Someone once said, “great lessons begin with good planning”. Being a new teacher, I couldn’t agree more. However, good planning is multifactorial and being new to the teaching industry, I struggled initially. As part of the CPE in my school, there is always a lot of talk about active learning, different teaching strategies, learning styles, learning resources, ideal learning environments and classroom management. Before I could even start planning, I had to learn about all of these aspects, what they meant, what was ideal and how to implement them all. This was no easy task and I am still learning something new everyday.
Besides that, I had to familiarise myself with IB Chemistry programme and all that the programme encompasses “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect; encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”
In planning, I first identify the objectives of the lesson before choosing a teaching or learning activity. The end of the class then culminates with a strategy to check students’ understanding.
In planning my programme, the IB Chemistry Guide has been indispensable. The aims and objectives of my programme are developed from the aims and objectives of the course as well as the prescribed syllabus. I also had help from my more experienced colleagues who were invaluable in giving me general advice about teaching and planning my programme as well as lessons. They were there for me to bounce ideas off them and even to provide me with resources, which they have found useful.
Besides that, I am experimenting with teaching strategies, which I have come across in reading “The Strategic Teacher” by Silver et al. The book explores 16 different teaching strategies, which are based on 4 learning styles. The “dashboard” summary of each strategy describes when to use it best, whether it is introducing a topic or for assessments and which learning style it relates to. In planning this programme I have utilised the “New American Lecture” and “Direct instruction” teaching strategies which are Mastery learning strategies, “Jigsaw” teaching strategy which is an interpersonal learning strategy as well as “Inductive Learning” teaching strategy which is a Self-Expressive form of learning strategy.
In today’s day and age, the internet is also an extensive amount of resources. I am able to obtain countless numbers of videos, animations, virtual experiments, worksheets etc from the internet.
Inquiry learning and constructivism plays a major role in IB’s philosophy. Scientific experiments lend itself naturally to the inquirer part of the programme and I include several opportunities for students to research topics and ideas. I also try to start my lessons by establishing a students prior knowledge so that I can build upon it rather than teach them something they already know. Instead of giving them all the answers, I provide prompts to encourage students to make their own links in the subject matter. This does well to facilitate active learning and develop curiosity in themselves as well as the world. Students become independent learners and problem solving comes naturally.
The major highlight of this programme has to be the “Jigsaw” lesson on Salt hydrolysis. This strategy employed so many aspects of active learning. Although the content of the topic was important, there were so many other components to it. Students were empowered to learn something on their own accord so that the group as a whole learns together. If someone does not pull their own weight, the entire group suffers. In this lesson students learned about researching and the importance of selecting relevant information from reliable sources. Good communication skills was also needed as they had to organise their findings to be clear, concise and coherent in order to teach someone else.
To extend the learning beyond the learning sessions I have designed, I could have assigned students with research projects or provide them with worksheets for homework for them to practice and reinforce their knowledge. Encouraging students to summarise the lesson in their own words may also be helpful in strengthening their understanding.
To evaluate if students have achieved the learning objectives, I use a variety of formative assessments. The assessments I have employed in this programme include the “Jigsaw” session, worksheets, group presentations as well as informal question and answer sessions. The summative assessment is a written test, which mimics the final examination closely. I use past paper questions to set the paper so that students get an idea of what kind of questions will be asked and how to respond to them.
Overall I think my programme and lesson design was effective and was received well by the students. Planning helped me solve and avoid a lot of problems in class. They allowed me to be more organised and systematic in teaching and allowed me to use a variety of teaching strategies so that lessons are not monotonous and students are maximally engaged. However, as Robert Burns puts it in his poem To a Mouse, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley” which means things do not always go according to plan and I have also learnt to adapt my plans when necessary.