Metalens: A Technique For Good Teaching

Metalens: A Technique For Good Teaching

Monday, 11 June 2018

By Assoc Prof Tan Ai-Girl, Early Childhood and Special Education Academic Group

Qualitative metasynthesis can translate valuable insights of studies on special education in the pursuit of good teaching for humanity.


Good teaching in the classroom goes beyond measuring learning outcomes through quizzes and paper-and-pencil tests. It is premised on and sustained by the instructors’ deep passion for learning. Good teaching is capable of nurturing personal growth, healthy minds and good characters. Humanity becomes the ultimate outcome of good teaching regardless of the discipline.The associated virtues of humanity are respect, love, integrity, kindness, compassion, and benevolence.

Good teaching for humanity comprises a structure that allows for the continuation and renewal of knowledge useful for the learners during and after classroom learning (Bruner, 1960). A structure of teaching ensures that new knowledge or specific contents can become part of a broader base of knowledge within the discipline. Good teaching can inspire learners to respond, act, engage and create, and arouse their innate desire to do good, collaborate and communicate. Hence, good teaching is more than just information dissemination. It is a process where learners are invited to engage in genuine conversations and
meaningful dialogues in the pursuit of both goodness and life-long learning.

Learning is a creative experience comprising simultaneous activities of acquiring, transforming and evaluating knowledge for productive use or for personal and social development (Bruner 1960). Creativity becomes constructive in the presence of love for learning, compassion for unavoidable sufferings, and readiness to compensate incompleteness in life. Good teaching for humanity with spiral curriculum sets out the aspiration of education for growth and development beyond the classroom (Bruner 1960). It embraces intuitive thinking, which complements logical thinking, and enables confident learners to accept and adapt to discrepancies in the learning
process. Good teaching for humanity ensures that instructions and materials are organised for elaboration and for memory (Bruner, 1960).

Qualitative metasynthesis is a deliberate and systematic process of analysing data across qualitative studies. Using a good teaching for humanity lens, an instructor can infuse steps (S1 - S7) of metasynthesis (Noblit & Hare, 1988) into the processes of learning during a critical inquiry course. The learners will make use of these steps to examine whether the outcomes of a scientific inquiry agree with their intuitions on an issue or concern. The instructor facilitates the inquiry process by encouraging open conversations and providing regular feedback and consultation as well as sharing the learning outcomes with the class.

S1. The learner frames a question around an issue or concern. For example, “What are experiences of children with dyslexia in school?” (Yu, 2017) and “What are experiences of siblings of children with autism?” (Cheng, 2017).

S2. A question for inquiry guides the search for the relevant, high quality articles from available electronic databases. Working with peers, the learner conducts quality appraisal of the articles against a checklist.

S3. The learner reads the selected articles to understand the contents and identifies key concepts and metaphors of these articles.

S4. The learner summarises the main contents of all the articles using the same set of headers such as theoretical framework, research questions, aims, objectives, participants of the study, findings and discussion.

S5. The learner reads and interprets the participants’ narratives and authors’ opinions in the articles to extract descriptions, language used and conceptual understanding.

S6. The learner compares the interpretations to arrive at a coherent understanding of the issue or concern. Codes are identified, and categories or themes are grouped using these codes.

S7. The learner creates a visual representation of the relations between the emergent categories and constructs a coherent storyline or arguments to explain the relationships.

Using this approach, a special education teacher with the lens of the rights of people with disabilities (Yu, 2017) meta-synthesised the narrations of schoolchildren with dyslexia and the views of authors from ten articles and learned that self-confidence came from supportive school environments. She concluded that self-deprivation was therefore a result of insufficient support from teachers and peers. Using the same lens, another special education teacher (Cheng, 2017) meta-synthesised the narrations of siblings with autism and the views of authors from nine articles and learned that the siblings of students with special needs were mostly prepared to be their siblings’ caregivers.
Researchers and scholars had used the prefix ’meta’ to indicate the process and outcome of bringing multiplicity to the whole through a series of coherent steps in learning and the synthesis of findings. Good teaching for humanity empowers learners to use meta-lenses to see, discover and understand how to connect the dots and mine the knowledge for good. By adopting a creative lens of inquiry, learners can meaningfully internalise the synthesised experiences of other people and their own, and uncover the humanity in our society.

Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Oxford, England: Harvard University Press.
Cheng, P. Z. (2017). Experiences of the typical sibling of sibling with autism spectrum disorder. A critical inquiry term paper submitted as part of the requirements of the Master of Education programme, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Noblit, G. W., & Hare, D. R. (1988). Meta-ethnography: Synthesizing qualitative studies. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Yu, H.H. (2017). Understanding the perspectives of learners with dyslexia: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. A critical inquiry term paper submitted as part of the requirements of the Master of Education programme, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Assoc Prof Tan Ai-Girl graduated from the University of Munich with a major in Psychology. She joined NTU as a faculty member in 1995 and was a visiting professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Munich, between 2008 and 2009. Assoc Prof Tan is the current Programme Leader of NIE’s higher degrees research programmes for Early Childhood and Special Education and has just received the NIE 20-year Long Service Award this year for her dedication and service in education.

This article originated from the NIE Quarterly Publication, NIEWS. For more related articles, kindly click here to read more.