Serbia's Education Magazine on Teaching for Learning


Serbia's Education Magazine on Teaching for Learning

Educational Review (Prosvetni Pregled)
April 3, 2014 - #2613

Book Presentation Teaching for Learning: The Teacher Ought to Learn as Well

This spring, teachers from Serbia and other Western Balkan countries were the beneficiaries of an exceptional learning assistance manual that ought to make their lives a whole lot easier.

The Manual, Teaching for Learning, is a byproduct of a group of authors confronted with tackling elemental challenges to the institutional process of learning. Several authors contributed to the publishing of this book, and one of them from across the ocean, Professor Lorin W. Anderson. Professor Anderson is one of the most highly accomplished experts in this particular field and is responsible for the coordination of this project amongst his colleagues. One of the most important aspects of this project, notes Nenad Sebek of the CDRSEE – the project’s implementing organization, is that ideas and concepts from Washington, Oslo, or Tokyo are not merely being transported to our mountainous Balkans. Instead, all aspects of this project are made in the Balkans for the Balkans.

Teaching for Learning Evaluation Takes Place in Belgrade
Teaching for Learning Evaluation Takes Place in Belgrade

This project was implemented by renowned intellectuals from the region’s schools and higher learning institutions. The CDRSEE is the only institution that has accomplished a similar level of collaboration of this sort from a previous project. Through the Joint History Project, the CDRSEE has already exported an established model of education reform to places as far as Japan where the project’s workbooks have been translated. Nenad Sebek is hopeful that such a feat will be replicated in the case of this Manual.

Professor Ivan Ivic, while having a slightly pessimistic opinion towards the success of IPA projects, gave praise to the Manual, emphasizing its accomplishments in shifting the focus from teaching to learning. He goes on to say that with that in mind, this Manual is bringing forth something entirely new for the majority of our schools and teachers. In our region, we still value teaching over learning, and this book is a step in the right direction in changing that mentality. He points out that the authors of this book, apart from Professor Lorin Anderson, are amongst the most highly regarded experts from the region. In his opinion, utilizing local talent is not only the best use of available resources, but the most efficient means of achieving progress and instigating change amongst those involved in this project.

Dr. Marko Suica, a renowned historian, believes that the Manual will not have significant challenges in being adapted in schools and colleges. “Every teacher should have a copy of the Manual in their library because it emphasizes active learning,” notes Dr. Suica. The Manual is exceptional because it challenges the traditional notion of teaching, learning to acquire knowledge. In that respect, this Manual surpasses the confined group of teachers and actively includes all those involved in the process of education, notes Suica.

Development expert, Ljiljana Levkov, in particular singles out the suggestions that the Manual offers, which not only serve as a side note from the entire story but are placed in such a way that they emphasize some of the focal points of the Manual. Additionally, it is highly beneficial that the Manual offers teachers a whole set of tools that can serve as a model approach for learning. When contrasting the Manual with some of the development work that she is involved in, Ms. Levkov is astonished by the similarities. A key element in the text is preparing students to be successful and capable of learning. Those of use working on projects of development focus our efforts on enhancing the capacities of teachers to improve learning competencies. In contrast, the Manual address those involved in the process of education, and we address the medium of education. Both are important as education involves multiple aspects and diverse contextual bases. Both approaches consider the school to be the environment that facilitates the process of learning, and consider education a process and not a means of memorization. Ms. Levkov has a message to teachers: “be someone that learns! Only the ones that learn themselves can teach others.”

The co-author of the Manual, Ana Pesikan was delighted by the approach of Professor Lorin Anderson towards the composition of this Manual. One of the biggest surprises, according to her, was the amount of detail and close attention that Professor Anderson displayed in working with the local team. As a person who has worked with teachers over the course of his career, he understood what it meant to listen to others and it is that trend that remained constant throughout this project.  She goes on to note that it was a great compliment that Professor Anderson choose to adopt a model of active learning that was then developed amongst Professor Ivan Ivic, Slobodanka Antic, and herself.

Teaching for Learning Evaluation Takes Place in Belgrade
Teaching for Learning Evaluation Takes Place in Belgrade

Ana Pesikan believes that the Manual is not solely for teachers and school directors, but that is has a much wider context for use. The book itself can only go so far. For it to realize its wide potential, it would have to be preceded by a user’s training session. The problem is that such activities are not common in Serbia. She points out that the majority of her colleagues already use the book, but as Biljana Stojanovic of the Ministry of Education points out, “Teaching for Learning is a Manual that all schools ought to posses, but not for it to sit on shelves yet for it to be read and implemented."

This Manual was published by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in South East Europe. Nenad Sebek, the centre’s executive director, goes on to point out that common assumptions of civil society do not apply here:

Non-governmental-organizations in our region are still bogged down with a negative connotation, as a sort of marginal actors that collaborate with the enemy, or foreigners. No, that is not what we are about. We are not the nineties concept of civil society either, a time when the civil society sector served as the opposition to the government because there really wasn’t one that existed. In today’s world, if governments want to achieve something they must act together with civil society. On the contrary, if civil society wants to achieve something they must in turn work with governments. In that respect, I have to say that it is a pleasure that we have obtained such successful collaboration with the Ministry of Education on this project.”

An Exceptional Manual

The book has had glowing review by educators even before its launch.

“The Manual is interesting, readable, and coherent. It includes experts from throughout the region and builds on the developments of different education systems.”

“The Manual is fantastic, inspirational, and allows for the implementation of new ideas. Congratulations to the authors!”

“This approach gives the teacher more freedom to operate and the capacity to creatively organize the education process.”

“We will finally have a script for the classroom. That was what we needed all along.”

Opening Insight

“This collaboration has resulted in a systematic and coherent collection of suggestions for teaching with tools to overcome challenges that all institutional educational processes embody. These challenges come from within, but also from other outside factors. They are evidenced by financial restrictions, the loss of interest and values and the fact that success does not come solely from merit. These aspects accumulate and create a challenging environment for teaching that impacts motivation for teacher and students alike.”

Folders and Suggestions

The Manual is primarily designed for teachers and school directors, but also to all other actors in the educational process. It is the result of international collaboration and collective work of educational reformers. It is envisioned to be a collection of old folders that each bare a name: Teaching that Spurns Change, Education and Learning in Modern Democratic Societies, The Environment for Learning, Goals of Learning, Teaching, Resources for Learning, Grading and Curricular Structures. The Manual’s concluding portions offer practical examples, a glossary, and an overall summary. The suggestions in the Manual are of exceptional value, and after each suggestion examples of how to implement those suggestions in the classroom are offered.  

- Nebojsa Bugarinovic

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