16 November 2011

Thinking positively

In Cambodia VVOB focuses on student-centered approaches in science education in teacher training institutes.  Teacher trainers are guided towards adopting approaches to teaching that involve students, stimulate them to think and engage instead of passively noting down and regurgitating what the teacher declaims.

Some student-centred approaches focus on stimulating students' writing skills.  Writing and the skills that accompany it (collecting thoughts, filtering, structuring, creativity, conciseness...) are arguably important 21st century skills.  To extend writing in science lessons beyond copying teachers' notes we introduced techniques such as 3-2-1 sheets, 2-minute papers and creative writing (link to my presentation on these).  These techniques aim at stimulating students to write about what they have learned in their own words.

There may be unintended benefits as well

Interestingly, New Scientist refers to a study from David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon University that revealed that letting students write about what they have learned, stimulating qualities such as creativity and independence, gives them 'self-affirmation' that enables them to perform better.  

'Compared with a control group, students who 'self-affirmed' in this way had lower levels of adrenaline and other fight-or-flight hormones in their urine on exam day.'  (Health Psychology, vol 28, p 554, quoted in New Scientist, 27 August 2011)

Apart from letting students re-interpret what they have learned, these writing exercises may also - if well designed - contribute to improving students' sense of self-worth.

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