Early grade teachers in Southwest Sumba make innovative new learning tools

“Use whatever you have, do not make it up, do not wait for things to be there” was the motto for recent Guru BAIK (Belajar, Aspiratif, Inklusif and Kontekstual) training in Southwest Sumba. The 36 elementary school teachers attending the training shouted the motto enthusiastically. In Southwest Sumba, the Guru BAIK pilot is helping teachers learn new ways to solve local teaching problems in their classrooms.

The training session motto is taken seriously by pilot participants. Using the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) approach, they have begun to explore the root causes to teaching and learning problems, prioritising them as well. Through this process, teachers finally determined that one of their biggest problems was a lack of ability to make and use the right learning tools for each lesson subject.

Learning tools and media are essential components to the active learning process. Equipped with effective learning tools, teachers are better able to involve students in the learning process, increasing their motivation and enthusiasm to learn more about new subjects and concepts.

It’s also important for students to work together in teams, enhancing their ability to discuss and give ideas during group work. Learning tools and media are a key focus in group discussion, activating student’s motor skills.

During the process of problem exploration, teachers felt that they have previously not been able to create their own learning tools. They do not have ideas to use the things around them as learning tools and are still too stuck using the pre-packaged text book – even though this can be difficult for early grade students to understand, particularly those with poor reading skills.

Other problems that teachers identified included their ‘conventional’ teaching style, leaving students on the outer of the learning process. They reflected on how they normally assign tasks based on textbooks, even if they do not understand the concepts being discussed in-depth. This then means they find it difficult to make learning tools, and also avoid teaching and discussing those concepts they don’t fully understand.

Rahmi, an INOVASI local facilitator in the Guru BAIK pilot, introduced to participants the idea that anything in the local context can be used a learning tool.

“Learning tools can come from anywhere. It does not have to be bought. It does not have to be new. Can be from used materials and can be anything that is around us”, she said.

Using a mind mapping activity, teacher participants then generated ideas for learning tools from their surrounding environment. Ideas were written on plano paper, with the words ‘Learning Resources’ in the middle, and then emerging ‘tree branches’ which represented ideas for school environment, experts, used goods, natural resources, and other idea sources. Thinking of the immediate environment, teachers wrote down ideas like parks and libraries.

In encouraging teachers to think about different types of learning tools in their local environment, Rahmi then asked some teachers to explain the multiple ways a shawl could be used. Some answered it could be a scarf, or a blanket, or a head scarf for women. They began to understand that the same principle applies to possible learning media and tools in the classroom.

Rahmi asked again, what can be done with a wooden stick to be a learning tool? Or a wooden bench? For the wooden stick, some said it can be a pointer on the blackboard, some said it can be used to write on sand, and some said it could be used to explore the characteristics of plant stems and roots. For the wooden bench, teachers said it could be used to learn about the concept of rectangular geometry, tiles for squares, and coins for circles.

“This session is very important to make teachers change their paradigm in teaching. They can use anything to be a medium of learning. So far they still use the lecture style. They also finally understand that learning does not have to be in the classroom and they can use anything as a contextual learning resource, “said Rahmi.

According to Ariyadi, another INOVASI pilot facilitator, there are still many challenges in changing the teaching mindset of local teachers.

“School supervisors need to be well informed about active learning. They are a very important factor in developing teachers,” he said.

After the Guru BAIK workshop training, teachers understood the importance of being creative and of understanding core literacy and numeracy concepts before teaching them to students.

“Teachers must first learn a lot of what will be taught. So that the teachers really understand and can use their creativity to create learning tools,” he said.

Some teachers also felt their mindset begin to shift. Linus, a teacher from the Marsudirini Catholic Primary School, said that he hadn’t been teaching using the environment as a source for learning tools. “I will apply this in my school and creatively search for materials and create my own learning tools,” he said.

For Paulina from Ba Laura Sumba Southwest School, she felt that the training made her think carefully about improving her own teaching.

“I will change my teaching way with more contextual tools and by actively looking for solutions to the problems that exist in the classroom,” she said.

Early grade teachers in Southwest Sumba make innovative new learning tools