The humble journey to The Creator: After all, we are just a tiny bubble in the ocean




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This is a long email I wrote to all UTP staff today of my own self-reflection on training and learning


Assalamualaikum wrt & Hello

Greetings from CETaL

I have not written via email for quite sometimes, but I would like to share some reflection with everyone of you just to keep the mood enlightened. Four years ago, I have been tasked to lead our brand new centre, CETaL, an unknown territory. Just so you know, my background is always chemical engineering since my degree until my PhD, and I had never been exposed to any of certification of effective teaching and learning, what else any certification of education. I was in a blurry state for quite sometimes when I was given this task, and really 4 years ago, I started from zero. I didn’t know much, only to know that, yes I do have passion to ensure my students did well in the class, and I dig out all the opportunities to get to know the experts out there, so they are able to share some insights with me. From there I learn how to look into this business holistically.

I met several experts who are really passionate into teaching and learning. I remember quite clearly when I first attended a training on active learning, there were not more than 10 people who turned up. But I went through the training for the next 2 days, and I was very fascinated with the scholarly practice being shared. When I teach in the class, I straight away implemented some of the techniques, just to get the right feeling of doing it. Slowly I developed some materials that can be used to support my Active Learning approach.

When the second similar training offered, I encouraged my colleagues to attend the training (this time we had more than 20 participants), and I attended it for the second time. From there, I learnt what I have done well, and what I can improve. There are few times of my ‘aahhh’ moments, where I actually discovered that, there are times I did wrong unintentionally and have to correct that. When the third similar training kicked in, where our previous DVCA, Prof Ahmad Fadzil Hani joined, I also joined the training fully, but this time around to observe how the facilitators, Prof Khairiyah and Dr Syed Ahmad Hilmi conducted the training.

To cut short, I had attended two times cooperative learning, two times PBL training and two times flipped classroom training fully, just to understand what I did right, and what I did wrong, and what I missed to scaffold my students. I believe I still can learn more if I re-attend the trainings. My point here is, attending training for one time, may not be sufficient for us to make our practice solid. There are times where we miss some points, and if we revisit it back, then we may realise what we did wrong, and what can be improved. But on top of that is of course the passion to keep improving ourselves to become a better educator. We cannot simply become excellent for the first time we attended the training, what else if we never attended training and claim ourselves to be excellent educator. Additionally, if we attend the training, but we delay in practicing it, we will lose the skills that we learnt.

It is true that some of us have the talent as the educator, but research has shown that talent alone is not sufficient to bring the excellence in us, but more importantly for us to acquire grit, being resilience, keep improving self without feeling being forced, but liking to do it passionately.

Thank you for your time reading my self-reflection.




Many of us know why we need to change the way how we teach at schools and higher institutions for example to align with 21st century requirements, yet many of us do not know how to do that. Despite many theories of teaching strategies have been introduced for the past 40 years, we rarely looked into the scholarly approach, but we think we could devise something from our own idea.

The ideas of collaborative, cooperative, team based, active or problem based learning have been there for the past 30-40 years, but the educationists perhaps did not sufficiently lead as to translate these approaches into mass action. These strategies, have been long researched and proven in terms of its effectiveness but it is only scattering around the articles in journals and proceedings.

So what is 21st century learning? using ipad, smartphone, tablets and laptop in the class, do presentation with technology, talk to each other etc etc?

NO, that is just a small pieces of the big jigsaw.


At UTP, we believed that in order for us to attain 21st century learning skills, we should move from teacher centred towards students centred learning. The transformation from teacher centred towards students centred learning happened since year 2015. In 2016, we carefully researched and selected some pedagogical strategies that fit our requirements to produce future ready graduates. All the academic staff are compulsory to attend active learning training (2 days training) as this is our base and fundamental training, to strengthen the why and how, for which they also learn about supporting and scaffolding the students learning, understanding students learning behaviour together with learning on how to plan their classroom activities. We introduce the staff with BOOKS END MODEL and alongside the staff would learn for at least 20 techniques of Active Learning, for which you could find more than hundred from the internet sources, but knowing how to devise the technique is important. Then, we encourage the staffs to conduct the approach in their class for at least a semester before they could attend the next training i.e. on cooperative learning.


