five balances

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 The following was written in 2005 in the context of the project Strengthening Capacity in Basic Education in Western China.  

5 Balances in Implementing SCI

A variety of tensions inevitably result during any process of change.  Many teachers feel these tensions when implementing SCI because it is very different from traditional ways of teaching.  Teachers must strive to find the right balance between extremes, in order to mediate these tensions and be as effective as possible in the classroom.

Balance 1: Individual and Group

The Issue:

It is easy to think about a class as one clump, and to forget about their differences.  It is a lot harder to keep in mind that each of the students is an individual, with their own backgrounds and ways of learning.  Meeting the needs of all of those individuals is a challenge.  It’s impossible to meet every student’s needs one-by-one, there’s simply not enough time.  Teachers instead need an approach which will meet most of the needs of students in the classroom, and is still adaptable and flexible enough to cater to the unique needs of individuals.

Strategies: 

  • Plan to meet diverse needs: Plan a variety of instructional strategies, reflecting a range of learning styles.  Open-ended tasks also increase chances for diverse learning experiences.  In addition, plan student tasks that will allow you to spend time circulating around the class and facilitating learning… this is impossible if the teacher is lecturing for the whole class.
  • Facilitate on multiple levels: Provide specific guidance and suggestions to individuals, small groups, and the whole class, as appropriate.  If many students are making the same mistakes or have similar questions, it is sometimes worth interrupting everyone’s work to provide clarification.
  • Communicate in multiple ways: During class, present information in a variety of modalities: text, orally, in charts, act it out etc.  This will help most learners, even if they have different ways of understanding things.  Allowing students to pose questions or discuss amongst themselves is also very beneficial to most students.
  • Provide extra support: Providing extra support outside of class for students who really need it is always an option; however, we cannot do this with all students.  Offering tutoring or review sessions periodically is a good strategy, since it allows the teacher to focus support on a small group of weaker students.
  • Ask for support: Some schools have had success with team teaching, by inviting additional teachers to come in and work with students if classes are too large. 
  • Scaffold: Providing clear, concise guidance to students, and structuring their learning tasks (for example, breaking them down into steps) will dramatically increase the quality of work of the weakest learners.  For complex tasks, give very clear parameters for what students need to accomplish, and how they should proceed.

Balance 2: Freedom and Structure

The Issue:

If learning tasks and the learning environment are too rigid, students’ development will be stifled.  Students require freedom in order to reach their potential and develop their creativity and thinking skills.  However, if the classroom is too free, the teacher will lose control of the lesson, and learning goals may not be accomplished.  Ideally, the learning environment and learning tasks will be structured in a way which focuses and scaffolds students’ behavior and thinking rather than limiting it.

Strategies:

  • Classroom management:  Students need an environment that is focused on learning, it should be quiet during individual work, and controlled during group work.  The teacher must ensure that this is the case, but can do so in a caring manner.
  • Routines and procedures: Students like to know what to expect from their teachers, and they like to know what teachers expect from them.  Developing routines for regular activities (such as passing out/collecting materials, lining up, or getting students’ attention) is an important way of increasing classroom focus and efficiency without restricting students unnecessarily.
  • Open-ended tasks:  Use open-ended questions and tasks where there can be a variety of outcomes.  You can facilitate student success on these by providing clear guidelines around what is expected of students, what outcomes they should attain, time limits, guiding questions etc.
  • Break down complicated tasks:  Teachers can help all learners, especially the weakest, by breaking complex tasks (such as writing essays, solving problems, and conducting experiments) down into steps or chunks, and providing students with guidelines for each chunk.  This will scaffold the task to help ensure each student attains satisfactory outcomes.  Students must be clear about the process they should follow, and the final outcome they are working towards, the more clear they are, the better the final outcomes are likely to be.

Balance 3: Teaching and Learning

The Issue:

It is easy to confuse teaching goals with learning goals because student learning depends heavily on teachers’ work.  However, teaching goals only exist because of learning goals, and our emphasis needs to be on the latter.  Teachers can teach in a variety of ways, but the teaching is not successful if the students haven’t learned what they should have.  Many teachers make the mistake of rushing through material with students, which may allow them to finish their teaching tasks, without students really learning the material.

