Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Professional Development Lesson 1

Last night, the class had the first lesson on Professional Development.

The lesson started off with Dr Yeap getting us to discuss about Professional Learning Community (PLC). Since my school had already embarked on the PLC journey, I found that I was able to share with the group members what my school had done in terms of PLC.

For my school, we usually have a PLC 'project'. In this project, the level teachers look and surface the areas of concern for that particular level. Once we've targeted the area of concern, we go on to design a lesson based on a particular strategy that we would like to use to help us in addressing that area of concern. In my opinion, it's something like a mini lesson study.

Dr Yeap then moved on to talk about Lesson Study and the variations of it that are out there. It was surprising to find out just how many countries are conducting different variations of lesson study. As Dr Yeap explained more about how lesson study is actually conducted, I realised that what my school is doing may not be essentially lesson study considering the fact that our cycles included a pre-test post-test for the sample class to actuallly sit for. I believe that what my school may be carrying out is actually Learning Study. Interesting.

However, in whatever variations of lesson study or learning study our schools may be conducting, I believe that as long as it goes on to helping the pupils and teachers, it is all worthwhile.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Initiatives in Assessment 2

Dr Yeap surprised us today by bringing the lesson outside the four walls. He presented us with a task of calculating the height of a pillar. We were presented with some tools we could use to help us in arriving at the solution. So there we were, in the cool wind after the rain, looking up at the pillar and wondering how we could find the height of the pillar.

After we tried several ways to calculate the height of the pillar, we proceeded back into the tutorial room. We reflected on the several ways we had tried to see which way made most sense.

I realised later on, how cleverly Dr Yeap had presented us with an authentic performance task. As I reflected on the several ways we tried to measure the height of the pillar, I found out on hindsight that throughout the task, we were asking ourselves questions. We discussed ideas on how to measure the pillar and discussed to see if it was logical and feasible.

In some ways, we were already assessing ourselves when we discussed and bounced back ideas on the best possible way to measure the height of the pillar. I guess, that was what performance tasks aim to bring out.

There was no teaching done. We were simply presented with the task and given tools to help us. The ideas solely came from us with some scaffolding and guiding questions from Dr Yeap to set us thinking about different ways of measuring the height of the pillar. We worked with our prior knowledge and what we knew.

I truly enjoyed the lesson. It gave me an insight to how performance tasks are actually a form of assessment itself, even without any rubrics.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Initiatives in Assessment 1

First lesson on the initiatives in assessment.

The lesson started proper with the class discussing what assessment is and its purpose. The class got into a meaningful discussion on assessment, something all teachers are concerned about. As we discussed, I realised that assessment has gone through numerous facelifts from the time when I was student up till now, when I am a teacher myself.

Then, the purpose of assessment was mainly to confirm if a pupil has understood what he/she has learnt throughout the year. It was a test to see if a pupil is viable to be promoted to the next academic level in a primary school system. The way assessment is carried out has also changed. Then, it used to be all pen and paper tests.

However, assessment nowadays has definitely changed. We see a transformation of assessment from just being a tool for a pupil's promotion to assessment being a tool to check for understanding, a tool for feedback and milestone checks. We see a transformation from the traditional pen & paper tests to the more sophisticated way of using rubrics, portfolios and such.

No longer is it enough to just have the traditional pen & paper tests as a form of assessment. Since the purpose of assessment has changed, so has the modes of assessment.

Take for example, portfolio assessment, a tool which my school uses as a form of alternative assessment apart from the tradition pen & paper tests. I have seen how the use of portfolio assessment has largely contributed to a pupil's learning. Portfolio assessment has allowed for the pupils to learn a concept or topic in more depth as compared to when the teacher is just teaching from the textbook. In addition to that, portfolio assessment has allowed for pupils to improve and edit their work before it is being submitted as a final product. The teacher's feedback then comes in handy and useful to the pupil.

The move from the traditional mode of assessment to the more sophisticated ones we have these days play a large part in a child's sense of achievement over his own learning. Pupils are then more motivated to learn and study. In this case, assessment plays a crucial and essential part in a child's learning.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Initiatives in Teaching & Learning 2

Last night's lesson was the second lesson on initiatives in teaching and learning.

Dr Yeap brought us through several hands-on activities namely problem-solving questions on tiles and circles. We were first given the opportunity to solve the problem before the class went on to discussin the problem itself.

The focus of the lesson was not the problems itself, rather it was the intent of the problems. As we discussed the problems, I found out that the intention for the problems was not the solution but the idea behind getting to that solution.

If the problem was presented to a pupil, the teacher would then be trying to get the pupil to actually practice metacognition, logical reasoning, looking for patterns and making generalisations, all of which are actually aspects of the Mathematics Curriculum Framework.

What was even more important was the fact that Dr Yeap allowed us to work with concrete materials first. He also asked questions and made us think deeper about the problem at hand. After understanding the question then did we move on to the abstract idea of solving the problem. Throughout the discussion, we asked questions and talked to our group members, hence practising logical reasoning and making generalisations.

