A ‘fun, engaging and more effective way’ to teach - and learn

Filipino trainers and trainees hail the use of learner-centred approaches, saying it has helped improve the quality of their teaching and learning.

Feature | 04 October 2022
Filipino learners collaborate in a computer systems and servicing class. © Joseph V. Gallego
As a teacher and trainer for 27 years, Joseph V. Gallego has recently found a new recipe to make his class successful.

“It comes to a realization that being a trainer, you have to make learning fun by letting learners do activities in their own way - without controlling the time or applying pressure as to what they should be submitting or finishing up with,” said Mr Gallego, who currently teaches computer systems and servicing at Marcos Agro-Industrial School in IIocos Norte, Philippines.

This eye-opener came after he joined a pilot of learner-centred approaches in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

The ILO-UK Skills for Prosperity Programme in the Philippines and the ILO-Women in STEM Programme in the Philippines facilitated the pilot from August to October 2021 by providing six trainers with training focusing on how to apply learner-centred approaches in their classes. The trainers teach varying qualifications in different regions in the country.

Aiming for wider adoption, the programmes ran the pilot in partnership with the National TVET Trainers Academy of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

During the pilot, trainers’ guidebooks and student workbooks were developed for qualifications in electrical installation and maintenance, computer systems servicing, aquaculture, cookery, bread and pastry, and organic agriculture production. Both the guidebooks and workbooks are tools that encourage learners’ autonomy by, for instance, enabling them to write down their ideas, complete the worksheets and answer the questions.

The trainers then delivered training to 119 students in their actual classrooms.

It’s already the 21st century, so we need to change the mode of learning."

Melchor Castro, a lecturer at a TVET institution
Before joining the pilot, Mr Gallego used in his classes a mix of traditional teaching - usually lectures followed with some activities - and the use of competency-based learning modules (CBLM). The modules developed by TESDA already promote student-centred learning. The pilot helped enhance this method by providing different learner-centred, STEM-oriented activities and assessments that are suitable to TVET qualifications.

Mr Gallego said the pilot improved his effectiveness in teaching while also achieving better students’ learning outcomes.

“The workbooks encouraged students to study independently as they answered the questions in the books on their own,” he said.

“Students made decisions about learning and learning materials,” said Mr Gallego. “They got to choose whichever lessons they wanted to work on at their own pace”, he added.

The method helped him better reach his teaching goals.

“After the pilot, I am continuing the use of the approach. I already submitted new lesson plans with learner-centred activities,” he said.

Other trainers who joined the pilot share similar experiences. At a time that the Philippine government has emphasized that teacher training will be a priority to improve the quality of education, the trainers said their teaching has improved.

They said they now act as coaches in the classroom, while learners learned and worked on the workbooks independently in a more collaborative way with their classmates through discussion and knowledge sharing. They also noticed that their students were now actively asking them questions related to their group work. Importantly, they gained more control over what and how they wanted to learn.

Jessa Mae Gallego, who teaches bread and pastry at Passi Trade School in Ilo-llo, Western Visayas, said her trainees’ learning has improved.

“I really liked that learners gained understanding of the topics and sought additional information on their own from other resources on the internet,” she said.

“On my part it was easier for me because I just had to facilitate, listen, and there were times when I would just instruct them or give them ideas and my students would do the rest themselves,” she said.

Since the pilot, she has used the same training approach for other groups of trainees.

“It is not just giving them knowledge and skills but also letting them learn how to apply them in real life,” she added.

For Alfie D. Mahumot, a tech-voc trainer who teaches cookery at TESDA’s provincial training centre in Bohol province, Central Visayas, the learner-centred approaches helped him deliver his training in a more progressive way.

“It teaches me that there should always be constant improvement to my instruction,” he said.

“I continue to apply the approaches and the workbooks in my regular classes, even after the completion of the pilot, because I believe they will create positive impact in my teaching and the quality of training that my trainees experience,” he said.

The classes were just as fun, engaging and fruitful for the students as they were for their trainers.

Ivy Adorza is now a college student studying education. She joined the cookery course during the pilot.

She said the class was more enjoyable for students.

“We were able to engage with our classmates. We could brainstorm together and share ideas.”

It has improved her learning, she said.

“I’ve become independent in learning and I love doing deeper research on what I learned. I’ve been better at taking exams,” she added.

Ms Adorza plans to teach English at a secondary school after college graduation. As she has experienced the effectiveness of the learner-centred approach herself, she aims to apply these approaches to her teaching so her students will be able to learn more.

“I will make the class more engaging and ensure collaborative learning,” she said.

Other trainees who attended the classes run by the trainers during the pilot said this mode of learning helped them become innovative, creative and confident, and enabled them to develop critical thinking.

Melchor Castro is a lecturer at a TVET institution who decided to take the course on computer systems and servicing during the pilot.

“As a learner, I definitely liked it. There were many activities that we need to accomplish. They helped us better understand different concepts,” said Mr Castro. He has applied the learner-centred approaches to his classes.

“It’s already the 21st century, so we need to change the mode of learning”, said Mr Castro.