It was the last day of my internship to become a primary school teacher. I had 13 students. Exactly half that day. I was doing a maths exercise and completely changed what I wanted to do that day because I had a lot less students that day. We bought out the coloured blocks and were doing simple two and three times tables. A student turned to me and says “Miss Wheatley! I finally get this!”. I already knew for about the last four years, the ways we teach is not the way we should be teaching. No matter how much we studied and the words “collaborative” and “play-based” came up, we never got the opportunity to. Why?
At this stage, I’d already decided that I was going to enjoy my internship just teaching, having fun and watching the students progressing as I’d already knew I wasn’t going to be a teacher. It was also the time that the Australia Curriculum (known as C2C) came into place. The expectations of what the students were meant to do in a 40 minute lesson was beyond what I could achieve and what my students could achieve. My question to the world is with all these resources, why is it so hard to change our teaching styles to not include, collaborative, inquiry-based learning?
Is it we’re more use to the old lecture style of teaching?
Is it because we can’t learn to let go?
Forward on three and a half years and I’m teaching kindergarten in Korea. I had a couple of games that I played with my Korean students. For some reason, whether it was the dynamic of the group or just my different feelings on the day, it was never the same game to finish off the lesson as it was with the other class in the same age group. The first time I tried a “guess the letter and word” worked well. The game was for me to write on the board and skip the vowels with sight words. For example “and” would read as “_nd” and the kids would guess the letter and say the word. It was a huge success. I saw kids that were the quietest, considered troublemakers and saw my boss’s daughter who was well behind her peers interacting and participating. I was so proud of them. It was the class that was considered to have no pressure from parents and wasn’t as good as the other class. The encouragement that the students gave each other, built on what each one was saying and making connections with what I’d been teaching them the last 7 months worked.
These are two examples that I actually felt proud, where I could see my students were enjoying what they were doing and demonstrated what was considered a measurable outcome (you can’t avoid that you’re teaching to a test or working on a book to send home to needy parents in Korea). While I have a couple of lessons that I thought was truly successful, the questions I have to ask myself, what did they learn? How did they learn? Did they enjoy the learning? What could I have done better?
While all these kids were taught using a variety of methods (one day with me is never the same as the day before), collaborative was never a method I tried using. During topic 3, I thought about when was I exposed to it in my education? Certainly not in my online Master’s course, where I go to the area I need for that week, read lots and try and remember how it relates to my assignment in the middle and end. In my on- campus Bachelor of Education, not really. We had a couple of group projects, a final research project which was where we all had to do the work together was possibly the most collaborative of the lot. And then take me all the way back to high school – it was a paddle pop bridge project in Year 9 because it was the last week of school was a semi group/collaborative project.
In my personal experience, I haven’t had a chance to work collaboratively, so why would my students? While I’m no longer teaching, I could think of about ten different ways that I could’ve taught differently to ensure that my students learnt how to work together, listen to each other, turn taking and creating a project together. When teaching adults you make the assumption that they already know all those things. Maybe they don’t. Being the facilitator and supporting them through the process is essential to any learning activity.
Clifford, M. (2012). Facilitating collaborative learning: 20 things you need to know from the pros. Retrieved from here.