The staff could further enhance their knowledge by attending flipped classroom training while from time to time we expose the faculty members with some tools and technologies that could help their delivery using active or cooperative learning strategies. This is where technology enhanced active learning comes in. After the staff had carefully and successfully implemented some of these strategies, only then we invited them to attend PBL, which is much more complex, not only about crafting the case study or problems to be given to the students, but also to learn on facilitating the students effectively. We simply do not encourage our staff to jump straight away to PBL before trying other simpler approaches, because we believe, this does not only make the students felt traumatised and on top of that the staffs are not able to motivate back the students, yet even the staff themselves may face trauma, which stopping them from further conducting students centred learning (SCL).


Once the staff had successfully attended all these trainings, we invited some of them who are very passionate into teaching and learning because we want to groom them as the trainers and the change agents at the department. We wanted to make sure they become visible and empowered, and not only able to give training inside UTP, but be able to be the champion of of these initiatives. We also encourage them to participate in several exhibitions on T&L to showcase their innovations i.e. when they had started to blend their pedagogical approach with some new technology and tool. In addition, we encourage them to collect data be it from the validated instruments for survey, the students’ reflection and the students’ learning attainments, which they would later publish their work be it in a T&L conference or any related journals. We also encourage the staff to apply for Scholarships of Teaching and Learning grants (SoTL), which are available annually so they can think of what kind of pedagogical strategies they wanted to use in their class and what are the objectives of their research as to collect meaningful data.


Alhamdulillah from our recent survey, we found that about 50-60% of our staff are already starting to believe in the transformation from teacher centred towards SCL. There are yet still many things to be done but we are happy with the current progress at UTP. Insha Allah by the end of this year, perhaps we’ll be able to have our own Virtual Reality center (as for now we already have several classes for technology enhanced flipped classroom, cooperative learning and PBL), so our VR can be coupled with several pedagogical strategies adopted at UTP. We are also actively training not only our academic staff, but we are extending it to our support staff, Graduate Assistants (GA) and some of the UG and foundation students who are the change agents at the students level to make them in the loop and feel belonging to this transformation.

It is an exciting, thrilling and enjoying days ahead.

You just want to start? Let’s try active learning first.

Wanted to know more, email us at or





Saya meletakkan lesson untuk generasi Y/millenial ini memandangkan ramai pemuda-pemudi zaman sekarang iaitu di dalam generasi Y/millenial seperti saya, hatta yang terpelajar sekali pun, kurang ilmunya tentang adab berkomunikasi. Lahirnya generasi SMS & Internet yang hanya mahu mengejar masa tetapi terlupa tentang adab dan tatasusila berkomunikasi, semuanya dipukul sama rata, apatah lagi kalau kita mahu jadi pendokong Islam.

Lesson 1: Susah sebenarnya nak jadi orang tengah (messenger). Bukan main taram je sampaikan segala maklumat yang dipasskan oleh orang lain, tapi kena pandai-pandai tapis, kena fikir-fikirkan dulu sesuai atau tak sampaikan maklumat itu dan ini atau to the extent tak perlu ceritakan. Banyak adab dan tatasusila yang kita perlu fikirkan, cara menyampaikan dsb.

Lesson 2 : Pilihlah perkataan yang sesuai dalam semua situasi. Bukan semua tempat sesuai untuk cakap aku dan ko, walaupun dalam majlis itu ada kawan-kawan yang sebaya. Ada yang perlu cakap saya dan encik X, encik Y sebagai menghormati majlis/program.

Lesson 3: Apabila kita nak buat kawan dengan seorang yang baru kita kenal, talk about your and his/her background. This is what we call the art of blending the communication. Try to find similar interest, and talk more about it. Bila memilih perkataan ganti diri e.g. aku, ko, saya, awak, abang, kakak…look first at his/her acceptance.

Lesson 4: Pilihlah perkataan yang sesuai apabila anda ingin berbicara. Tak semua orang boleh menerima satu laras bahasa. Bila berbicara dengan orang tua, orang kaya, orang sederhana, budak kecil , semuanya perlu menggunakan laras bahasa yang sesuai. Nilai intelek itu bukannya pada IQ anda, tetapi sejauh mana anda mampu menyampaikan ilmu anda dalam bahasa yang mudah difahami oleh sesiapa sahaja.

Lesson 5 : Orang Melayu dahulu tinggi adabnya, manis budi bicaranya. Yang pentingnya, bijak menggunakan common sense. Kita jarang meletakkan diri kita dalam kasut orang lain. Adakalanya kita meletakkan kepentingan menyelesaikan kerja kita mengatasi keperluan orang lain, maka akhirnya aspek ‘common sense’ dikesampingkan. Remember to balance two things: people focused & task focused!

