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Wayne Campbell | Finding the right teaching formula

Published:Saturday | September 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMwayne campbell

The job of a teacher is quite challenging and requires much planning in order to effectively impact the 21st Century learner. The issue of indiscipline in the education sector continues to plague policymakers as the search for meaningful intervention goes on. Sadly, the creation of a special position in the education system - that of, 'Dean of Discipline' - is a direct response of the disciplinary problems most if not all schools grapple with.

Our male students in particular need a firm hand setting guidelines on issues concerning discipline. However, we must be careful not to crush the male intuitive sense of curiosity and masculinity in our attempt to correct that which we deem wrong. In education circles we tend not to speak enough about social and emotional learning.


Different learning styles


Social and emotional learning is a process whereby students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Educators need to move towards an education system in which social and emotional skills are infused into the curriculum and in which all students will be empowered to become involved in arriving at solutions rather than them being merely objects to be observed. Research has shown that much undesirable behaviour, such as, drug abuse, violence, bullying and scamming can be prevented or reduced when educators take an integrated approach to develop and nurture students' social and emotional skills.

In too many instances, the wayward behaviour of our male students is linked to them not fully being engaged in the teaching-learning process. Educators need to be mindful that the learning styles of boys differ from that of girls. Boys tend to require a more hands-on approach to solidify their learning. The new National Standards Curriculum (NSC) to be implemented on a phased basis for the 2016-2017 academic year is a most welcome move. The NSC is more student-centred and has an emphasis on the use of information communication technology. The NSC is based on the 5 E's of the 21st Century learner. These are engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration and evaluation.

We need to move away from those practices which were ineffective for the learner of the 20th Century. The learner of the 21st Century is one who must be engaged at all steps throughout the teaching-learning process in order to maximise his/her outcomes, more so in an era of globalisation. The 21st Century learner needs to be engaged in a student-driven educational planning programme with avenues for exploration and explanation.

Too many students, especially boys, are falling through the cracks simply because they find school to be a dull and boring place. We are losing out on the creativity of our youth if we just sit idly by and allow students to drop out of school. We need to change this narrative. We need to nurture a culture of differentiated instruction in order to reach all our students. Carol Ann Tomlinson, professor of educational leadership, foundations and policy, describes differentiated instruction as factoring students' individual learning styles and levels of readiness first before designing a lesson plan.


Students as teachers


Another critical area worthy of more exploration is that of seeing students as teachers. Yes, students can be viewed as teachers. Dennis Harper, an advocate for the student as a teacher approach and founder of Generation YES, developed a programme whereby students instructed teachers on how to use technology in their classroom. This collaboration between students and teachers creates a framework for the architecture of ownership of the learner.

Jamaica's education system would certainly benefit from such a programme and would curtail the high dropout rate of our students, especially our boys.

The new curriculum is intricately woven to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These influential areas in education are where the jobs of the 21st Century are to be found. STEM also provides a backdrop for problem-solving, which is a vital component that is lacking in the wider society.

A culture of ownership by the learner will also have positive benefits regarding the reduction of violent incidents at schools. According to data from the Ministry of Education, between 2011 and 2013, a total of 1,288 violent incidents were recorded in the nation's schools. A student who feels a sense of entitlement and attachment to his/her school is unlikely to engage in violent acts.

We need to build the human capacity of all our students, however, special emphasis must be placed on our boys. The education ministry needs to explore more the issue of male underachievement with the view of putting in place intervention measure to address this issue. Male underachievement is quite pervasive throughout the various levels of the education system and runs counter to sustainable development.

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