Pattern Differentiation in TCM

Pattern differentiation is one of the major features of Chinese medicine which differentiates it from Western Medicine. While there are many diseases in TCM that can be considered the same with those identified in Western Medicine, biomedical terms are not  exact substitutes for treatment and so pattern differentiation is important in diagnosis and treatment.

Different treatments for the same disease recognize that each patient is unique in terms of responding to the treatment of the disease. In addition, practitioners often look at a syndrome, which is a pattern of symptoms that can be seen at a certain stage of a disease. For example, a migrane or a recurring headache is the same in Western Medicine and a doctor may prescribe paracetamol or any other painkiller for treatment. In Chinese medicine, a migration can either signal a problem with the liver because it is connected to the eyes and head and/or the kidney, which belongs to the water element and promotes wood (liver). Another example is that the common cold can manifest in different syndromes like wind-cold or wind-heat so the treatment depends on syndrome differentiation.

On the other hand, the same treatment for different disease means that different diseases at certain stages of progression can show the same pathological changes or syndrome. For example, three patients present different illnesses: one has a headache, another has gout, and the last has heartburn; if these three illnesses are caused by pathogenic heat, then they could get the same treatment.



Conclusion: Principles of Learning

Most of the time, the challenge in writing essays – whether a final exam or assignment – is demonstrating one’s understanding of a concept or a group of related concepts in one topic. Oftentimes, we are used to producing lengthy pieces just to prove the depth of understanding and mastery of concepts. If we use the constructivist and cognitivist perspective in learning, writing becomes an application in two ways: (i) articulating the basic concepts of the many schemas constructed in the mind throughout a period of time and trying to connect them to one another and (ii) processing information in the long-term memory using skills that are not directly taught but required (i.e. critical thinking, writing).

Yet in the final exam of “EDS 103: Principles of Learning”, the challenge is different: it is demonstrating depth of understanding and application in the most precise and concise way possible. So how does one simplify a few months of accumulated learning without losing depth in just two pages? At first, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the task because its instructions were very broad and dependent on one’s own understanding. Yet when I went back to review the content of the modules I appreciated how the task served both as a refresher and a synthesis of what I and my fellow students have been learning for the past few months. Another aspect that I appreciated was that it went hand-in-hand with “EDS 111: Principles of Teaching”, wherein the principles of learning apply to the teacher as a learner and the teacher as a facilitator of learning.

Overall, I feel happy at this conclusion, but certainly this is not the end of learning as learning is not the end itself but is the process.

From Traditional to Contemporary

How would you describe your teaching perspectives prior to your reading of the
module resources? How would you compare your prior conceptions about learning and teaching to the ideas discussed in the resources of this module? What factors influenced your conceptions about teaching and learning?

Back in college, we had gone through an overview of the different main theories in learning in behaviorism and cognitivism. In EDS 103: Principles of Teaching, we had already discussed the different theories in learning from behaviorism to social constructivism. By college, we were introduced to different critical theories to use to analyze mass media and society and this included a discussion on critical theory and pedagogy. From then on, I viewed teaching as a facilitating process to help connect learners and their prior knowledge/experience to new content so that they could make more sense of the world and act upon what they understand; in the same way, the learners are active agents who make meaning within themselves and with others. The readings in this specific module helped strengthen and articulate what I already know and what I am familiar with into something that is more tangible, digestible, and grounded in teaching practice.

Have your perspectives’ changed after studying the module resources? How or how not?

It has not changed because I was already familiar with the content, but it has given me more ideas on different types of strategies to use in the classroom. It has also reminded me that teaching does not adhere to one or two theories of learning, but combines them to suit the learner’s needs and the subject matter. What is different now is that there is an element of the social-emotional development of the learner, which is not tackled even in social constructivism…but even the elements of being emotionally and socially healthy differ from culture to culture.
How willing or open are you in challenging your prior conceptions about teaching and learning, and applying contemporary teaching perspectives and approaches that would better serve the need of the students for more holistic and active learning? Knowing your inclination for specific teaching perspectives, how can you ensure that you will not fall into the trap of a one-size-fits-all teaching and that you will observe the teaching principles as intellectual and varied work – “adopting appropriate teaching roles to support learning goals” (Eberly Center, 2015)?

I have always been a fan of Paolo Freire and bell hooks and their advocacy has always been to educate as a practice of freedom from oppression. Of course, their theories are rooted in Marxism and critical social constructivism but it has always been a challenge in how to translate this in the classroom because it is still part of the larger society.  Yet recognizing the learners’ individual differences due to gender, class, religion, personality is one step forward in engaging them and providing a better learning environment so that at the end of the day, they can be able to decide for themselves and to help others even if there are structural limitations.
Which among the contemporary teaching perspectives and approaches discussed in this module resonates with you? Why?

What struck me the most was seeing learners’ differences as resources instead of a problem. As Wilson and Peterson (2006) argued, the one-size-fits-all traditional approach in the classroom was suited more for the teachers’ convenience in measuring learning (i.e. tests) and outliers were dismissed as deficits because they don’t quite fit the bill. As teachers realize that students bring their own experience, knowledge, and understanding to the classroom, instruction can be modified so that most are able to learn even if it is not quantifiable.



Wilson, S. M., & Peterson, P. L. (2006). Theories of learning and teaching: What do they mean for educators?. Washington, DC: National Education Association. Retrieved from