Through the school immersion in the Australian International School (AISHK), lots of differences are being observed between an international school and local primary schools, such as school's environment, language policy and teaching methods.
Why are there differences between local primary schools and an international school even though these schools are located in the same territory? Why do the primary in-service teachers in Hong Kong have different teaching methods when compared with that of international school's teachers? How do the teaching methods that used by local teachers influence local students in learning process?
In this essay, the above aspects will be further discussed and elaborated.
Observation- Teaching Methods Used in the AISHK
Interactions between teachers and students are commonly found in the AISHK. Teachers, for example, ask some questions to let students answer. Students are divided into groups to do different tasks. Thus, lessons are dominated by teachers' speeches.
Inside students' portfolio, there are worksheets that are done by students. It is not difficult to find out teachers always praise students' work. Teachers write "Good Work" "Excellent" "Fantastic Listening" "Good Job" to praise their students. Even though students may not do very well, they will write "Good Try" on their worksheets. If a student does not do very well on a specific task, the teacher will not scold students or fold their work. Instead, teacher will write one or two short sentences to remind his or her student to do better next time.
During lessons, textbooks are not used in the AISHK. Drills are not commonly used there. When teachers ask student's questions, teachers do not tell them the answers immediately. Students are not required to recite teachers' model answers. Thus, students can have more chances to explore knowledge by themselves.
Comparison between AISHK and Local Primary Schools Regarding
There are several differences when comparing AISHK and local primary schools. They have different school curriculum, student's nationality, assessing methods and different teaching methods. In this session, teaching methods between these two types of schools will be discussed.
Firstly, in AISHK, lessons are not teachers' lectures
while in most of the local primary schools; lessons are dominated by teachers'
Secondly, the AISHK and the local primary schools have different foci on students' work. Teachers focus on students' learning processes, not students' results.
Teachers in local primary schools seldom or never praise students and their work. Teachers use grading methods (A, B, C, D) to grade students' work. It affects students' self-esteem while they are learning. However, in AISHK, teachers praise them frequently. Even though students get most of the answer with ticks, teachers of local primary schools stamp "Try more hard" on their work. If a student gets most of the answers wrong, he or she will receive a stamp "You did a mess, parent please signs your name here". Whereas in AISHK, teachers encourage students to make improvement by writing "Good Try" on their worksheets.
Textbooks are the main component in local schools' lessons. Teachers always use them to teach and then students use them to revise their lessons. While in the AISHK, textbooks are rarely found in classrooms. In addition, the Audio-Lingual Method is commonly found in Hong Kong local primary schools. Such as expansion drill, single-slot substitution drill and transformation drill. These drills restrict students' thinking in their learning process as most of the local teachers in general tell their model answers without letting students to find their answers. On the opposite, teachers provide adequate time for students to think of the questions. These drills are not being used in the AISHK.
The rationale behind the usage of traditional teaching
methods of HK primary school teachers
Five reasons that can explain why local primary school teachers (more correctly to say, local teachers) adopt traditional teaching methods in teaching though they know that these methods have many drawbacks.
1. Teachers' Personal History
Personal History is one of the important aspects that influenced how a teacher teaches his/her students. For instances, teachers avoid the bad methods used by his/her teachers. If his teacher bit students because of unwanted behaviour, he will avoid biting his students when he deals with students who have misbehaviour. If his past teacher use Method A to deliver his lessons, when he becomes a teacher, he will use his past teacher's teaching method- Method A. It is because he has got used to the method used by his past teacher though he has adopted some new and effective teaching methods in the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
As teachers cannot adopt to the usage of new and effective teaching methods, they usually retain to use their own traditional drills and practice in schools, even though they know clearly that the traditional one have drawbacks.
In addition, teachers were taught to make less or no mistakes in the past. If they made a lot of mistakes, their teachers will scold them or punish them. Therefore, teachers point out their students' mistakes without seeing that students have paid their effort to do their work.
Moreover, teachers did not receive or seldom receive praising from their teachers when they were young. Their teachers believed that praising would make students become too proud of their work. Students would eventually become lazy. In present times, teachers are either unwilling to give praises to students or they do not how to praise their students.
2. Chinese Culture Learning Method
Most of the local primary school teachers are Chinese, more or less, they are affected by the Chinese cultural of learning. During lessons, teachers are the only speaker in classroom. Students need to be quiet throughout the lessons. The process of learning is that teachers teach and then students listen, write and memorize the knowledge. The most important point to notice is students must obey what the teachers have said. These features can be found until now!
The consequences are that, discussions among teachers and students, discussions among students are not available in schools. Without these discussions, it is uneasy to check the understanding of students. Students do not have a channel to express their ideas. It indirectly hinders the development of students' creativity since skill development is emphasized during the lessons.
Another effect is that students get used to a popular
use of teaching method in Hong Kong- Spoon- feed teaching. Students do not have
the motivation to discover and explore things around themselves. They just rely
on the knowledge from the speech of teachers and then their textbooks. It is
predictable that if Spoon-feed teaching approach is used continuously, it is
impossible to enforce the Life-long learning in Hong Kong society.
Nowadays, most of the teachers in Hong Kong use authority instead of using respect when they teach their students. They think that authority is the only way to consolidate students to obey what they have said, regardless that students in this century are not as obedience as them when they were students in the past.
