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The Three Pillars of Education: Learning, Teaching, and Assessment

Eman is a writer and an engineer. She writes about education and its importance in cognition and knowledge.



Linguistically, according to English | Oxford Dictionaries, learn means “Gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in something by studying, experience or being taught”, while teaching means “Impart knowledge to or instruct someone as to how to do something” and assess means “Evaluate or estimate the nature, ability or quality of”. From the preceding definitions, one can say that learning, teaching, and assessment are the three pillars of education, which is defined as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”. Education is an important activity for human beings to live in a good manner in this world. Moreover, education is of great importance that the first five verses revealed from the Holy Quran, more than 14 centuries ago, encourage us to read and of course to educate. The English translation of these verses, as in The Noble Quran |, is: “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, and the Most Merciful.

  1. Read, ˹O Prophet,˺ in the Name of your Lord Who created—
  2. Created humans from a clinging clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood).
  3. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous,
  4. Who taught (the writing) by the pen—
  5. Taught humanity what they knew not.” (Surah 96: Al-‘Alaq).

So, anyone who goes through the education process aiming to learn something, there must be an instructor to teach him and there must be an assessment to evaluate how much the student learns and how much the instructor teaches. Therefore, in the following subsection, each pillar is discussed.

Teaching activity

WASHINGTON (March 5, 2010) Cmdr. Jim Grove, from the Office of Naval Research Navy Reserve Program 38, left, helps students from McKinley Technology High School make adjustments to their robot during the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and

WASHINGTON (March 5, 2010) Cmdr. Jim Grove, from the Office of Naval Research Navy Reserve Program 38, left, helps students from McKinley Technology High School make adjustments to their robot during the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and


Learning is the instinct which God has created human beings, beginning from the infant learns how to feed his mother’s breast to learn how to manage the affairs of his life.

Learning involves a variety of activities, for example, recognizing, understanding, memories and remembering information, development, and mastering. Although many research works have been conducted on learning, transferring the results of those researches into practice is still difficult. This may be explained by how the academic staff teaches their students, as they almost adhere to how they were learned and might not aware of how their students learn.

As illustrated in Figure 1, learning theories are classified into four main categories: Behaviorism; Cognitivism; Humanism; and Constructivism.

Behaviorism learning theories claim that the human being's mind, when they born, looks like a blank slate, then starts learning by interaction with the environment which means that one’s behavior results from the consequences he faces.

Cognitivism clarifies the role of the brain in processing new information by analyzing the mental process. Moreover, these theories are based on the assumption that memory motivation and cognition play an important role in the learning process.

Humanism is to apply the available knowledge about human being's nature and how they learn in a systematic, conscious way.

Constructivism learning theories state that people depend on their own experiences to build and construct their own understanding and knowledge of the surrounding world.

Figure 1: Classification of learning theories.

Figure 1: Classification of learning theories.

A teacher may consider the education process as a “Mass Production Process” due to the numerous students who graduated every year. However, it should not, because of the diversity in students (gender, background, understanding level, skills…), disciplines (medical science, engineering science, humanities…), and the teachers themselves. That is why I see that the lecturer should not stick to only one theory or a category of theories simply because each category completes the other.

From my point of view, the most important point in education is to make students engage in the session, this can be done in several ways, one of them is to motivate the student in the more autonomy-supportive way to engage them in studying. However, applying this method requires the teacher to learn how to support student’s autonomy which might not be acceptable by some of them. Additionally, this work extensively explains the relation between motivation and student engagement but did not tell us actually how to make students engage.

The method that can be used to engage students in the session is to begin the session with the aims and outcomes that they will achieve after completing this session. Besides that, using session intended outcomes (ILO) is a requirement for the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) | Higher Education Academy. It is of great importance for the students to know what they should learn in the session to be ready to either gain or retrieve some information, knowledge, or skills. Moreover, the ILO helps teachers to align teaching activities and assessments with those outcomes.

After setting a session ILO, the session should be carefully planned to include a range of activities. From those activities that help the student to engage in the session is to warm up by asking some questions to retrieve some previously studied information. This point does not only help in engaging students but also a good way to overcome student failure to retrieve some information or fundamentals.

Another method to be used to engage students in the lecture is active learning. This method can be achieved by using group discussion, asking some students to give a presentation, questioning, let some students draw on the whiteboard, and supporting them either by the teacher or their peers. All of these make students comfortable in the lecture and happy to make simple or extended contributions, additionally creates a positive atmosphere and good relationship between teachers and students. Another proposed action is to encourage students and support them to achieve higher academic standards by enriching the experience and academic challenge.

Teaching Classroom


As pointed out before the diversity in students along with some teacher-related aspects as teacher’s preparation and training; presentation style; and communication skills represent a challenge for lecturers to achieve effective teaching. For a lecturer to be effective, he should do his best and make use of his skills to motivate and inspire his students to engage and learn the delivered information. Effective learning in the classroom depends greatly on the capabilities of the teacher to preserve the students’ interest that brought them to the lecture.

To achieve an outstanding lecture, it should be delivered in an engaging, interesting, and informative way. Here the teaching methods and strategies have emerged as they are of great importance that they can be described as a critical component of teaching and hence lecturer should carefully choose the proper teaching methods to achieve the session outcomes.

