June 6, 2014, by educationguestblog

Pupil directed learning

PISA results and the critiques of them we read before coming here, lead us to believe that the pupils learning experiences would be totally teacher directed. However our experience of Penglai Number Two Demonstration School  have completely changed our impressions.

At 7:30 we caught the bus to the 60 year old school, to observe some of Shanghai’s best teaching. We saw masses of interaction between pupils and their teacher during English. The class room was a fun and lively place to be and the children happy, keen and able.  But the best was yet to come.

The afternoon features a set of 40 workshops called “Penglai Town” which was beyond anything we have experienced before. Every Friday afternoon, the whole school (all 1033 children) sccatter into mixed year groups to begin their afternoon workshops. Children choose a new workshop  every ten and they  are entirely organised by children, with parent volunteers and teachers supervising. The workshops create a whole town and inlude yoga, acting, cooking, crafts, a police station, robotics club, etc. They aim to promote children’s life skills and prepare them for adulthood.

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In total there are 40 clubs in which the children work together to learn new skills and become part of a community and there is a sound economic basis of “Penglai Town” currency.  Throughout the learning week children can earn toy money (as rewards for good behaviour, performance or work)  to use as admission to any of the 40 clubs;. They can use this “Penglai Town” money to purchase items from the school supermarket and as admission to the workshops of other children.

A pupil from the school (speaking English, of course!!) took each of us around, to observe and participate in the different clubs. In “Chinese traditional dance”, we all dressed up in traditional Chinese clothes and we learnt a traditional dance. In “Western cooking” we baked cookies – Yum!! (and also learnt that the ovens were exotic as they don’t feature in Chinese cooking or homes). We went to the post office, where children designed,  sold and delivered postcards. Other clubs include: the Police, Fire, Hairdressers, Café, Action against animal cruelty, Doctors and Nurses, Dentists, Workmen, the Gym and many more.

We were impressed – it is no surprise that the children reflect their school values- being honourable, courteous, unique and creative. We were “buzzing” from this experience and very excited by what we observed.

Would this work in our schools, we wonder?

Posted in Shanghai 10