Strategies:

  • Rather than planning lessons around what content you need to teach, plan instead around what learning objectives students need to fulfill
  • Decide what instructional strategies are appropriate for the learning goals, and the lesson content.
  • Assess learners to ensure that they have learned what they should have.  Small-scale formative assessment should be conducted frequently.
  • Remember that texts (and other resources) are only a resource to support learning.  They should not dictate everything that students do.
  • Help students to make connections with the material they are learning, since that will make learning easier and more relevant for them.  Three types of connections are important: connections to prior knowledge; connections to the outside world; and personal/emotional connections between students and the content.

Balance 4: Depth and Breadth

The Issue:

Many teachers would like to help their students learn content on a deeper level, but struggle with how to do this effectively in practice.  The tough demands of the curriculum schedule make this even more challenging because teachers feel pressure to move quickly from one topic to the next.  However, keep in mind that deeper learning is a kind of investment.  If students learn something on a deep level, their foundation for subsequent learning will be stronger, and that laterlearning will be both quicker and easier.

Strategies:

  • Begin lessons with big questions, problems, or critical issues which will be investigated.  As learning proceeds, help students contextualize their learning in terms of these overarching questions.  This gives students a mental framework which facilitates their deeper thinking.
  • Have students apply what they’ve learned in new contexts.  We don’t want students learning to be confined to the examples and situations discussed in class.  Challenging students to apply learning in new contexts will help them to become more flexible, adaptable, and creative.
  • Ask higher level questions, and more of them.  As you respond to students’ answers you can clarify their misconceptions and raise additional questions to challenge their thinking.

Balance 5: Old and New

The Issue:

Many teachers are excited about SCI and are trying hard to implement new pedagogies in their classrooms.  However, it is important that teachers don’t forget about the things that worked well for them before.  When you are trying new things, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  There are many similarities between good teachers in the traditional sense, and good teachers in the context of SCI.  Regardless of their pedagogical orientation or teaching style, effective teachers do the following things:

  • Manage student behavior effectively
  • Prepare well for classes
  • Respond fairly and reasonably to students
  • Communicate clearly and effectively
  • Keep the classroom tidy and organized
  • Maintain clear and accurate student records
  • Demonstrate commitment to their work
  • Strive to keep classes interesting and engaging
  • Care about their students and learning
  • Reflect on their teaching
  • View themselves as a professional and constantly strive to improve their teaching

Strategies:

  • Make “good teaching” your goal, and spend time reflecting on what “good teaching” really means to you
  • Don’t think about SCI and traditional teaching as a dichotomy, instead aim to integrate the two effectively to suit your local situation.  Use the styles and strategies which are most effective in helping you accomplish the goals of the lesson
  • Think about the most effective teachers you know, and the most effective teachers you had as a child, and reflect on what made them so good
  • Learn as much as you can about new pedagogies, and reflect on how they fit into your idea of good teaching
  • Reflect on your lessons, and always strive to improve
  • Take every opportunity to observe other classes and learn from your peers
  • Make changes in your teaching practice little by little, if you change what you’re doing too recklessly or without engaging students in the process, you may alienate them.
  • Be courageous and try new methods in your classroom; don’t give up on a good idea if it doesn’t work well the first time… learn from your mistakes and try everything at least twice!  New teaching methods are skills (like swimming or riding a bike) which require practice to do well.

以学生为中心教学中的五个平衡

古今中外,历史上的任何变革都会不可避免地遭遇到一定的阻力或带来一定的压力。在国内新课程改革的浪潮中,可能许多教师也正在感受到一定的压力,因为,以学生为中心的教学理念SCI与传统的教学方式毕竟是有着很多区别的。因此,在新旧两种教学理念的碰撞和冲突中,为了避免误入极端,教师需要锐意进取、不断反思、积极探索,探索出符合所在地和所在校实情的最有效的教学策略,在课堂教学中努力求得和保持适度的平衡。

通常说来,教师需要在以学生为中心的教学中力求以下的五个平衡:

