Monday, November 29, 2010

The final chapter of AKM101

Date: 23.11.2010
Venue: Usual room
Lesson Plan:
  • Lesson Study
  • Professional Learning Opportunities within Lesson Study
  • Concluding the Course
Dr Yeap summarised what lesson study is about and gave a simple framework on the steps to carry one out. Some of my take aways are:-
(a) to identify research theme and professional learning goal as a school
(b) to plan a lesson that is detailed but somewhat skeletal with learning goal in mind, anticipated responses and how these responses can be used to achieve the learning goal
(c) teacher to carry out the lesson should be identified close to end of the planning, not at the beginning  so that everyone in the team has greater ownership.

We discussed the benefits of a lesson study, what to observe, and to have 10 min out of an hour's lesson to interview and interact with the pupils to gain better insight into pupils' understanding of the lesson goals and the observations made.

We viewed photographs of a lesson study on circles in a primary school and discussed the learning tasks of the pupils, observations made and the measure of pupil engagement. We then looked at the 4 critical questions to ask of a PLC:
(a) What do we want students to learn?
(b) How do we know that they have learnt it?
(c) What do we do to differentiate learning instruction?
(d) What do we do if they already know it?

Dr Yeap then looked at the overview of the AKM101:- the initiatives, teaching and learning, what is math in school, assessment and professional development. We then looked at a real-life example of a newspaper article where commuters were overcharged amounts ranging from 4-20 cents and which totalled about $300 000. As usual, we were prompted and prodded and encouraged to explain what the information actually means, using the idea of average, data analysis and interpretation of analysis.

Reflections of the course
It has been a fantastic learning experience. After more than 20 years of teaching, there is still so much more to learn and re-learn and to do things better. Dr Yeap has infused in me the desire to improve both myself and my pupils. Initially, I did not enjoy Math as it is my weakest subject but I am now more positive about it and excited to do it better.
The learning environment in the class is non-threatening and conducive to ask questions, make mistakes and learn. There are no answers given for most of the learning tasks and we are encouraged to think about our thinking processes, our metacognition. The games were fun and ready to use in the classroom. I will definitely use 'Salute' and the 'magical' counting card game in class. In many of my Math classes in school, the fun element is missing and now I know some ways of infusing this.
There was a lot of collaborative learning during the group assignment and I got to know my mates better. MacDonalds in Sengkang, our venue for our assignment, has many fond memories for me.

In short, the lessons have always been informative, mentally taxing (for someone my age) but always fun and a great learning experience. Thank you Dr Yeap, Dr Ng, and my fellow course-mates.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Initiatives in Professional Development

Date: 16 Nov 2010
Venue: Usual Math Room
What's Up?
  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
  • Lesson Study
  • Polygons
  • Test Date Options
  • Research Lesson
  • Sample Test
We started off by talking about the different learning communities in our schools, like the learning circle, lesson study and action research and some projects the teachers were involved in.
Dr Yeap then went through some of the steps of a lesson study. It was noted that a lesson study first and foremost helps the teacher to improve his craft.
The teacher would need to have a Research Theme and the learning goals, work out the learning content, and solve the problems before going to the class to engage the pupils.

Example 1: To engage the pupils in the learning of Mathematics.
Example 2: To help pupils develop reasoning and communication skills

We looked at the example of polygons and discussed how to find the sum of the interior angles of polygons of different sides. We were encouraged to work out a formula to help us find the relationship between the number of sides and the total of the interior angles. As usual, the answers were not the priority but rather the reasoning, thinking processes behind them.

Dr Yeap, as usual, pricked and prodded us with questions, making us re-look our strategies and crystallising our thoughts and reasoning. He hardly ever gives us any answers to the questions but always, always, makes us think. He then went through the PETALS framework and how a research lesson could be carried out.

The evening came to a close with a look at sample test questions from previous years and how to go about answering the questions. It was a good exercise for me.

We had a guest, Dr Peter Foley (hope I spelt it correctly) who sat in during the lesson. Dr Yeap and Dr Foley are in the midst of setting up a school in Thailand and it is initaives like these from my teachers that inspire me to want to do something for these kids in the less-developed countries too. Another such teacher who has similarly inspired me is Dr Low Guat Tin who is involved in Nepal.

Initiatives in Assessment

Date: 9 Nov 2010
Venue: NIE Mathlab
What's up today?:
  • Performance Task
  • Rubric
  • Break
  • A Look at international Assessment
  • Formative Assessment
We had an interesting performance task today. The group had to estimate the height of a pillar that was about 2 storeys high. We were given some measuring apparatus to use as we deemed necessary. There were interesting ideas generated by this activity from the groups and individuals.
Some solutions
(a) measuring the steps leading up to the top of the pillar. (46 steps x 15cm step)
(b)taking a photograph and comparing it to the height of a known person leaning against the pillar
(c)measuring the set of 7 tiles on the wall next to the pillar and comparing it to the height of the pillar. (1 tile=30cm, approx 23 tiles needed, so 23 x 30)
(d) using a set square (isosceles triangle) and using it to align the height of the pillar and the perpendicular distance to the edge of the set square when seen from the same distance. (yeah kinda confusing when explaining in words!)
(e) connecting a couple of measuring tapes and measuring the vertical height
(f) using a set square set at eye level and then working out the height of the pillar + height of person holding the set square to get toal height of pillar (Dr Yeap's idea)

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance task as I learn best out of the classroom. The ideas generated were also somewhat novel and I learnt a lot from the task.

We then learnt about the reasons for assessment as a means of developing pupils' ability, building confidence and desire to learn, the emphasis on learning rather than grades, etc,  and the assesssment rubrics required to give both qualitative and quantitative feedback to parents.

Dr Yeap went through examples of assessment rubrics. 'Anything that is measurable is not important', 'Anything that is not measurable is important' left an impression on me. Definitely something worth pondering over.

We then saw photographs of Thai students involved in a Math lesson and the different ways they had to show their thinking processes for an addition question. Another comment about how the female students take the lead while the males were reduced to colouring, somewhat common in the Asian classroom, was also food for thought for me.

To end off the evening's class, we had an example of a test question we would have for our test. I am somewhat apprehensive about the test as are many of my coursemates and we are somewhat glad for this activity. Dr Yeap in his usual way, told us not to worry and to use the knowledge we have readily gained and shared during our classes to help us through.

Another important lesson on my learning journey. I am somewhat mentally drained after each Math lesson. There is so much to learn, think about and use in the class. Tiring but always engaging.

Thank you everyone.