Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Learning From Peers: Observing Classes this Academic Year

Class observations are a regular practice in the Academy. In my six years of stay here, I have visited classrooms of my co-teachers and colleagues and have seen them teach in action. Here is a blog post from 2014 where I write about insights I gained from a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class I observed back then. 

This academic year, I have been to three classrooms and have been invited by the Business Management (BM) teacher in a class presentation of case studies. I have seen a variety of instructional strategies that my co-teachers employ as well as responses from their students.

I enjoyed listening to students' discussion during an English class. How the teacher gave them confidence to tackle and talk about issues that affected themselves and the world in general. Ursula Le Guin has good stories and essays to bring this out from students, but it is the English teacher's trust on her students that amazed me. The material was chosen well; the instructions to read the material was given ahead of time, with pointers on literary elements for students to pay particular attention to; and students were taught how to take notes at the beginning of the term. So, at Harkness Table, the discussion was very rich. Hope for this country floats!

In Economics, students work in groups accessing and selecting sources for their commentary. This is a senior class and I was glad to see the independence of the students at work. What impressed me more was the way a group helped a classmate who appeared to be lagging behind with the required work for the period. It was like a study group where students learn from each other. All the while, the Econ teacher supervised by observing class dynamics, lending consultations when student asked for it, and managing the time with the objectives in mind.

In the BM class, the seniors presented their case studies. There were revisions to be made, especially in the investigation of the case studies. Nonetheless, students came prepared with their presentations, dressed like young professionals ready for the world.

Looking back at these experiences, I realize how teachers in the high school and senior high school levels assume the role of coaches, counselors and mentors. It is in the design of teaching and learning experiences that makes a lot of difference. They appear to be having a ball but, really, the role is not an easy one to play. Knowing their students and where to bring them to is another factor for meaningful instruction and teaching practice. Being adept at teaching one's subject matter is one thing, but understanding the context and the learning conditions of learners is another.

Lastly, I realized how important feedback can be for students starting out in the IB Program. When I sat in the class of the Design teacher, she had all her reflection question ready for the students to think through. Her class, bright eyed and ready wrote on their worksheets. The writing activity helped students assess their progress in a month long project that prepared them for more challenging tasks in the coming year. Their reflections were helpful in facilitating feedback where the teacher assumed the role of a mentor guiding them through the entire process. Indeed, the students came out of the class with choices and possibilities to mull over on future academic endeavors.

Such observations and insights provide me with information I can use to improve the design of the library's programs and services. My co-teachers are designing learning environments with the students at the forefront of their instructional design. This approach has a lot to tell me about the behavior and attitude of teachers and students towards the use of information and media. Definitely, like our students learning from each other, teachers are also learning from peers.

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