Dr Yeap somehow managed to show and model to us how scaffolding in a lesson is very important. It is important how one crucial scaffolding question can actually allow the pupils to think deeper about the problem at hand and continue to ask questions. When pupils ask questions, they are actually learning by inquiry, thus practicing metacognition on their part.

As such, I find that it is not only important for teachers to help pupils understand a certain concept or topic. I think what's as important is for teachers to allow pupils to be responsible for their own learning, in that we allow for pupils to think for themselves. As a teacher, what I can do is to facilitate their learning and to guide them to the right path as and when they make a mistake. However, there should always be room left for the pupils to reach that correct answer or conclusion on their own.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Initiatives in Teaching & Learning 1

It was the first lesson after such a long break. Not that we had much of a long break since the coursemates & I were busy putting together our first group assignment for submission. Thank god, that's finally done. :)

For today's lesson, Dr Yeap took us through different activities that we can use with pupils. But what is distinct about all the activities was how non-threatening and enjoyable it was. Even I had fun playing those activities with the group members. The non-threatening is essential especially for pupils who may not be as quick as their peers. The fact that the concept of multiplication or addition is integrated and designed into a fun activity takes off the pressure from the pupils. After all, it is just a game or an activity for them to enjoy.

Allowing pupils to enjoy that sense of achievement and pleasure from doing an activity will eventually help in encouraging the pupils to want to learn more. Hence, pupils are not put off by the idea of learning a concept simply because they do not enjoy it and were not able to learn and understand it properly.

In the end, it all boils down to how each pupil learn differently. As such, the initiatives (TLLM, PETALS) that have been implemented in the education system have gone a long way to help change the tone and settings of how a classroom lesson is conducted.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Final Round - Episode 1

This is the final week before we have to submit our group assignment.


Anyway, here's what has happened since my last entry. Reading through the first round of readings with all the information was tough. I not only had to read and understand what all the initiatives were about, I also had to make sure that I was able to explain it to my group members and present it in a way that would make it easy for them to understand.

Our group emailed each other our summaries of the initiatives we were assigned to. While Bobo, Yueh Yueh, Lydia and I stuck to safe Microsoft Word, Joe impressed us with his colourful mind-map. :D That was another round of reading but thank goodness, the summaries we much easier to understand and digest.

From there, we planned to meet on a Saturday to finally put together our electronic package, at least the skeleton. However, things don't always go as you planned. I was down with fever, flu & cough... the works. So only Bobo and Yueh Yuan met up as planned. Thanks to those two, the group finally had a skeleton of our electronic package. Or so we thought....

We met again on Friday, 1st October, much thanks to the Children's Day school holiday. I think I literally used up all of my brain juices on that day itself. With the skeleton of the electronic package suggested by Bobo & Yueh Yuen, we sat down to look at the feasibility of it.

We talked and talked. We pondered and debated. We laughed and joked. We sighed and groaned in frustration.

We came up with Version 2 of the sekelton for our electronic package!

Through all the discussion sessions I've had with the group members, I've always realised how we never fail to discover a new perspective/idea. It's like the more we discussed and talked about it, the more we seem to uncover.

It may seem like my group had long hours of discussion even this close to the submission of the assignment. But, I think that's something good. Whenever one of use were not convinced or in doubt of something, we asked questions, debated and discussed. At the end of the day, though we literally used up our brain cells, it was still a meaningful and fruitful discussion.

For now, the electronic package is on its way to being complete. What's left is another round of vetting and then, off to submission it goes. Hope everything goes well.

Final Round - Episode 2 coming up!

Monday, 20 September 2010

So far so good...

It's the second week of the e-learning period and I'm glad to say that my group has made substantial progress in our group assignment.

Here's what we did so far.

After forming our groups and getting to know who's who, we went back to do our own online search on the different initiatives that have been implemented with regards to the curriculum, particularly pertaining to Maths. After getting a clearer picture of what's out there, we planned on a face-to-face group discussion last week.

During our meeting, we discussed about the several initiatives that we have read up on. We made a list of all the initiatives that had been implemented and put a timeline to it. With that in hand, it really enabled us to see a clearer picture.

Due to time constraints, we could only manage a short discussion. But, we did decide to meet online via MSN to continue our group discussion. During our MSN conversation, my group then proceeded to delegating the work. Each of us took 2-3 initiatives to focus on. Our task was to read up as much as possible on a particular initiative and then, write a summary/overview based on several guiding questions.

The guiding questions were:

  1. When was the initiative implemented?
  2. What is the initiative about?
  3. Purpose of the initiative
  4. Impact on teaching & learning (Maths)

I found that the guiding questions really helped me sieve out the important pieces of information. So the learning has been really meaningful thus far.

Right after I've posted this entry, I am going to email my group members my summary. That's how we decided to share the pieces of information we have read up on.

On that note, I think my group members and I have to thank technology a great lot. :)

If not for the ease of technology, researching and reading up on the initiatives would have been difficult. If not for technology, we would not have found an easier and more convenient way of having a group discussion.

So thank you technology!