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Theory & Praxis on Learning and Teaching


Rome was not built in one day; but educating a person may take even longer.
The full-fledged educational reforms in recent years coupled with the introduction of the New Senior Secondary curriculum have made study more profound and challenging, and students are put in a situation more demanding than ever.

However we are not intimidated in face of such a great challenge.  We thank our Lord instead for seeing us worthy for such an important and challenging mission, and deeply believe that by His wisdom and power we are capable to equip our students to a splendid life and for the use of God.

As it is time to draft an upcoming 3-year plan, we would like to take this occasion to do some reflections on the theory and praxis on our learning and teaching here at Ka Chi, and to sketch a blue-print for our further development.

2、The Learning Process

We are never short of theories on learning, and one is soon replaced by another.  Nevertheless, despite all the differences, few would deny that the following steps are the essentials in the learning process:

Learning has to be motivated.  The best teacher cannot teach a student who refuses to learn, hence motivation to study always precedes learning.  There are different levels of motivation.  Some use penalty and harshness; others use reward and recognition.  But it has been pointed out that these two means do not have long-lasting effects.  If a good relationship exists between the teacher and the student, punishment can be a short-term stimulation.  Yet prolonged punishment would produce resentment and frustration, and hampers the motivation to study.  Intermittent praises can also be a short-term trigger, but continuous acclamations would lose its hook, unless the stimulation keeps becoming bigger and bigger.  Neither of these two can sustain, because they are not internalized.  The best motivation should be an intrinsic pursuit, a form of self-actualization.  A. Marslow’s research on the hierarchy of needs tells us that the pre-requisites of self-actualization are the senses of safety, belongings and self-esteem.  All these are not easy to be bestowed in the teaching process, but have to be created through an intimate teacher-student relationship and a caring campus.  This is even more so to those under-achievers in our school.

Prior study
A prior knowledge in what we are going to learn can facilitate the reception process, and this helps in learning.  For the under-achievers, it is even more necessary to have a mental preparation in what is lying ahead, and learning becomes less scary.  Yet the habit of prior study is not easy to develop.  It takes a strong learning motivation and a good studying habit.  However, trainings since childhood may bear its fruit in the senior forms.

A passionate learning motivation together with an ample prior-study would not work its magic without an appropriate learning process, which, we believe, should include the following elements:

a. Revision on the main points learned in the last lesson;
b. A clear agenda of what is to be learned in this lesson;
c. A starting point that is appropriate to the learners’ standard;
d. An appropriate scaffold guiding learners to achieve the goal;
e. Suitable challenge in each step of the scaffold;
f. A good discernment on learners’ barriers of learning, and appropriate steps to lead them across these barriers.
g. Occasions to help learners construct their knowledge.  Learning is a process of active construction.  The weaker the students, the more difficult it is to learn directly from lectures.Catering for learners’ diversity through well-designed learning activities so that students can learn according to their own pace.
h. Immediate assessment to diagnose the learning effectiveness so that timely remedy can be made.  The assessment is two-fold, one by the teacher on the students, the other by the students on their own learning.
i. Consolidation of knowledge by the end of each lesson so as to wrap up what has been learned.

Our brains tend to delete memory.  Therefore revision after class is essential.  This includes revision of text-books, tidying-up notes and doing exercises.  This is also a habit that has to be trained, and a passion of learning is required.

Assessments on learning give information to teachers and students alike on what have been learned and what not, so that the next step forward can be charted out.  Assessments have to be frequent so that remedy can be given before it is too late.  The emphasis of the assessments is on what have been learned instead of what have not, so as not to dampen the motivation of the students.

The assessments allow teachers to devise plans to help students achieve the goal, and give focus for the remedial classes.

3、Our Present Situation

Ka Chi has already made much academic progress in the past ten years of reform, and, based on this solid foundation, we are striving to push further ahead and develop Ka Chi into a place where students can stretch their academic potentials.

Composition of students
As a result of popular education, the number of SEN students has been increasing in recent years, and they are facing a variety of learning difficulties.  On the other hand of the spectrum, there are also more and more high academic achievers, who have strong learning motivations, good studying habits and sound academic foundations.  On the broadening of these two ends, the diversity of learners is continuously widening, causing a greater challenge to teaching.

