- Education & Catastrophe
- If All You See Are Nails, You Will Only Ever Be Looking For A Hammer
If All You See Are Nails, You Will Only Ever Be Looking For A Hammer
Education & Catastrophe 78
Hey y’all! This is John.
This newsletter is about human flourishing. Ostensibly it’s about better parenting and fixing education, but ultimately what I really care about is helping young people flourish.
Earlier this week Doyobi ran a workshop for about 80 teachers at a local primary school as part of the school's strategic planning day focused on helping learners strengthen mastery of 21C skills. Covered in this issue:
The values and competencies MOE says students need in order to thrive in a fast-changing world
What teachers really care about
Let’s dive in.
Doyobi was invited by a local primary school to provide a walkthrough of a quest in Doyobiverse so teachers can experience applying 21C skills to solve quest challenges and tasks. The feedback from teachers shows the massive gap between the competencies the Minister of Education says students need (Enhanced 21st Century Competencies - Adaptive and Inventive Thinking, Civic Literacy, Communication) and what teachers are focused on.
At the end of the three-hour workshop, during which teachers heard me speak about skills for the future and experienced an abridged version of a Doyobi quest, it's quite apparent most teachers are still focused on the bread and butter issue of delivering the curriculum.
No clear indication of how this can be aligned to the syllabus."
Not something that can be conducted within an hour whilst trying to get students to learn the content of the lesson.
Not in line and not respecting the Singapore school curriculum.
During my talk I spoke about the challenges teachers face having to deliver the curriculum and helping students develop 21C skills. The two objectives are not mutually exclusive, but there needs to be a genuine desire to help learners apply and practise skills like critical thinking and collaboration. I get that teachers are under a lot of pressure to deliver the curriculum and offer differentiated instruction to cater to the learning needs of forty students in the classroom. I get that teachers' KPIs are based on how students perform in standardised tests and exams.
We will support our educators by enhancing their teaching and learning approaches to help them be more intentional in enabling students to learn through inquiry, dialogue, experiential learning, as well as making connections within and across subjects, co-curricular activities and programmes outside the classroom.
Learning through inquiry, dialogue and experiential learning is what Doyobi is about. There are teachers at the workshop who get it, but they are the minority, unfortunately.
There were elements of how perspective taking, communicating confidently and being adaptive came through, as well as problem-solving and thinking out of the box.
It creates a space for students to experience certain problems and gives opportunities to identify the problem, find information to relate, and use it to give their own opinions.
These teachers understand that learning can happen without explicit instruction, that 21C skills are developed through learning-by-doing, that delivering the curriculum is not the be-all and end-all of their role as educators.
It is quite telling that one of the feedback from the school management is that there was no aha moment. It's almost as if the school expects a silver bullet, a solution that will deliver 21C skills in the classroom without taking time away from the curriculum teachers need to deliver.
The learning experience design team at Doyobi has been working closely with English Language (EL) expert Dr Ken Mizusawa to use Doyobi quests to help students develop reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. We also customise quest tasks and activities based on specific EL outcomes teachers want us to deliver. One school wanted us to help remedial students practise writing reported speech, so we designed tasks based on the quest narrative that requires students to write reported speech.
If teachers give us one hour a week with students over ten or twenty weeks, we are confident that in-quest tasks aligned with topics in the EL curriculum will result in improved EL learning outcomes. In other words, students are practising both 21C skills and specific EL skills in the English syllabus like synthesis and transformation. Getting students to do worksheets focused on synthesis and transformation is possibly more efficient (note I wrote ‘efficient’, not ‘effective’), but as with most things in life, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If cultivating 21C skills is one of the school's goals, time needs to be set aside in service of that goal.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised by the extent teachers are conditioned to look at every innovation through the lens of 'how does it help me cover the curriculum?'
This is the reverse of the hammer and nails saying.
If all you see are nails, you will only ever be looking for a hammer.