Darvesh Karim, AKU-IED/PDCN
With reference to my last article published on Pamir Times about “A practical model to enhance Community Involvement in Schools” which is one of the dimensions of school improvement initiatives framed by AKU-IED/PDCN through its flagship program Whole School Improvement Program (WSIP) in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan. This improvement model ensures progress in all the aspects of the schools to enhance students’ learning outcomes by focusing six dimensions i.e., Community Participation; Quality of Teaching and Learning; Leadership, Management and Administration; Curriculum Enrichment and Staff Development; Building, Accommodation and Resources; Social, Moral and Spiritual Development of Students and Health Education. The aforesaid article has already explained the dimension of ‘Community Participation’, while this article explains the Quality of Teaching and Learning in the following lines.
Improvement in quality of teaching and learning has always been the focus of whole school improvement model. Quality teaching is fundamental in the process of school improvement especially for students’ learning outcomes. It uses to be a major pillar of WSIP and during the intervention phase, it needs a major chunk of time to mould the teaching learning processes towards the desired curve. It is needed to give more time and value to improve quality of teaching and learning so that it could enhance students’ learning outcomes at present and in the years to come.
After a thorough academic audit, if a school has the following areas to improve, then it is strongly recommended to opt the suggested hereinafter activities to improve this dimension:
Keeping the above areas of improvements in mind, following ten activities and interventions are recommended to overcome the existing difficulties in school.
|Lesson Planning||Quiz Competitions|
|Vocabulary Development||Co-operative learning|
|Presentation/Communication Skills||Creative writing.|
A lesson plan uses to be a teacher’s detailed description of the course of instruction for an individual lesson. A daily lesson plan is developed by a teacher to guide his/her class instruction. The detail of the plan varies depending on the preference of the teacher and subject being covered. If teachers are assuming lesson plan as a formality not as an intellectual process or integral part of teaching and learning, then the academic leads may arrange an in-service training session, then frequently checking the lesson plans, and giving feedback may improve this situation.
A consistent classroom observation, special sessions for teachers, on the spot support in classes, face to face interactions with individual teachers and feedback, schools may achieve the objectives effectively. Following success indicators will be sufficient to verify the achievement of the set objectives:
- Each teacher prepares at least two lesson plans every day, while all the plans have been checked and feedback given by the Academic Lead (Principal, Section In charge, Academic coordinator etc.).
- Teachers are leading their classes in an orderly manner and finish lessons on time.
- Teachers design SMART objectives and specific activities.
- Teachers ask questions related to the objectives at the end and during the lesson.
- Teachers not only provide students low cost and no cost resources but also encourage students to prepare these resources and help them conceptualize their learning.
Reflection is the process of self-examination and self-evaluation that effective educators regularly engage in to improve their professional practices. Essentially, effective educators think carefully about what is taking place in each situation; identify the options available; consider their own values as professionals and their comfort level in acting on those values and finally make conscious choices about how to act to make a difference. In short, effective educators are reflective. They carefully examine their own and others’ practices to strengthen the quality and the effectiveness of their work.
Keeping the importance and significance of self-examination through reflective practices in education, the art of reflection to be taught and introduced to the teachers through a specially designed inhouse-session. Following should be the objectives in mind while introducing the reflective practices among teachers:
- Personal and professional growth of teachers.
- Improve the teaching and learning practice in school.
- Do right things and be able to justify actions.
- Be creative and innovative.
- Have better relationship with colleagues as well as with students.
- Enable teachers to analyse, discuss, evaluate, and change their practice
After the consistent observations, events, and providing opportunities to reflect on, teachers would be much developed which can be verified through observation as they can define reflection, what reflection is; can identify the purpose of reflection and discuss the importance of reflection for professional development; can discuss the steps involve in reflective process and guiding question for writing reflection. Likewise, teachers should maintain a reflective journal on daily bases to reflect on any critical incident happens in their daily life.
A school timetable is an essential document for coordinating four elements of the school: students, teachers, available classrooms, and the time slots/periods. With the consensus of school management and teachers, re-formulation of timetable by keeping a sharp eye to allocate subjects to teachers by their capacity and willingness. While formulating the timetable following objectives should be focused:
- Equal and relevant distribution of periods among teachers.
- Provision of sufficient time for students’ learning in classroom
Vocabulary development is the process whereby speakers of a specific language enhance their working vocabularies with new words. This can be improved by exposure to new language information through different strategies. Exposure through writing and competitions is especially effective, for it offers a greater context by which new words may become understood. To cater this need in school for teachers as well as for students, different strategies like a special session for teachers and spelling competitions for students can be initiated. Following objectives would be the targets to achieve, while initiating different strategies for vocabulary development:
- Develop Teachers’ vocabulary teaching techniques such as writing all contextual meanings, clues, inferring, definitions, antonyms, showing pictures etc.
- Improve students’ reading comprehension
After such interventions, it can be evidently observed that teachers write all contextual meanings of new words on the board, give clues, and allow students to guess the meanings, teachers share definitions, antonyms of new words, show pictures and share all possible connected words to the new words. Teachers give tasks to the students to develop vocabulary through suffixes and prefixes while students have developed the vocabulary to a greater level as teachers may conduct subject wise spelling competitions, which enable students to learn new words from their textbooks.
