Thai teachers changing their methods: Allowing students to learn by doing

Some teachers have been changing the way they teach through their participation in project-based learning and its advanced versions.

"I have turned classrooms into spaces where my students and I live together. I've come to the class to learn with them," said Sanya Makarin, who works at the Ban Non Chai Municipal School in Khon Kaen.

He believes this fresh approach has added dynamic to his students' and his learning. Together, they have developed ties and learnt about various things from academic subjects to social issues.

For example, his students have tackled the garbage problem in their hometown and their collective voice was powerful enough to prompt the authorities to step in.

"And with the students' initiative, a public forum was even held to explore possible solutions," the teacher said proudly.

Renumas Pakdeeto, a teacher at Ban Khek Noi School in Phetchabun, was also proud to talk about how she has stopped being the only one who talked in class and tried to spoon-feed knowledge and her viewpoint to students.

"I changed when I realised that we need to have confidence in students. In fact, they can do much more than we think they are capable of," she said.

Just like Sanya, Renumas came to share her experience with fellow teachers at a recent forum. The event took place as part of the Samsung Smart Learning Centre initiative.

Their secondary schools participate in the initiative, which offers IT facilities, training and financial support for better educational opportunities for children.

Renumas, who has taught computer and independent study, said that when IT devices were available for students their confidence grew.

She said most students at Ban Khek Noi School were from the Hmong hill tribe, and because their Thai pronunciation was not perfect they were rather shy and lacked confidence when communicating with others.

But since the Samsung Smart Learning Centre initiative had come to the school, she has seen changes for the better in the |children.

"Their confidence has grown. It's because they have recognised their value and their potential. The new learning process has engaged them and let them know that they can be in charge," she said.

Coached by teachers, students are encouraged to look around their community, identify problems, and propose solutions.

"In the process, I have transformed myself too. I stopped trying to dictate to my students. I have been supervising their work without disrupting or upsetting their learning," she said.

"I've let them think and act. I have learnt to give my students opportunities to learn by doing. If they don't do their work right, let it be so, so they can learn from their mistakes."

Renumas said some teachers might get worried about letting Mathayom 1 students develop a project to solve a community problem on their own.

"But the bottom line is that we have to admit that learning the process to gain knowledge is more important than getting a ready answer from teachers," she explained.

Kanjana Aksorndit, who teaches at Thoengwittayakhom School in Chiang Rai, said she encouraged her students to choose a subject that interested them and conduct a study on it. She said the response from students was terrific.

"I don't have to force them to seek knowledge. It's they who came to me and suggested that they want to find out about this and that issue," she said.

It was a process that resulted in the students learning multiple skills, she said, adding that when students ran into obstacles they brainstormed and tried to solve the problems together.

"At my school, we have encouraged the older students who have already gone past this stage to serve as mentors and coaches too," Kanjana discloses.

Wichien Kleebjong, a teacher at Prommanusorn School in Phetchaburi said that using the project-based learning approach allowed her to prepare a real-life learning environment for her students.

"Such an approach makes it fun for children to learn and teachers are so happy with their job," she said.