3 things you might not know about effective teaching

teaching business


1. Teaching is selling.

Most of us often separate teaching from selling. If you are teaching, you are not selling. After all, teachers are not paid by the students, are there? And there’s nothing to sell.


Teachers must learn selling skills, and they must sell – not to make a monetary profit but to maximise the learning opportunities of their students. They do not sell products or services but they sell ideas. Students must be be interested and motivated to learn, and if their teachers can’t get them inspired, the rest of the lesson time will be wasted.

So, teachers, please sell ideas pertaining to the lessons to your students.

I have attended an enrichment teaching program and one of my two trainers mentioned that we should “make thinking visible”. This phrase struck a chord with me as I am – coincidentally – reading a book “Brainfruit” on the challenges that creatives face when selling their ideas to potential investors. This is one of the few books whereby a serial entrepreneur collaborate with an academic to pen a book together on business start-ups to guide creatives who wish to turn their creative ideas into profitable businesses.

So teachers, narrate a story, ask questions, show a video, play music, and get your students to resonate with the lessons.

Like sales professionals in businesses, sell your students on why they need to learn the content in your lessons, and/or the benefits that they will reap upon mastering them. Most students are looking for practical usage for the things they learn, so please inform them how they are able to apply the concepts learnt in class to real life.

Teachers are not salespeople?

No, teachers must be the best salespeople.

2. Teaching is all about questioning

Teaching in a lecturing style doesn’t work. Students don’t want to be lectured. They want to brainstorm and they want to think for themselves.

Teachers can only do that by asking the class questions, and bouncing these ideas in class.

The catch is that students – Asian students – are not attuned to be very participative, especially in front of the whole class.

One way that students participate is when teachers start with a story that the class can relate to (thereby activating what they presently know. The academic term is “prior knowledge”) and then asking the class questions. Most students will respond. Try it and see.

Most students want to participate. They just do not like to look bad in front of their peers. So, one way teachers can do that is to make the questions easy for them to answer (using maybe a closed factual question) and once they have “warmed up”, teachers can switch to open questions to get them thinking and talking. Do keep a lookout for the quieter ones who tend to stay quiet consistently. Encourage them to be more vocal as well.

So, teachers, question your classes. They really want to learn.

3. Understand each students’ aspirations and ambitions (secondary level and above)

In typical classroom settings, teachers merely treat the class as one body and write down observations of the students in terms of what they observed during assessment sessions. Few teachers actually take the effort to know each students individually, which makes a whole world of different to the students.

Primary school students might be too young to implement this but this is often workable for secondary to tertiary students, where their cognitive ability is already developed.

Nevertheless, the conventional school system often do not take this into consideration and hence do not allocate time for teachers to get to know their students better. I have read in a local education magazine that a school allows teachers to lunch out with students on certain weekdays to enable them to get to know their students better.

While I applaud this, I would also encourage schools to let their teachers interact with their students in class in a chatting session whereby they will get to know one another in terms of their teaching and learning style. This also enables teachers to know their students’ aspirations and ambitions. This session should preferably be planned just before lessons begin for the upcoming semester.

With this orientation in place, teachers can really feel the difference when they walk into school.

Author’s background: Patrick Tay is an English Writing Specialist who lectures in various polytechnics in Singapore, and coaches students in English as a private tutor. His professional services can be found here.



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