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Introduction to the Project on Bioethics for Informed Choices - page 6 / 115

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536Challenges for Bioethics from Asia

providing explicit instruction, especially about thinking skills

talking less (select only the important information and emphasise what is important)

planning with students about how they are going to apply information processing strategies and thinking skills

providing prompts which may guide or help students to ask their own questions

providing checklists for learning processes or for evaluating their own/each others work

Actively encouraging self-questioning and modelling metacognitive processes helps students to use critical thinking (Conner, 2003). An environment in the classroom that supports autonomy, relatedness and competence is also more likely to promote self-regulated learning (Ryan & Stiller, 1991) and motivation (Ames, 1992). When the teacher provides opportunities for success and reinforces this success, students’ self-confidence and self-image is improved (Ames, 1992).

It must be acknowledged that the directions of lessons and the role of the teacher will be conditional on the students themselves. The intention of this paper is to explore some general principles that underlie facilitation, and to provide examples of how these were carried out, rather than explore other social influences on the role of teachers. In particular, a case study is described of how a teacher set up and maintained classroom relationships and used teaching strategies, which promoted student-centred approaches to learning.

Case study of an intervention unit

In New Zealand, the curriculum document Biology in the New Zealand Curriculum  (Ministry of Education, 1994) gives guidelines for teaching senior high school biology. This requires year 13 biology students (final year high school) to investigate contemporary biological issues and make informed judgments on any social, ethical, or environmental implications (Achievement Objective 8.3 (a), Ministry of Education, 1994). Students are required to research an issue and be able to communicate their opinions about the issue both orally and in written formats. Previously this was examined by an essay in the national University Bursary examination. In 2004 and beyond, assessment of this section of the curriculum is carried out by the teacher to meet an achievement standard and can be fulfilled through a variety of formats. Therefore, it is very important that students develop skills in independent research and communication formats (oral and written) as well as develop their thinking about the biological, social and ethical issues that are linked with their topic.

In the intervention unit of work, which is the focus of this case study, it was considered that students needed to work cooperatively to question their own knowledge and opinions and develop more self-direction in their learning. The teacher helped students to identify their own ideas about the issues and learning skills such as researching and essay writing so that they could enhance their learning through more conscious control (Conner & Gunstone, 2004). The students were also provided with opportunities to engage in open and critical discourses and develop independent learning skills through metacognitive behaviours.

In this unit of work, students were encouraged to choose subject material, follow enquiries relative to their own interests and decide how they should go about their own learning. The teacher acted as a facilitator by encouraging students to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. Planning and monitoring was also encouraged through a written guideline (Appendix 1). This emphasised the skills needed for researching, developing questions and writing essays. It also outlined that students should think critically and independently. The students set their own agendas for planning individual research, choosing the two types of cancer they wanted to investigate and deriving the key words and key questions that would drive their work.

They were also given notebooks with prompter statements on bookmarks, to prompt planning, monitoring and evaluation. The statements included: Something I Learned Today... ;What does what I've found out today mean? ;It seems important to note .....;I want to...;A question I have is....;I'm lost with....;I disagree with............... because.......;What I need to do now is........;I can't decide if......;I'm stuck on.......;I wonder...;What I need to do now is...;I’m wondering

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