Implementing the student centered approaches

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The findings showed that not only the two VVOVB trained teachers but also the two non-VVOB trained teachers were not implementing the student-centered approaches in their classroom practices consistently or confidently. They were still often applying the teacher-directed approaches in their teaching. They expressed a desire to use the student-centered approaches in the class and also an awareness of the importance of the student-centered teaching methodologies for improving students' learning. However, there were a range of challenges the teachers identified in using the teaching methodologies and they expressed a preference for using the teacher-centered approaches in their teaching to reduce or eliminate some of the problems they encountered when attempting to implement the new approaches to teaching and learning.

       Furthermore, the findings indicated that there was a contradiction between the policy on the teaching methodologies and the use of a national curriculum in which a prescribed course syllabus is required to be finished by the end of the academic year. Moreover, the teachers received a surface level understanding of the student-centered theory and learnt only to use group work when at RTTC. They understood from their RTTC training to only apply group work as the student-centered teaching strategy in their classroom and they tended to utilize this approach when their class was observed.

       The way the teachers applied the different teaching methodologies learned through professional development showed that they had little power or influence in the decision-making of their teaching. Lack of supportive classroom conditions and inadequate teachers' earnings were also found to be challenges for teachers implementing student-centered approaches.

       The challenges identified by the teachers participating in this study point to suggestions for MoEYS, NGOs, schools and as well as the government to consider, especially if they have a strong commitment to successful implementation of the student-centered approaches in schools. Perhaps the important considerations that need further attention are providing capacity building for real decentralization, appropriate supportive classroom conditions, especially additional aids required by teachers as they attempt to implement the student-centered activities, developing teachers' professional skills, and raising teachers' salaries which may strongly motivate and allow teachers to give the needed attention to their teaching.

5.2 Recommendations from the Findings

       - Providing capacity building for real decentralization: The political culture in Cambodia is top-down policy in which the lowest levels just wait and follow the orders from the highest levels. The school as well as teachers therefore should be empowered to make decisions on their school curriculum and on teaching practices since they are closest to the community from which they draw their students and will know most clearly the specific learning needs of their students.

       - Appropriate supportive classroom conditions: The number of students in the class should be maximally 30 students which would enable teachers to have effective group work in their class. Time should be provided to pursue learning activities within the classroom. The number of teaching materials should be increased and the school should also provide mechanisms for teachers to easily access the laboratories and borrow materials. Furthermore, the school should prepare the schedule for experiments and ask for an expert to train teachers to be able to use the experiment materials for the levels they teach.

       - Developing professional skills: In-service training should be adequately and appropriately provided to all teachers to improve their existing skills and extend their understanding of the new approaches.

       - Teachers' salaries: This is probably the most important suggestion. The teachers will be able to turn their much attention to only their teaching if their financial resources meet the demands of family needs.

5.3 Limitations of the Study

       As an inexperienced and beginning researcher, there were limitations that should be acknowledged in the study results. The first limitation was the number of the participants. This study was conducted in one high school with very small number of invited participants, so the findings of the study would not be generalized for other high schools in the country. Moreover, the study was limited to some specific science subject areas and grade levels because the teacher participants were the teachers of science from grade 7 and 8, the present findings therefore would not make generalization for all grade levels.

       Another limitation was the methodology planned in this study. There were two techniques used to collect the data, the classroom observations and the individual interviews, but as a result, only the individual interviews were used as primary data sources of this study. The classroom observations were not used as data sources because the researcher just took notes, however these observations were used to generate the questions specific to each teacher for use in the individual interviews. Furthermore, the individual interviews were first conducted in Khmer, and then they were transcribed into English, so the process of translation may affect the meaning of sections of the interviews which in turn limits the reliability of some of the comments.

5.4 Future directions for Inquiry

Since the current study was conducted in some science subject areas, a study of teachers' experiences who teach in the social science subjects would be valuable for identifying shared experiences and differences.  Moreover, the participants of this present study were only teachers, so future research that focuses on students' perception and experiences of the new methodologies would give valuable insights into the impact of teacher classroom choices on a student.

       Another field of inquiry of value would be a study of the current curriculum at RTTC's especially in view of the comments of the participating teachers. Are teacher trainees being taught at their RTTC by the student-centered approaches to learning or are they being taught the approach through a teacher-centered approach to their learning? Is here a contradiction between how trainees teachers as being taught and what they are being taught?