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5.2 TEACHING ISSUES

5.2.2 Teaching Method

All nine teachers had confirmed that they were accustomed to the traditional teaching method of giving students information, along with some student

discussion; this was their preferred method of teaching. As previously stated in this traditional teaching method, information is transferred from teachers to students through direct explanations, therefore, it does not require students’

interactions in the actual lesson. They argued that this method was effective for delivering and controlling the flow of the lesson content. Therefore, students were expected to receive the content without making any noise and to pay attention to the teacher throughout a lesson. Some of the comments that teachers made with regard to their preferred method of teaching reflect this teaching method. The following three comments were typical across nine teachers.

... I use chalkboard to explain, ask students to copy from it and most of the time I dictate notes for them [PRETI6].

For me that method [traditional] is more convenient ... [and]

effective. I ask students also to pay attention and copy the lesson when I finish the explanation [PRETI2].

... being at the chalkboard just in front of the students gives me the total control of the class ... So I prefer to go with the explanation method [PRETI9].

Even the students expressed their opinions about the teaching methods in which they indicated there was a particular pattern which was regular and typical. The following excerpt is from an interview with a student is representative of all nine students’ ideas:

Miss asks questions about the last class then writes the new topic on the board then she starts explaining the new topic until she finishes it. Miss uses the board all the time to explain the topic. We copy things from the board and sometime Miss dictates notes if she can finish the explaining part before the bell goes off [PRESI4].

Classroom observations of nine teachers during the pre-intervention also indicated similar patterns of teaching practices across the three schools. Direct explanations constituted the teaching method although one out of the nine teachers had some sort of classroom interactions within the lesson, as shown in the observation notes on that teacher:

… her [teacher] method of teaching was teacher centred. She did all the talking while students set passively to listen to the teacher. The class was very small when compared with other classes that I observed in three schools. Towards end of the lesson she gave a worksheet for students. The worksheet was very simple, no need for

discussion, but she explained it before passing to the students…and solved it on the chalkboard with the help from the students [PRETO1].

It seemed evident that teachers were not concerned with building relationships with their students or relationships between students through interaction such as group projects or assignments. In addition, it is a tradition in the Maldives where teachers would have distant and formal relationships with their students, believing that due respect for teachers would not be given if they are too familiar with the students. One classroom observation note characterises the nature of relationships between teachers and students across the three schools.

It seemed the teacher was not very friendly with the students. Several times during the lesson s/he yelled at few students and showed them a kind of angry face throughout the lesson [PRETO2].

Students also commented on their perceptions about the relationships between teachers and students, and the limited role that they have in interacting with teachers and their peers. It appeared that due to this lack of relationship in the classes, some of the students have already abstained from the social interactions that are believed to contribute to student learning. A comment made by a student reflects the nature of their relationships and how that could affect their learning:

Some students they have already given distance to Miss so they don’t try to approach Miss even if they don’t understand the lesson because she is always angry with us [PRESI4].

Finally, the teaching was very much focused on the examinations. It appeared that this was mainly because the school authorities would like to get good results for their schools at the end of each academic year in order to get a good ranking from the MoE. Each year the MoE ranks all lower secondary schools based on the results of their Cambridge and Secondary School Certificate—Dhivehi and Islam, examinations. Although this has already been criticised by many in the Maldives due to the criteria—which are believed to be more favourable for schools with fewer students—it appeared that competition exists to get high marks in the examinations across the three schools. Some comments made by the teachers reflect the nature of their exam-oriented teaching and how they were pressured to produce good results, as the following teachers’ comments show:

Here we use exam-oriented teaching ... This method is very effective because students don’t make noises during the explanation [PRETI8].

Every year MoE ranks schools according to the exam results. Last year the economics pass rate in this school was 56 per cent or something like that which was good. So we are always under pressure to get good results. We are very much focused on the results rather than teaching for understanding. This is the department policy [PRETI6].

Similarly, another teacher raised the issue of good teaching, and concluded that the economics department and the MoE perceive good teaching as getting high marks in the examinations. In addition, s/he highlighted that those teachers who bring good results for schools become school heroes, therefore, all teachers try to get such recognition because ultimately that would help them to improve their image not only in schools but also in the society at large. In the words of one teacher:

... good teaching for the department or the MoE is good results in the examinations because they always put pressure on us to bring good results. If any teacher brings better results in the exam then that teacher becomes the school hero. I think the main reason for this is because the MoE ranks secondary schools each year based on the Cambridge Examination results, so everyone wants to get their school to be in the top [PRETI9].

Post-Intervention

Workshops on cooperative learning provided teachers with knowledge and skills for lesson planning, developing learning activities and implementing such lessons in classrooms. Although the training focused upon basic cooperative learning techniques, the changes observed in teachers’ teaching style during the post intervention were considerable. First, their perception of direct explanation of content in order to pass the knowledge from teachers to students evolved, with more student involvement in teaching. Second, teachers’ attitudes or behaviours towards group-based teaching and learning seemed changed. Third, teachers were more willing to create environments where positive relationships could form between teachers and students and between students themselves. Fourth, teachers were more relaxed in the classrooms and seemed to help individual students more than they ever did during the pre-intervention phase. In addition, they

acknowledged the benefits that this new method could bring for their students’

learning, as the following two teachers’ quotes show:

My past way of teaching has changed because of the training during the workshop on cooperative learning. Consequently there is a change in the classroom behaviour, increased students’ interest in the subject and their active involvement in teaching and learning process [POSTTI5].

I have observed changes in my class although I have received a little training from the workshop. ... I strongly believe if we have given more training the results will be much better because we have seen students’ keen interest in learning due to this cooperative learning [POSTTI2].

When I asked the question whether they have seen any changes in the way they teach economics, all nine teachers who participated in the study acknowledged the changes. They not only acknowledged the changed teaching but also highlighted the importance of having various teaching techniques to be effective in the classroom, arguing that teaching is not only explaining the lesson content to students. One teacher remarked:

Teaching is not only delivering the lesson plans to students. It should have different techniques in order to be effective. I think cooperative learning has changed our teaching ... [it] made me to think about the way I teach economics, and now I prefer to involve students in teaching and learning rather than encouraging them to sit passively in the classroom [POSTTI4].

Similarly, another teacher highlighted the changed teaching by relating it to the changed classroom behaviour and claimed that cooperative learning techniques would result in changed teaching, as s/he noted:

Yes! I have observed the changes during this short period of time.

After implementing the cooperative lessons students are looking forward to learn more … [and] excited about it ... I am very grateful to take part in this research project and learn this new method of teaching. I believe it will bring positive changes to the way we teach economics [POSTTI9].

5.2.3 Group Work