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By Rodrigo Ponce
Many of us who learned mathematics through the structured or traditional method will undoubtedly find this scene familiar: the teacher comes into the classroom, starts explaining a theorem and writes exercises on the blackboard; the students copy them down, solve innumerable exercises and, finally, time permitting, complete an example of what they have learned. This scene is not just from the past, but is still being repeated today in many classrooms.
The reality is that Mexico, along with other Latin American countries, has oen obtained the lowest scores on the PISA test (Programme for International Student Assessment) by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), which measures students’ development in reading, mathematics and science competencies.
We need to foster students’ inquisitive spirit, in which knowledge acquisition is mostly centered on observation and experimentation.
This test evaluates the application of mathematics in a specific context; however, it must be stressed that students are rarely taught how to put their knowledge into practice. Instead, teachers continue to work with mathematics in an abstract, theoretical manner.
If we change the way or method of teaching math, more students would find it easier to learn this subject. In fact, learning and using math develops key skills, including problem solving, which also enhances comprehension in other areas of knowledge, such as science.
Nowadays, the educator’s task goes beyond teaching a topic in the classroom; there is a pressing need to innovate and evaluate student learning outcomes. As teachers, we should consider students’ experience with natural phenomena, invite them to experiment and introduce the conceptual theories used in mathematics according to their observations, thus avoiding contradictions in student learning.
This is no small challenge faced by the new generation of educators. In fact, Leonardo Garnier, former education minister of Costa Rica, commented in an interview with the Observatory of Educational Innovation of Tecnológico de Monterrey that the new generations of educators tend to teach in the same way they were taught 20 years ago, and not how they were trained at college. Breaking this pattern is very diicult, although many teachers have managed to implement this change.
I had the opportunity to attend an annual event organized by the Latin American Association of Research in Educational Sciences (LASERA), which brings together teachers and researchers from Latin America to address topics such as curricular content revision, teaching-learning strategies, methodological experiences, and new teaching materials and instruments. A recurrent challenge presented in the seminar was how to foster students’ inquisitive spirit, since knowledge acquisition starts largely through the observation and experimentation of natural phenomena.
A trend in education is the use of Remote Laboratories, which have overcome the limitations of in-person laboratories.
In addition, I learned about the transformation project in Costa Rica for the basic math education program, that includes a radical switch in teaching strategies and methods, and reform of the program of study, which is divided into four learning stages: Formulation of a real-life problem or challenge, where problems that are tangible and meaningful for students are presented; Independent student work, so that students can discuss, investigate and propose solutions; Brainstorming and communicating answers, which promotes collaborative group work to visualize the dierent proposed solutions, since discussion is encouraged to complement the work of the diverse teams; and, Closure of the learning module, where the teacher consolidates the knowledge acquired using mathematical concepts and theorems.
This new proposal for math programs can be replicated perfectly well in any area of natural science, since the most important part of the teacher’s function is the appropriate, relevant selection of the problems presented to students, emphasizing real contexts. Particularly in science, natural phenomena experimentation must be a priority, so that students can solve problems hands-on, creating an experience and knowledge through real-life challenges and the observation of possible solutions.
Another trend in education is the use of Remote Laboratories, which have overcome the limitations of in-person laboratories, providing a virtual interface, where students can work with real laboratory equipment and observe activities through a computer or mobile device webcam. Moreover, virtual laboratories are web applications that emulate the operation of an in-person laboratory and allow students to practice in a safe environment before using physical components.
At present, students have access to remote experiments conducted in universities in other states and countries, which are carried out with real equipment and managed online. The experience of a remote laboratory allows students to generate significant learning, compared with traditional techniques that use only abstract concepts and equations, without actual hands-on experience with the real phenomena presented.
In relation to this topic, I was able to get in touch with Deusto University (Spain) which currently allows high school and undergraduate students in Mexico to remotely access their laboratories. In this way, by means of an interface, the students can put into practice the knowledge acquired in the classroom, by observing and experimenting in a real-life laboratory online.
Finally, these changes would not be possible without teacher professionalization. Argentina, for example, has proposed three pillars for qualities educators need in the new millennia:
Pedagogical Foundation, since teachers must have scientific knowledge of student learning and of the current pedagogical methodologies. In other words, just mastering their specific subject is no longer enough.
Teamwork with colleagues, because sharing activities or working together is important to keep up to date both pedagogically and conceptually in their discipline.
Classroom quality management, the teacher must become a researcher in education, in order to innovate and assess the student learning process. These three pillars will form the basis for streamlining the work achieved by teachers individually and with their colleagues.
Today, Latin American teachers are immersed in educational change worldwide, because we have so much to contribute to 21st-century education. We need to keep abreast of the latest trends and propose educational innovation. The future of education also lies in our Latin American educational institutions; we are leaders of change and can make a significant contribution to education. I would like to invite you to become a bold, ground-breaking educator, creating innovative learning environments, generating disruptive activities, and aligning the curriculum with the aim of enhancing education in your classroom, your country and, consequently, the world.
About the Author:
Dr. Rodrigo Ponce Díaz is the Director of the Department of Science and Technology at Prepa Tec Monterrey and Professor of the Department of Physics at Campus Monterrey.
By Martha García Tenorio
The case method has long been a well-known teaching technique. However, I am convinced that in our teaching practice there is a wide space for exploring and innovating to capitalize on it in educational terms. For the past five years, I have been using the case method in my courses because this methodology makes it possible to address real issues that arise in a business setting, combining theory and practice. Integrating this teaching technique in the classroom offers many benefits, such as developing students’ critical thinking, proposing possible solutions to problems raised in a safe environment, working with diverse topics, and generating individual and group reflection, among others.
