Tutor Profile: Interview with Idris Ismail

Enhancing Learning
Interview by Lilian Kek Siew Yick

IDRIS ISMAIL began tutoring at OUM’s learning centre in Ipoh in 2005. In this interview, he shares his opinions on deepening and widening learning.

Lilian: What are your views on learning?
Idris: Learning is part of knowledge development, in preparation for various kinds of challenges in life. There are two types of learning - conscious and unconscious. In addition, there are formal and informal ways of learning.

Lilian: How different is learning during the various cycles of life?
Idris: There is a wide difference. This is because different age groups reach maturity in learning at different times. The way we ask questions must suit learners’ age and ability.

Lilian: What does it take for learning to be effective?
Idris: Learning is effective when a person who has gone through the process of learning is able to produce output that is beneficial to self and society. Mutual understanding between learners and tutors on their respective responsibilities will make the process of learning more effective.

Lilian: How could tutors contribute to effective learning?
Idris: The learning environment is changing rapidly due to technological advancements. Tutors should synchronise their teaching methods with the changes. They must update their knowledge accordingly rather than just follow the traditional way of teaching.

Lilian: What are the differences between “deepening” learning and “widening” learning?
Idris: Widening learning means to open the door of learning as wide as possible to eligible applicants from a range of socioeconomic, ethnic, racial or gender backgrounds throughout the country. It also means offering more disciplines which are relevant to our nation-building and existence or enhance our capabilities such as marine and outer space exploration. We can widen learning by doing thorough research on our processes, policies, pedagogies and practices of current higher learning. Radical changes or transformation must be carried out based on the results of the research.

Deepening learning is the way tutors act as facilitators, asking learners open-ended and powerful questions in order to peel the layers away from the real issue or answer. By doing this, everybody could realise their own great potential. Deepening learning also involves defining the clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth and significance of the knowledge.

Lilian: How can both types of learning be encouraged?
Idris: We need to expand our higher education system to deepen and widen learning in our country. This will equip learners with better tools to help the country compete with other nations regionally or globally. In order to materialise this goal, there must be strong political will and high public awareness. The present method of teaching in the classroom is not suitable for adult learners. In addition, many younger students want to earn a living and continue their studies on part-time basis only. Institutions of higher learning must come up with courses and programmes to cater to these needs. We should allow more new players in the higher learning business. Private universities know better about widening and deepening learning as they work closely with the private sector.

Lilian: What is your opinion of learning as a lifelong activity?
Idris: Learning comprises all learning activities performed by people throughout their life. The concept of lifelong learning is closely associated with continuous learning or professional development. To stop learning means to stop your professional development. The present retirement age is actually too low. Talented personnel must carry on contributing their expertise to help in building our nation through lifelong learning activities.

Lilian: Do you have experience of unlearning and relearning?
Idris: I worked for Telekom Malaysia (TM) for 36 years. When I joined OUM, I found it a bit difficult to get along in the education environment. However, my efforts to unlearn some habits which were not required in the learning environment were really fruitful. Carrying out sales activities while in TM needed me to make fast decisions. In the learning environment, I need a lot of patience to handle multi-age students. Both environments are really in contrast to each other. I took a few months to unlearn my business habits and learn new teaching methods and techniques.

Lilian: What is your opinion on this statement - “While we teach, we learn”?
Idris: William Glasser, an American psychiatrist, explained how we learn: 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what is discussed with others, 80% of what is experienced personally and 95% of what we teach to someone else.

That is the relationship between teaching and learning. What we teach others is actually what we most need to learn.

CTMD congratulates Idris Ismail on his recent appointment as a Lead Tutor at the Perak Learning Centre from the September 2009 semester onwards.

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In my opinion, tutors should regard our learners as:

Experienced in learning techniques and capable of studying on their own
Experienced in learning techniques but still need to be guided in some areas
Adults who need to relearn some concepts
New to learning techniques and need to be guided
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