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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Teaching versus Learning


It's quite cool to be surrounded by tutors and lecturers in this small community of financial bloggers.

Today, I will attempt to do an eggs-on-my-face post on something way out of my league -  talk a about pedagogy.

I know. What the fish is this big word?

I've never heard or seen this word until I started my ex-company's course on how to be a facilitator some years back.

In Scandinavia, this "pedagogy" word is used very often in trainings and courses. I've told my facilitators and fellow students that we seldom use this word in the English language - it's a bit surreal as English is my first language while it's 2nd language to the Scandinavians!?

So there you go! In Europe, with the exception of UK, we Singaporeans can out England the other Europeans; just as long we tone down the Singlish. LOL!

Stand tall. Be confident!

Teach or Learn?

We all have been in roles as teacher, facilitator, coach, mentor, senior, parent, etc.

Whenever someone ask us a question, the way we answer or choose not to answer will reflect our level of understanding on Pedagogy - either consciously or unconsciously.

Sooner or later you will encounter this dilemma - should I focus on teaching; or should I focus on helping the one asking learn themselves?


What's the difference?

Can you recall or notice you mastering a skill all by yourself?
Some of us can play the piano or guitar completely by self-taught.

Others can pick-up a new language without attending any courses.

How about learning to swim, roller-blade or bicycle yourself?

I've even heard of lawyers passing the LLB and Bar exams without attending formal lessons!

No? Try harder. There must be something you pick up without someone "formally" teaching you.

As for teaching, it's a lot easier. Most Singaporeans are used to attending school or courses. We are a very "upgrading" focused society. There's now even courses for hawkers!? 

It's all very Confucius top down for your own good standard package thing. This is the recommended syllabus and everyone should practice marching the same way.

To get a diploma, we need to be taught how to "score" in the exams. 

To trade equities ourselves, we need to take and pass this stupid on-line test. Self-learning or standard teaching module? Forced teaching to cover back-side or encouraging investors to protect themselves on "buyer beware"?

If we can't keep up to the "standard" teaching pace, we will be streamed into various nice cookie-cutter sub-groups - elite fast learners, minority slow learners, majority average learners, special needs, etc.

It's practiced even in adult working life. 

The last company sponsored course you attended, was it something you volunteered or were you "arrowed" by your boss to attend? 

Those courses you had an interest and those that you were "forced" to attend, it's the same teaching method employed, but did you notice the difference in "learning"?  


Practical show me the money!

Scrutinise Investment Seminars 

If the purpose is to get a diploma after attending Investment Seminars, I think the majority will do well.

But if that's not the goal, the level of satisfaction may depend on whether you believe entrepreneurship or creativity can be taught. 

Note: Not to be confused with trainings where you were given tools to solve your own problems - that's self-learning kind of pedagogy not very common in Singapore.

I don't know

This is more for us when we are in the position of "teaching" or giving advice to others. 

When we see ourselves as a hammer, all other people will look like nails.

Frustration creeps in when we find screws (some standard; some Phillip heads some more!) , nuts and bolts, rivets, thumb tacks,  etc. Of course we can try hammering harder...

Sometimes it's not that the student or recipient that is stupid.

Our education system

Parents feel their child need tuition. Minister feels students don't need tuition. Big hoo-hah!

But no one asked the child and student whether he/she wants to have tuition...

As a child, we don't have much "choice". So I shall pass on this one. It depends a lot on how enlightened our parents are.

But as adults, when we know we are fishes, why do we continue to put ourselves in a place where the plans and goals are how fast and how high we can climb trees...

Let's not blame the system or others.

Take ownership. Or do you consider yourself an adult?

Perhaps move to another environment that values the ability to stay underwater and swim fast?

If the mountain don't move; we move.

It's not like we are vegetables - stuck in the ground.




  1. Hi SMOL,

    Have you read Meno? If you believe in that, then learning should be placed ahead of teaching.

    I guess most tutors/coaches/trainers are there to facilitate self-learning. If you are motivated enough, you can learn anything by yourself these days. Might take more time though, unless you're much more self-aware than the average person.

    This courses/training are especially useful for scoring in standardised tests (drilling). Not a fan of them, but it's just too bad that these scores are used as signals as to how "smart" and "disciplined" we are.

    On the other hand, I am of the view that courses to teach creativity and entrepreneurship are a waste of time. Steve Wozniack and Mark Zuckerberg are just some examples that you don't need to have a teacher or even work in groups to create world-changing products and concepts.

    1. 15 HWW,

      No, I've not read Meno. I not so well read.

      I learn from observation, experience, and reflection.

      I guess the angst and frustration from teachers/tutors nowadays stems mainly from parents and MOE wanting to see concrete results fast - hence KPIs (or goal settings).

      Learning is messy (no one learns at the same pace or in the same learning style).

      Teaching is more clean cut and measurable. How many % pass, or how many % scored As, etc.

      I can recall the teachers of my time in the 70s and 80s. Without too much emphasis on KPIs, they can spend some time with "non-performers" like me who don't quite fit in the academic route.

      As a tutor, would you prefer to tutor an A star student? Or would you tutor a child that has shown clearly no aptitude for the subject?

      For me, I would choose the A star student. It's a lot less vomit blood. LOL!

    2. Hi SMOL,

      I wouldn't agree that "teaching is more clean cut and measurable". Maybe, it's just that the assessment part that is (KPIs).

      Afterall, you can't determine how much of the improvement/success is due to teaching or the students' hard work.

      All else equal, it would be more interesting to tutor an A star student. Not because it's easier or what (sometimes parents have unreasonable benchmarks) but these students tend to be more motivated and curious which makes lessons much more fun.

