Equitable learning that leaves no one behind
Where students sit in the classroom has obviously formed a definition and classification of various groups of students. Specifically, students who sit in the back of the classroom are perceived to have a tendency to be more distracted than others during study time.
Often, many teachers have prioritized paying attention to students who concentrate on their studies, whereas they ignore the so-called unruly students and thus leave them in the back of the classroom.
As a matter of fact, every student has potential. They can all be molded to become valuable personnel of society. These clearly reflect educational inequality which occurs not only in urban areas or the remote areas, but also in the same school or even the same classroom. If teachers continue to underrate equitable learning, in the meantime, they may also be burdened with large classes which are difficult to control, resulting in problems towards managing a learning that is relevant and understandable for students. Teachers then opt for a teaching method that emphasizes ‘memorization’, perceived to be the most thorough approach for children, while the consequence perhaps undermines students’ creativity, critical thinking and the confidence to ask questions.
In the course of creating equality in the classroom, it should, therefore, begin with teachers’ observation and attention towards students. Teachers also ought to advocate a learning method suitable to each student as it is hardly possible to implement the same teaching manner for all.
‘Project-based Learning’ on tackling the concept of students sitting in the back of the classroom
Project-based learning underlines students’ comprehension of the lessons through practical processes or joint activities that can ‘make learning appear interesting to students in the back of the classroom again.’ Ban Pak Bang school, located in Satun province, is a successful demonstration where the school has implemented project-based learning as a crucial variable in educational change.
Muhammad, an exemplary 5th-grade student, used to sit in the back of the classroom, was regarded as unruly by teasing other friends, paying no attention to his studies and avoiding submitting assignments. He was even rejected by his classmates in terms of working as a group. However, Muhammad today has acknowledged experiments and taken actions to discover answers on his own. He becomes confident in thinking, answering questions and turning into a class leader with acceptance by his friends.
Project-based learning, in turn, illustrates its significance in helping students to fully manifest their potential, perform questioning and figure out answers by themselves. Teachers, meanwhile, play a role in encouraging students’ interests and observing every student’s skills in class.
The process of asking questions for practical learning skills
“The initial technique for teachers is posing questions for students to attempt to answer. Then, practice students to ask questions of what they are curious about”
said Teacher Wannisa Samart, a 5th-grade teacher and Muhammad’s teacher adviser. Teacher Wannisa believes on-site learning is a learning process that can accentuate students’ potential in which it provides students with opportunities to suddenly ask questions concerning what they are curious about and interested in.
For that reason, teachers then escort students to experience the community area nearby the school.
“We need to directly observe the local wisdom. For example, taking students to explore batik making. Mostly, when asked what materials are in the making of batik, students’ response will be fabrics and dyeing colors. When they notice that the dyeing colors used are artificial, they will continue asking whether natural colors can be used or not, such as butterfly peas and turmeric color extractions brought from home. We then take them to see the process of producing natural colors such as soil and bark. Students begin to question why the raw materials need to be boiled first and for how long. When they are in doubt, they ask.”
This technique brings forth access to the ability to learn and ask questions in order that students become more apprehensive of the lessons. It creates interconnections of information as students ask questions immediately if they have a chance to. In effort to apply this means in the classroom, ‘experiment’ is the answer because it helps students to understand every process, observe changes, and even find answers from learning sources that they are interested in by themselves.
Experiment to discover ‘a number of answers’
The advantage of project-based learning is students begin to ask questions and conduct experiments to uncover answers on their own. The answers can be numerous because there is no right or wrong in responses, only practical results. In the meantime, teachers act as the observers and supervisors to students.
Teacher Wannisa viewed that ‘this teaching method leaves no one behind’ because she recognizes students’ capabilities and is convinced to have students participate in activities and group works.According to the case of Muhammad, it is evident that although he was once disobedient and forgotten by his classmates, Muhammad today possesses the leadership skills in expressing opinions and the potential to conduct experimental projects. His friends are now pleased to allow him to work as a group.
Another thing that teachers must take action on is ‘closely observing students’ to understand their identity. Teacher Wannisa believes that the possible reason to help explain Muhammad’s past behavior is because he lacked warmth and affection in the family as he lives with his grandfather alone. Muhammad spends time by himself when his grandfather leaves for work.
Learning integration through students’ experiences
‘Contemplation’ is a process prefered by teachers to create experiential learning in which students can appreciate the value of their surroundings through learning processes consisting of 3 features: Deep Listening, Contemplation and Meditation adjoined with the morality from storytelling or songs teachers bring up to produce a variety of ideas.
Besides, brain gym is included as an activity to activate the brain prior to the core of thought process under the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Education or STEM Education in order to encourage students to realize knowledge integration of different subjects by using activities or experimental projects as a means to connect and solve problems until it develops into the creation of practical innovations.
Lessons from practical learning and experiments
After Review Action(AAR) is a procedure to revise the work processes after conducting an experiment. It also embraces a search for successes and problems that occurred. Students will be given a chance to express their opinions about what they have learned, practice storytelling and exchange their own experiences among themselves. The information exchanged will be recorded every time as a means to set up a model for next experiments.
In addition, students’ thought process, that is changing, can be advantageous to learning other subjects. In case if students do not understand the lessons, they will be confident to ask questions rather than originally discarding curiosity. They can, hence, understand the lesson more.
Change punishment to the attempt to understand
Opening up and accepting the differences of every student is a reason for teachers to stop punishing them in any case. Instead, opting for communication and mutually reasoning through affection and understanding is the solution. This may be the part that encourages Muhammud to communicate with his classmates in which he can participate in group works more.
Even though it seems that Muhammud is no longer under Teacher Wannisa’s supervision as he is currently a 6th-grade student, Teacher Wannisa still watches over her production closely. She notices Muhammud’s development, including good relationships with friends as well as his consciousness and responsibilities towards education. It is a reflection of the thought process that is instilled in Muhammud which will benefit him both in continuing to study in secondary education and career path.
This is a successful example of adjusting teaching and learning methods by Prince of Songkla University, one of the network partners under the Teacher School Quality Program (TSQP) by Equitable Education Fund(EEF) which has been consecutively processed in its the 2nd year to uplift the quality of education of the medium-sized schools to reduce educational inequality, joined by 733 schools from 42 provinces.
Diverse aptitudes allow more learning
Because each student does not have to specialize or become interested in similar matters, specifically in a learning space where there is diversity of capabilities. Therefore, schools should be a place for students to demonstrate their potential without restriction to be qualities in all the subjects. Rather, every student should have the opportunity to exchange knowledge of what they are interested in or can do well in the classroom and even at the school level. All things considered, teachers are the most important variable to identify and understand students.
“This curriculum also reflects that every student does not have to be good at the same thing. Some do well in Academics, while others possess a potential and experience in what the former is not good at. Muhammad, for example, I see in his determined eyes that he enjoys using his own ideas. He can be with other friends,” said Teacher Wannisa Samart.