That’s all for now. 🙂



I read my students’ reflections on what they had learnt throughout the semester on my subject. One thing that I could relate is, when you are trying to implement student centred learning (SCL) approach, whether the students like it or not what you taught them (with all the activities that you did in the class), it CANNOT be correlated at all to their learning, because mainly their definition of ‘like’ is way too different than what we as the educator perceived. So, if you’re doing SCL, don’t be disheartened that your students pushed and resisted the change, or even mocked you out. Just persevere. If you want your students to have perseverance, we are the one to show our perseverance first.

In my final chapter that I taught my students, I purposely conducted it using conventional lecture (with short activities in between). From their reflections, some of them said they’re glad that they finally have a lecture and happy with my delivered lecture, BUT they could not relate what they’ve learnt and many of them still said that they need to study more and it is a difficult topic for them, when actually the difficulty is almost similar with other chapters.

Meanwhile, despite they didn’t like the activities that I conducted with them using flipped classroom and PBL approach for other previous chapters, surprisingly they managed to highlight all the key important points in the subject in their reflection. I realise that the way how they define ‘like’ probably means they would probably like when they just attending lecture, sit down and listen without contributing anything to their learning experience in the class. If you do anything that push them to think more, and collaborate more, they wouldn’t ‘like’ it and accused you are not teaching them, BUT actually they learnt. (Here, you are facilitating them to become a self-directed learner, and of course initially they’ll claim the glory that if they do good, it is because of themselves, and the lecturers are not helpful! – it is ok, they’ll realise it the semester after or maybe when they start working – or hunting for jobs later)

So my fellow educators, persistent and persevere! Don’t be scared of not being a popular teacher, just because you really want to ensure your students really learn!


I’ve two experiences that I’d like to share, as a participant/student myself with regards on how, a student can decide whether to be active learner or not.

Last month I attended a conference. Most of the sessions I attended, I questioned the speakers or gave some opinions. Other participants noticed my presence, just to show how active I was as the participant.

However, in one of the occasions, I was talking personally to one of the big speaker and asked his opinions on certain matters after his speech. I was a little bit feeling intimidated when he started to be condescending and cynical about what I’ve been doing and plan to do. When I asked him questions, he showed this kind of expression that made feel scared to approach him again in the future.

The next day, I attended a workshop and surprisingly he was actually there as the speaker. I arrived a bit late and got my seat at the back. At that time, I already felt unease and I did not participate at all in any of the discussion. I chose to be a laid back person and just followed the flow. I was scared to ask question because if I do so, I might get that kind of expression again. And yes, I didn’t learn as much as I want, because I felt scared to talk to my ‘teacher’.

The other participants only noticed my presence during the break. They said to me, “We didnt notice that you’re here. You’ve been quiet!”. I smiled to them anyway.

Two lessons that I can reflect from what I experienced last month

1. You choose who you want to be. Nobody will force you to be who you do not want to be. If you are an active learner, you can choose to be a passive learner. Even if you’re forced to be active, you can be passive among the active learners. You can stay at the back and not talking and end up you’re not learning anything because you’ve already a negative mindset or some bad experience.

So students, it is all up to you. We know that for all these years we’ve been practising active learning in the class and the students i.e. your senior, did very well because they persevere. If you keep saying that this is not for you, and it is difficult for you to adapt, it is just that you refuse to move yourself out of your comfort zone.

There are more than 1000 reputable research works had been conducted to test the effectiveness of active learning worldwide and it has been proven successful. It is a matter of embracing it and believe it.

2. During the workshop, I can actually choose to be active learner, as I used to be, but sadly I didn’t. According to the framework of How People Learn by Bransford, community centred is an important lens that the teacher must not forget. If you make the students feel intimidated to you or you make the students scared of you and you shouted angrily in the class for example (like I used to do maybe 7-8 years ago) or you scold them for their mistakes you’re just making the students felt unsafe in the class to ask questions or to participate or to make mistake as part of their learning curve.

So teachers, have more patience to deal with your students. Avoid sarcasm, avoid being cynical. Be direct to them. If you feel they are being ungrateful for now, they will learn to be one if you be patience and keep reminding them. They will be the one that you want them to be, maybe not in our class, but they’ll come back to you and say thank you for whatever you’ve been doing to nurture them.

Importantly, all this work that we’ve been doing is for the sake of Allah, not for the sake of getting praised by other human being. Gambatte students & teachers!



It has been quite sometimes I did not write anything in this blog, so I am sharing my thought here.


There are six main criteria, which are interconnected to each other as far as I could recall, which need to be overcame prior to ensuring we can do excellently well in our education system.

