A new version of the 0-8th grade curriculum is to be implemented soon. Six experimental primary schools and two secondary schools have been selected by the Government authorities to begin the implementation of those curriculum changes. The adopted approach provides a "bottom-up" model, where the main focus of each input is the work generated from each particular school. It aims to complement the theoretical seminars supported by the authorities by providing alternative models of practice through workshops situated within the schools themselves and study tours in the UK.
Purpose / Objective
The progress report of the "In-service teachers" training using active learning methodologies' in two main experimental primary schools in Republika Srpska (RS) focussed on the progress, achievements and obstacles of the initiative so far, and documented suggestions and proposals by counterparts, children and parents related to continuation and sustainability. The report focuses only on the experience in two main experimental schools (Petar Kocic and Borislav Stankovic) and their satellite schools, which benefited from the technical support from Bishop Grosseteste University College (BGUC) and UNICEF.
The progress report addressed the following aspects:
A. Changes in Instructional Practices:
B. Changes in School-based Management:
C. Changes in Learning Outcomes, Attendance Rates, Behavioural Changes
D. Barriers and Constraints to Change, Solutions Found, Recommendations for Future Action
The progress report was conducted at five different levels:
The study was conducted through personal interviews using as a tool a detailed questionnaire incorporating all the above-mentioned criteria. The ideas and opinions mentioned in this report reflect those of the interviewed groups and also the reports prepared by BGUC after the school-based workshops and visits to RS.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Physical Layout of Classrooms and Schools
Children's movement between classes, their activity within the class, their enthusiasm, the decorative display panels and their active involvement, is dynamic. Both the children and teachers prefer this environment, rather than the way it was in the past, when teachers were the central focus of the class and the students were expected to accept all information with no opportunity for argument or discussion.
In many classrooms, the chairs and desks are rearranged, often in a U, circle or other shapes. These arrangements are more enjoyable, less formal and more conducive to open, uninhibited interaction and better communication, and small group and pair work.
According to interviewed children, classes before were boring, cold, dull and unexciting. Currently, children are very satisfied with the classrooms and the changes in instructional practices and couldn't think of any better way to change them.
Approaches to Teaching and Learning
Although the past curricula was revised, the teachers still think the curricula is still too heavy, intensive and much of it is obsolete. Active Learning methodologies are not used in all subjects. Some subjects have to be conducted in the traditional way, such as languages.
Taking into consideration the curricula (irrelevant and heavy), and the shortage of teaching aids, the teachers have made great efforts in order to create an interactive teaching-learning process, which motivates students and enhances analytical and practical skills.
One advantage of the introduction of the new curriculum and consequently the use of more Active Learning methodologies is that English (and not Russian nor German like before) is the foreign language being introduced and at an early stage, which is very useful.
Teachers' daily lesson planning within the experimental schools is less content-oriented and more process-oriented. Planning focused on HOW to conduct a lesson and what participatory techniques they can use to enhance maximum children's interaction and positive learning outcomes. Prior to the introduction of active learning methodologies, the same teachers planned only WHAT their lessons would focus on, related to content.
Overall, school planning is more inclusive, through teachers and children are actively participating in the process. In the Petar Kocic primary school, an end-of-the-year evaluation took place as well as the planning for the subsequent school year. The teachers, children, and some parents carried out both activities. Before the introduction of the new methodologies, the school pedagogues did all the school planning.
Schools now have a kind of "generic" work plan for the year and are on their way to do active and participatory planning compared to how plans were made before. However, these plans need much polishing and redefining in order to incorporate measurable objectives and form adequate tools, which include new teaching and learning methodologies.
Changes in School-based Management
Parents' role in the school continues to be minimal and restricted only to meetings and economic support. Parents are burdened with other responsibilities and believe that the school should make all the decisions pertaining to education. Meanwhile, there are serious efforts being made by the teachers, the directors and the UBL to design strategies to enhance a more active and effective role of the parents in the school.
Parents are better informed of their children's development in school through the monthly school report, which is prepared for each child and sent to the parents. Parents are very satisfied with this new procedure. The Director contacts parents now if their child is having any problem.
Students have "community class meetings", where certain concerns are raised and suggestions made. But only those that do not entail financial implications are addressed by the school administration due to the shortage of funds.
All students interviewed said they like to come to school now more than before. Some parents said their children wanted to come to school even if they were sick. Teachers commented that the students in the past had inflicted lots of damage to the school walls and furniture, and had a less positive attitude towards the school, in general, and the teaching staff. Today, these students have developed a very tolerant and amiable attitude towards the school. Absenteeism has been reduced and vandalism against the school happens much less than before.
Changes in Learning Outcomes, Attendance Rates, Behavioral Changes and Improvements in Academic Performance
Although it is too early to judge regarding the academic performance of the students, there are many positive indicators on the successes of the AL approach. Hence, co-ordination should continue to maintain and expand AL to secondary schools, so students will have less of an "academic shock" when they move up to secondary levels.
Teaching is still predominantly verbal and theoretical in the main science subjects. Basic laboratory equipment is lacking, and should be made available to the AL schools. At present, simple experiments like chemical analysis can't be performed in school. Equipment is also needed for language classes.
More training material, resources, publications, books, periodicals, and videotapes are needed to keep teachers up-to-date on AL techniques.
Parents should be invited to attend classes and encouraged to make suggestions about the AL methodology.
Curriculum has to be seriously revised, the contents reduced and adjusted properly to meet the modern changes in the field of Education. This process has to be participatory, where schools, parents, RPI, UBL, and MoE staff are all involved. In the revision process, similar subjects could be grouped together.
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Education - Participatory Learning