ITEP C103K: Module 4 – Encouraging Inquiry

kmss-contextual-learning

Assalamualaikum WBT. Alhamdulillah, Solatan wa salaman ‘ala Rasulillah. Amma ba’du.

Sheikh Ramzy Ajem described the topic excellently and I benefited a lot from it. The extended explanation and tadabbur on the verse (فاعلم أنّه لا إله إلا الله) is very important that Allah declares even the highest degree of  recognition the truth (there is no God but Allah) is still by seeking knowledge.

It reminds me on the explanation given by Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. regarding the origin of Shirk, back in the time of Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi al-Salam. On commenting verse 22 chapter Nuh, Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. said:

هذه أسماء رجال صالحين من قوم نوح، فلما هلكوا أوحى الشيطان إلى قومهم: أن أنصبوا إلى مجالسهم التي كانوا يجلسون أنصاباً وسموها بأسمائهم، ففعلوا، فلم تعبد، حتى إذا هلك أولئك ونسخ العلم عبدت

“They (for those whom the idols were named) were the names of righteous men among Nuh’s AS people. Then when they died, Shaytan inspired their people to set up images at the places where they used to sit and call them by their names. So they did this, but they were not worshipped until when those who made them had died and the knowledge of the origin of the statues was altered, they were worshipped. (al-Bukhari 4920)”

When faith is no longer based on knowledge and understanding, what happened to the people of Nuh a.s. and the famous Ashram Cat, will continue to damage the foundation of our ummah.

I strongly agree that the totalitarian approach in Islamic Schools is a form of Jahiliyyah, against all the examples we learn from the traditions of the Prophet as listed in our handbook. Some even misuse verse 101 chapter 5 (al-Māidah) in a wrong context:

“O ye who believe! Ask not of things which, if they were made unto you, would trouble you”

But yes, as Sheikh Ramzy Ajem said, we also need to guide our students how to ask. The Prophet PBUH was not only encouraging the companions to ask questions, but sometimes he also corrected the questions asked or directed it to a more relevant topic. Once a Bedouin asked the Prophet, peace be upon him, “When is the hour?” [the Day of Judgment]. The Prophet said, “What have you prepared for that final hour?” The Bedouin said, “I haven’t prepared a lot of salah and I haven’t prepared a lot of zakah but I am preparing one thing – my love for Allah and His messenger.” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “You will be with who you love.”

But culturally, our students are mainly shy away from asking questions. The effort here is double or triple than what I experienced when teaching in Ireland many years ago. Students here need a huge paradigm shifting in order to raise their hands or move forward to ask questions.

QUESTION: What do you currently do in your classrooms to enact this principle. There is great learning through sharing of ideas so please try to post your thoughts, activities and approaches.

First, we need to understand why students do not ask questions. There is a huge influence of cultural background that causes the students to remain silence. The reason is different from one community to other. As for the Japanese, many believe that it was a sign of strength to solve your problems yourself and not to impose them on others. [Tateishi, Carol A. “Taking a chance with words.” Rethinking Schools 22, no. 2 (2007): 20-23.]

As for Malaysian students like in our country, Peen, Tan Yin, and Mohammad Yusof Arshad suggested that problem-based learning (PBL) proves to be able to promote teacher and student questioning in Malaysian classroom context during sharing phase, and students are able to adapt to this new learning approach. However, the ratio of high order questions to low order questions is still low. Teachers need to develop better facilitating and questioning skills. One of the methods is by extending basic low order questions with the ‘why’, ‘how’, and ‘what if’ reflective questions. For example, “why do you say so?”, “why is it so?”, “how do you do that?”, “how does it happen?”, “what if that’s not …?”, “how about other options…?”, etc. These types of questions stimulate students to think critically and creatively. Teachers should continuously reflect on their own questioning practice and make enhancement. [Peen, Tan Yin, and Mohammad Yusof Arshad. “Teacher and Student Questions: A Case Study in Malaysian Secondary School Problem-Based Learning.” Asian Social Science 10, no. 4 (2014): p174.]

In our school, we see improvements after shifting the instruction from teacher centered classroom into the current learner centered progressivistic classroom. Students involve in three different types of learning:

  • Active learning – games, quiz, group discussions etc.
  • Inquiry learning – instead of answering students questions directly, teachers encourage students to explore more to a broader spectrum of the subject. For instance when a student found on his calculator that 0 / 0 = error and asked the teacher why, the teacher directed the students to ask history teacher about the history of zero from al-Khawarizmi’s time, and how zero entered modern mathematics. The student also met Usul al-Deen teacher and tried to understand error in illogical questions such as can Allah creates another Allah, to understand why 0/0 is error.
  • Contextual learning – we bring students outside classrooms and encourage them to relate what they discussed in the classroom to the real world. When learning about prayer while sitting because of sickness, students came out with a project to design a pamphlet which can be distributed in hospitals. In history, students are sent away to investigate topics assigned involving interview, visiting relevant institutions, transcribing interview, processing data and presenting their finding before the assembly.

We explore many aspects of non conventional learning, with one specific reason, we want to promote that knowing is fun, our students are no longer act as receivers of knowledge but builders of their own knowledge with teacher as facilitator, not as provider.

In parenting course, we also encourage parents to discuss about the learning process at school with their kids. We provide them some tips on how to engage with teenage children beginning with understanding what happened at school.

May Allah ease the process, ameen.

HASRIZAL

ITEP C103K: Module 3 – Teaching is a Trust

kmss-teaching-is-a-trust

Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh.

Alhamdulillah, praise is all due to Allah.

Nothing is more important in teaching than placing “intention” as the point to begin, which is aligned with the tradition of our scholars who many of them began their books with the hadith (إنّما الأعمال بالنيات).

