Monday, October 03, 2011

Understanding Teaching Methodology

Traditional learning (1000+ years ago)
Meta-Orientation:  Transmission
Curriculum: Product
Student: Receive info
Teacher: Found of knowledge (full control)
Language: Structures
Assessment: Scientific

I went to one of the most straight-laced, academic, Government-subsidized high schools in Singapore, so the traditionalist’s way of rote learning was all I had ever known. Back in the mid 80s, one’s learning was measured by what output you could regurgitate during the formidable Cambridge U.K. ‘O’-level exams when you were 16 years old. Every teacher would stand before a class of 40 to deliver instruction so to ensure our best chances to get distinctions was to learn how to write exams. It worked for many as my alma mater has kept its reputation for having the highest numbers of alumni who are CEOs, ministers, scientists, engineers and doctors today. This has been a great disservice for I had not learned for learning’s sake but for the elusive grades I hoped would direct my career path. I believe this style will serve those better in Science and Math (much less leeway for creative thinking) than Arts, which was what I had chosen. 

Learner-driven (Present)
Meta-Orientation: Transaction
Curriculum: Process
Student: Choses info
Teacher: Facilitator
Language: Negotiated
Assessment: Performance

            My son is 16 years old and now goes to a private Christian High School. The way his school conducts lessons is certainly more learner-driven than anything I had been exposed to. There is more room for dialogue and for negotiating course projects. I’ve also had the privilege of staying closer in contact with the teachers as well as keeping abreast of his curriculum, performance and problematic areas.  My son has been blessed with wonderful musical talents, playing several instruments and having an ear for music notation, editing and producing. His strong leanings towards both Design Arts and Music production would most definitely be stymied under the old, traditional regime. He chose to take more Media-arts classes this year in Grade 11 which I believe will help chart a course he’s willing and more prepared to follow.

Critical (Present implementation in some Universities) 
Meta-Orientation: Transformation
Curriculum: Praxis (Affecting the world)
Student: Apply info
Teacher: Guide (Interpreter)
Language: Power (gives student power to transform)
Assessment: Portfolios (see visible changes)

            Of all three meta-orientations, my favourite has to be the critical approach. I find this most relevant in my role as mum to my son. Having been widowed for 14 years, my role as single parent is only rewarding now when I play ‘coach’ (instead of teacher) in his phase of seeking self-identity and purpose in life. We have experienced a great deal of disagreements, conflicts in our interpretations of issues and heated debates over countless numbers of topics the past 2 years. We may exert our differences with the strongest statements if only to do so kindly. I have found that the best way empower him is to relinquish my prior control/ influence over his personal choices so that he takes the full responsibility of his decision. Nothing is more wrestle-worthy than seeing my personal convictions and deep transformations whether it be by my active sharing or my passive showing. With this approach, the biggest advantage is both student and teacher benefits mutually from seeing each other’s inward process of challenge and outward product of change.

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