Effective presentation and communication is a process of transferring information from one individual to another. Communication is commonly defined as imparting or interchanging of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or discussion. In a school perspective it is very much essential to have a very clear plan to enhance the communication and presentation skills of teachers as well as students. For this purpose, a full involvement of all the teaching staff to participate in the weekly inhouse sessions is essential. Likewise, encourage teachers to involve students in their teaching and allow students to ask questions, group work then presentations and individual work presentation. While planning for this element of professional development following objectives should be kept in mind to achieve:
- Enable students to express knowledge confidently in their own words
- Describe any topic of their observation in simple sentences
- Ask and respond WH questions
- Improve students’ and teachers’ language fluency
This component of professional development should be effectively implemented in school by the teachers by their selves and by the students. The success in this element can be verified by observing that students confidently taking part in presentations and explain learning in-front of the class, students are fluent in asking questions and making arguments, students listen to questions and explain their understanding and teachers are also ready to respond and explain any topic.
Competitions and specially quiz competitions use to be a contest between individuals or groups. It arises whenever two or more parties strive to achieve a goal. Competition has been a major factor in education. On a global scale, national education systems, intending to bring out the best students out comes and encourage competitiveness among students. Competitions also make up a large proportion of extracurricular activities in which students participate.
If it is the situation in a school that students are provided less opportunities to ask questions in pairs/groups and for presentations, and there is a lack of productive discussions, debates and competitions on critical points or concepts, then it is obvious that students are lacking clarity in concepts and speaking skills. To overcome this issue, manage subject wise Quiz Competitions on regular basis. While formulating and initiating these activities following should be the focused objectives:
- To improve students’ content and general knowledge.
- To improve collective competitive environment at class and school levels.
- To improve grades.
At the end of an academic year with such initiatives, it can be confidently observed that all the set objectives are achieved and all the students as well as the teachers’ involvement in these activities are on peak. During such an intervention in a private school of Gilgit-Baltistan, a female teacher reflected that, “The competitions helped us and students to prepare for exam and most of the students attempted multiple choice questions and answered very easily. It was a great success in the exam this year”. These initiatives would enable schools to confidently say that students have the sound content and general knowledge of various concepts. School regularly arranges quiz competitions on subject and general knowledge basis, a healthy competitive environment has been created, students easily attempt multiple choice questions etc.
Reading skill is the ability of acquiring the basic skills necessary for learning to read; that is, the ability to acquire meaning from print. As it has been the most common problem of all the schools that language skills are not that much focused in schools. To overcome this issue and to improve the reading skill among students as well as teachers, allocating a weekly library period and providing different books may be fruitful. Students are asked to write/brief colleagues on the book they read. After some time, it would be evident, that students developed reading habits. To verify it we can observe that students borrow books from Library on a regular basis, students predict, visualize, and interpret different events in the story, students restate the stories they have read.
Mental maths uses to be a guide to effective mental calculation. Calculating things in our head can be a difficult task. If we can’t remember what we’ve worked out or simply don’t know how to solve a problem, then it can be very challenging and frustrating. To enhance this skill among students as well as teachers, the introduction of Mental Math activities to achieve the objective which are to develop students’ calculation skills through mental maths will be fruitful.
Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a particular subject or topic. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping team-mates to learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Teachers and students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it. Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members gain from each other’s efforts; recognize that all group members share a common fate (sink or swim together); know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and one’s team members (we cannot do it without you); feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement (We all congratulate you on your accomplishment!)
The introduction of different strategies among students like group work and house wise tasks keeping the following objectives in mind may be useful:
- Develop social skills, sense of teamwork and collective success amongst students.
- Peer tutoring and constructive learning
After a successful intervention in this segment of school improvement, we can easily verify the outcomes of cooperative learning among students that they sit and work in groups, teachers assign group tasks with complementary roles to individual students, students demonstrate the social skills, and teachers critically observe students’ social skills, group processes and give feedback
Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction that goes outside the bounds of professional and technical forms of writing. Creative writing is believed to focus on students’ self-expression. Such initiatives can be introduced on every level, however secondary level should be focused with following objectives to achieve:
- To develop students’ creative writing skills
- To develop students’ motivation for creative writing.
After a certain time, it can be confidently observed that not all the students but mostly the students will show a positive response in terms of creative writing in the focused classes. The achievements such as students generate ideas through brainstorming on any topic; they write a short paragraph on a given topic according to their level; students develop a story of their own by using their own imagination; students have their notebooks, files and displays in classroom with their creative work they have done can be visible. With an intentional intervention along with appropriate activities and modifications in daily schooling process, we can achieve better outcomes.
Expected Impact after an Academic Year’s deliberate intervention
All the above initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and learning will prove to be effective in terms of teachers’ attitude towards students and their profession as well. Students will play main role for their learning through asking questions from teachers, responding to teachers’ questions, sharing understanding with the whole class after reading the text, presentations and providing support to peers in learning. More importantly, teachers will also show love and care towards students and students’ self-esteem will be boosted up.