helps students to approach a learning
process in an open minded manner, constructing meaning from fundamental
knowledge rather than rote learning based on unnecessary, unrelated
It is apparent that a large number of higher-education institutes
around the world seem to agree, in principle, on a set of valuable
pedagogical notions such as student-centred learning, fostering
deep-learning and critical thinking, internationalisation of the
curriculum, encouraging students to take care of their learning, which
leads to life long learning, preparation of an inclusive curriculum to
cater diverse student characteristics etc.
However, we, as teachers who put these notions into practice, should
reflect on our own practices to identify the extent to which we have
been successful and effective. It is proven beyond doubt that certain
long-standing practices put certain student categories in disadvantaged
For example, practices of auditory/sequential nature, which was
predominant for over centuries in higher education, serves negatively on
a highly capable student category known as visual/spatial learners.
Just because the latter category may possibly be a minority of the
student community, it does not warrant them to be neglected, and be at
the receiving end of a non-conducive educational environment. Such
situations should be seen more from ethical and humanistic points of
view, rather than a legal requirement.
The utmost important responsibility now rests upon the educators,
specifically in the higher-education, to prepare not only an inclusive
curriculum, but also an inclusive teaching/learning processes and
assessment criteria, giving careful considerations on diverse nature of
healthy student characteristics.
The matters such as cultural diversity can be more accurately
generalised as belonging to human nature constrained by certain human
conditions, rather than as pertaining to a particular culture.
To elaborate, if a certain constraint is either imposed or removed
from a certain cultural group, they are likely to behave in a different
manner altogether. Along the same lines, the well-known psychologist
Abraham Maslow presented the concept of hierarchy of need with respect
to all human beings in general, irrespective of any cultural
It is equally important that when deep learning and critical thinking
are fostered as a whole, they are persisted even when addressing diverse
student characteristics and irrespective of the discipline they are
The approaches of deep learning and critical thinking by definition
do not impose restrictions on the disciplines in which they be used;
rather it is the techniques used to manage teaching/learning processes
of any content.
However, the responsibility again falls on us, the educators, to
structure the teaching/learning activities and assessment criteria to
promote deep learning and critical thinking, irrespective of the
discipline; the need for preparing them conceptually strong, while
limiting in detail, is important, so as to minimise any possibilities of
approaches ,in contrast, as surface learning and the like.
For example, if a particular course, as a whole, only aims at
providing students with a certain set of skills to survive in an
existing situation or a particular environment, not only a majority of
these students struggle in their lives in the face of ever changing
socio-economic environments and situations, but more importantly face a
drastic breach in reaching their fullest potential and self-fulfilment.
Deep learning and critical thinking concepts go hand-in-hand with the
notions of internalising and intrinsic education; deeper the
understanding of knowledge, more the internalisation of it and the
higher the intrinsic nature. The related notions are the key to
enhancing creative instincts of human species, as indicated by Abraham
He stressed on this important point of any education system as being
able to produce creative human beings, by developing their natural
An education system of such a focus helps students to achieve their
fullest potential, referred to as the process of self-actualisation.
Such a system also helps students to self-identify what they are good
at and, at the same time, what they are not good at, or simply to
recognise their own identities, rather than someone else or a particular
educational institute doing that, most probably with much lessor
accuracy, for them.
Such identification leads one to stay focused in what one does and,
to maintain higher motivational levels in the face of various adverse
social situations and other such external hindrances.