As a human resource (HR) management professional and practitioner, I primarily teach HR-related courses and classes across the entire HR value chain of recruit, retain, and retirement. To make the content of my teaching relevant and interdisciplinary, I bring perspectives from other disciplines of science, such as positive psychology, leadership, and management. But more importantly, I teach because I want to help students develop their grit, discipline, critical thinking, self-efficacy, and agency. Students can then use these resources to define and pursue their ikigai (the reason for being), live their best authentic selves, and be productive members of society.
My teaching style and pedagogy have been and remains to be guided by certain principles that I have learned, adopted, and practiced in the many years I have been part of this noblest of vocations:
From theory to practice and vice versa
I have always believed that theory and practice go together. It does not make sense for someone to learn all that knowledge if it cannot be applied. In as much as data is useless if it is not transformed into information, a theory is meaningless unless it can be applied and used in the real world and for the benefit of society and humanity.
Conversely, actual practices need to be grounded in research, science, and scientific inquiry to provide a disciplined approach and framework. I design my courses to help students answer the “So what?” question, in particular, “what is the impact of the knowledge they gained or created to real life?”
In doing this, I use case studies, as well as real-life examples from my own experiences to share with students, so they know that they are learning from actual human and organizational experiences as they explore the theory. I also find that co-creating this process with students is very powerful since they can share their examples from their own lives in connection with the topic.
Responsible intellectual freedom
With freedom comes the responsibility to one’s self and others. I believe that teaching must promote intellectual freedom to let students explore, peak their curiosities, and discover or create knowledge or ideas. I encourage students to be ready to learn new knowledge, unlearn old ideas, and re-learn new ways of doing things or thought processes.
My teaching style primarily adopts the use of the Socratic Method and the Adult Learning Process. In its most basic form, the Socratic Method advocates questioning everything. Nothing is sacred. Everything can be discussed, debated, and argued with mutual trust and respect, promoting and fostering openness, listening, and empathy, and in a safe and courageous academic environment.
On the other hand, the Adult Learning Process emphasizes experiential learning at its core. Students learn by doing, and from multiple sources. Students are free to form their hypotheses or opinions, test and defend them, and eventually adopt the best argument based on sound logic, reasoning, and science.
In my class, students are not penalized or ostracized for expressing contrarian, unpopular, or even controversial points of view. To create this learning environment, at the beginning of the course, a list of basic class norms, behaviors, and expectations will be jointly agreed by the class to honor and observe so that students can be held accountable for each other.
Active learning, co-creative, and participatory
I believe in active and co-creative learning that is participatory. Students learn from me, I learn from the students, and we all actively learn from each other, which is very different from the traditional teaching approach, where the teacher is the authority. In my teaching approach, learning is vertical, horizontal, and circular. Knowledge and learning cannot be a monopoly of one.
In my class, the course syllabus is a “working document.” To make it come alive, I invite students to co-create the items in the syllabus that will best satisfy their learning needs. For example, I may assign certain core readings for the course and let students suggest relevant areas or topics of interest they may want to discuss or present to their peers. This process allows students to focus and engage with what they are interested in and adds breadth to the exploration as a class.
I also empower students to design how they want to be evaluated in a way that assesses their true learning rather than just getting a grade. Everyone is different, so why should we evaluate students similarly? Worst, fitting students into a curve breeds mediocrity instead of allowing students to showcase their unique abilities, interests, and strengths that best work for their circumstances.
Diverse, equitable, and inclusive
In my years of teaching, I have taught a multitude of graduate students, business leaders, professionals, and practitioners, which engrained in my belief the value of how diversity can enhance the learning experience of students.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion bring forth plural perspectives in terms of ethnicity, geographies, gender and sexual orientation, lived experiences, and identities. They also teach students how to interact and learn in different situations, understand global and local cultures and their nuances, and in the process, become better learners and global citizens.
Good teaching must, therefore, be responsive and appropriate to the students’ learning capacities and circumstances, meeting where they are, and be accommodating in nature.
I teach because I want to learn.
I consider myself as an agile, ethical, and scientist-practitioner type of educator. I promote and use meaningful, participatory, open, and responsible thinking as well as empowered and student-focused learning and evaluation in an environment that respects academic freedom and recognizes the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of a holistic learning experience.
In living and practicing this teaching philosophy, in addition to my commitment to on-going pedagogical learning, I draw from my students so much learning that I feel I am the student, and they are the teacher. And as an avid student of life, that gives me my raison d’atre of why I teach: I teach because I want to learn.