“If I don’t know something – I ask my classmates, and if no one knows – we ask the teacher”

Monday 9 September 2019

A girl named Hana from the II2 of the Primary School “Turbe” says she is one of the best in her class, and that she loves to share knowledge with her friends. 

“Someone in the group will know something about any topic, particularly me. I like it when we share what we know and when we help each other learn. Together, we can do so much more” says Hana, while Adin adds:
“If I don’t know something – I ask my classmates, and if no one knows – we ask the teacher”, says Adin, while Ahmed adds how he likes to write, and how it is easier for him to ask a classmate if he needs an explanation. Nadja likes that the classes are cheerful and that the teacher sometimes makes jokes, Emina says she likes that they not only learn together, but also enjoy being together, and Adela agrees: 

“It’s a group work and we learn together; it is easier and more interesting than having just one person speak”, says Adela, and Anel, Almin, Suana, Edvin, Meliha agree…
We are at the student learning outcomes based teaching class held by teacher Asmira Keric. It’s a Bosnian language class, and she works with the students on an informative text about a dandelion combining it with elements from My Environment subject. First, she read a poem about a dandelion, and they discussed the style used in the poem. Then each student read the story about the dandelion, and then they were given tasks for group work. 

“Use the paper with the dandelion drawing I gave you, and draw circles around it, then write in those circles where they grow, blooming period, build, and all the different uses of dandelion. When you’re done, chose a representative of the group”, the teacher explains the activity, and children start working. The hardest part is to choose the representative, for everyone would love to have that role. 

“This includes the children, engages them during the entire class, and they are encouraged to speak freely about what they have learned. In group, they do everything in agreement, they decide who will do what depending on their preferences – some prefer to draw, some to colour… the hardest task for them is to decide who will come out and present the results of the group work. They all want to do it, and talk about what they have learned”, their teacher, Asmira Keric, explains. 

She adds that, like many teachers, she had used those methods before, since creativity had always been a prerogative when working with children, but that defined student learning outcomes based teaching was something that gives additional freedom to teachers:

“Student learning outcomes make it easier since we can be more open, more creative when choosing methods, content and combinations thereof to yield optimum results and enable children to use group work and my support to obtain the knowledge presented”, explains Asmira Keric stressing the value of the training she had as a part of the project called “Enhancing Social Inclusion - Equity and Quality of Education to Support Thriving of Children in North West Balkans 2016-2018“ implemented by Save the Children.

“I’ve been teaching for 11 years, but the training has given me knowledge and skills that help me with my teaching and applying of student learning outcomes based methods. The training was interesting, dynamic, with excellent exercises and outstanding organisation, which was very important, since we knew exactly what we need to do at any time, and there was no “wandering” or poor time management”, stresses Asmira Keric who had the opportunity to share the knowledge acquired at the training with colleagues from her school, but also colleagues from “Dolac” primary school which was also included in the project.

“The training prepared us to hold a workshop to introduce to our colleagues these student learning outcomes based teaching methods. With support from the management and participation of teachers from both schools, a colleague from “Dolac” primary school who had also took the training, and I, at the workshop held in “Turbe” primary school, shared what we had learned with our colleagues who were interested, and who paid close attention to what we were sharing. They asked a lot of questions, probably because they are mostly young and eager to expand their knowledge and learn about the methods they can use in daily work”, said Asmira Keric, adding that it would be easier to apply the methods if the curricula were adapted.

The Head of the Primary school “Turbe”, Mediha Ridzic, is of similar opinion saying every improvement is welcome.

“I think that the curricula need to be revised regardless, but particularly if they are to be adapted to the student learning outcomes based teaching which has been accepted so well in our school. Our faculty has undergone the training in using these teaching methods in Bosnian Language classes. The feedback is positive, the work is easier, and they hope for an opportunity to learn how to use student learning outcomes based methods for other subjects as well”, said the Head, Mediha Ridzic, stressing the importance of cooperation with Save the Children.

“Quite often, when changes are about to be introduced, the teachers are the last to be asked for opinion – so we end up with changes that are not feasible. It was not the case here. It was the teachers, the people who do that every day, who were asked what was feasible, and I believe the results are evident, and hopefully, they will result in changes in the curricula, all for the purpose of serving the students, and then the teachers with making their work easier and better.”, concluded Ridzic.

Ivica Augustinovic, Expert Advisor at the Education and Science Department of the Ministry of Education of the Central Bosnia Canton, says that the change in educational paradigm from content to outcome represents a positive direction in aiming for improved teaching.

“Any successive change in education will not bring any long-term benefits. The shift from “content” to “outcome”  requires raising the issue of the curricula, their purpose in the current environment, and their future prospects”, said Ivica Augustinovic, adding how the teachers were happy with the education, but that in the future it is necessary to work on keeping them motivated and consistent in applying the lessons learned, since, as he added “daily practice still gravitates towards traditional approaches which are, in that form, formalised in legislation”. He believes it is particularly important that the children responded so well to this type of teaching:

“As we have been informed, the students have shown innovative skills, and originality in processing new lessons, certainly with the incentive from their teachers. They found the lessons much more interesting, which made them more active and productive. They also interact much more than before”, he said, stressing the importance of cooperation with Save the Children:

“The Ministry of Education of the Central Bosnia Canton, through the project initiated with the support from Save the Children, aims at and initiates changes in the education policy that needs to follow the standards in terms of defined competencies our students need to obtain during the nine years of their mandatory education. This type of ambition includes defining of a quality curriculum. Changing the teaching practice, the way the teachers teach, is a unique challenge for teachers, but also education authorities. Continuation of project activities that would include math, natural science, etc. is the only thing that can open the door to true changes that will be recognised by the faculty, and supported and promoted by education authorities”, concluded Ivica Augustinovic.

Text and photo: Almir Panjeta/Save the Children