Alex Wang’s Dream: Grassroots “Flipped Education”

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2017 / September

Ivan Chen /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams


The car wends its way along a winding mountain road, flanked by verdant forests and bathed in warm sunlight. Our destination comes into view as we cross Long­cao Bridge in Zhong­liao Township, Nan­tou County. We are headed to ­Shuang Wen Junior High School, where grassroots “flipped education” is taking root in Taiwan.


Nantou County’s ­Shuang Wen Junior High School acquired lovely new facilities when it was rebuilt after 1999’s Jiji Earthquake, but the performance of its students since then has been even more impressive. ­Shuang Wen contends with the usual challenges of a rural Nan­tou school—the outbound migration of the area’s population, a relative paucity of teachers and an often disadvantaged student body—and yet in 2017 24% of the school’s students earned “A” or better on the Chinese-language portion of the Comprehensive Assessment Program for Junior High School Students, well above the national average of 17.9%.

On average, the school’s freshmen outperformed the national average for their grade by 2.6 points, and the Nan­tou County average by four points. This achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that ­Shuang Wen’s freshmen begin junior high school below the national average. To learn how the school has managed this turnaround, we take a look into the classroom of Alex Wang, director of academic affairs at the school.

Tying education to experience

At the start of the summer session, Wang adjusts his new students’ seat assignments based on their interactions and level of participation. He also gives careful consideration to the seating layout, putting the students together into groups of four or five, and dividing the whole class into five of these groups. The groups on the left and right side of the room are each arranged in an “L” shape, while the group in the center forms a “U,” ensuring that all the students can see him. Today’s lesson is a modern poem entitled “Time Follows” (“Sui­yue Gen­zhe), written by the poet ­Xiang Yang.

Wang begins class by giving the students a 40-question test to see which Chinese characters they recognize and know how to pronounce. Many of the students get only five or six answers wrong, and the homework he assigns the class is simply to write out the characters they got wrong. His approach is much more targeted than the traditional one, which would have had all the students learning the same things in class and doing the same homework, regardless of their individual needs. Wang then asks the kids “warmup” questions that assess how much they have learned at home, help them anticipate the content of the upcoming lesson, and encourage them to make connections between their own experience and the subject of the lesson.

Seeking to start an educational conversation, he asks them: “Does modern poetry require that verses have meter?” “What period in a person’s life does this poem depict?” “Which lines in the first stanza describe childhood?” The kids tell him: “It goes from childhood to maturity, old age, and death.” “It mentions horse’s hooves because children love to jump around.” “Because the second hand of a clock moves fast, which reflects the quickness and liveliness of children.” Wang then poses follow-up questions based on their answers. He guides the students as they respond, using the small whiteboards on the desks as mediums for interaction and to lead them to the underlying questions raised by the poem.

Wang’s method uses foundation questions to guide students through the reading of a written work. Their purpose is to help make students aware of the writer’s point of view and the evidence marshaled to support it. Foundation questions lead to challenge questions: “How would you describe children?” “If we were facing death, what might we do to keep our memory alive?” The resulting discussions help the students connect with the material, appreciate the joy of reading, and learn more about life.

Flipping motivation and learning

The transition from elementary school to junior high school focuses on changing external behaviors—using external incentives such as points, tokens and awards to guide learning—while also gradually introducing students to the joy of learning. In the second year of junior high, posing questions becomes more important. A teacher can ask about a poem’s sense of rhythm, its use of allusion and metaphor, and the author’s reasons for choosing particular words, because students have now progressed to the point of enjoying learning for its own sake, and enjoyment has become their biggest motivator.

One of the key ideas of “flipping” the classroom is that students first study by themselves using materials their teachers have uploaded or otherwise made available via a learning platform. In class, the teacher addresses any problems the students encountered during their self-study, and facilitates discussion. The process is almost the inverse of the traditional sequence of lecture-oriented class followed by homework.

Wang advocates “scaffolding instruction” and asking questions: guided by their lesson preparations, class discussion and their teacher’s questions, differently abled students form images in their minds of what they are reading. But identifying just the right moment to push students towards a deeper understanding of a topic requires a great deal of pedagogical skill and experience.

The foundation questions target aspects of a piece such as its topic, its structure, and the information it presents, whereas challenge questions, such as, “What do you want to be remembered for when you pass away?” “Why do you want to be remembered for that?” help students to develop their own perspectives as readers. They then use their responses to create “mind maps,” and share the results of their self-study and group-study through presentations.

Creating a good atmosphere

Wang runs his classes at a rapid clip and in an open manner. He sees a teacher’s job as creating a learning environment in which students feel safe and confident, and seeks to establish a conversational forum that is relaxed, comfortable, and educational. Within this setting, the teacher encourages students to think and express their thoughts with confidence, while providing them with guidance and reminders that help keep them on track.

Wang says that while he personally may come across as a little rough around the edges, he pays attention to everyone’s needs and thoughts, and is willing to go the extra mile to help out when things go wrong. “I do it because I feel like those external problems end up coming back to haunt me. Helping resolve them enables me to do my job better.”