Our school’s name is Khalifah Model School (kmss.edu.my) and the niche of our school is the Khalifah Method. It is all about being Khalifah, shaping our students to embrace the idea of being Khalifah and having the quality of Khalifah.  Khalifah is placed at the world view level which produces approaches, policies and curriculum.

I am so grateful to listen to Sheikh Ramzy Ajem’s lecture. Thank you Sheikh. Several important points are taken:

  • Being Khalifah: The Angels’ point of view, it requires the quality of obedience manifested in the characteristics of them (we praise and sanctify You while Adam is potentially causing corruptions and shedding blood – Q2:30). But Allah chose Adam for a very important characteristic He embedded in Adam and the offsprings and that is Adam is a learner, a rational being, who can learn and explore by his choice which is more superior to his potential of causing corruptions and shedding blood. Allah knows and the angels do not know.
  • The main character of a khalifah is he or she has the capability to learn and understand, which makes teaching and helping the learners understand is the most divine responsibility and role to play. It begins with Allah teaches Adam, and Adam’s offsprings teach each other to continue to similar divine process.
  • Teaching and Learning is concluded by al-Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d1209M) based on verse 79 chapter 3 (Āl ‘Imrān) in his Tafsir Mafātīh al-Ghayb as follow:
    • Possessing knowledge, wisdom and the legacy of Prophethood led the transgressing people to direct the learners to themselves instead of God. This caused destruction to the previous nations and a bold reminder to us. ِAvoid the mistake committed by the people of the book as Allah describes in surah al-Tawbah 9:31.
    • Therefore, the teacher, the learner and the knowledge must all be characterized with the quality of Rabbānī and that is to base everything on Rabb (Allah). The knowledge must lead to Allah, be it the revealed or the scientific knowledge, the students must seek knowledge with the Rabbānī motive (I go to school and learn, not only to pass exam and have a good career and life, but to fulfill my purpose of life, know my Creator and submitting myself to my Him), and most importantly, the teachers teach with a strong faith that teaching is a TRUST.

Question: What do you currently do in your classroom teaching to embody (yourself) and reinforce (to your students) that teaching and learning is a trust and that we, as human beings, are God’s vicegerents (khalifa) on earth?

Our goal in Khalifah Model School is very clear at the conceptual and practical level and that is “SHAPING EXCELLENT CHARACTER”. In terms of academic, we strongly believe that academic excellency is byproduct when the students possess the excellent character.

Therefore, since last year (when I join ITEP), we work hard on embedding the school’s vision to not only the character shaping activities, but as well as the academic (subjects and classroom activities). We break down the idea of being Khalifah into actions with the three responsibilities:

  1. Make yourself good (choose to be good),
  2. Help others to become good,
  3. Keep the physical world clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.

This is also the school oath which the students repeatedly recite during our Friday morning assembly.

As for the academic level, for example, when students sit for their Mathematics’ paper, students are given the option to choose which paper they want to answer: the basic, the intermediate or the advance paper. The advance paper allows students to use calculator and refer to text books. The intermediate paper allows students to refer to text book with no calculator. The basic paper does not allow students to refer to text books or use the calculator. This is to teach them to exercise their free will and taking the responsibility at the highest level.

If the result is very poor, students are allowed to resit the subject with different mode of paper. Students with good result can help their peers with difficulties and if they manage to help their friends, they can claim small extra marks for the paper as a reward for “help others to become good”.

So, subjects, be it the scientific subjects or the Diniyyah, the compulsory questions they need to answer are:

  1. How by learning this subject, you can make yourself good?
  2. How by learning this subject, you can help others to become good?
  3. How by learning this subject, you can keep the physical world clean and beautiful, pleasing to Allah.

This is at the classroom level.

Outside the classroom, we design the learning to emphasize a lot on the contextual learning. The taqwa and character development unit organize programs from time to time, and we dedicate a short non academic semester (3 months, while academic semester is 4 months) for students to participates in programs they desire based on their interest and parents financial capability. This year, the students are currently participate in programs as follow:

  1. ‘FarmVille’ : Students are sent to appointed farm and learn from a retired professor in agricultural biotechnology vaccines about ecosystem, learn how to rear chicken etc.
  2. ‘Marine Adventure’: Students learn scuba diving and obtain license with the idea of “having the license to serve others”, learn about marine life, turtle management, crisis in pollutions etc.
  3. ‘Arabia de Sumatra’: An Arabic intensive course in a form of a student exchange program: Students are sent to our sister school in Indonesia for one month to learn Arabic in a non Arabic surrounding which the sister school has the best Arabic program in Indonesia.
  4. ‘Malaysiana Jones’: based on the adventure of the ‘Indiana Jones’. Students participate in history and archaeology activities involving excavating archaeological sites, visiting museums and libraries, archive study, to promote historical thinking consciousness.
  5. ‘Avengers’: A philanthropy program teaching students how to make proposal for fundraising and organising volunteerism involving visiting hospitals, cleaning mosque and beach, feeding the needy, distributing iftar kits for people leaving office etc.
  6. Master Chefs:  a culinary course where students learn about safety in kitchen and catering unit, knowing all the tools in kitchen and learn to cook, bake, and many other culinary skills.

All these activities are connected each other with the idea of being Khalifah.

In summary, being Khalifah to us means: exploring your uniqueness, strength and talent given by Allah, nurture and expand them, and use them to serve mankind, to please Allah.

“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” [Dâraqutni, Hasan]

As for teachers, we are consistently reminding each other and I share ITEP videos with our teachers and discuss them on weekly basis.

HASRIZAL