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Building thinking skills in an alien generation

A kindergarten teacher uses a hi-tech display to impart knowledge at a Sri Racha Municipality School in Chon Buri

Teachers urged not to try to control students; adjusting teaching techniques to suit young ones' behaviour will prove 'more effective'

Overcoming the generation gap between teachers and their students to help understand young peoples' behaviour and thoughts is a challenge for teachers. But if they work at being familiar with students, and understand the nature of new-generation students no matter how difficult that might be, they'll be able to deliver knowledge properly to students.

Therefore, improving students' thinking skills is not too big a goal to reach, academics and teachers urged recently.

"Each generation has differing definitions for rightness or appropriateness as they grew up in a different social context and in different eras. So, the Generation Y people, aged between 10 and 29, were born in an era of convenience and easy access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Thus, teachers should analyse them with an outside-in approach to see what they think and what they consider as rightness or appropriateness," said Rath Dhnadirek, an independent academic.

"People in this Generation Y are aroused by ICT, they multi-task. Some students I've taught listened to an MP3 player and sent an SMS when I taught in class. However, they could still perform well when doing a workshop after I finished teaching the theory," he said.

As a result, Rath urged teachers to try not to control these students, such as ordering them to seriously focus on a lesson or be silent because they would oppose teachers.

Adjusting their teaching techniques to suit students' behaviour would be a more effective method. When they understood students, they would be able to deliver know-ledge properly and more effectively to them.

Teachers are in the Veteran Generation (aged 65 up), Baby Boomer Generation (45-64) and Generation X (30-44 years). Being educated in the old style where teachers often ordered students to study, they have different educational perspectives and are familiar with using a controlling approach, Rath added.

Assistant Professor Trairat Phiphatphokphon, deputy director of Prasarnmit Demonstration School (Elementary) of Srinakarinwirot University, and Suwit Moonkam, director of Nonthaburi Education Service Area Office Zone 1, agreed that a warm and intimate atmosphere in class was crucial to encourage students to think. Good interaction between teachers and students would make students relax and dare to think and speak out to share their opinions.

To build up good interaction, Suwit urged teachers to provide activities. For instance educational projects where students can raise doubts and try to find resolutions, while teachers act as listeners rather than speakers, opens more chances for the students to speak out about what they thought.

 The three academics were speakers at a discussion session of the education reform assembly held last weekend at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre.

Trairat also pointed out that all students had their own strong and weak points. Teachers should not pay attention to only the academically intelligent ones. They should design exercises for students to deal with their different attributes, instead of buying the ideas from a publisher.

"I allow my students to do homework by creating and handing in different work projects in order to let them think creatively. They could write an essay, draw cartoons or make a hand-made fairy tale book, following what they are skilled at," he said.

Another Rath idea to encourage students to think was by showing links between each chapter of a subject, to understand its overall aspects and connections. "When they learn the links of each part of a subject, it is good when they doubt and question these connections. It'll help them retain the know-ledge," he said.

Trairat noted that information management was a big problem for students as they could not always manage much of the information they received.

"We should teach them how to manage the information and provide activities for them to practise this management. They should practise exercises about distinguishing facts from opinions after they receive information. If Thai students had been able to do this, Thailand would not have been divided in politics, resulting in red and yellow protesters," said Trairat.

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