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Posts Tagged ‘expectations

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Earlier this week, I stayed back after a Zoom-based lesson so that my students — pre- and in-service teachers — could ask questions or discuss ideas. 

The Q&A session lasted almost as long as our synchronous meeting (1.5h). Near the end of that session, I floated one idea for redesigning the next run of lessons.

My current design divided each 3h class into two parts: A 1.5h asynchronous and scaffolded-independent learning session followed by a 1.5h synchronous meeting. I was toying with the idea of switching to a 1h asynchronous and 2h synchronous design. My rationale: To provide more synchronous time for peer teaching and discussion.

The learners who stayed behind surprised me. They said that they would not mind doing the asynchronous work and follow that up with a full 3h synchronous meeting. 

I was against going beyond the 3h-per-lesson design. Why?

The syllabus is a contract and each class is supposed to last 3h. I am not ignoring the fact that there is much preparation and follow-up for each class for both my learners and me. But if I take liberties to extend class time, be it asynchronous preparation, synchronous interaction, or both, where does it end?

Keeping to agreed upon class durations is a discipline. It might have developed in conventional teaching, but it should also extend online particularly for synchronous sessions.

Extending lesson times beyond what is agreed upon upsets the work-life balance for pre- and in-service teachers. It establishes a wrong habit and expectation, i.e., teachers should just put their heads down and bear with it. This is like how teachers already sacrifice weekends to grade work and plan lessons.

I am also a firm believer that work expands to fit the time given. Within reasonable conditions, I can facilitate the learning of, say, three key practices, within either 1h or 3h. If I can do this in 1h, why do it in 3h?

Finally, I wish to model better expectations and lesson designs. One expectation is that learners need to be more independent and not rely on spoon-feeding or face time. This is why I set tasks to be attempted asynchronously. These tasks are designed to help learners identify knowledge gaps so they can fill them in when we meet synchronously. They must learn to invest in more independent study while managing their time-on-task.

My overall lesson design is particularly relevant to adult learners. This is even more important if the learners are teachers because teachers tend to teach the way they are taught. If they are not exposed to alternative ways of teaching, they will rely on uncritical or outdated approaches. I need to model other viable, relevant, and effective strategies.

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The central figure in the video above, Maxx, has dyslexia. According to the interview and video description he was “five weeks away from his final examinations when he experienced memory loss”.

He did not do well in the high-stakes exams and made his way into what many here would consider the lower rung of education. But you would be fooled into believing that given how articulate and confident is was.

I am confident he learnt not from schooling, but despite it. Schooling and the social pressures here typically emphasise academic excellence. Little, if anything, is said about character and mindsets. Why? Exams do not measure such things.

It should not take a learner who has dyslexia and memory loss to tell us that non-academic  processes and outcomes like perseverance are more important all the time.

Maxx also highlighted how his dyslexia did not hold him back. He considered that to be an essential part of him. He reminded me that we need to focus on enabling behaviours instead of disabling with labels.

That reminder is timely given how I will soon be facilitating modules on ICT for SPED. The next two videos give be pause for thought.

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The Lost Voice Guy has cerebral palsy which left him unable to speak. So he uses a speech synthesiser to talk. 

In his closing joke for the Britain’s Got Talent judges, he questioned the use of the “special” label, i.e., special needs, special school. I had a good laugh and it got me thinking about how use ridiculous labels.

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Francesca Martinez also has cerebral palsy and described herself as “wobbly” in this TEDx talk. In the comedy routine above, she said: “Who wants a normal life? I want an amazing life!”

The shift in SPED to focus on abilities instead of disabilities has started, but like most things in schooling and education, is moving at a glacial pace. We might learn from Maxx, the Lost Voice Guy, and Francesca how to break expectations. 

I do not expect to change everyone’s mind when I facilitate my modules. But I do expect to push and pull a few educators forward in the right direction. 

It is the day before I facilitate a new Masters course on technology for teaching and learning. I have prepared the minimum of slides so that I will do the minimum of lecturing.

My goal is to facilitate learning and I need to set and maintain that expectation. Here are just two of the less than ten slides I have.

Cooperating and peer teaching.

Walled garden.

Enough said?

I am certain these approaches will generate cognitive dissonance and discussion. These are vital ingredients in the pot of learning. I hope that my co-learners embrace cooking instead of simply consuming.

My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.

While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.

What MOE teachers will use in 2017...

It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.

The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.

I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.

The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.

We are in the middle of the teaching practicum period and I am reflecting on what some teacher educators refer to as the “theory-practice nexus”.

More specifically, I am reflecting on the expectations placed on new teachers and the time it actually takes to bridge the gap of where teachers are now and what is desired of them years down the road.

Any field of professional practice will likely struggle with theory-practice nexus. Preparation for jobs tend to be more theoretical, and while there are attempts to make the study period more realistic or contextual, it is still not the real thing. Much of the learning must continue on the job. It is not realistic to expect new graduates or hires to be completely ready.

I had two recent conversations that made me reflect on the seriousness of the gap between what teachers are ready to do and what they must do.

One conversation was with a visiting scholar from a well-established teacher education programme in the USA. She revealed how a particular curricular change took 10 years to formulate and get buy-in, and is only in the pilot phase of implementation now.

Teachers in that programme were trying to hit moving targets. Neither the ready-now and ready-later state were clear, so the teachers did know not where to stand much less walk.

Another conversation I had was with a senior teacher who told me that he was only now realizing what some of his NIE training was for. There was more than a decade of dormant theory waiting to be called to action.

So one is a problem of developing stable prescribed curriculum while the other is developing a mindset of career-long learning.

Both might have a common core problem: An over emphasis on preservice education and an underemphasis on subsequent professional development. The solution is to find a more logical balance.

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But that assumes that a stable curriculum is possible. It is not because we live in an age where information and knowledge is about as stable as rock on molten lava.

The deeper problem is an over reliance on experts and old methods of preparation. These do not necessarily promote the negotiation of meaning, the protracted process of learning, and the development of professional, independent, and reflective individuals.

For example, as much as we have evolved, we are still reliant on lectures and textbooks. These are built on the foundation that there is “expertise” and “stable information”. Today, there are exceptions to every rule. Tomorrow, there will be even more.

It is not enough to tell new teachers to learn what they can now and save it for later. We must develop in them the capacity and the desperation for them to want to learn more because they have not learnt enough.

They must expect this and they must behave professionally to get information to bridge the gaps they detect on their own. This could mean situations where they realize that current norms and assessment systems are lacking and that they must figure out alternatives that meet the needs of their learners.

First there was Generation X. Then there was Gen Y. Now there is Gen F for Facebook, of course. But is someone just making this stuff up? I don’t think so.

Gary Hamel of the Wall Street Journal suggested 12 traits of Gen F, who will “expect the social environment of work to reflect the social context of the Web.” That was in the context of work.

In the context of education, I’d say that such students will have different notions of expertise and different expectations of how or what they need to learn. Different from whom? Their teachers, especially if their teachers don’t wise up and learn how to engage them.

One of the differences that Hamel suggested is that “contribution counts for more than credentials.” Case in point? Singapore’s top Twitterer is a 15-year-old boy (he has a Facebook account, of course). He has more followers than Bono and they are from all over the world. They follow him not because of his age or despite his age. Age, his experience, and his qualifications are not important. The information, knowledge, and advice that he shares are.

Speaking of Facebook, here is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek look at it!


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