In engineering, for example, as an experimental science, there are many teaching methods that can be used among them the lecture; small group teaching; problem-based learning; and practical work. Lecturing is to teach through giving verbal explanations of the subject to be taught, the visual aids are often used to help students visualize the subject. While small group teaching sometimes represents a difficulty especially when the discipline is not clear to the students. Whereas problem-based learning is distinguished by transferring the new information through the problem context, this method increases student motivation, develops their deeper understanding, and encourages autonomous and joint learning. Practical work is a process of teaching through examples or experiments, also, empirical evidence can be used to demonstrate information through a combination of visual evidence and associated logic. In my opinion, practical identification helps to raise student's interests and enhance information recall as it provides connectivity facts and applications in everyday life. Lectures, on the other hand, tend to provide more facts than to help coherence.

A lecturer can be distinguished from each other by his understanding of the students’ needs, teaching style, and his willingness to acquire a good quality, teaching that is respected by the students. A good teacher should not only understand students; expectations but also exceed these expectations. Students have different levels of willingness for learning, have different levels of understanding. On the other side, students expect to add new information and skills and to consider each one circumstance. So, the lecturer is responsible for delivering the course material in an attractive, motivating, and engaging style that motivates and attracts students. Additionally, he should demonstrate the capabilities of subject matter to solve real-world problems and to cope with each student's latent desire to learn.

To achieve this, there are many teaching styles and approaches. This includes (but not limited to research) group discussion, asking questions, practical analysis, projects, and letting some students explain some topics using their own style. It is the teacher's role to design, plan and control the teaching session, however, he has to be flexible to some extent and switch from one strategy to another depending on the current situation and how students respond. Moreover, he should strongly understand that he must continuously improve himself.

Students Use a Computer in the Classroom with the Help of a Teacher

Students read with the help of a Teacher


Assessment is an important element of the education process that is why William (2013) called it the bridge between teaching and learning, as it is the verified method for teachers/lecturers to evaluate how their students learn. Of course, this is true to some extent, however, assessment has another role that exceeds that point, as it is used to give students feedback to correct any misunderstanding. Moreover, it is used to distinguish between students and identify which of them worth attaining appropriate certification. That is why I consider it one of the three pillars of education along with learning and teaching. Here I should point out that my understanding of the value of the assessment is extracted from the latest version of the UK quality code for higher education, (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, 2013). Another six main purposes of assessment could be considered namely: pedagogy; measuring; standardization; certification from a previous version; student motivation; and teaching method evaluation.

Mainly assessment is classified into formative and summative assessments. The first one where feedback is given to the student aiming to increase their understanding of the subject and no marks or grades are there, only aims to let both students and lecturers know the points of weakness that need improvement. While the second one is used to decide if the students pass or fail a certain course or program, moreover it is used to rank them. This explains the urgency of students to replace summative assessments with formative ones.

Someone argued that teachers who consider assessment as an endpoint cannot improve their teaching methods, while if they consider it a step forward and change their assessment method; they would change their teaching methods as well and enhance the learning process. So the selection of the appropriate method of assessment ranges from the essay which is suitable to exam the ability of the student to construct the coherent argument, to the computer-based assessment which enables students to practice disciplinary skills and motivate them.


Reference list

  • Ahmad, M., Ab. Rahim, L. & Arshd, N. I. (2014) A review of educational games design frameworks: an analysis from software engineering. In the proceeding of International Conference on Computer and Information Sciences (ICCOINS).
  • Biggs, J. (1996) Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32, 1-18,
  • Biggs, J. (1999) What student does: teaching for enhanced learning. Journal of higher education research & development, 18, 57-75,
  • Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press,
  • Morton, A. (2009) Lecturing to large groups. In: Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (Eds.) A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Enhancing Academic Practice. 3rd ed. New York, Routledge,
  • Norton, L. (2009) Assessing student learning. In: Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (Eds.) A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Enhancing Academic Practice. 3rd ed. New York, Routledge,
  • Wliam, D. (2013) Assessment: The bridge between teaching and learning. The National Council of Teachers of English, 21, 15-20,

© 2018 Eman Abdallah Kamel


Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on November 26, 2019:

Thanks, Audrey, for reading the article and comment. I agree with you that it is an honor to be a teacher. Education is very important. The teacher profession is also difficult and not easy.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on November 25, 2019:

What an honor it is to be a teacher. I learn and thrive with all I have learned from 50 years of teaching.

Thank you for this article. I agree with your three pillars of education. Bless all those who teach!

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 27, 2019:

Thanks so much, Mr. Holland. As I benefit from your articles I also learn from your comments. The peace always with you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 26, 2019:

Excellent article. I was a teacher for eighteen years. I try to still be one, just using a different forum now. :)

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on February 27, 2019:

Thanks, Linda for reading the article. Certainly, education is very important. In my opinion, if education is conducted all over the world based on knowledge and love of scientific material, not only to pass school or university examinations. The improvement will be achieved.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on February 26, 2019:

Education is extremely important in every country the world over. There are a number of countries that take it very serious. The U.S. needs an improved educational system to excel.

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 20, 2018:

Thank you very much, Mohamed.

Mohamed on April 20, 2018:

What a professional article!

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