CTBC International Academy Newsletter_Week 16

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Semester Wrap-up Begins at CIA

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for teachers and students alike at CIA. Students must fulfill their duties and begin reviewing the semesters coursework while teachers are busy creating final exams and trying to sneak in the last tidbits of coursework. Due to our unique policies here at CIA, final exams are optional and differentiated approaches to assessment are encouraged. For example, in Daniel’s World History class, students must research a country and give a presentation to the class in place of a final exam. In this scenario, students are learning from other students in a peer-driven assessment. Conversely, in a traditional final exam scenario, students must spend a lot of time trying to memorize a broad range of material. If left too late, this can lead to errors, misunderstandings and perhaps poor test results. In a student-centred assessment, the student has the advantage of learning a concept at its very core; what one must do if they are required to teach it to a group of their peers. In this way, students are forming more meaningful connections to the material, and consequently forming a deeper level of understanding.

Student-centred learning can take many forms, but most commonly it can be witnessed as the students taking the role as a teacher. A student centred classroom needs to be very structured and regulated; so a very knowledgeable and suitable teacher is required. The teacher needs to have the learning goals and outcomes carefully planned. The teacher also needs to deliver the instructions and requirements very clearly so the students have a concrete idea about what it is they are asked to do. Obviously, the teacher should always leave some room for uniqueness, and allow students to take their ideas within the realm of the requirements, but not be too rigid to squash any creative thinking. Another important tool for teachers in a student centered classroom are very specific rubrics. A rubric is a scale that details the score a student could achieve based on the performance of the task. The teacher must lay these parameters out meticulously beforehand so the students understand what is required in order to achieve the mark they strive to.

Most importantly, a teacher in the student centred classroom needs to learn to adapt quickly and let the flow of learning take over. Plans will be broken, concepts will be put aside, and the dialogue will be rife with teachable moments (a teachable moment are those instances where a teacher needs to change the topic from what they were discussing in order to address a big idea or life lesson). It is inevitable things will change when you leave a lesson in the hands of your students. In Jeff’s Algebra 2 class, they have been experimenting a lot when it comes to exams.

This semester, Jeff has allowed the students to make their own exam. That is not a typo… Students making their own exams seems to defeat the purpose of exams doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. Traditionally, exams are the staple of assessment, yet they typically can make or break a student’s performance. And since they are a traditional tool for teachers to assess students, they too should be questioned, adapted and experimented with. By placing students in charge of how they will be tested, you can control their level of engagement with the material.

Students who were allowed to make their own questions for an exam will carefully spend time choosing certain questions. Not only do they choose carefully, they also will discuss and strategize with their peers. After they choose the questions, they must provide detailed solutions to the exam questions as well. So, in the end, the students learned how to dissect example problems, decide which ones are more suitable with their peers, and as a group, come up with detailed solutions to the problems. I couldn’t think of a more student-centred activity! Last of all, the students had a lot of fun, and felt pride knowing that the teacher had confidence in them to complete a seemingly difficult task. What’s more, they were rewarded nicely; each student obtained a mark over 80%. Activities like these will soon become the norm in the coming school semester.

Sean, Howard and Jimmy put their creativity to the test while they make animal cells out of clay and styrofoam

Emma and Joanne prepare for a trial in a Newton’s Laws physics experiment

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