Change through education

Although Wang likes to take it easy outside of his working hours, he is active in the classroom, learning and sharing along with his students. To him, “grassroots” means enabling students in areas that lack educational resources to recognize that the process of exploring questions and finding answers leads to knowledge, skills and personal cultivation.

Graduates of ­Shuang Wen Junior High School have formed a volunteer group numbering more than 100 young people who come back every winter and summer vacation to help students currently enrolled at the school. Someday, these returnees will be the nucleus of their community’s transformation. Their periodic returns have already led to the establishment of new local businesses, and greater numbers are coming back to stay. Still more exciting is that three of the 22 students in Wang’s Chinese class today commute from Tai­chung every day. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that students from Tai­chung would be willing to attend a rural school?

A winner of three national teaching awards, Wang has in recent years also organized a professional growth workshop for educators that has been attended by 20,000 teachers from around Taiwan. In addition, more than 1,000 teachers from abroad have observed his classes, and nearly 100,000 people participate in the online educational community he created. A self-study tidal wave of historic proportions is now sweeping through Taiwanese education, powered by Wang’s grassroots “flipping.”                         

繁體中文

台灣草根翻轉教育 我有一個夢──王政忠

文‧陳亮君 圖‧莊坤儒 翻譯‧Scott Williams

陽光煦煦,車子駛進南投縣中寮鄉林間道路,遠方山巒環繞,兩旁綠樹如蔭,沿著蜿蜒山路而行,一過龍草大橋,映入眼簾,即是此行探訪之目的地──爽文國中,一場場屬於台灣草根的翻轉教育正在展開。


歷經921災後重建,原本頹圮的校舍,已重現風光。但更可貴的是,本來應是資源貧瘠之偏鄉學校南投縣爽文國中,竟能突破人口外移、師資不足、弱勢家庭偏多……等困境,於今(2017)年全國國文會考成績,全校A Level的比率24%,比全台平均17.9%,高出6.1%。

此外,國家教育研究院上週公佈國一國二全台閱讀普測,該校一年級平均成績超越全台平均2.6分,超越南投縣4分;二年級更是超越全台平均6.9分,超越南投縣7分,與國一新生入學前,全校平均分低於全國相比,呈現大幅增長。他們是怎麼辦到的,讓我們來深入教導主任王政忠的教學現場,一探究竟。

直擊教學現場

隨著校方人員的引領,進入教導主任王政忠的教室。留著一頭短髮,一身黑色T恤及休閒短褲,戴著黑框眼鏡的王政忠,正用爽朗親切的口吻,跟學生互動著。

暑假第一堂課,全新的班級組合,王政忠除了根據每位學生的互動及參與情況,適時調換學生座位外,對於桌椅的排列更是極其用心。教室內四張桌子併成一桌,學生4-5人一組,分成5組,左右兩側的組別呈現L型,中間則是ㄇ字型,這樣的安排是為了確保每位學生都能看得見老師。今日課程內容是國文第三冊第四課《歲月跟著》,這是作家向陽的一首現代詩。

一開始,王政忠先給學生課前測驗,藉以了解學生對字音字形的掌握程度。根據當天前測結果,發現40個題目中,很多學生只答錯5-6題,依照學生答題情形,回家作業也就只須寫答錯那部份就好。比起傳統教育的統一上課、統一回家作業的形式,要有效率得多。接下來發給學生「暖身題」,從暖身題裡就可了解學生在家自學情況,也可在課前讓學生預想此課內容,以及在腦中把新課文與舊有經驗作連結。

提問是為了學習,學習發生在對話,所以不管寫了什麼,都會有對話與學習的可能性。「現代詩有沒有要求格律?」「這首新詩描寫了人生哪些時期?」「第一節有哪些線索是在描述兒童?」王政忠根據學生回答情況,穿插式的連番提問。「從小孩子、成年、變老到死亡。」「用馬蹄是因為小孩愛活蹦亂跳。」「因為秒針跑得很快,呈現兒童活潑與輕快感。」在學生回答的同時,王政忠適度引導出多元的答案,讓學生從文中找出基礎提問的線索,並運用桌上的小白板當成班級互動的道具。「字數、句數、押韻、平仄、對仗,班上誰唸得最快?」中間也不時穿插比誰說話快的有趣競賽。

基礎題在學習怎麼讀懂這篇文章,用意在培養學生閱讀作者的觀點,並找出證據予以支持。再由基礎題延伸出挑戰題,「如果是你要如何描寫兒童?」提問中也牽涉到素養的議題,「假如我們死了,那我們用什麼方式繼續活著?」「你要留下什麼?」「你對自己的自我認定是什麼?」藉由這些討論來與學生自我內在作連結,去感受閱讀的樂趣,以及對人生的認識。

動機與學習的翻轉

「國一透過各種方式,如上課、作業、成績、服務學習、參與活動等,可得到不同的點數,每年6月有一個跳蚤市場,學生就可用點數去兌換他們所需的學習與生活用品。」王政忠說。小六升國一階段著重外在行為的改變,就是用點數、代幣制度和獎勵制度等外在刺激來輔助教學。但漸漸讓學生感受到學習本身的樂趣後,上了國二,提問就會偏重要「學什麼」,如一首詩的節奏感、用什麼隱喻跟比喻、為什麼作者要選用這樣的詞彙等,因為學生這時已進步到學習本身就是最大的樂趣,也是最大的動機所在。

