By Ms Tan Leng Tuan, Assistant News Editor, Lianhe Zaobao
Published on Lianhe Zaobao on 30 July 2014
Picture Caption: Raffles Girls’ School Chemistry Assistant Head, Ms Ng Zhao Yue shared her teaching practices to external educators who attended her Chemistry classroom demonstration.
Photographer: 严宣融 Charlyne Ngian
The classroom has always been a part of every teacher’s life, i.e. to implement teaching pedagogies and to actively engage students in various subjects — all these usually happen in the classroom. On 25 July Friday, Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) was among the first to break with tradition of a conventional symposium, as it opened its classrooms for teachers from other schools to observe RGS teachers and students in action. Through the Open Classroom experience, the school has hoped to nurture professional discourse within the educational fraternity through a sharing of effective pedagogical practices and peer observation.
This unique form of sharing was one of the highlights of the inaugural RGS PeRL Symposium 2014, organized by RGS Centre of Pedagogical Research and Learning (PeRL). There were two segments in the symposium. The first segment was the Open Classrooms segment, which took place in the morning. In this segment, interested participants visited different classrooms to have an authentic experience of observing different teaching ideas in practice by RGS teachers. In the afternoon, the participants attended keynote address by Professor Lee Wing On, Dean of Research Education at the National Institute of Education and also concurrent sessions on effective pedagogical practices. The symposium was well received, attracting more than 300 teachers from various primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and other institutions.
Mrs Mary George Cheriyan, the Director of the RGS Centre of Pedagogical Research and Learning (PeRL), has shared during the interview that the Centre was set up in 2010 under the direction of the school’s former principal, Mrs Julie Hoo. Other than enhancing the teachers with powerful pedagogies that have a firm research base, the other important goal of the centre is to share research findings and evidence-backed best practices through various platforms in order to contribute to a vibrant Asian discourse on educational trends and pedagogy practices.
Mrs Cheriyan explained that while western models and principles of Gifted Education have been well adapted to the schools, the context in which one learns also influences ones’ actual learning experiences and attitudes. Hence, there is a need to review their effectiveness and implementation within the realities of the cultural context. RGS PeRL, therefore, aims to provide a localized context to the implementation of teaching pedagogies and an indigenized paradigm towards educational research.
Mrs Cheriyan also clarified that, “the reason why we conducted the “Open Classroom Visits” was not because we felt that our education model was the best, but because we wanted to challenge the traditional mentality that ‘the classroom only belongs to the teacher teaching it’. We believed that the teachers’ professionalism could be enhanced through a sharing of pedagogical practices, peer observations and professional discussions. This was why we opened our classrooms for teachers from other schools to visit.”
More than 15 RGS teachers of various disciplines opened their classrooms last Friday (25 July) to welcome teachers from other schools to observe their lessons in action.
The RGS teachers conducting the Open Classroom Visits have demonstrated various teaching strategies such as Inductive Thinking, Concept-mapping, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infused lessons, Critical Thinking, Role Play and Group Discussion.
Ms Ng Zhao Yue, RGS Chemistry Assistant Head, was one of the teachers conducting the Open Classroom segment. She said, “When my lesson ended, quite a few external educators came forward to interact with me and we discussed about the things to note during teaching as well as our challenges faced. Such professional discussion was really beneficial to me.”
As different schools have different students’ profile and different teaching focus, some teachers might feel that the pedagogies shared and the RGS curriculum might not be applicable to their context. However, Mr Bryden Chew, RGS Social Studies Assistant Head, pointed out that there were bound to be limitations in every school. Hence he felt that it is necessary to have a paradigm shift in the teachers’ belief system in order to generate pedagogical innovations.
Mr Christopher Ow, a Philosophy teacher from Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) was one of the participants of the Open Classroom Segment. He said, “Compared to RGS, MGS just embarked on the Integrated Programme last year, hence we still have a lot to learn from them. Open Classroom segment was rather beneficial to my teaching practice because I could learnt some practical tips on the implementation of teaching strategies in an authentic classroom setting.”
*Note: This is a translated article