Learning Together as a Community – Cheri Chan
When undergraduate students enter teacher education, they are often flooded with multiple pedagogical concepts, theories and methodologies. This is a double-edged sword. Pre-service teachers will clearly expect university teachers to impart knowledge to them, but when we do this, we are also modelling a teacher-centred pedagogy, which goes against the grain of how we believe knowledge should be acquired. Over the years, I have reflected on these tensions as a teacher educator and have learnt that it is important to design the kind of learning experiences that will help pre-service teachers connect theories to practice. I would like to share one such experience with you. When I was teaching a course on critical pedagogy, instead of planning a session on inclusive education, I organised a field trip to a kindergarten in Hong Kong for the students to see co-enrolment of deaf children learning in sign language and speech in English language lessons. This ‘inverted’ class had two outcomes. First, it enabled me to surrender my identity as the ‘expert’. During the field trip, the students had opportunities to observe lessons, interact with the learners and dialogue with the teachers and the support staff in the community. So rather than learning about the problems of exclusion from a PowerPoint presentation in class, they were able to learn and engage in conversations about inclusion with practicing teachers. Second, for pre-service teachers, engagement in community-based learning provides them with a critical space to reflect on theories and analyse their own beliefs, assumptions and experiences as teachers-to-be. I felt the visit really helped teachers-in-training to see their students not just as their learners, but as members of the community. It also enabled teachers-in-training to see themselves not just as ‘pre-service’ teachers, but as teaching professionals learning together in a community of practice.