Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Initiatives in Teaching and Learning

I had yet another enjoyable session of learning about Initiatives in Teaching and Learning in class last night. Hardly surprising!

Again, Dr Yeap gave us an outline of what we were to do that evening in class using an autism-friendly chart. It looked like this:
o Tiles Problem
o Structure Problem
o Circle Problem
o Break
o Circle Problem (2)
o Area is 5 units
o Discussion

Recently, I have begun reading "House Rules" by Jodi Pocoult in which the protagonist is a boy with Asperger's Syndrome (a boy in my last year's class has that too!). My ears are quite attuned to the word 'autism'. However, given the amount of work now piling up each day, my progress in reading is snail-paced.

We started our lesson by affirming that a triangle of length 3cm is 9cm in perimeter. When 2 such triangles are placed side by side, their perimeter is 12cm. The question is how many triangles will generate a perimeter of 93cm?

I feel quite pleased with myself for coming out with an expression ~ 3 x (n+2), where n is the nth triangle ~ for the solution! Elegant, isn't it?

Thus, 29 triangles will give us 93cm as perimeter. {93 = 3 x (29+2)}

Things I have learnt:

1. TLLM - Teach Less, Learn More.

What is Teach Less, Learn More? How to teach less, and yet pupils learn more?

Teach Less, Learn More is about teaching better, to engage our learners and prepare them for life, rather than teaching more, for tests and examinations.
Remember why we teach
Reflect on what we teach
Reconsider how we teach

• TLLM aims to touch the hearts and engage the minds of our learners, to prepare them for life. It reaches into the core of education - why we teach, what we teach and how we teach.

• It is about shifting the focus from “quantity” to “quality” in education. “More quality” in terms of classroom interaction, opportunities for expression, the learning of life-long skills and the building of character through innovative and effective teaching approaches and strategies. “Less quantity” in terms of rote-learning, repetitive tests, and following prescribed answers and set formulae.
http://www3.moe.edu.sg/bluesky/tllm.htm

In other words, Dr Yeap reminded us the word 'less' must be correctly defined, and it certainly does not mean that pupils cannot do difficult stuff.

2. Metacognition

This includes ::
logical thinking
looking for patterns and generatlisation
looking for patterns that are intriguing

J. H. Flavell first used the word "metacognition". He describes it in these words:
Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.
—J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232).
3. Some characteristics of weaker pupils: they will be poor in::

> looking for patterns
> generalisation and making links
> visualisation
> number sense
> communication
> metacognition (cannot think well)

4. Zone of Proximal Development

Often abbreviated as ZPD, it is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept developed by Soviet psychologist and social constructivist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934).

Vygotsky stated that a child follows an adult's example and gradually develops the ability to do certain tasks without help or assistance. Vygotsky's often-quoted definition of zone of proximal development presents it as
the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers
Vygotsky among other educational professionals believes the role of education to be to provide children with experiences which are in their ZPD, thereby encouraging and advancing their individual learning.

So, the next time I think of 'closing the gap' and/or embark on strategies to 'close the gap', I'm effectively and affectively narrowing the ZPD of my pupils!

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