I READ with interest the article under the heading “ Thinking out of the box” by Mallika Vasugi (StarEducate, March 25) and yes, I concur with her thoughts and would like to add my views on the subject of reading, reflecting and responding. After all isn’t that what reading of literary texts is all about?
The problem arises when teachers start “grooming” students to answer comprehension questions according to exam requirements.
That, to me, takes away the joy of reading literature texts, and we wonder why students don’t read!
How about “talking” and “doing” things about what has been read?
This requires the teacher to gently and progressively guide students through literal level of understanding to evaluation and appreciation of both the content and structure of the text. It also means that the teacher has her heart in the right place because she values students’ holistic engagement with the text at the cognitive, affective, and psycho-motor levels for a rewarding learning experience.
Such treatment of a text ensures that students’ higher order thinking skills (HOTS) are engaged apart from their usual lower order thinking skills (LOTS) which we give them lots of when we use only the basic 4Ws of literal comprehension line of questioning. Even the basic 4Ws (who, where, what and why) can be made challenging if we choose to do so.
After all, the Ministry is perhaps already asking teachers to give students more of the HOTS than lots of LOTS when they are told to teach CCTS (critical and creative thinking skills). The fact that we are still talking about it means there is a problem.
During my reading workshops with teachers I note that only a few teachers will venture into formulating “why” and “how” questions. Many are content to stop at the 4Ws.
If students are not guided to think of what is contained in their own “box” first, how can we expect them to stretch and think “out of the box?” It is also frightening when teachers think that no more than one answer is acceptable all the time!
They don’t realise they are curtailing thinking – their own and that of their students. How can such a teacher grow? Leave alone her students. This is what happens if you teach only for exams; you are not educating, you are not helping them develop skills to handle any reading texts they may come across, you are only “grooming candidates” for exams – exams which unfortunately are restrictive and don’t measure formative learning.
Some teachers are not even aware of the reading comprehension taxonomies that are available to them. I often recommend Barrett’s reading comprehension taxonomy with its five categories and sub-skills under each category to gently and progressively guide students to stretch their thinking modalities.
Teachers must know that good readers use a variety of reasoning abilities, their previous knowledge and experience, to derive meaning from the text. Creating a rich learning context is important for a rich learning experience.
Teachers must also know that low or high level questions will in turn merit low or high levels of thinking, and by extension, limit or facilitate student achievement. I also often wonder why teachers cannot tweak their reading comprehension activities to make them more engaging.
One example, ask students to formulate questions instead, of graded levels of difficulty. Such skills also teach them that reading is never done in a vacuum; one needs to use a basic mechanism of reference and that context is important.
If teachers care to look, there are many ways to make a reading lesson interactive and innovative but most teachers prefer remaining conventional than being creative.
It still remains a puzzle ... if the Ministry fervently desires that CCTS be effectively taught and practised, then why does the examination body restrict student responses to a single “acceptable” answer in the exam for questions where other answers may be possible or plausible?
Shouldn’t the guide to examiners include “ ... or any other acceptable response”?
That said, I believe teachers with HOTS know that they are teaching for a higher cause than only for exams and it is these teachers who will do well by their students. Trust me, HOTS-students in turn will much appreciate this!
LUCILLE DASS Via e-mail
Source: <a text-decoration:none"="" data-cke-saved-href="http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/4/8/education/11015939&sec=education" href="http://thestar.com.my/education/story.asp?file=/2012/4/8/education/11015939&sec=education">The STAR Home Education Sunday April 09, 2012