1. 个体和整体的平衡

问题

把班级看作一个整体而忽视学生的个体差异是时有发生的,记住每个学生都是一个截然不同的个体,都有自己的背景和学习方法并不是件非常容易的事情。对教师来说,满足所有个体学生的需求是一个巨大的挑战----事实上,教师不可能一一地满足每个学生的需求,因为有限的课堂时间很可能就不允许教师这样做。但是,教师的教学方法必须能够兼顾班里绝大多数学生的需求,而且应具有足够的灵活性和变通性,以满足学生个体的独特需求。

策略: 

  • 教学设计需要满足学生的多样性:在进行教学设计时,教师需要采用体现不同学习风格的多种教学策略,设计开放式的学习任务。开放式学习任务是指学生能够以多种方式完成的、答案或结果不唯一的学习任务,诸如学生讨论、创意写作、学生设计工作及展示等。开放式学习任务的采用是为了鼓励学生的自主思索和相互协作,并增加学生获得多种学习经历的机会。对于课堂活动,教师可尽量把它们设计得便于教师在教室中巡回走动以监控和指导学习任务的进行……而所有这些,都是一言堂型的授课模式无法达成的。
  • 课堂辅导灵活多样:在适当的时候,教师需采取灵活多样的课堂辅导形式,诸如为学生个体、学生小组乃至全体学生提供辅导的课堂形式。如果班里许多学生都在犯同样的错误或是具有同样的疑问,教师可能需要打断整个班级的学习进行讲解和澄清。
  • 用多种方法进行交流:在课上用各种不同的方法展示信息:口头表述、文本、图表、表演等。这对大多数学生都会有帮助,即使他们理解事物的方法各不相同。提问或小组讨论对于大多数学生来说都会是有益的。
  • 提供特别支持:教师有时可能会对需要特别帮助的学生提供课外支持。由于不可能为所有学生都这么做,教师可以选择定期的个别辅导或复习课的形式,集中精力帮助那一小部分功课吃力的学生。
  • 寻求支持:在项目学校中,一些班额较大的教师通过在授课时定期邀请同事教师进行协作授课的方法,成功地开展了联合教学。
  • 搭建脚手架:为学生提供简明扼要的指导,为他们架构学习任务(如把学习任务分成几个步骤等),会提高学生(尤其是功课吃力学生)的学习效果。对于复杂些的任务,教师应当为学生提供明确的目标参考指数,并使他们明了如何做才能实现这些目标。

2. 自由性和结构性的平衡

问题:

如果学习任务和学习环境过于僵化,就会抑制学生的发展。学生需要一定的自由空间去发挥他们的潜力、开发创造力和思考技能。但是,另外一方面,如果课堂太自由的话,教师就很难驾驭课堂,也就无法完成教学目标。理想的状态应该是教师对学习环境和学习任务的结构加以适当适度的搭建,以促进而非限制学生行为和思维的发展。

策略:

  • 课堂管理:学生需要一个可专注于学习的课堂环境。学生单独学习时,宜保持安宁,小组学习时,也宜加以适度控制。教师在进行课堂管理时,应确保以一种关爱友善的方式来达成。
  • 常规和程序:学生们喜欢知道他们能从教师这里学到什么,同时也很想知道教师对他们的期望。为日常活动制定常规(如学生收发作业或材料、学生排队或吸引学生上课的注意力)是既能提高课堂注意力和课堂效率,又不会对学生造成不必要压制的重要途径。
  • 开放式问题和学习任务:采用开放式问题和学习任务,以鼓励学生积极思索并提供不同的结果。教师能够通过明确对学生的期望、预期的学习效果、时间限定和指导性问题等引导学生成功完成开放式问题和学习任务。
  • 分解复杂的任务:教师可以通过把复杂的学习任务(如写作文、解决问题、做

试验等)分解成几个步骤或几大块,并就各个步骤或各块为学生提供逐步指导的方法,为学习任务的完成搭建脚手架,以促进所有学生尤其是功课吃力学生对整个任务的完成,并确保良好的学习效果。学生必须清楚知道他们应该遵循什么样的学习步骤、最终应该达成什么样的学习效果,知道得越清楚,最终的学习效果才可能越好。

3. 教与学的平衡

问题:

