October 20, 2022 ─ The Southeast Asian Minister of Education Organizations Regional Centre for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) in collaboration with Chevron Enjoy Science organized a five-day workshop (from October 15 – 19 at Rembrandt Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand) titled “Using Picture Books to Enhance Critical Thinking and Meaningful Reading” as a medium to enhance students’ reading literacy skills and establish a strong foundation for producing future talents.
According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)’s evaluation (from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD report titled “Thailand – Country Note – Result from PISA 2018”) ─ students in Thailand scored lower than the OECD average in reading literacy (scored only 393 from the average of 487 ); mathematics (419 points compared to an average of 489); and science (resulting in only 419 points compared to an average of 489 points in OECD countries). These critical issues in Thailand’s education are seen as fundamentals to the future of national competitiveness and economy.
By identifying that reading literacy skill is what education (with almost all subjects involved) is built upon, SEAMEO STEM-ED sought collaboration with Professor Kate Montgomery, an International Education Consultant and Curriculum Designer for Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University who is also an expert in English language literacy and critical thinking in challenging contexts. In this workshop, she expressed her belief that picture books can elicit both teaching capabilities from teachers and evoke critical thinking and creativity from students, thus 30 schoolteachers from all regions in Thailand were selected to participate in this capacity development workshop.
In the workshop’s opening ceremony SEAMEO STEM-ED Centre Director Dr. Pornpun Waitayangkoon cited how PISA defined reading literacy, which is the ability to comprehend what is being read, and later apply, assess, or reflect the reader’s thoughts through passages. Dr. Waitayangkoon also added that SEAMEO STEM-ED has acknowledged the necessity of improving this skill of the students.
“Reading literacy is the foundation of an endless learning experience,” Dr. Pornpun highlighted.
A Closer Look at Five-Day Progress
Professor Montgomery crafted the workshop to revolve around the concept of “joy”, “trust”, and building “critical thinking”. She believes that to maximize children’s capabilities and skills, teachers should not obstruct the student’s creativity (by providing them with right and wrong answers); however, they should draw as many ideas from the students (without shunning any ideas) as possible.
A core teaching strategy from Professor Montgomery was divided into practices A, B, and C beginning with teaching students to understand the story, then progressing through synthesizing and distilling its meaning, and ultimately connecting them to the real world.
Therefore, Professor Montgomery shared this teaching method with the university faculty members (referred to as “trainers”) and schoolteachers as it incorporated with the world’s leading picture books. Another core practice derived from “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (the framework established by Benjamin Bloom Benjamin Bloom with collaborators Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl),” a model to enhance the instructors’ teaching skills through six categories of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Teacher Voices Her Determination in Applying the Teaching Method in the School
After the comprehensive five-day training, Orathai Duangkhong ─ a teacher from Watprapiren School shared her experience prior to participating in this workshop that the many students in her school were non-Thai students, which means that studying with Thai students can be a drawback in the learning process. Another issue she found was the dislike of reading by her students, however, associating reading literacy with picture books portrays a promising way to incite students’ interest and participation.
She further explained that after attending the workshop, she has gained a more efficient way to teach reading literacy skills. Most importantly, she learned that stating facts, as well as right and wrong answers are not the most suitable ways for child development. In return, a crucial lesson to this is teachers can also be wrong sometimes and they must accept this matter to make progress.
“We can all be wrong to learn what is right,” emphasizing how this workshop is one of the transformative professional journeys.
Meanwhile, she is now looking forward to applying what she obtained from the workshop and testing in an actual classroom.
For the next step, 32 participants from 16 schools will each receive 10 picture books (sent by the Centre) where they will initiate a new ten-week learning module. Moreover, the schoolteachers and trainers will exchange their teaching feedback through an initiative of the professional learning community.
Picture books used in the workshop that will be disseminated and taught in different schools were “This is Not My Hat”, “Rosie's Walk”, “Miki’s First Errand”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Stuck”, “Florette”, “I Used to be a Fish”, “The Wall in The Middle of The Book”, “Look at You! What a Mess You Made”, and “L' Autobus.”
Reading strategies utilized in the workshop were categorized into 3 practices: “Thinking Literally A and Practices” for teaching students ways to understand the story on the page and to think “between the lines”; “Thinking Interpretively B and Practices” conducted to teach students ways to build up their thinking about the text and to synthesize and distill its meanings; and “Thinking Critically C and Practices” intended to teach students to find messages in stories, then to connect them to the world to evaluate their fairness.
University faculty members or trainers in this workshop were from Srinakharinwirot University, Chiangmai University, Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, Khon Kaen University, Sujipuli School, Roi Ed Rajabhat University, and Udon Thani Rajabhat University.
Thirty-two schoolteachers who participated in this workshop were from Municipal 1 Sawang Wittaya School, Municipal 3 Yuwabun Bamrung School, Municipal 4 Ban Laem Sai School, Wat Loka School, Ban Ta Joi Nong Sa School, Ban Prang School, Supabvittaya School, Kae Noi Suksa School, Nandachart Grade School, Ban Arunothai School, Wat Pa Daet School, The Prince Royal's College, Wat Krok Kaeo Wong Phra Chan School, Suji Puli School, Ban Khaen Nuea School, and Watprapiren School.