|Study Trip to Taichung, Taiwan (18-21 April 2017)||中文原文|
Purpose of the study trip
- To learn more about the education system and education reform in Taiwan
- To learn more about the student learning assessment and information system in Taiwan (in particular the “Adaptive Instruction and Learning Platform” developed by Prof. Kuo Bor Chen of the National Taichung University)
- To have exchanges and discussion with local educators on the development of “self-regulated learning” and “adaptive learning”
The delegation consisted of 13 members of the Executive Committee of HKAHSS. The delegation visited the National Taichung University of Education Graduate Institute of Educational information and Measurement, a primary school, 2 junior high schools and a senior high school in Taichung. Lesson observations were arranged in two of the schools. There were ample chances of discussion and exchanges with our education counterparts.
Observation and reflection
- Assessment and information systems
At the National Taichung University, the delegation was introduced to two assessment systems used in Taiwan.
- It a nation-wide assessment and information system, and one of the monitoring tools used by Taiwan’s national education research body to conduct long-term evaluation of the learning ability of students, curriculum implementation and its effectives. The long-term monitoring in turn provides feedback consisting of comprehensive data on the effect on student learning and performance after the introduction of specific education policies. TASA seeks to ask three questions: (i) Is student learning ability falling? (ii) Is there a performance gap among students from different social-ethnic groups and is the gap enlarging? (iii) Is there a growing urban-rural gap?
- A general assessment scheme on the learning ability of students in urban and rural areas (“General Assessment”). It is a collaborative initiative of city and county schools in developing a standardized assessment tool for common use, partly for the economical use of resources to develop test papers. Schools may join on a voluntary basis. Assessment findings will be shared in seminars where education academics will be invited to offer their views and suggestions for improvement.
The delegation found that, as reflected from the objective and running of the aforesaid systems, the Taiwan education authorities place high importance on the professional guidance of experts, feedback on teaching, and exchanges with stakeholders. The importance of stakeholders’ involvement was also reflected in the bottom-up voluntary participation by schools in the learning ability tests (“General Assessment”), the collaboration of teachers in setting the test questions, and the post-assessment seminars.
One of the main objectives of TASA is to gauge the social-ethnic and rural-urban differences among students. While Hong Kong does not have such social issues, we do have the problem of social-economical gap and recent increase of new immigrants and non-Chinese speaking (NSC) students.
TASA’s similar counterpart in Hong Kong would be TSA. The question we therefore ask is : “Can TSA be better used to analyze the performance gap among students of different social-economic and ethnic groups?” By doing so, it will facilitate the review of any policy change needed, and the allocation of assistance to the underprivileged.
It was also found that TASA is administered on a random basis to investigate the effectiveness of education policies, and the General Assessment provides feedback to individual students. In Hong Kong, while TSA uses similar test method as Taiwan’s General Assessment, it does not provide individual feedback to students. Its object of monitoring is not education policy, but schools.
- Adaptive Instruction and Learning (AIL)
The AIL is developed by Professor Kuo Bor Chen, Dean of Education, National Taichung University. The electronic platform is an artificial intelligence question bank that contains Mathematics, Chinese Language and Natural Science questions. It is rapidly developing and is currently used by more than 200 primary and high schools in Taiwan.
The purpose of developing AIL is to address the issue of adaptive teaching to students of different characteristics. In Hong Kong the approach we take is devoting resources to catering for learner diversity. In Taiwan, a slightly different approach is taken, “adaptive instruction”.
AIL provides online diagnostic test to assess students’ learning effectiveness. The test is administered and adapted based on students’ ability. The platform also automatically provides a “personalized learning path” for students to adapt to individual student needs. It aims to assist teachers to adjust their teaching strategies accordingly so as to enhance teaching effectiveness.
The delegation visited one of the AIL participating schools, Dajhih Elementary School, located in an older district of Taichung city, and is being challenged by falling student population. The school has joined AIL quite recently. The delegation was told that it was a teacher initiative, supported by the school management in providing the necessary financial resources.
A primary 5 Mathematics lesson was opened for the delegation. From the lesson observation, teachers and students were found not yet adept in the use of AIL. Teachers’ proficiency with the platform and network speed would be some of the key factors to achieving the goals of AIL. Despite this, the visit was a good opportunity for exchanges on the various consideration and challenges of the use of AIL. This has inspired us on the further exploration on how to make use of “big data” to benefit our students.
- Learning Community
The Learning Community concept has been introduced and practised in Taiwan in the recent decade. The delegation visited one of the practising junior high schools in Taichung and participated as observers in an “open lesson” of Chinese Language for year 7 students (similar to S1 in Hong Kong).
The lesson observation and group discussion followed after allowed the delegation to learn about the practice. Below are some reflection worth mentioning:
- The article chosen (teaching material) for this year 7 class is taken from the year 8 syllabus, reflecting that the teacher is quite confident in such arrangement (advancing students’ learning to a higher level).
- The teacher’s passion for teaching and her knowledge about the students is beyond doubt, and this has greatly enhanced teaching effectiveness.
- The Learning Community concept has been introduced in Taiwan for over a decade, but the practice today is still confined to two subjects, Chinese Language and Mathematics.
- During the “open lesson”, the teacher wrote on the blackboard the prescribed student activities, tasks and time allowed. Students’ discussion followed the teacher’s instruction entirely. There was no room for students’ free exploration on the values and other educational elements the article imply. (This may happen in the 3rd session though, as the lesson observed was the 2nd of a 3-period series)
- Learning Community, Self-regulated Learning, and Adaptive Learning are all attempts to facilitate more effective teaching and learning (“T&L”). The key factor to success is nonetheless students’ learning motivation. In order to realize genuine “self-regulated learning”, it is our hope that students’ learning motivation will be strengthened in the course of our efforts made in T&L.
- Other observations from the visit:
- There was no chance during the visit to learn about how teachers and principals use AIL to follow up the T&L
- Students of the schools we visited may not have the necessary online learning facilities at home
- The leadership authority and influence of principals of schools in Taiwan seem to be less compared to Hong Kong
- There are far more university places to meet the needs in Taiwan. Competition among schools is not as tense as that in Hong Kong. As such, there seems to be more rooms for schools to try “self-regulated learning”
- With the decrease in student population, schools are facing challenges in admitting enough students to fill its vacancies. It also seems that parents’ influence on schools and curriculum cannot be understated.