Thursday, 17 June 2010

Holiday Programme at SINDA STEP (Day 1) - Pictorial Feedback Session

It's been an eventful couple of months since my last post, with our magazine picking up momentum and lots of opportunities to conduct training coming my way. To that end, we conducted a Holiday Programme for our SINDA STEP Centre (Jurong West Secondary School premises) where we tackled several soft skills and typical issues over 7 sessions from 2 June to 16 June.

It was an eye-opening experience for the students (mostly from the Normal Academic and Normal Technical streams) who have largely never experienced alternative training methods - what with their struggles with mainstream classroom teaching. In any case, it was a 2-way experience and I learnt a lot about the students, their aspirations, their perception of life and future, and also the difficulties they faced in our education system.


We were not overly ambitious with the programme, only wishing to facilitate self-reflection in the students who comprised all levels (i.e. from Secondary One to Five). We started with a fairly easy reflective exercise where I adapted the index card creativity lesson I created for a Singapore Polytechnic student workshop to serve as a pictorial representation of their opinion of the STEP programme that they were in. On Day 1, I handled a group of 27 students comprising of Secondary Two to Five students.

The concept of analogies was explained to the students and they were then shown a series of print advertisements and invited to identify the implicit message in each. The fun class exercise was then followed by an introspective question thrown to them - how they felt about the STEP programme, after having been with the centre in for the past 4 months. The students were then asked to communicate this feeling by way of a visual analogy - much like the print advertisements they saw earlier.

As expected, some students took longer to conceptualise a visual representation than others but all of them managed to produce something unique and personally-relevant by the end of the exercise.


For the Secondary Level students, the responses were telling of their appreciation for the STEP programme and many of them saw it as enabling them to move from bad grades to good grades or from confusion to clarity. This was in line with the objectives of the STEP programme itself and validated the work the tutors do. Below is
a sample 5 responses (click on each image to see in full size) with an accompanying description/analysis (students' views/intentions were casually clarified by me whilst supervising the students' work).



This student felt that she was not achieving much and not having friends either, instead wasting her time watching TV. However, after enrolling in the programme, she has found herself to be enjoying the learning process and making new friends.


This student felt that, where she had spent more time studying but achieved less, she is now able to be efficient in her studies and spends less time whilst achieving more through the assistance of the programme.

This student views the programme as potentially life-changing, having steered her away from a defeatist mindset towards more ambitious and confident goals.

Similarly, this student (as well as several others) believed that the programme has enabled them to stay clear of negative influences. Understandably, many had been implicitly forced to initially attend the STEP classes (pressure from peers, firm 'advice' from teachers, instruction by parents, etc.), but the common thread has been the perception that it has helped them avoid the more unsavoury aspects of their lives.

Interestingly, this student felt the programme has facilitated his ability to stretch himself and start to 'think outside the box'. This is not so much with regard to the creativity he employs but the outlook on his education. Where the drudgery of school life leads students in the 'Normal' stream to believe they are heading 'nowhere' and/or to a predestined eventuality, the STEP programme creates awareness of the other opportunities available and the fact that there are indeed alternatives if students only choose to pursue them.

It was evident that almost all the responses were individually relevant and anyone familiar with the particular student could identify his or her corresponding pictorial feedback. The personal ownership enabled the depth of understanding into each student's perception of the programme and how it has contributed to his or her life.

Day 2 of the Holiday Programme continues here...

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