Monday, October 11, 2010

Lessons Demo (CIDTT): Learning points and alternative pedagogies

'Twas a good session with the CIDTT participants performing their mock lessons. Virtually everyone was comfortable with groupwork, multi-media and the overall trajectory of 'active learning' prized by Cambridge.

Tek Hwa started and presented some tear-jerking stories and videos which showed the importance (and complexity) of proper communication.

Alternative pedagogy: Elicit contributions from participants themselves even when presenting theoretical components. Each time participants provide input by themselves, they learn more.

Maryam then weaved her lesson around the history and phenomenon of Facebook, using it to teach English concepts and words. The lesson demonstrated a creative use of gaming and group discussions, all of which were structured around one core theme.

Alternative pedagogy: The time constraints notwithstanding, perhaps a quick de-briefing explaining to the participants (or getting them to reflect on) the key learning objectives may be a helpful addition. The active learning was tremendous; all the more reason to include a few minutes to 'pull' everything together.

Niloufar then raised everybody's (especially the guys') body temperature with her videos of belly-dancing, outlining the history, styles and techniques of the craft. The dazzling props and group dance (or 'dance')demo added to the necessary levels of wonder and fun to the lesson.

Alternative pedagogy: For an introductory class, it would've been nice to have a brief 'test' on the names of the instruments or rhythms or dancers. This would be a good supplement to the practical hip-shaking.

Azhar demonstrated the use and misuse of logic, his set induction seeking to get the class to recall their own preconceptions about, of all things, his earlier lateness in arriving. He also got the participants to work first on identifying the nature of certain fallacies.

Alternative pedagogies: With a subject like logic, finding myriad of everyday examples should be relatively easy. As such, perhaps the use of the latest news and commentaries on local events (e.g. the words of actual politicians) could spark even greater interest in the topic.
Nicole's Primary School Maths lesson on shapes was livened up by the participants being asked to physically measure objects in the classroom (something I can't recall my teachers ever asking us to do when i was younger). The groupwork and practical element surely more than reinforced the learning objective of measuring perimeters.

Ada's lesson proved that multi-media content can heavily influence any lesson. Her video depicting animated Chinese characters in a dramatic scenery went a long way towards anchoring the characters in participants' minds. Her use of flashcards was also a good simple device to aid recall.

Alternative pedagogies: Perhaps at the start, a short test could be done which chalenged participants to map figures of real-life items to the correct word, thereby igniting their sense of the connections between the two. Also, getting participants actually write out the characters would've been invaluable.

Sin Yee's "market-trading" activity, whilst surely very appropriate for a Negotiation class, was nevertheless fun and helpful in getting linguistic students to learn new words regarding antiques. The concept was about getting participants to learn through the process of engaging in an everyday transaction, in this case buying and selling.

Alternative pedagogies: One simple way of 'forcing' students to take learning-oriented steps is to, say, make it a rule that communication must happen with given words written on the board i.e. participants conducting their trading MUST use certain words (e.g. worth, antique, cost, sell, etc.). This could help a group of English learners 'internalise' the words in question.

Wee then got the participants dancing to music which contained all the words of the lesson itself (e.g. shoulders, head, toes, nose, knees, etc.). One could argue there's almost no better way for children to learn the parts of the body!

Alternative pedagogies: As the participats weren't really children, it was probably not necessary to get participants to write-out the names of the body-parts on sheets of paper. I suspect, though, that a full lesson would've included that and more.

Catherine then continued with the English lesson by playing a game where participants had to find objects skilfully hidden within a picture.

Alternative pedagogies: It's always ideal if the activity was itself inherent to the learning objective i.e. what the students do is more or less similar to what must be learnt. Thus, if the goal was to learn about what a banana or spider was then perhaps a game which challenged participants to list out, say, the key characteristics of fruits or insects would help.

Huey Shee ended the day with an imaginative exercise, requiring participants to close their eyes and visualise their problems being blown away and exploding with balloons.

Alternative pedadogies: Learning about visual imagination is a cutting-edge phenomenon and thus could be supplemented with music or beautiful pictures to first make the point about the capacity of our minds to impact our emotions.