was at a chat the other day and was prompted the question “people says class size matters. what do you think?” and my response created on-the-fly goes somewhat like this:
the term of ‘class size’ concerns two main ideas: 1. classroom management, and 2. learning. the two ideas are inter-related, but often the first idea may become the focus, especially in a classroom where lessons are transmissionist (i.e., the teacher talks and ‘download’ knowledge to students who are (assumed to be) listening, and learning (is assumed) to take place by (passive) listening with the occasional IRE discourse). in such a case, class size matters if there are many ‘disruptive’ students; but it probably doesnt matter if the students are all students who are non-disruptive to the lesson delivery, and of course, the IRE discourse.
what if learning is a participatory, interactive, and social phenomenon? such learning would often be carried out in group settings. given a class of 40, how many groups should a teacher allow students to form? from a classroom management perspective, the fewer the groups may appear to be easier for managing and control. 40 divided by 8 gives 5 groups, and a teacher needs to only manage 5 groups. however, literature on collaborative learning would advise groups of 3-4 for more effective learning in groups. that would mean 10 groups, doubling the 5 earlier. assuming a teacher has designed and put in place processes and scaffolds to guide effective group work, the teacher’s work does not end here. the teacher now becomes the facilitator of learning. facilitation, a word often used, is difficult in practice as it may require a teacher to analyse the current state of learning, prompt questions, probe students’ thinking, provide alternate perspectives, all actions on-the-fly to effectively customised what s/he is going to say when s/he appears at each group. would class size matter? given that curriculum time is fixed, the amount of meaningful facilitation for deeper learning a teacher can provide to students would be divided by the number of groups. smaller number of groups means more quality time for each group of students. this applies to facilitation of online discourse for learning too. so, does class size matter?
transmissionist or participatory, a teacher will provide assignments for students to complete. given a class of 40, let’s start with transmissionist way of learning – each student is required to submit a 3-min oral performance recorded and uploaded to the LMS, a teacher would need to spend at least 120 mins just to listen to each audio clip, without considering the amount of time needed to assess, think, and provide meaningful feedback to each student/recording. if the class is made up of 30 students, the difference would be 30 mins of listening time. the same computation can apply to written assignments too. if learning is participatory – each student is required to write an online post, and thereafter reply to at least 2 peers’ posts to learn through interaction. the number of posts a class of 30 students, versus a class of 40 students, could be significantly different. so, does class size matter?
so in conclusion, does class size matter? your perspective (and conception) of learning would determine the answer.
yesterday was the second f2f lesson of our iMTL 进阶课 (wondering why the english course title uses ‘intermediate’?). the first f2f was exactly 1 month ago. in this course, the (old) title (which 露丝 and I din bother to change) included keywords ‘SDL’ and ‘CoL’. so, i had used the first hour of yesterday’s session to conduct a co-generative dialogue on 自主学习 (self-directed learning). and the following is the reification of our discourse:
towards the end of the conversation, i was pleasantly surprised that most, if not all, of the key ideas of SDL were surfaced without me needing to introduce them. sounds like a phenomenographic dialogue (if such thing exists; if not can cite Tan, 2019). realised this when i ran through the deck of slides adapted from a 12470 Clinic conducted some three years ago. was interested to see what the individually meaningful ideas that the teachers (馨云、一凤、伟如、美娴、崇蕾、侯琳、玉侠、春容) had created, i allowed them to complete a 2-qn survey via google form:
a recent buzz word related to development at work — mobile first, or more specifically mobile first design — is today a key consideration for content providers and technological solution builders as mobile devices are everywhere, and these devices serve as one key source through which we consume contents around us. but, is mobile first the sole consideration, where learning is concerned? well, how about this — if there’s a first, there’s a second? mobile first certainly does not mean mobile #only; so what’s next?
any discussion of technology and learning (or ‘digital learning’ some would prefer), it is always #ThinkAffordances — what is your design/objectives of learning, and how can technology (e.g. feature/function/tool/app/platform) enable your desired learning design? those of us who have experienced it would agree with me that chat (aka instant msging; e.g. WhatsApp), and even fb wall post+comments do not quite afford deep discussions that lead to rise-above of ideas. expressing individual’s ideas is easy; but to build on each other’s ideas, extend the ideas, improve on the ideas, counter-propose arguments, provide different perspectives, many of these acts of co-creating a common meaning is lost within the scrolling messages. in short, fb wall post+comments set up do not afford deep (digital) learning, currently.
