Reflection and Achievements

Based on the student reflection journals from one school, students most appreciated how their ideas were valued in the classroom in answering the questions (principles #2, 5, & 6 above). Among the many learning activities they were engaged in the geography classroom, they mentioned Jello activity (adopted from one of Workshop 4 activities) and Voyage to the Age of Dinosaurs (VAD) game (principle # 3). Below are few excerpts from their journals (grammar not corrected):

“The thing I like about geo lesson are the thinking questions. They enable us to learn things that one beyond our textbook. …(we) discuss them on our own and come up with a final answer to present to the class. It also allows us to bond better. During lessons, everyone gets a chance to speak too.”

“What I like about geo lessons is that we can express our opinions and suggestions freely…whenever someone shares, we cheer and claps and this make the class more active. Unlike other lessons, geo is more interesting because we can have hands on session…”

“About the lesson, two of the activities I enjoyed-Jello experiment and Dr. Kong Long (VAD game). I didn’t understand the Jello experiment at first. But after the guidance of the teachers I slowly understood. I thought that it was a very inspirational. Everyone enjoyed the dinosaur game taught me and Joshua (pseudonym) about directions and no doubt it was fun.”

“We are lucky because we have VAD lessons. We learnt about compass bearings and interpreting map by playing the game. We also learn many skills such as navigating the way out when we are lost in the forest, measure the length of a map and much more.”

“I hope there were more VAD lessons as they are very interesting and enjoyable. In conclusion, I would say that this two terms of geography were great”

The enactment was exploratory and focused on the changing the culture of the classroom working closely with the teachers for every lesson. CHS is a boys’ school with all in express level. Our participating teacher was teaching two secondary 1 classes, one of which we focused on enacting the redesigned curriculum. The particular class was categorized as a mixed ability group by the school. Her other class was at a comparable level, so we look at their final exam and compared the results: the participating class’s passing rate was 100% with 53% of A grades, whereas the other class had 97.3% of passing students with 51% of A grades. There was no significant difference in terms of the scores between these classes; nonetheless, the results indicate that students can have an engaging and meaningful learning experience without compromising their high stakes exams. Considering that teachers and parents are often concerned about adversarial effects on students’ learning when adopting innovations in the classroom, this is an important finding for our project.

XSS’ enactment started in July 2010 with one of their two secondary 1 Normal Academic classes. The second semester was shorter than the first semester of the year, so we worked with the XSS’ teacher to modify the lessons. The compression of the curriculum, the co-ed character of the students, and the different learning culture all affected the classroom dynamics. As the observers of the class after having been CHS, we found the XSS class much noisier and students looked as if not concentrating. However, students perceived themselves and their experience differently. Below are few excerpts from their reflections:

“During other lesson i felt that the time pass very slow but during geography i felt the time pass very fast.”

“In class, i behave more wildly. But in Geog lesson, i behave the way i should as a student. It's not because the teacher is my madam but it's the way she teaches, seriously there's a great difference in her teaching & other teacher.”

The results of the semestral exam showed that the students in the class that received our intervention out-performed the classes that did not (this school has two classes of Normal Academic stream). The participating class’s passing rate was 73.2% with 24% of A grades, whereas the other class had 50% of passing students with 7% of A grades. According to the teacher, students are assigned to these two NA classes randomly when they enter the school. Unlike many educators’ perceptions (based on multiple personal communications) that NA students need to be told what exactly they need to study and to have more drill-and-practice method, these students may need more emotional bond to what and how they learn.