1. Pedagogy
2. Learning Space and Facilities
3. Curriculum
4. Skills of Instructor/Facilitator
5. Student’s Readiness
6. Instructor & Facilitator’s Motivation

All of these six criteria are important. However, all I can say that the most important criteria that we need to address here is number 6.

No matter how good the trainings are, how good the facilities are, how good the curriculum is, how ready the students are and how many types of pedagogies developed, if the instructor, the faculty members didn’t have the right motivation to do it, then we are definitely doomed. This is why it is very important for a teacher or a lecturer to have the right mindset and deeper motivation to teach.

If you really want to be a teacher or a lecturer, you must first have a strong and deep passion in teaching. It is like being a doctor, if you want to be a doctor, you must feel like there is no other career suit you, only to be a doctor. Similarly, this passion must be rooted among the teacher or lecturer. If one only decided to become a lecturer just for the sake of doing research, it is highly recommended for him/her to become a research scientist, not to become a lecturer. The role of a lecturer is changing now and apparently, teaching with a deep passion is a role that we have to play. Or if you want to be a teacher, it is not because you can’t get other job then you decide to become a teacher. You must want to become a teacher. Of course in certain cases we’ve tried to find other jobs but still landed to become an academia, but it is still not too late to become passionate with what we’re doing.

If one is highly motivated to make a change in the education system, come what may. He/she will make full use of whatever resources he/she had and whoever kind of students he/she encountered, as long as he can make significant impact, at least to his/her students. He will create a relationship with his students, because there’s no teaching without a relationship.

Teaching& learning activities is not about dealing with the number of students passing or failing our course, but it is about individual development, for them to grow not only in terms of knowledge capacity, but for the lecturers and teachers to assist in terms of the right attributes and skills that they wanted or should have.

Nonetheless, we’re the one who suppose to give the right example to our students. How come if we say something that we ourselves didn’t practice in the first place?

And that require our motivation. Our own self-motivation, to change to become a better person, so we can build another generation, who are better than us.

Teaching is a noble job. Let’s us maintain it as the way it is, despite any challenge we have, despite any changes that we have in our current generation. We have to do it with full of LOVE, even it is a TOUGH LOVE.

What is a tough love?

Well, it is like putting your students to persevere by giving them complex problems to be solved, you know they will hate you, you’ll end up not getting a good evaluation (as what you expect to get), but you know, it is for a good cause. They may not like it now, but in the future, they will really appreciate it, because we shaped them to become a better person. But you’ll be with them against the tide and fall, because you have to show to them that you CARE. You dont just give them problem to solve but let them surviving alone, you’re there to guide them. That is the strongest motivation that we have to develop in ourselves, because our students will grow up to become a change agent that will change the society in the future. That’s the strength of a TEACHER.

Let us build a strong motivation in ourselves as a teacher/lecturer for the sake of our future society.


I found that this is a good video to be shared with your fella students/ teammates/ colleagues.

i) When there is a will, there’ll always a way

ii) Don’t bother what others talk or condemn about you, sometimes they just want to see your effort, then they’ll switch side (by supporting you). Even if they didn’t support you, they’ll grow tired annoying you.

iii) Learn to persevere and acquire grit because successful people have one thing in common: GRIT

iv) When you are living in hardship, that’s where you can spur your creativity. (in this case, living in an area where there’s no single land available to play football). Living in a very comfortable life will make your life becomes mundane and your brain hibernates. Take example the Indonesians, Indians and Thais make innovation in their daily life, you’ll find it stimulating. I think when you have a full tummy, that’ll also make you lazy to think and innovate.

v) Keep challenging yourself to do better. Do not settle at one point and not wanting to try anymore (because that is the meaning of FAILURE).

vi) Less complaint and adapt to what you have been assigned to and deliver the best possible.

vii) Learn from your experience. Never get them disconnected when you are acquiring new knowledge. That’s where your brain cells get connected and build up a bigger thinking capacity. (look at how the team played during the raining time).




Screenshot 2016-06-22 08.23.40.png


Many of the teachers & lecturers may want to know how should we conduct a flipped classroom, as it is becoming the ‘in-thing’ right now.

What is flipped classroom?

My respected sifu & mentor, Prof Dr Abd Karim Alias was one of the pioneer of flipped classroom in Malaysia and I learnt a lot from him.

You can try to understand a little bit about flipped classroom, from these videos:

What is the benefit of flipped classroom?

1. The lecturers/teachers can spend a lot more time with their students. Watch this TED talk. Teaching is about creating a relationship. How do you create a relationship, if your classroom is entirely lecture and power point presentation?