所謂「翻轉」,其中一個重要概念是,上課前由教師將自製的內容上傳或連結到學習平台,學生在平台上「自主學習」這些內容後,教師於課堂上再回應學生自學時所碰到的問題,並進行討論。這教學順序與傳統課堂講解、課後作業的方式,截然不同。

王政忠所主張的「同儕鷹架」(Scaffolding Instruction)與「提問策略」(Asking Questions),就是希望不同能力的學生能藉由事先預習、共同討論,以及在老師提問的引導下,逐漸形成自己心裡的閱讀圖像。這需要高度的教師專業與教學經驗,才能在適當的時機,引導學生作深度思考。

針對文章訊息、主題、架構等的作者觀點,是基礎題提問的核心。但到了挑戰題,便轉化成「希望你的人生留下些什麼?」「為什麼想要留下這個?」等的讀者觀點。再將腦中成果描繪出來,就是所謂的「心智繪圖」(Mind Mapping)。最後透過「口說發表」(Presentation),將共學與自學的成果展現出來。

學生實際的感受又是如何呢?黃堉銘同學:「很喜歡討論的部分,就是各組討論老師所提的問題,可能的解答是什麼,因為大家可以一起分工合作。」卓妤真同學:「印象深刻的是獲得分析問題的方法,如果老師問你為什麼的話,有時候是要找證據,不是自己解釋。」至於對老師上課的印象,不約而同地都提到輕鬆、有趣,又可學到東西,而且課前準備也不會花太多時間。

教室氛圍的營造

整體來說,王政忠所主導的課堂,呈現出節奏明快與開放式的風格。「就像昨天我上一年級新生的課,有一位代課老師來觀課,結束後,那位代課老師很訝異地說我跟學生像是認識很久了一樣。」王政忠提到班級經營,剛開始師生都在互相摸索彼此的用語與個性,但是老師的責任,就是要營造出一個讓學生信賴與安心的學習環境。主要目的是鼓勵學生思考及勇於表達,老師則從旁給予提醒與引導,創造一個很自在、輕鬆又不失教學的對話場域。

「大部分人眼中的我,可能覺得我是一個不拘小節、豪爽,而且腦筋轉得很快,邏輯性很強的人。」王政忠提到自己是個粗中帶細的人,會關注到每一個人的需求與心裡的想法,也願意多付出一些心力去處理份外的事,「因為我總覺得份外的事情,最終會回到我的份內事,會讓我的份內事處理得更好。」

有趣的是,採訪當天王政忠還特地提到,其實他一離開工作,就是一個很懶散的人,喜歡發懶、打滾,可以無所事事看電影一整天,也希望保有自己的私人空間。工作時竭盡全力,玩樂時全然放下,這收放自如的態度,或許正是這位熱血教師迷人之處。

從教育開始改變

當學生可以在教室裡看見舞台,他就願意自己主動學習與分享。所謂「草根」,就是即使再貧瘠的教學資源下,也能讓學生明白在探索與發現答案的過程中,找出來的是「知識」,解決出來的是「能力」,感受與內化的則是「素養」。

在國一升國二暑假的這堂課,就已上到國文第三冊的第四課,誰說翻轉教育就一定會犧牲進度呢,反而是填鴨式教學扼殺了學生的閱讀樂趣,這才是問題所在。王政忠提到:「我們小六升國一第一次段考只考兩課,因為學會最重要,學會怎麼學,比學到什麼更重要。」因為學會後就會跟上,跟上後就會超前,必須依據學生的學習節奏去決定課程,而非書商的練習卷或參考書。

從爽文國中畢業的畢業生也組成了一個一百多人的青年志工團隊,每年寒暑假回來替學弟妹做志工服務,這些回流的年輕人是這個社區未來改變的中堅分子。畢業生對學校的凝聚力提升,帶動年輕人回鄉後,商店出現了,回來住的人也變多了。更可喜的是,20年前怎想得到竟然會有台中的學生願意來偏鄉學校上課。「今天上國文課的這個班級裡22個學生,就有3個是台中每天搭車來的。」王政忠說。少部分人就地租屋、買地蓋房子,就這樣這裡正一點一滴地在改變。

人的一生,如果能遇到生命中的好老師,帶給他正向的影響與能量,是件很幸福的事。這位曾獲得SUPER教師獎、POWER教師獎及師鐸獎三項「全國首獎」的教導主任王政忠,除了用心經營爽文國中的教學外,近幾年舉辦的「我有一個夢」教師專業成長工作坊,全國教師參與人數竟高達2萬人次,國外來的老師到他班上觀課人數也已破千,網路教學社群人數更是直逼10萬人次。透過王政忠偏鄉草根的翻轉力量,現正掀起台灣史上最大的教師自主學習浪潮。                  

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