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Spreading boundaries in teaching and learning

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Spreading boundaries in teaching and learning

Yusaf Ishak High School students use a classroom wave simulator demo set under the guidance of Mr. Donavan Love’s head teacher (physics). (Photo: Yusaf Ishak Secondary School)

In Yusaf Ishak High School and New Town Elementary School, students play an important role in helping teachers learn. “Centers for Teaching and Learning Excellence” are located in schools. Here, master teachers and experts from NIE work with teachers and students in admissions schools to develop, refine and implement innovative teaching methods before they are transferred to the rest of the educational fraternity. Nea Wen Tong


Yusaf Ishak Secondary School (YISS) and New Town Primary School (NTPS) may not be too different from other outside schools, but they place what is known as the “Center for Advanced Learning and Learning” or CTLE.

These CTLEs are actually beating the hearts of pedagogical innovation in our education system. The centers employ a unique mix of faculty, consisting of experts from the National Institute of Education (NIE) and principal teachers from the Singapore Teachers Academy, who work closely with faculty from host schools to prototype and share teaching methods. Master teachers also contribute to supporting policies and programs at the national level.

These educators come together to strengthen the links between theory and research, to refine innovative approaches to teaching in the classroom, which they then share with other teachers so that they can adapt and apply in their classrooms.

Theory and research are making waves in Yusaf Ishak High School

Since its inception in 2015, the CTLE @ YISS team has introduced innovations in learning in all learning areas. Some of them are thematic learning strategies that help students better understand the topic. Others include broader strategies, such as promoting students’ meta-learning in learning – so that students develop a tendency to continue learning on their own after school.

Take, for example, the concept of wave motion physics. Mr. Donavan Love, a leading YISS physics teacher, noted that their students often found it difficult to understand this concept. He says: “They did not have the opportunity to construct and demonstrate their understanding of the graphical representation of wave motions. They also had difficulty understanding that waves can transmit energy without carrying matter.

This sparked a discussion with Mr. Yap Boon Chien, a Master of Physics teacher who also coordinates the professional development efforts at CTLE with a team of head teachers attached to CTLE @ YISS. The discussion resulted in the development of a demo set of simulator waves. The kit, which consists of items such as narrow springs, thick rope and simulation panels, turns an abstract concept into one that teachers and students can model, visualize and experiment with in the classroom.

Students experiment with a demo set of a wave simulator during group work. (Photo: Yusaf Ishak High School) (Photo taken before Covid-19.)

Mr. Lau and Mr. Yap attribute the idea to a study conducted by NIE experts. “We referred to a study of how students learn best through strategies such as query-based learning, visualization-based learning, and modeling learning,” explains Mr. Love.

Creating the first version of the kit is only half the battle. At CTLE, such tools and learning strategies, no matter how innovative, must be agreed with students before they can be disseminated to the rest of the fraternity.

In class, YISS students used early versions of the demo kit. Mr. Lau and Mr. Yap then observed how students responded to the set during training, and tested how well they understood the concept of wave motions before and after using the set. Students also gave their feedback on how to improve the set. The teachers then finalized it before finalizing the prototype.

Once the kit gained momentum in YISS classes, it was time to share it with teachers from other schools.

To this end, Mr. Lau and Mr. Yap conducted live workshops at YISS, where registered participants who have registered can observe how the set is used by both the teacher and the students in the context of the lesson itself.

Mr. Yap shares that the way master classes are conducted in real classes is another unique feature of CTLE. “Participants not only sit and feel how students teach the lesson, they can also participate in class discussions with YISS teachers,” he says.

Participants will then try new strategies in their own classes and bring back this experience to share with them in the next master class. “In this way, we study each other’s experiences in our schools and classrooms, each with different student profiles and contexts. Feedback and discussions contribute to the whole CTLE experience, ”says Mr. Yap.

CTLE 2

CTLE 3

As master classes are held online due to the limitations of Covid-19, CTLE has devised a complete IT system that allows participants to continue to observe and listen to student discussions during group work. (Photo: Yusaf Ishak Secondary School)

Begin CTLE’s journey to New Town Elementary School

With the success of the first CTLE at YISS, the second CTLE was established earlier this year at NTPS to directly assist primary school teachers.

Similarly, innovations in teaching are based on research and theory, such as the use of technology to encourage students to take responsibility for their own pace of learning.

Teacher Siazwani Binte Osman implemented this in her classroom by asking her students to use the Student Learning Space (SLS) to learn about form identification before the next activity-based lesson was held in the classroom to consolidate learning. She found that her students were able to achieve learning outcomes such as identifying the differences between a square and a rectangle by simply guiding their questions rather than giving them an answer.

It may not be a radical overhaul of how the topic is taught, but these small changes are evolving, explains Master Ann Wong, a master teacher of elementary sciences. She also coordinates the professional development efforts of a group of Master Teachers affiliated to CTLE @ NTPS. “When we experiment with pedagogy or come up with innovations in curricula, it can only be a setting, but we see positive changes in our students’ learning. And when we see change, we share it with the fraternity and see how we can implement it to impact more students. ”

Although NTPS has not yet conducted workshops and demonstrations this year, they shared their success through two webinars – the first on creating a caring and supportive environment to influence the study of mathematics in primary schools, and the second on Promoting Differentiation Education for our primary schools – in total, about 1,000 people have been registered for this.

And NTPS teachers are looking forward to developing and testing new innovations. Mdm Syazwani shares that although she has been teaching for 13 years, she believes there are still details she could have missed. “It is very helpful for another person, such as a master teacher, to look into planning and conducting a lesson. It revises the way I think and teach the subject to better influence the learning of my students. ”

Student-centered teacher training centers

So what in practice-based research and theory contributes to “excellence” in CTLE? NIE Associate Professor Lee Ngan Ho, who works closely with CTLE @ YISS to help address students ’metacognitive development, shares that teachers can also base their practice on knowledge based on research and theory.

“As researchers, we can offer teachers a body of knowledge. They could lead to a theory that gives them a better chance of success in the classroom, and students will have the latest and most focused pedagogical approach, ”he says.

Professor Lee adds that NIE experts, master teachers and faculty from host schools form a tripartite working relationship aimed at professional development centered on students. “We ensure that students become acquainted not only with advanced, but also with theoretically sound pedagogical methods in the classroom. This would help the fraternity to continue to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools. “

Head of the Department (Mathematics) YISS Eric Koch noted that due to the fact that teachers are constantly working to improve teaching, students have also become more active in their learning. “They think more and ask more questions in their training, and that’s very welcome. We see that they have become more curious, motivated and self-directed. “

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