2. The lecturers/teachers can have more meaningful activities during the lecture hours allocated for them to enhance the thinking skills among the students.

3. Some skills and values can be imparted in the class especially via group work activities.

So, what’s my practice?

I also created my own videos (well we, because to ensure that we’re not burdened in creating the videos, my teaching partner , Dr Raihan Ramlicreated half of the content and I created another half), but I also curated some videos (such as taking the youtube videos of others and shared the link with my students).

Some of the examples of the videos that we created are as follows:

But is that all? NO

We need to design some activities to ensure the lecture hour assigned to us are being fulfilled to ensure it brings a new understanding on the courses you teach to the students. As for example,

1. Jigsaw activities to solve problems
2. Mind map to recap the lectures/notes from the videos
3. Quizzes & Polls to investigate their understanding
4. Problem solving and discussion of higher level, and many more

How do we make sure the students watch the videos?

As for now, we do have some online quizzes and conduct it with the students. Though it is still prone to cheating, the students who cheat and not watching the videos will find that they are at lost, when they step into the class. Few of the examples of what I’ve done so far for this semester:

It looks easy, but two important skills that need to be acquired by the lecturers are:

i) Facilitation skill

ii) Motivational skill

If you are interested to start with a flipped classroom activity, start small and expand. Tweak where necessary as time goes by.

Happy trying! All the best.




Mana-mana mak ayah pun akan risau sekiranya anak-anaknya menjadi mangsa buli di sekolah (buli secara fizikal, mental, cyber bully). Dan mak ayah perlu lagi risau sekiranya masalah ini tidak diselesaikan, anak-anak ini pula nanti akan menjadi pembuli.

Sememangnya ada beza menyekolahkan anak kami di London dan di sini. Amanina dan Falah juga tidak terlepas daripada menjadi mangsa buli (mental) di sekolah apabila mereka mula-mula masuk ke sekolah itu. Tetapi kami cuba ambil pendekatan proaktif.

1. Kami bersembang sangat kerap antara kami dan anak-anak. Dan kami tekankan daripada awal, apa saja yang tak kena dan tak betul, cakap terus dengan kami. We’re your parents, and you should feel safe talking to us and let us know what happened.

2. Kami cuba menyemai positivity dalam diri mereka. Contohnya kalau ada yang mengejek mereka, berkata yang tidak elok pada mereka, kami beritahu yang kita sepatutnya kasihan kepada mereka yang mengejek sebab mak ayahnya mungkin tak tegur mereka atas tindakan yang mereka lakukan. Kita doa banyak-banyak moga dia berubah sikap nanti. Niat kami adalah cuba untuk menyemai nilai empathy.

3. Kami ‘berkomunikasi’ terus dengan guru kelas mereka. Kami cuba sebaik mungkin buat baik dengan guru kelas anak-anak, kaunselor sekolah hatta pihak pentadbiran sekolah seperti guru besar sendiri. Kami maklumkan isu-isu yang kami rasa besar dan sukar diatasi oleh anak kami, supaya guru kelas dapat bertindak sekiranya ada yang tidak diingini terjadi. After all, kami juga mahu anak-anak kami berdikari sendiri sebagai problem solver dan menyatakan terus dengan guru sekiranya ada perkara yang tidak diingini berlaku.

4. Kita tak mahu anak orang lain buli anak kita, jadi kita sendiri jangan jadi pembuli! Sekiranya anak-anak dibuli, janganlah pula kita ambil tindakan menyerang budak atau melakukan interogasi kepada yang membuli, baik di kompaun sekolah atau di luar. Adalah menjadi satu kesalahan kita ambil tindakan dalam kompaun sekolah sebab sekolah bukan sahaja nak ‘protect’ anak kita tetapi juga keselamatan anak-anak yang lain.

5. Kami proaktif di peringkat PIBG. Sejak anak saya masuk sekolah, saya tak pernah miss mesyuarat agung PIBG dan tak pernah miss bercakap dan memberikan idea-idea dan cadangan kepada pihak sekolah. Adakalanya pagi-pagi saya akan bertemu dengan guru besar dan berbincang program-program tambahan untuk anak-anak murid di sekolah, supaya pengayaan nilai dan kemahiran lain dapat dipertingkatkan, selain daripada kecemerlangan akademik semata-mata.

Mudah-mudahan bermanfaat kepada ibu ayah sekalian.

Pokoknya, kita janganlah pula menjadi PEMBULI!

Mohammad Tazli Azizan & Putri Nurizatulshira

Seri Iskandar, Perak
22 April 2016

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