One of the main challenges teachers face when using the case method as a teaching technique lies in the competency assessment systems. Traditional assessment methods, which have been used for years in more rigid, formal educational models, are no longer efficient or functional. An example of this is the difficulty in evaluating creativity; measuring this competency using an inflexible assessment system, such as an exam, would not be easy. Current trends require rethinking and designing assessment systems that can be adapted to more flexible, innovative, challenging, interactive and dynamic educational models, through which we can observe whether students can communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, have completed a prior analysis or investigation based on the available information, or possess synthesis skills, among other aspects.
Current trends require rethinking and designing assessment systems that can be adapted to more flexible, innovative, challenging, interactive and dynamic educational models.
Regarding this matter, I had the opportunity to participate as a speaker on the topic Challenging Learning Experiences with the project “Ejemplos que arrastran” (Influential Examples) at the 11th Annual Meeting of the Latin American Case Association (ALAC) during the summer of 2016. My proposal was to bring students into contact with the real world through a Community Action project in a rural area. The focus of the project was to invite students to participate in Ethics and Citizenship activities, motivated by the example we set as teachers of becoming directly involved in proposals to bring about change in our community. This project was considered successful since students brought their skills to the fore, interacted with and learned from the environment, became involved in social transformation processes, and shared their talents. It is a way of teaching beyond the classroom, of inspiring our students from a variety of perspectives. It is also proof of the commitment teachers acquire to students’ education in ethics, with social responsibility and the sense of humanity that is vital in our society.
If leaving the classroom is not an option for the teacher or students, owing to time, transportation, cost, insecurity issues or any other factors, there is still the possibility of offering students the experience of seeing a live case first hand in which they can perceive the emotions, implications and consequences undergone by the real characters in a case when making decisions and addressing issues. Combining this experience with the use of technology or so-ware that enables students to participate during the presentation of a case would be extremely enriching, reaffirming their knowledge and sharing ideas and diverse points of view. There are many free apps that can be used to achieve this experience using mobile devices and the Internet, such as Socrative and Clicker.
At the ALAC meeting, I witnessed a live case consisting of entrepreneurs from a Chilean vineyard involved in a problem related to business ethics. The company was at risk of losing its competitive position in the international market owing to the impact on costs of the production of its current bottles, transportation and European carbon emission control environmental standards. Listening first-hand to the process undertaken by the organization’s executives was an extraordinary experience: they presented hard data, figures and facts that gave insight into and dimensioned the impact of decision-making on businesses. During the presentation, the speakers and the audience could interact through so-ware for measuring the spectator's’ perception and opinion of the case presented.
Researchers and professors have numerous opportunities to participate in writing and publishing cases in scientifically relevant international forums. This is not easy, since the cases need to be designed and tested in an academic framework to adjust them to the competencies to be developed by students. In Latin America, there are several interesting cases of high educational value, but very few have been documented and contextualized to our region.
Finally, I would like to highlight the importance of constantly renewing and innovating the teaching techniques we use in our educational practice, because every day we have the opportunity to test them in order to combine the diverse areas of knowledge through their use. In addition, I would like to emphasize that our students are satisfied with the use of the case method during classes, given their active participation and the collaborative work that take place during the learning process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Martha Garcia Tenorio is a Clinical Psychologist. Master in Ethics for Social Construction and Professor in the area of Human Development, Tutoring, Ethics and Psychology at the Tecnologico de Monterrey.
A working group preparing to present the case study / Flickr.
People woman coffee meeting / Pexels.
Interviewed by the Observatory of Educational Innovation
Tyler DeWitt participated in the 2nd International Congress of Educational Innovation organized by the Tecnológico de Monterrey. He is a research scientist, high school teacher and digital content author. Tyler holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from MIT. As a teacher he has been dedicated to developing educational models that encourage critical thinking and creativity using the art of storytelling.
Observatory: What is the most important skill a student must develop to face the challenges of the future?
Tyler DeWitt: There are so many, but in my mind as a scientist, are scientific reasoning skills. I think students really need the ability to look at information, to look at data in the world around them, and be able to make sense of it, to make logical conclusions based on information that they see in the world.
One of the most important challenges teachers face nowasays is that they need to teach students how to think, not just how to memorize.
Observatory: What are the most important challenges that teachers face nowadays?
Tyler DeWitt: There are so many challenges for teachers. The one that is most important for me is teaching students how to think, not just how to memorize. These are two very different skills. And I think traditionally a lot of education has focused on memorization, learning lots of lists of definitions and facts. That can be important because you do need a foundation in some basic knowledge, but once a very basic level of background has been taken care of, that's when teachers need to shift their educational focus, and start teaching students how to think through problems, how to engage in creative problem solving and critical thinking and all that sort of thing.
Observatory: What has been your experience in the 2nd International Congress of Educational Innovation?
Tyler DeWitt: There are so many different people all over the world engaging education in very different ways, and it's a great opportunity to come together and talk about what they're doing in their own corners of the world.
2do. Congreso Internacional de Innovación Educativa (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciietec 2do. Congreso Internacional de Innovación Educativa (2015). Retrieved from: http://ciie.itesm.mx/es/tyler-dewitt-teaching-science-as-storytelling-how-engaging-students-in-the-process-of-authenticsience-can-bring-relevance-engagement -and-excitement-to-the-classroom/