Learning motivations
Undeniably many of our students are in lack of motivations in learning.  A handful of elite students are certainly not enough to stir other students up to strive for excellence.  On the contrary, the under-achievers may choose to give up due to the great contrast with the winners.  Reasons for the lack of motivation can be numerous, but they are all probably linked to two inter-related factors.  The first is the lack of confidence due to constant failure.  Another is the lack of dreams about the future, being convinced that they could not be anybody of significance in life.  The result is a low self-esteem.

The school has been on the right track in cultivating students’ confidence, ambition and compassion.  Through the multiple intelligences institute and the student ambassadors program, students’ self-confidence is established.  Through value education, form associations and cell groups, an intimate relationship between students and teachers has been developed.  Students strive for the best because of the appreciation and care of the teachers, which is the proper way to inculcate intrinsic motivations.  At present, the school is adopting a student-centred management mentality, which alleviates the tension between the students and the school.  Through all these measures, the school has provided a fertile ground in which students can develop their motivations in learning.

But why is it that students’ learning motivation has not been greatly enhanced in all these years?  There may be two reasons.  Firstly, the focus of student nurture has been on the spiritual development of students instead of their academic progress.  Secondly, students are still facing a harsh future that may not be able to contain many colourful dreams.

Studying habits
The lack of good studying habits has been the Achilles’ heel of Ka Chi students.  Most of the students do not have the habits of prior study, taking notes and revision.  The school has devised various schemes to cultivate the studying habits.  The quiet studying time in junior forms aims to nurture the habits of prior study and reflections, and there are frequent quizzes to push students to revise what they have learned.  But not many teachers would set questions on prior study, and the reflection topics are often not very effective in cultivating students’ habits in revision and self-studying.  The frequent quizzes may be helpful to some, but most of the students would only study minutes ahead of the quizzes and do not have a studying timetable for revision.  Notes are usually provided by the teachers, which saves the students from the process of digestion and organization.

Learning and teaching
The school has spent quite a lot of energy on the reform of learning and teaching, and has already established a good framework of teaching.  The three priorities in preparing for the learning attitude, the strategies of low starting point, small steps, many activities and quick feedback, cooperative learning in groups, grouping of diverse abilities, catering for learning diversities in teaching as well as in assessment, all these are effective strategies in helping the under-achievers.  Collaborative lesson planning, lesson observations, assignment inspections, staff development programs, all these are supporting and monitoring the process of teaching.  Yet there are still several minor gaps between the beginning and the end of the process.  They are namely, revision of the last lesson, stating the agenda of the lesson, self-evaluation of students, and the consolidation of the lesson.  The lesson can become more complete by fitting in these several rings.  Lesson observation is another aspect that deserves further development, as there is at present only lesson observations by the senior staff, and the culture of whole-school lesson observation has not yet emerged.

Assessment and follow-up
The school has a well-established policy on assessment and follow-up.  Quizzes are frequent, weekly on Chinese and English, and even daily on Mathematics.  Other subjects also have bi-weekly quizzes.  There is the nurturing scheme to take care of those who fail in the quizzes.  Besides that, there are also tutorial classes and elite classes to help those who can do better.  The policy itself is sound, on which implementation the effect depends.

4. Policies on Learning and Teaching

An inviting campus

  • Fervent learning motivation is based on confidence and ambition, and these depend on intimate teacher-student relationship and nurturing policies that encourage the development of potentials.  Ka Chi’s student nurturing concept of CARE is based on the 5P principles of Invitational Education.  We aim to cultivate a cozy campus that makes our students feel like at home, to build up a teaching staff that cares for the students like our own children, to devise policies from the perspective of the students, to implement the policies with a sincere and open mind, and to design activities that inspires confidence, ambition and compassion.  These are not only the basis of student nurture, but also the foundation of academic success.  We have form associations and class management scheme to actualize the caring of students, the multiple intelligences institute to develop students’ potentials, and the sharing meetings with the principal to facilitate communication.  These various schemes have to be continued with greater fervor.
  • The Academic Committee and the Student Affairs Committee have to work more closely together in planning and promoting the class management scheme.  Activities such as time management workshop, studying strategies workshop, F. 6 training camp, studying groups, can be launched through form associations and class teachers.
  • The Careers Guidance Committee has to organize career development workshops for various forms so as to help students to search for their career goal.

Studying habits

  • The class teachers have to guide students in drafting their revision time-table, and invite parents to help monitor students’ progress, so as to encourage students to have self-learning.
  • Before each module of learning, subject teachers have to assign classwork or homework so as to guide students in prior studying.
  • After each module of learning, subject teachers have to assign at least one revision homework so as to help students in their revision.
  • Students are required to write notes on what they have learned, and present their notebook for inspection after each module of learning.

