Contributed by Mdm Chloe Pang and Mr Chris Lee, Zhonghua Primary School, for SingTeach Issue 67.
Student-centred learning is an approach to education that is often juxtaposed to the traditional method of didactic teaching. In the past, teaching and learning was/were heavily dependent on the teachers. However, today we are able to greatly leverage on the affordances of technology together with our physical environment in making the invisible visible in Science. In this article, we will talk about how our teachers have grown through the journey, provide some insights of what have been learned, and consider future possibilities for building our teachers’ capacities.
Our Teachers’ Journey of Growth
Teachers are now able to focus on students’ learning by gathering evidences of students’ misconceptions or thinking in classrooms. They now value the learning experiences that students go through, and understand that the process of learning is key in helping students build on their understanding. If the teachers perceive that students are not able to grasp a concept, they adapt activities and instructional strategies to scaffold thinking.
There has also been growth in teachers’ capacities to champion inquiry and the meaningful use of ICT where discussions delve deeper, emphasizing the “hows” and “whys”. This has led to a shift towards designing different learning experiences for the various student profiles. Teachers also take a step back to reflect on learning objectives, rationalising and justifying the use of technology in learning activities.
In a traditional classroom, where weaker students may be too shy to voice out their thoughts, discussions can be easily dominated by higher-progress students. With technology, teachers are now able to create a non-threatening environment, providing a platform for the more reserved students to voice out their thoughts. This allows teachers to design more evidence-informed learning activities.
Previously, technology may have been introduced to teachers in isolation, with little insight on how it can be integrated to value-add to pedagogy and lesson design. Now, teachers who have gone through Making the Invisible Visible in Science (MIVIS) are able to mentor new teachers by sharing Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, using students’ artefacts as evidences of learning to steer professional conversations and reflections about instructional practices.
Teachers have also grown as a community, from “working cooperatively” to “working collaboratively”. They value each other’s roles during the meetings because they recognise that each teacher has a different area of expertise to contribute to the discussion. Thus, they are able to discuss inquiry-based learning with ICT collaboratively as a whole community, and as a result, they are able to elicit the best possibilities of learning for students.
Insights that teachers gained
Being a facilitator in classrooms
Teachers who have gone through MIVIS have changed the ways they conduct their lessons. Despite the pressing need to deliver the content and prepare the students for exams, our teachers are able to provide pupils with a more holistic learning experience. With an ICT-empowered classroom, teachers are better able to promote critical thinking and facilitate discussion among students.
Being strong advocators of ICT-integrated lessons
Teachers often share students’ artefacts with other teachers to show how they can facilitate learning in ICT-integrated lessons. They understand that ICT-integrated lessons are particularly beneficial for lower-progress students as such students will be able to get equal opportunities to surface their thinking. Furthermore, it helps the students to focus on their own learning progress rather than comparing with other peers.
Being a mentor of innovative practices
Mentoring and sharing of insights in professional learning communities ensure continuity in learning and raising the competency of our teachers. With interdisciplinary sharing, different subject teachers can also explore the integration of ICT across the various disciplines. Having a structured professional learning system definitely benefits the school in developing a culture of learning and professional development. Having informal check-ins within the community also helps to sustain this culture within the school.
Future possibilities for teacher capacity building: Open-door policy
A non-threatening teaching and learning environment is important for teachers’ professional learning. Open classrooms provide ample opportunities for teachers to observe innovative practices that are situated in authentic classroom settings. While this kind of professional learning is highly meaningful, teachers may be hesitant to open their classrooms. There is a need to effectively communicate to the staff that such observations are only for developmental purposes. This would achieve more buy-in from the teachers. As drivers of professional development, teacher leaders and mentors can lead by example so that the Open-Door policy can be embedded into the school culture.
This study was funded by Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™. The goal of Wireless Reach is to create sustainable programs that strengthen economic and social development through the use of mobile technology with a focus on education, entrepreneurship, health care, the environment and public safety.