Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kranji Secondary School

Kranji Secondary School is one of Ministry of Education Partner Schools on implementing the 21st Century Competencies initiative. Together with Dunman Secondary School, they are helping teachers develop the knowledge necessary for such transformational learning. Both schools are in Marshall Cavendish Institute's newly-crafted programme that combines workshop-style learning (familiar to Singapore teachers) with authentic setting professional learning (fairly new in Singapore). If we want teachers to be facilitators, they themselves should be familiar with this style of learning. Most of us, as students, would have rare opportunities to learn with teachers who are facilitators. I am glad these schools have sort of feel that lesson study - where teachers learn through facilitation - should be blended with workshop-style professional learning.

The research theme, or learning goal, for the teachers is to develop confident learners with high achievement. The first meeting in which teachers studied two lesson plans in English Language and Mathematics for Secondary 2 written by their colleagues.

The goal is to prepare teachers to be able to have an image of desired behaviours in such classrooms. What do I hope teachers gained from the session? I hope they re-think about what is commonly practised now and how we can enhance student learning. We spoke about the use of an anchor task to get to deep thinking- too may little tasks tend to get students to be engaged at superficial levels. We spoke about teaching at metacognitive level as opposed to at cognitive level - teach to make good thinking a habit.

The English lesson is on persuasive language and the mathematics lesson is on linear graphs.

Students will learn to identify use of language in different ways as they explore videos of advertisements. Students should learn how advertisement persuade us by playing on our emotions, how it prey on our beliefs and how it appeal to our logic. The plan calls for using numbered heads. I wonder if thinking routines can be used in a more substantial way.

In mathematics, students learn to see how the coefficient of x and the constant affect the appearance of the graphs. Students explore the graphs of different linear functions on a software. The plan did not explicitly identify a thinking routine. I wonder if see-think-wonder can be used here and regularly in other mathematics lesson.

Both lessons have great potential - one main task, collaboration, tehnology. I wondered aloud if the teachers may unwittingly introduced 'contaminants' by planning or doing too much in a way that students will be distracting from deep thinking and busy themselves completing what is expected. Both lessons have one main tasks, but I have seen too many such great plans fell through because we are not aware the need to keep the task lean so that students can get to the depths of thinking about the core goal (persuasive language elements, two main factors influencing a linear function).

I also wondered aloud if both lessons have been planned and later will be delivered with the main aim of having students develop enduring qualities i.e.. those beyond content.

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