教学目标和学习目标这两个概念可能比较容易让人混淆,因为学生的学习效果在很大程度上取决于教师的教。教师需要把重点放在学生的学习目标上,因为正是有了学习目标的存在,才有了教学目标。教师可以用各种方法进行教学,但如果学生没有学习到他们本应该学到的知识的话,这样的教学就不能算作成功的教学。有时,教师可能会为了完成教学任务而匆匆带领学生过完教学材料中的内容,然而,教学任务的完成并不代表着学生就已经掌握了教学内容。

策略:

  • 不应该围绕需要教什么内容备课,而应该围绕需要学生达到什么样的学习目标进行备课。
  • 为学习目标和教学内容确定恰当的教学策略。
  • 开展学习评价,确保学生已经掌握了应该学会的知识。教师应该对学生经常开展小规模的形成性评价。
  • 教材(和其它教学材料)只是支持学生学习的资源之一,教师应避免照本宣科式的说教。
  • 帮助学生与他们正在学习的内容建立联系,因为这将使学习更容易、更具有切实意义。有三种联系比较重要:与学生已有知识的联系、与现实生活的联系及与学生个人情感的联系。

4. 深度和广度的平衡

问题:

许多教师都希望学生对知识点的掌握能够深入一些,但却苦于不知该如何在实践中有效地引导。紧张的课时安排会给教师压力从一个主题迅速转移到对下一个主题的学习,这会使得深入学习的达成很具挑战性。尽管这样,教师还是应该记住,对知识点的深入学习是一种有效的投资,因为只有当学生的学习比较深入时,基础才会更牢固更扎实,之后的学习也才能更快捷容易。

策略:

  • 在刚一上课时,就提出学生需要在课上探究的关键问题或要点,随着学习的展开,在情境中引导学生对这些统筹性的问题进行具体学习。这样做可以为学生搭建起一个智力框架,引导他们进行深层次的思维。
  • 在新的情境中考验学生的所学。学生的学习不应该只局限于课上所举的例子和讨论等情境中,教师可以给学生提出挑战,令他们把所学知识应用于新的情境中,以帮助提高他们的灵活性、适应力和创造力。
  • 提出更多更高层次的问题。在对学生的回答做出回应时,教师能够纠正学生的误解,并进一步提出问题以挑战他们的思维。

5. 新与旧的平衡

问题:

许多教师对于以学生为中心的教学法感到很兴奋,他们试图把这种新的教学理念应用到教学实践中。但是,有一点很重要,那就是教师切不可就此摒弃那些他们曾经使用的行之有效的教法,即在尝试新方法时,教师不应把旧方法不分精华糟粕地全盘否定。其实,传统意义上的好教师和SCI环境下的好教师是有着很多共同之处的。不管他们的教学方向或教学方法如何,好教师都会做到以下几点:

  • 有效地管理学生的行为
  • 备课充分
  • 对学生做出公正、合理的回应
  • 表达清晰有效
  • 保持教室的整洁和组织性
  • 所做的学生记录清楚准确
  • 展示出对工作的热忱
  • 努力保持课堂的趣味性和吸引力
  • 关心学生及学生的学习
  • 对教学进行反思
  • 把自己看作专业人士,锐意进取,努力提高自己的教学水平

策略:

  • 致力于良好的教学,用心反思到底什么才是良好的教学
  • 不要把SCI教学理念和传统教学看作是彼此割裂的事物,相反,教师需要把二者有效地整合起来,使之适合当地的教学实情,以采取能最有效达成课程目标的教学方法和策略。
  • 想一下在你周围你所知道的最棒教师和你幼年求学时所遇到的最棒教师,思考一下是什么使他们成为好教师的。
  • 尽可能多地加深对SCI等新教学理念的学习和理解,思考一下它们跟你对优质教学的看法是如何符合的。
  • 课后不断反思,努力改善教学。
  • 利用每个可能的机会观摩其他教师的课,向同事主动学习。
  • 在实际教学中一点点地逐渐地转变教学行为,如果转变过于唐突,或是没有使学生融入到转变过程中的话,就可能会脱离学生的实际。
  • 要勇于在课堂上尝试新的教法;初使用一个新的好方法时,即使第一次不是很有效,也不要放弃……要从错误中汲取经验,每个新方法要至少尝试两次!新的教学方法和技巧(就像游泳或骑自行车一样)是需要不断练习和实践的。