Teaching routines

  • The three priorities: At the beginning of each lesson, teachers would inspect the uniforms of the students, the tidiness of the classroom, and the proper learning materials for class.  These help students to have mental preparation for class.
  • Revision of main points: Before teaching new topics, teachers will guide students to revise the main points of the previous lesson, so as to refresh their memory.
  • Stating of agenda: After revision, teachers will state the learning objectives of this lesson.  This may not apply to subjects like Life Education that use inductive reasoning.
  • “Low, small, many, quick”: Teachers will follow the teaching strategies of low starting point, small steps, many activities and quick feedback, so as to guide students in the construction of knowledge.  Learning activities and frequent assessments are essential in this process.
  • Identification of difficulties: Teachers will diagnose the common learning difficulties of students, and adjust the pace of teaching accordingly.
  • Cooperative learning: Teachers will adopt small group cooperation learning strategy as much as possible, as this is more effective in guiding students in active construction of knowledge.  Heterogeneous grouping is usually more effective, and is recommended.
  • Catering for learners’ diversity: Design of teaching has to take into consideration of diverse ability of students.  Heterogeneous grouping is one of the methods to cater for learners’ diversity.
  • Consolidation of learning: Teachers will review the agenda of this lesson and wrap up the main points of the lesson.
  • Students’ self-assessment of learning: After each module of learning, students will be given a list of items that have been taught, and assess their own learning effectiveness.  This would also allow teachers to know the difficulties of the students.  Teachers should appreciate students’ achievement according to what have been learned, instead of condemnation according to what have not.

Follow-up measures

  • Quizzes: There has to be at least one quiz per week for the major subjects and one per cycle for other subjects, so as to help students consolidate their knowledge.  The content of the quiz can be on previous knowledge, so as to broaden the scope of revision.
  • Nurturing scheme: Teachers should arrange after-school nurturing or other follow-up exercises for those who fail in the quizzes.  Teachers can design the nurturing based on students’ self-assessment of learning.
  • Tutorials: Students who needs further support can be arranged into tutorial classes.
  • Elite classes: Elite classes on Chinese, English, Mathematics and Liberal Studies will be arranged for senior form students who surpass others in academic performance.  At present, the school does not have enough resources to cater for the needs of other subjects, yet teachers are willing to walk a further mile for the students on their own initiative.

Staff development

  • Collaborative lesson planning: Subject teachers have to undertake collaborative lesson planning as scheduled to discuss on the appropriate teaching methods.  Lesson plans have to be submitted to the Academic Committee.
  • Whole-school lesson observation: Every teacher has to assign an open class for peer observation of the same domain.  Each teacher has to observe at least two lessons in a year, and submit the lesson observation forms to the teachers being observed, as well as copies to the Academic Committee.  Key Learning Area (KLA) coordinators may also make due arrangements and follow-ups in their own domain.
  • Data analysis: KLA coordinators should use the data analysis provided by the Academic Affairs Committee for their monitoring and following-up of the teaching effectiveness of their own subject teachers, and to adopt measures as appropriate.
  • Staff development: The Academic Committee will arrange suitable seminars and workshops to improve teachers’ professional knowledge, skills and attitude, and arrange KLA coordinators to have external visits.

Extensive reading scheme
Extensive reading is very important to the development of self-learning and the equipping of students as a life-long learner.  As the previous quiet reading time is not as effective as it should be, the Academic Committee is launching a new extensive reading scheme as a substitution.

  • Chinese and English reading scheme: Both Chinese and English Languages have been running their own extensive reading schemes effectively, and they have designated reading materials for each form, enough copies of readers, as well as the students’ reading portfolio.  These two subjects may continue to run their scheme as usual, only that their marks will be submitted to the library.
  • Library extensive reading scheme: The library is going to design another series of readers on the recommendation of other domain coordinators.  Students have to choose from this list and submit reports to the library through their class teachers.
  • The librarian will combine the marks from the above three schemes into an Extensive Reading mark, which will be recorded in the academic report card, the full mark of which will be 25.
  • Students who have read more books than required will have extra award.
  • The library has to make sure that there are enough copies of readers for the students.
  • Submission of book report on the web may be attempted once this scheme has matured.
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