Teaching & Learning

"No Pain, No Gain!": Professor Kostic's Philosophy on Teaching, Learning, Achievement, and Students' Satisfaction

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"If you can not explain it, you do not truly understand it!"

"If a road is without obstacles, it is not worth pursuing!"

[A student's comment; Dan, Vince]As an educator, my primary concern is how to achieve and improve "teaching effectiveness," namely, how to maximize students' learning and their "return-of-investment" (i.e. time, tuition, and taxes paid). Like in any other serious endeavor, there can't be achievement without an appropriate effort (I mean with "sweating"). Effective learning can only be done by enthusiastic students (learners), and an educator should strive (also with "sweating") to motivate, guide, and facilitate that process, i.e. coach students to maximally use their intellect in acquiring knowledge. And I mean the knowledge at an institution of the highest learning, a respectable university.

A workout without sweating will not contribute much to the fitness of a body: "No Pain, No Gain." Neither a coach nor an athlete will stay for long in the first league without the former "pushing" the latter to his maximum potential. The same has to be true for an educator and a student at a respectable university. An athlete will appreciate his coach's "pushing" as soon as he wins in a regular (usually weekly) competition, and there is no point in complaining about the demand if he loses. However, a student will enter a real-world competition much later, after he gets his degree and starts working, or if he starts his private business. An educator has to persistently motivate ("push") students to work hard for that ultimate competition after completion of their degrees. But the question remains: How far to "push" students to achieve the objective?

Due to human nature (we only do what has to be done) the "pushing" is necessary. It's easier for a coach to "demand" than for an athlete to "achieve," but without such a process there would not be corresponding results. My philosophy is based on "push learners to use their maximum potentials," or, I try to "push" my students as much as I would like my children to be "pushed" by their teachers.

Why am I writing about all this? Because it is my desire that all students, and particularly my students, do understand my philosophy of teaching and learning, and hopefully be more appreciative now instead of later. If you agree with this philosophy, you will be more motivated and have a positive attitude, thereby making your hard work more meaningful and fulfilling, and hopefully have fun at the same time. However, it is hard to achieve that, and this writing has an objective to communicate my learning philosophy to you. In one word, I like you, my student, to be satisfied: think of "gain," forget "pain." Still, if I have to choose between your achievements and satisfaction, I'll choose the former because I believe the latter will come later. This letter is also addressed to university administrators because I believe the quality of our education may and should be improved (which is our primary duty) if we all work harder (with "sweating") and motivate ("push") our students to the best of their intellectual abilities, with all due respect and fairness. Thus, we will contribute to the pursuit of academic excellence.

Finally, how this letter originated? I have been wondering why some of my students are dissatisfied even though I strive to do my best for them. Incidentally, I have been listening to Dr. Dyer's tape, "You'll See It When You Believe It" (the author of "Your Erroneous Zones"), in which Dr. Wayne Dyer explains that any significant achievement is only possible if we leave the so called " comfortable zones." He further states that the majority of people are not successful because they have never tried to go out of the " comfortable zones" (again the human nature). An achievement is as close as walking that " extra mile." I thought that my persistence of "pushing" the students out of the "comfortable zones" may be a reason for some dissatisfaction. And I wanted to share this with you.

(!) "I do not want to give you a fish, I want to teach you how to fish!"

It is much more beneficial to understand general concept (theory) than to memorize particular problems. Solving problems should help you better understand theory so that you can then solve any other problem. If we can not solve a problem that "proves" we do not fully understand "theory." The key is UNDERSTANDING, NOT REMEMBERING!

If you think theory is boring, that means you are not truly interested in understanding.

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