3. Limited space in classroom/ classroom setting
The classroom setting of most of the primary schools is roughly the same. There is inadequate space inside the classrooms. There are thirty to forty-five chairs and desks in each classroom, with a blackboard, teaching desk and chair and some lockers for the students. This kind of classroom setting has one advantage, it restricts students talking in class. However, the area is so dense that it forbids students to move around inside the classroom. Activities are limited as the classroom's environment does not favour to hold activities in class.
4. Tight schedule in local primary schools
It is very tiresome for teachers to finish the school syllabus on one hand and then on the other hand to hold various sorts of activities, such as games, dramas, competitions, etc. during lessons because of tight schedule in local primary schools. Each lesson only lasts for 30-35 minutes which is too short to teach students' knowledge and give homework to them to finish at home. So, it is hard for local teachers to have activities regularly in schools.
5. Having heavy workload
There are excessive tasks for teachers to do. For example, they need to prepare for their lessons, correct assignments for their students, deal with administration work of the school, hold extra-curricular activities, etc. All these tasks make teachers busy all the time. They hardly prepare the lessons well and use the ideal teaching methods that they have attained.
The Advantage and Disadvantage of Uusing Traditional
Teaching Methods and Effects to Primary Students in HK
The advantage of using traditional teaching methods can guarantee teachers can finish the school syllabus on time. Students can revise their lessons eventually afterwards.
The disadvantage is that, students get bored in lessons because there are not many activities available in class. Tough timetable forces teachers to be the only speakers in the lessons. As a result, insufficient interaction between teachers and students in schools resulted.
In the perspective of students, they may think that it is not interesting to learn things at school. If the lessons are conducted in Chinese, the problem may be less serious as they know what the teachers teach. Whereas, for lessons which are not taught in their mother tongue, such as English and Putonghua, they may find difficulties in learning them. Without interaction, they find it monotonous to study these subjects. The consequence is that they have no intrinsic motivation to learn and acquire knowledge. It virtually affects students' learning attitude. They may adopt laissez-faire while they are learning. Life-long learning cannot be achieved in the society.
How to conduct Effective Teaching in Classroom and to be an Effective Teacher
It is distinguished to use effective teaching methods to boost students in lessons. First of all, teachers should be clear in the classroom. They should use examples, illustrations, and demonstrations to expound and clarify text and workbook context. If teachers find that students do not understanding what they have taught, they have to repeat the specific topic once or even reteach it.
Secondly, Teachers should have instructional variety in the classroom. They should not ignore students' talk as students begin to have confidence to reply you question in their own belief. Teachers should adopt students' idea instead of thinking their answer must be the model answer. By doing so, students can realize that teachers respect them as a whole, not as an inferior.
Thirdly, people need praising throughout their lives. Teachers should give praises to students from time to time. This strengthens their confidence and encourages them to love learning. In the contrast, if teachers do not praise students, or even scold them in their learning procedure, they will think that they are not good at learning things. Eventually, they lose their interest in acquiring further knowledge.
Fourthly, teachers can use group and individual activities as motivating aids in lessons.
These can provide opportunities for students' to give feedback. Discussions among students can create an environment for them to cooperate with peers. They can learn how to do group work. Trust and teamwork among students can be developed.
An effective teacher should always observe and record his or her teaching behaviour regularly. This can let himself or herself know how effective or ineffective teaching approach that he or she has used. (Borich, G.D., 1990) It reflects what aspect(s) a teacher should improve and what behaviour should be preserved. It can definitely help shaping teacher's proficiency.
An effective teacher should be adaptable and they should accept students' point of view. If they are adaptable, they will find it easier to adopt new ideas, especially in adopting new teaching techniques. They will have the capacity to accept students' ideas and also to learn the merits from their colleagues.
Owing to different cultures of the AISHK and the local primary schools, numerous differences are drawn as a result. It is not surprising to see these two types of schools have different school curriculums, different school environment provided to students and different teaching methods.
Comparatively speaking, the teaching methods used by the AISHK's teachers are more successful in enhancing students to learn than local primary school teachers. It is because there are interactions between students and teachers and also among students. Teachers always give praises to students. This can indirectly allow students to keep their well behaviour and also boost them to have a sense of self-learning in long run.
Not only the primary school teachers in Hong Kong use traditional methods in teaching, but also teachers from all over the world. Thereby, it is invalid to put all the blames on Hong Kong local teachers. In the reality, all teachers from different races and nationalities should improve their own teaching practice. In order to achieve this goal, teachers should work closely with their students as teaching and learning are mutually related.
There is no perfect teacher in the world. However, teachers should try to improve their teaching methods on one side and on the other side, they should imitate to adopt new and useful methods as teachers' teaching method play influential role on students' learning process.
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Watkins, D. and Biggs, J. (Eds.). (1996) The Chinese Learner: Cultural Psychology and Contextual Influences. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre and the Australian Council for Educational Research
Larsen-Freeman, D. (1996). Techniques and Principles in language teaching. England: Oxford.
Australian International School(2002.) School Aims. Retrieved November 27,2002, from http://www.aishk.edu.hk/aims.html
Chong, Y.C., Sze, W. L., Wan, Y.C., Wong, W.L.(2002.) The value and influence of Personal History on teacher thinking. Hong Kong: Chong, Y.C., Sze, W. L., Wan, Y.C., Wong, W.L.