5. Using the materials in your own teaching
Modelling good practice
By adopting active and participatory strategies in the classroom, teachers and pre-service teachers are being asked to teach in a way that is very different from the way in which they were taught. It is very important therefore, that teacher educators model the practices being promoted so that pre-service teachers experience a student-centred approach in their education as a teacher. Likewise, if experienced teachers are attending an in-service training course on student-centred approaches, they should not be asked to sit and listen to a long lecture. The training will be much more effective if the techniques are modelled by teacher educators.
In Uganda, a group of young teacher educators attended a course which introduced the TESSA teaching lower secondary science materials. Elijah found it inspiring. The next day, he had to teach ‘food webs’ to a group of pre-service secondary teachers. There was no TESSA unit that covered food webs, but in the workshop he had looked at a unit which involved taking students outside the classroom. Instead of delivering a lecture on food webs and how to teach it, having very briefly introduced the idea of “food web” he took his class into the university grounds, where he knew there was a pond. He gave them ten minutes to observe carefully and to write down all the creatures they could see. Then he asked them to join together in pairs and compare their lists. Finally he asked them to work in groups of 4 to compile a food web for the pond. The students became very animated and were amazed at how many creatures they observed. Back inside, each group made a poster of the food web on flip chart paper. The posters were displayed in the wall. Elijah organised a class discussion to agree some marking criteria, and then they worked in groups to mark the posters and give feedback. Finally each group was given the chance to improve their own poster in the light of what they had learnt from looking at the others.
By taking part in the exercise, they learnt about food webs, but they also experienced an approach to teaching it, that they would be able to use with their own classes on teaching practice.
Strategies to model student-centred teaching
Student-centred teaching can be modelled by:
- always using individual names and taking an interest in learner-teachers as people.
- asking open-ended questions and asking teachers to discuss the answers in pairs or groups.
- asking teachers to work in groups to solve problems so that those with weaker subject knowledge have the opportunity to learn from others.
- giving teachers choices of tasks to complete so that they take responsibility for their own learning.
- asking teachers to evaluate their own work, particularly when under-taking teaching or micro-teaching.
- pausing in the middle of a lecture (even if you have 300 students in the room) and asking them to discuss a question or a point with the person next to them.
- using peer assessment, so teachers can see how other people have tackled the same task, and are reminded what it feels like to receive feedback.
In Tanzania, Joseph, a lecturer in Biology education was teaching a group of pre-service teachers. He was teaching lesson planning. They were using a text book ‘How to teach Biology in the secondary school’. In the text there were some descriptions of typical lessons. Joseph divided his group of 52 students into groups of 4. Each group took one of the descriptions and had to suggest five ways in which the lesson could have been made more student-centred. They used the TESSA units from their subject to develop their ideas. He then asked one group to feedback their five suggestions and wrote them on the board. He went round the other groups asking them to contribute something that had not already been said. (By the time he got to the last few groups they did not have anything else to add and Joseph resolved to make sure he started on that side of the room next time he did something like this.) For their next assignment, Joseph asked the pre-service teachers to plan a lesson to teach a topic of their choice. The results were excellent and the plans that they produced were more creative and imaginative than in previous years.
Joseph realised that by having the chance to discuss their ideas in a group, his students had thought of many more ideas than they would have done on their own.