The ABC’s of Teaching & Learning – Dr. Nonlih Chohwanglim, Visiting Faculty, Department of English

Arguably marks are indicative measures of your performance in an exam, but they don’t necessarily cover the entirety of what you’ve understood.  Studying just for marks is a short sighted approach and a waste of time in the larger scheme of things. Any academic pursuit must be a quest for knowledge, analysis and understanding, and not only accolades. 

The ABC’s of Teaching & Learning

Kindly respond (frown, smile, or nod) if there are teachers out there who have sent undergraduate level students outside of the classroom for not bringing the textbook in the class. Now, it is understood that every subject or topic at degree level cannot demand for a text, but as someone who teaches literature, I have no innovative idea to teach a play or a poem without the students referring to the text (print or otherwise). How am I to imprint the caesuras, enjambments, poetic devices, and the dramatic tone?!!

Perhaps someone could question the validity of insisting upon the presence of text in the class. In its simplest, truest, and most logical sense, the answer is to be able to TEACH in the best possible way so that the students LEARN in the best possible, accountable way. Being in the teaching profession for a couple of years, I sensed that the concept of teaching methodology is mostly focused upon. Teachers are encouraged and expected to sport innovative, engaging and latest methods of teaching.

However, the given article, by alluding to the presence of the text in the class attempts to focus on the art of learning. The text is seen as the line that connects point A and B of teaching and learning respectively. In some cases, the literal text may not be required, yet the concept of the topic must be constantly present in the mind of the learners, acting as the text. Whether it be the literal text or the conceptualised text, the epicentre is the concept of learning.

Let me highlight an encounter that I had with my students regarding the art of learning. In the process of teaching the Practical Criticism Unit (Poetry) our discussion turned to phonetics. Now, the students had already dealt with the topic of phonetics in the previous semester. The ‘WHAT!!!’ moment struck when many of the students responded stating they had ignored the topic because the vast topic weighed for only seven marks. Hence, even though they had come across the topic of phonetics, it was alien to them. The point here is that they had unfortunately missed out totally on the concept of the art of learning. Regretfully, they had followed the tradition of studying for marks alone, rather than for enriching their knowledge which will stay a lifetime.

In order to make them realise the significance of the art of learning I narrated an encounter I had once with a young student. This particular young student fared very well in all the subjects, except for one subject. When I inquired for the reason behind it, the young mind replied that he did not study the paper well because the concerned teacher was not strict. I felt deeply sad. This is what generally happens. The learner or the receiver fails to fully realise that learning should be for the SELF.

Targeting pass mark, studying depending on who teaches, submitting assignments depending on the strictness of the concerned teacher, attending classes depending on how interesting the teacher teaches and so on are external factors. The learners tend to sideline the essence within. Of course the external factors are very significant, but the learners should also have the will and enthusiasm to overcome any shortcoming of the external factors.

          There are aspects in life where/when we have to prioritise others first. But when it comes to learning, the SELF needs to be prioritised, in a very positive way. This applies not only to my students, or UG students, but to everyone in general. One could be an academician, an officer, an administrator, a musician, an artist, and so on. It is rightly stated that Education is a lifelong process; so learning is a lifelong process. And whatever we learn is for our own self. However, we tend to ignore or underrate the art of learning, and so we tend to make someone else do our work. We let someone else cook for us, draft an application, write a report, do our assignment and what not. The zeal of learning, and mastering the art of learning somehow remains laid back. When one masters this art, one can learn the best. Here, I would totally go with Matthew Arnold. The best that has been learned should be propagated. When the best has been learnt by best mastering the art of learning – sincerity, dedication, right knowledge, positivity are some of the perks that come automatically. And the right approach to learning calls to be instilled at a very tender age. My question is – are we successfully and rightly instilling the right approach to learning?

        Most of the school students are assigned project work. I noticed cases where the students do not lay a hand or a minute on the project work. Being young, they may not be able to complete the work totally on their own. Hence the guidance of elders is required. But unfortunately, there seem to be situations when the parents are too busy to guide and assist or the parents are too concerned about the grade that they do it or hire someone else to do it as they want their child to get the best grade. I doubt if these methods will be beneficial eventually. Could it be that the students suddenly lost track of the right approach to learning after hitting college level, or has the system gone  haywire at a tender age.

The best and right approach of teaching has always been debated on. What is more important is that education be valued as a personal experience, something the soul thirsts for. As long as our students study for getting pass marks, and teachers teach them just to secure pass marks, real education is lost, lost somewhere in the cacophony of erroneous attitudes.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email:

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