    3. 15 HWW,

      1. Yes, I meant the assessment part on teaching being more clean cut. For learning, how do we tell what % comes from teaching, and what % comes from self-learning?

      2. A star student is more likely to be the same "animal" as the teacher/tutor.

      To find out which "animal" is the "slow" student, we may need super human patience and love from the teacher.

      These super teachers are not educators - they are angels!

      Angels can only spread their wings if they are not bound by bureaucracy and obtuse parents who don't even recognise their own child.

  2. We need facilitators when training are conducted via lots of video teaching and small group breakout discussion and presentations because such training courses are too cheem for trainers do them.

    1. CW,

      You made me laugh so much!!!

      We've been through a lot of "crap" I guess :)

      I threw out "what I am supposed to do manual" - the train the trainer stuffs - after my first time facilitation of a course.

      From then on, I told HR: "You can get someone else, or let me do it my way."

  3. Who says i only have an average IQ and i can't keep on learning to the best of my ability in whatever i want to learn.

    Especially about the stock markets even if you are a Nobel prize winner, you are not guaranteed to make money. Remember LTCM and many eminent, brilliant people in the past.

    There is hope for everyone who wants something.
    It's only how much you want it.
    if you want it bad enough, you will make it happens.
    By hook or by crook. HA! HA1

  4. Replies
    1. temperament,

      You have 20 years of experience in the markets; and is in the money overall. You know yourself well ;)

      The market is a great equaliser.

      It does not care who you are, what papers you have, who you know (although insider info is great; but it's not legal), who your parents are, and what schools you came from.

      It's one of the most meritocratic activity we can do.

      Like wandering alone to the desert to seek answers, if we survive, we will return with new understanding of ourselves.

      Can you teach your 20 plus years of experience to your son?

      Can I learn from Warren Buffet if I intern for him for a year?

      What if I am a monkey and Warren is a fish???

    2. When you are not teaching, you are learning.

      When you are not learning, you are sleeping.


    3. CW,

      That's why when asked a question, it can be best to ask in return: "What do you think?"

      We are helping the questioner to answer his own question; and if he is good, we can learn something as well!


      What do you think?

  5. Replies
    1. one big misconception though, if one learn, the other has to teach, so there is no such thing as self taught.

      "self teaching" people are a bunch of creative idiots. like me, once you acquired them, you want to express it, like an artist performing (with or without audients). ask a singer what did he learn? he will answer "i just sing and sing".

      its the same as in trading, too bad for me, i can only do it in the market place.

    2. for example, when i first pick up my cue playing billiard, i was not trying to learn to be a billiard player. i look at steve davis (once a top player), and say hey i want to be like him and i can do it!

      so everyday i dream about billiard and i express that fantacy on the billiard table, "just like steve". ofcos the truth is far away. but that dream just keep on going and going and i keep on playing and playing (ya that words is playing and not learning) until one day i found another fantacy to replace it haha.

    3. its the same as in trading, you want to "imitate" someone or something that you too can do it. it got to be fun in order to have any chance of succeed.

      so you can immagin the amount of trading i made everyday! its only limited by the capital that i have. actually there is no limit if there is no capital involved..

    4. coconut,

      If we can pick up a skill or craft just by listening or watching, that means we already have a natural born attribute in us.

      People who can tell musical tones easily can play back a melody they heard one without the need to know or learn the musical score.

      Those with photographic memory will do well in mahjong beside being a great human encyclopedia! LOL!

      Those with natural abilities in math can read Fibonacci ratios and probabilities better than average trader looking at price action. Can better spot arbitrage opportunities too; but nowadays that's replaced by algos..

      Like playing billiard for you, you are in your element - fish in water.

      The trick is to discover who we are (Mind) so we can find our element to thrive in.

      If I am a monkey, I think it's better I live and work around trees!

      And if I want to imitate others, I'll have a better chance of success by "monkey see monkey do" another primate.

      I can attend as many "If you think you can seminars"; but I don't think I can fly like the eagle...

      Some people flop in equities but they make a ton in properties! And vice versa.

      Some don't do well in investments; but they do very well in their chosen career or in their own businesses.

    5. why you want to imitate that one particular person?

      becos you think and believe and try it yourself that what that person do is fun! you will be thinking, to have fun playing billiards and someone pays you to do it, wow!

      but! if there is no pay? i still have fun doing it!

      thats the attitude you must have to succeed in trading.

    6. i think many people had underscore the difficulties in trading, most are lurk by making money in the game.

      so easy?

      without any element that i mentioned, i don't see there is a chance at all! you better know what you are doing period!

      ofcos there are those who attitude is "my money or your money?".

    7. coconut,

      We start with imitating and learning from others; then in due time, we will find our own "voice" to become our own 一代宗師 (grandmaster).

    8. i had a call from a old friend/kaki of mine and we recently played a few round of snooker. when we were young, we were all looking out for suckers to play. he is a good player. sometimes we crash each other!

      these days he say he only play for fun which i believe him, who wants to "donate" money to him anymore? he is permenatly ban haha.

      well, 2 ocaasion and i have yet to win him a single set! not one set! ofcos loser pay the table money and a treat thats it haha.

      his passion is still burning high.

    9. so in conclusion, teaching and learning, yes, learning too, does not make trading any easier, trust me!

    10. i forgot to mentioned this friend of mine is 3 years older than me but when we were young, i think i'm a better player than he was. at least i'm not afraid of him at all.

      he told me he never quit playing and he always still hang around in billiard saloon after work, wow! so many years! he told me nowadays he enjoy watching as much as playing.

      ofcos what, what else can he do haha.


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