Mapping techniques are being used to teach our students to think critically and how they are nurtured today, does determine the quality of a nation’s future workforce and economic progress.
WHEN the students of SMK Convent Muar, Johor, heard that visitors were coming to their class, they spontaneously drew faces on a sheet of paper.
Fourth formers Tay Kee Ng and Tiffany Fung drew a picture of a confused face and another of a smiling one.
The first illustration showing the confused face was before the i-Think programme was introduced in the school, while the second reflected the “enlightenment” after they had mastered the techniques of the programme. The illustration was an effective way of expressing their thoughts based on what they had been taught under the school’s i-Think programme.
The programme had been introduced to the Muar school, one of 10 schools selected for a pilot project. The programme aims to inculcate critical thinking skills among students. Students are taught mapping techniques — a methodology that seeks to teach them how to brainstorm and connect the dots using various types of maps. They comprise the Circle Map, Bubble Map, Double Bubble Map, Tree Map, Brace Map, Flow Map, Multi-Flow Map and Bridge Map (see table). “After we learnt how to use the thinking maps, it was like a light bulb moment and we feel more confident when using them for the different subjects in school,” shared Kee Ng.
Tiffany who helped her with the illustration, said the idea for it came from something they had seen on Facebook.
SMK Convent Muar principal Nor’aini Md Yusof said students from remove classes up to Form Five were taught about the different maps and what to use for specific objectives.
As an example, a circle map helps students to brainstorm and list everything they know about a particular thing, so if they want to share about the solar system, they would write things that come to mind within the outer circle.
A bubble map on the other hand helps students to list down key adjectives about a particular thing or idea. If it is a Rafflesia plant, they would list down its qualities such as huge, smelly or red among other things.
Each map has its own defining use and functions.
When StarEducate visited the Form Four class in SMK Convent Muar, teacher Ramlah Abdul Ghani was teaching Commerce.
Saying she wanted to know the qualities of an entrepreneur, she invited the class to guess which map was the most suitable.
Once they said it was a bubble map, students went up to the blackboard voluntarily to fill in the bubbles with the qualities of an entrepreneur. The qualities listed included innovative, creative, hardworking and being brave enough to take risks.
Student Qistina Malek said it was hard in the beginning to learn the different maps but once she got used to them, it was easy.
“I use the maps for all my subjects now. It is easier to revise my notes when I am studying for exams as I don’t need to read the whole textbook,” she added.
Her classmate Logeswary Kuna-balan agreed, saying that it was easier to remember all that was studied.
Fourth former Margaret Lim who is from another class, said using the maps helped her to summarise her notes.
“I use the maps all the time and have also introduced them to my cousins. We even use the maps when playing sports!” she shared.
Her school mate Satwin Kaur concurred, saying that she too had taught her sister and cousins (who are in different schools) to use the maps when studying.
“One of my cousins used it to organise her notes when sitting for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah exam last year.”
Charyl Lee said the maps helped her remember the important points when doing revision.
“I taught my sister who is in Year Two to use it and she finds them interesting,” she shared.
Nur Hanny Ab Rashid said that her teacher had encouraged her to colour the maps which in turn made learning easier.
Goh Susan said there is no longer a need to write detailed notes.
“My favourite is the brace map as it helps me to understand how things work,” she shared.
The kind of students who are nurtured and groomed today determines the level of economic development of the nation in the future.
A quality workforce is the fuel that will charge a competitive economy.
The importance of this aspect of development can be seen in the continuous change and update of policies on education.
This in turn promotes change in the ways primary school pupils and secondary as well as tertiary level students are taught in the institutions via the curriculum or co-curricular activities.
The objective is to groom them to think critically and be versatile. They need to be prepared for a globally competitive environment which is already happening now.
The aim and hope is that these students will have higher order thinking skills and will continue to be natural lifelong learners. They will also emerge as masters of creative problem solving.
The i-Think programme which seeks to instil critical thinking was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last March.
Students, he added, should be taught to have enquiring minds instead of merely learning and absorbing information.
He said if previously students were taught the “what part”, they now needed to also know the “how part” so that the knowledge could be applied to their advantage.
“We want students to be innovative, analytical, able to adapt to crisis, throw ideas, think out of the box and be able to solve problems. We need to prepare our young with thinking skills because the future will certainly be different.
“In order to hone such skills, we will change teaching and learning methods in schools because we want our students to excel,” he had said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that by transforming the education system, learning and teaching qualities would be enhanced so that students would acquire “new millennium skills”.
He said the learning process no longer revolved merely around a student’s ability to read, write and count but also the ability to solve problems, “be creative and think”.
Muhyiddin who is Education Minister, said the i-Think pilot programme started early last year, involving 10,000 students with 700 teachers being trained for the purpose.
Using the Thinking Maps tools developed by American researcher Dr David Hyerle, the initiative is a collaboration between the Special Innovation Unit (UNIK), the Malaysia Innovation Agency, and the Education Ministry.
UNIK chief executive officer Datuk Dr Kamal Jit Singh explained that it started seeing results in two months.
“There was a dramatic culture shift in classrooms, as students were actively participating in lessons and asking questions.
“The whole idea of this (project) is to equip teachers with the tools they need to spark critical thinking so that they can go on to apply them in whatever lessons they conduct.
“You can’t have creativity without critical thinking; the latter acts as a ‘reality check’ and helps students distinguish between facts and opinion.
“We may only be able to see the full results of the programme in five years time, when these students go out into the work force armed with problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills,” he said.
The Malaysia Education Blueprint launched by the prime minister last year states that the nation’s goal is to produce students with six attributes to be globally competitive.
These include creative thinking and innovation, leadership skills, bilingual proficiency, ethics and spirituality and national identity.
Najib said in January that the i-Think programme would now be rolled out in 1,000 schools nationwide after the pilot project in 10 schools.
The programme, he added, would be expanded to all 10,000 schools by next year.
SK Paya Pulai headmaster Aminuddin Abdul Hamid said he was pleased with the school’s achievements in various areas.
“I find our pupils are more confident and willing to speak up in class as compared to previously. As an example, the teacher enters and gives the class a topic. After a five-minute discussion among their friends, they are no longer shy and can speak out in front of the class,” he said.
The feedback, he added, from the teachers at this school in Temerloh is also very positive.
“They report that the teaching and learning process is smoother. It was not easy at first but the pupils have been able to learn about the different maps and their uses,” he added.
As the pupils are more enthusiastic about their studies, Aminuddin has found that there is hardly any abseentism among them.
Teacher Kamariah Mohd Laji who has been teaching for the last 24 years, said the thinking maps are structured and as a result helps the pupils.
“When I am teaching Bahasa Malaysia, I usually use the circle, bubble and double bubble maps. The pupils write their essays based on a map.
“I am happy to see how eager they are to volunteer ideas,” she shared.
Even when she is coaching the pupils in badminton, she uses the maps to list its rules and encourages them to come up with tips on how to prevent break-ins when chairing the crime prevention club.
Friends in the same Year Six class Nur Adilah Atirah Md Ali, Nurul Najiha Abd Malek, Nur Ainena Elisza Zekmil Virgo and Nur Nahdah Zahid-found that learning was much easier thanks to using the maps.
“Before we learnt how to use the maps, it took us days to finish our revision and even then, we were not able to remember everything.
“Now by using the maps, it is easier for us to do our revision. It also takes less time as we are able to better understand the subjects without having to memorise the information,” said Nurul Najiha.