Articles| Teachers Will Receive a Key Enabling Them...

Teachers Will Receive a Key Enabling Them to See into their Students’ Minds

23. July 2012 - Hospodářské noviny Mathematics teaching When looking at a cross-out resembling a black blotch, every mathematics teacher should go on the alert. It means that the student does not understand the subject matter at all, as opposed to the student simply crossing out the number. Devoting attention to such details is just one component of a new method of math teaching, which is being launched by Professor Milan Hejný’s team and Martin Chvála from the Teachers’ College of Charles University in Prague.

Their project is mainly intended to help those teachers who often limit their assessment to a letter grade from A to E. When they do not discern where the student made the mistake, they cannot practice the problems with him/her. And this prevents kids from faster progress. The OECD’s report of March 2012 censures the Czech educational system precisely for its method of grading and its weak support for teachers.

If Czech students are to improve in math, teachers must also look at the thought process students follow when they do their work. The expert team will therefore prepare workbooks not only for students but also for teachers, and also booklets with hints as to what the teachers should look out for. “I want to give them a tool that will help them check whether what they teach is actually developing the way children think, or whether it only leads students to parrot what they are told,” Professor Hejný outlines the ambitions of the project, the three-year pilot stage of which takes off at some elementary schools in September.

Teachers are also to be helped by the fact that their instruction in class will be recorded on video. “When you show them their mistakes, the teachers themselves say at the end of the video: Ooops, I did this wrong…,” claims Professor Hejný, adding that teachers’ most frequent mistake is their domineering bearing and the fact that they give too little space to students to work independently.

Over three years, the expert team will, also using the recordings, train several teachers who will then go to other schools where they will personally teach their colleagues how to apply the new method.

“It’s instrumental for the project’s success that the teaching staff be ready and motivated to actively work in the project,” says Jitka Tkadlecová, the spokeswoman for The Kellner Family Foundation. Under the Helping Schools Succeed, the foundation annually remits millions of Czech crowns for the development of the keys to children’s way of thinking.

“Unlike the European Union’s funds, which are overburdened by paperwork and other complexities, we have a more peaceful environment for the work itself thanks to the money from the Foundation,” Mr. Chvál, project manager, relishes the situation.

In addition to the keys for mathematical problems, work on a similar tool for reading literacy has been under way for a year now.

(Author: Julie Daňková, excerpt from the text)

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