so, what does? discussion forums (DF) do afford deep learning as described above (of cos, i will propose that knowledge forum (KF) is specially designed for this and is thus good-er). however, DF as we know it traditionally (oh btw, it’s a 20+ yr old technology), does not go well with the idea of mobile first design. the way discussions’ organised on screen traditionally, including threading, quoting, branching off, referencing back to other posts, is difficult to automatically fit on screens while displaying the discussions in way visually good for participants or readers of discussions. DF, in order to become mobile-first needs a rethink of its good old interface.
the term DF still invokes a tool-centric perspective. taking the affordance perspective, we can, and should examine what are the affordances of DF (and even KF) in enabling deep learning, and create them within existing mobile-first friendly solutions. in the process, DF as we have experienced it, may become a past, and it’s perfectly fine from a technological advancement perspective. the affordances of DF lives on.
going back to the fb wall post+comments idea, how can we improve it to afford deep learning per DF? first, we will need to invoke the concept of sub-walls (cf. discussion threads; sub-forums), where there can be more than one walls (cf. fb). and here’s probably a list of ‘requirements’ i would like to see:
there can be any number of sub-walls as a learner chooses to maintain.
to create a new sub-wall, one can select any existing post from the main wall or any sub-wall (together with existing likes, sharing info and comments), and pipe it into the new sub-wall.
each sub-wall has an unique identifier (e.g. a URL) that enables one to link back or to point to it in any post, comment in any (sub-)wall.
sub-walls will be arranged in reverse chronological order by default; and so are the posts and comments within.
one are allowed to pin any sub-wall, or any post within it, so that it is always on-top.
one can create and add a title/topic for each sub-wall to indicate the discourse topic to other participant/viewer.
one can define and add tag(s) to a sub-wall to facilitate personal classification, search and retrieval
everyone can add comments to any contents within a sub-wall
when adding a comment in sub-wall, one can upload images, documents, media, hyperlinks as part of the comment
visually, one should be able to easily identify any sub-wall that contains a new activity or reply/ to him/her; the ‘new’-ness visual cue is individualised and user-specific.
visually, within a sub-wall, one should see up to 3 levels of hierarchical nesting for comments to a post. this hierarchical view allows one to easily identify the relationship among comments and to focus their attention over selected comment(s) as desired.
participants will receive notification of new comment added to a sub-wall to enable them to return to continue the discourse (viewer can choose to follow and be notified too)
to end off, #mobilefirst (design) is not #mobileOnly (design); learning sciences folks can do wonders with computing folks when the two groups pool their brains together (:
to end off x2, finally, may i wish my Muslim friends:
[afternote] a note for self, it took 5 hours for this post to be first mooted in the morning while flipping newspaper, to connecting it with an idea@work, to typing and organising the ideas, to finally publishing it to the www & fb. now, who says learning (online) is fast? not for the slow-learner-me definitely (:
last wednesday morning, i had the opportunity to engage LAMPplus (or LAMP+) participants (budding SHs, LHs, and a few HODs), held at school cluster centre, in discourse. thanks to @淑华 for giving me the opportunity to be involved, and thanks to @珮孜 for co-creating the programme (:
as we had malay and indian friends from the MTL family, i had the opportunity to facilitate 聊聊《华文 · 学习 · 科技》 in English. and naturally, the three keywords of the day were: language · learning · technology/ICT.
here’s the artefact of (learning) discourse:
while we know it may be difficult to assess the learning of participants, for learning is often time-consuming and metacognitive, it’s interesting for me, as the facilitator of discourse, to have a glimpse of ideas that participants wrote down in their end-of-day feedback (form). here’s the relevant quotes in verbatim:
ICT also affords the time and space for students to think and pen down their thoughts (visible thinking)
Understanding the concept of affordances and how it contributes to effective use of ICT to enhance, engage and emphasize ownership in the T&L of MTL amongst teachers (skilful design and considerations) and pupils (promote sense making & joy of learning) … The concept of affordance of ICT needs to be clarified and the use of a common language needs to be prevalent.
There are many ICT tools that are available.The selection of the appropriate tools should base on its affordances and how it could value add to the students’ learning.
ICT lessons should conduct a least once a week or internalize in everyday teaching
Affordances of ICT in relation to teacher, students and lesson … (i used to think) 教案is a standard protocol. must follow. (now i think) thinking jostled: 学案 since we are moving towards student-centred. should start thinking to change the protocol? 教案 may not be a standard protocol
…it’s not about the tool but there must be an awareness of “affordance” where we have to determine which is the most suitable tool for our students’ learning objectives … (i used to think) that the use of ICT is time-consuming and may not be suitable for all my students. (now i think) With more deliberation, we can incorporate the use of ICT into our teaching and students’ learning, without forgetting that “learning” is the ultimate goal
and these are two photos revealing the contexts (: