Friday, September 09, 2005

Theory in Practice: Scaffolding using "buddy system"

As I am currently doing a unit on cross cultural communications, I recently came across the term, buddy system in my readings.

Now, the buddy system is whereby a child who has higher competence in an area, is paired up with a child with with lower competence so that the former can scaffold the latter's areas in that area of learning. This could be in any area of learning, be it language, cognitive, emotional, or social.

The question I was pondering over yesterday was, is it possible that such a system be implemented in our schools? Or, at preschool level, that is. Should the buddy system be used, whereby the weak students are paired up with the better students in terms of placing them in according to academic work?

Or should the good ones be placed only with the good ones and the weak ones together with the weak ones?

Let me depict a case from what I had observed today.

Today the teachers had a staff meeting in class after school ended to discuss about the arrangements and preparations in lieu of the upcoming school concert. During the meeting however, I had observed a child from my class, QZ coming down to the hall. He is 4 years old.

He was looking for his friend, IL (who is 6 years old) I was very surprised to hear him speaking entirely in English as he was normally very quiet in class. He is also very active and also liked to annoy and disturb the other children, but he spoke mostly in Mandarin and he was not exactly the talkative type.

I heard him speaking in quite good conversant English. He had put a sticker on his forehead and went around declaring to IL that he was "Indian" and was talking all the way in English to IL. I guess this is so as IL mostly speaks English, QZ had no choice but to speak English to him. (actually IL speaks Mandarin just as well, but I think that QZ didn’t realise that).

Well, apparently the buddy system works when it comes to interacting in a setting where much oral conversation is able to take place. It would take place for example, in a home corner or during play time, children have each other to talk to. Or having small groups where children can practise their speaking skills. Children watch for ques from watching the other children talk and then take it as it is. This in turns help scaffold the child's learning and speaking skills.

Another way to explain for observing for ques would be watching a movie, such as the Japanese movie, Generation Love I had watch recently. I am not too sure how modern the movie is, but from what I know now, Japanese culture is still very steeped in their traditional gender roles and the way they do things, eventhough it is considered a developed and modern country. I watched the speakers for how they do things, and kind of pick up what is considered the right things to say (in the context of that movie, that is).

However, I can't really tell whether the context of the movie is relevant to the current Japan until I watch other japanese series. That would give me a yardstick to compare it with each other and make a deduction and summary after viewing all of it.


totoro said...

it's also known as the mentorship system.

Jimmy Ang said...

i've a friend who's doing her thesis on using higher proficiency peer feedback to improve lower proficiency writing. hmm... interesting issue.

CheaYee said...

i would guess it would go by many other names as well. :-)

the other word used to called it is scaffolding, but even as scaffolding, it comes in diffrent ways and in differetn is just a matter of whether we realise it or not..

that is the reason why we always want feedback from others to help improve our weaknesses, kwah... :-)

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