Monday, Nov. 20, 2017

Effective Pedagogical Approach to Impart Life-

Skills Education in Schools

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July 11, 2017

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Effective Pedagogical  Approach to Impart Life-

It is an undeniable fact that the education for the 21st century must lay equal, if not more emphasis on imparting life skills to children in order to equip them with the necessary tools (skills) that would come to their rescue whenever faced with what may seem insurmountable hurdles that one comes across in life to those without a coping mechanism in place.

We live in times characterized by violence, negativity, narrow parochialism, fascism in the name of nationalism and chauvinistic jingoism. This has made our lives very insecure. This has resulted in a climate of distrust; irrational fears bordering on paranoia and unmitigated levels of stress. Add to all this the ubiquitous technology that has permeated our lives and revolutionized the ways in which we relate to one another or do things, has also created the dichotomy that exists in our lives , more apparent and defined. The digital natives, on one hand are very adept at the use of technology to their advantage but on the other hand are becoming more and more disconnected with reality and actual life around them and their immediate surroundings, leading to a host of psychological and social problems. This in brief is the world we inhabit today! What role does education play in helping children of this generation to not just negotiate their way through the labyrinth of life but also chart their own path to a healthy, contented and fulfilling life?

It is an undeniable fact that the education for the 21st century must lay equal, if not more emphasis on imparting life skills to children in order to equip them with the necessary tools (skills) that would come to their rescue whenever faced with what may seem insurmountable hurdles that one comes across in life to those without a coping mechanism in place.

The World Health Organization has defined life skills as the abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to face the demands and challenges of everyday life. It has identified and enlisted 10 core life skills that our children need to be taught (from as early an age as possible) to foster their holistic growth .These 10 core life skills are:

  • Self Awareness
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creative Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Empathy
  • Coping with stress
  • . Managing emotions

There are different mediums and approaches that schools world over use to impart these essential life skills to students. Whatever programme educational institutions implement, it should be implemented systematically and reach every child in the ambit of the programme. The efficacy of the programme depends primarily on the mode of engagement used. Remember the good old moral science classes? Why wasn’t the programme successful enough to be made an integral part of curriculum? How effective were the schools in imparting value education and how seriously was it taken up by schools? The value education programmes implemented earlier were lacklustre and did not do much in terms of effecting long term behavioural and attitudinal changes in students.

I had for quite some time mulled over how to infuse enthusiasm for the learning process and make actual learning in terms of life skills acquisition to transpire. Having experienced the immersive quality of the experiential learning method recently, I feel the experiential learning method is the panacea to address the learning gap which inevitably occurs when taught using conventional teaching methods which engage just two senses at a time and caters to the auditory learners (in lecture mode of delivering curriculum content). My new found experience with experiential learning has convinced me about the efficacy of the approach to meet the intended learning outcomes. This happened during a six day workshop conducted in DPS Coimbatore to orient a select team of teachers towards the new Life Skills programme being introduced in the school. Through a slew of engaging activities the teacher trainees where taken on fun filled learning ride. Having experienced first-hand one could see the great potential the approach held to impact meaningful attitudinal and behavioural changes any life skills programme aims for. The Student Leadership and Life Skills Programme implemented in the school has been designed and customized by Magic Bus Foundation.

I find a resonance of the key pedagogical approaches I have been recently practising in the pages of The Progressive Teacher where educators have written about authentic learning, immersive learning experiences, project based learning and experiential learning. In the recent past there have been columns dedicated in The Progressive Teacher on the proven effectiveness of the S4D (Sports for Development) method in the overall development of a child’s personality by Mona Shipley. My intent through this article is to delineate how this international pedagogy is used effectively in imparting life skills to students.

Must have heard the oft quoted line ‘The battle of Waterloo was won on the playfields of Eton’, attributing the success of the British over Napoleon’s forces to the superior character of its young men built in boarding schools while playing games like cricket. Eton was one of the famous English boarding schools that trained English boys for careers in the military, civil service and the church. This perception is grounded in the practice of famous public schools using team sports like cricket not just as outdoor play, but as an organised way of teaching English boys, the discipline, the importance of hierarchy, the skills, the codes of honour and the leadership qualities that helped them build and run the British Empire.

All said and done how does one proceed in the direction of Curriculum – Creation or customizing an existing one to impart life skills?

Now having established the primacy of sports and games in building character and bringing about the desired behavioural changes through physical activities, let us now explore the crucial elements, mode of engagement and implementation of a structured life skill programme.

Elements:

  • Safe environment: It refers not only to the physical environment but also to the creation of a conducive environment to make the participants feel emotionally safe and secure to conduct activities aimed at their socio-emotional development.
  • Rapport building: To ensure a learning continuum, a good rapport between the facilitator and participants is of paramount importance. Equally important is a healthy level of comfort and ease among the participants.
  • Facilitation: The most crucial and critical element needed for an effective learning scenario is a skilled facilitator. The facilitator is a catalyst who triggers the right response from the participants and knows to when seize the right teaching moment to further the teaching objective. It is vital that the teacher is open, unbiased and non-judgemental to win over the participant’s trust, without which total engagement and immersion in the programme is not possible.
  • Immersion: In order to meet the programme objective, it is necessary to create an immersive experience through experiential learning, wherein the participants experience a situation through hands on activities / simulations/ role plays, etc relate the experience to real life.

During the course of the workshop, we the teacher facilitators experienced first- hand how sports and physical activities could be used as an optimal medium to impart life skills. There are many advantages of incorporating S4D approach to teach life skills, the first being the use of recreational physical activity or play ensures voluntary participation needing minimal coercion. Since play equates to fun for everyone involved, the learning takes places in a stress free context (it completely eliminates the element of artificial simulation or motivation for learning). The pivot around which this entire exercise revolves is experiential learning, thus making learning internalized. A few weeks into the programme it becomes hard to miss the connection between experiences on field to real life scenario. The most captivating component of this entire process is children become children again! The physical component of each session allows them to indulge in mirth and they are happy to be learning the fun way (This is what fun-filled learning is supposed to be like!) And what keeps the sessions lively and interesting is the variety! Yes there are different games and activities for every session. The activities are very varied and engaging. In such a learning environment, children are prone to be less self-conscious and are more open to discuss, debate, introspect and reflect on their own behaviour, values, attitudes and those aspects of their personalities they were either ignorant of or were earlier unwilling to even admit to themselves. Well take it from me – the profound discussions I have encountered in the class of 14 year olds would intrigue anyone interested to pay attention to their perception of the world! This really came as a surprise to me initially. But upon a little reflection it became crystal clear why it was so. Our students are seldom given such a learning environment – stress-free, non-judgemental and happy environs, where they are allowed to be their natural selves and given a platform to voice what they feel, think and perceive. After a year of implementing the programme, I am really excited at the possibility, nay, the surety of facilitating the rounded development of students.

P Ajitha is a teaching practitioner who has been advocating for ‘liberating’ the education process to accommodate change and give true freedom that enables the teacher to create, innovate and experiment with notions of learning; a votary of teachers’ rights to empower them to become the catalysts of change in building a national force of informed men and women with sound value system and integrity of character; a staunch believer in the transformational nature of education imparted with true commitment to the larger objectives of this noble endeavour. The author presently teaches at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore and can be reached at ajithapaladugu@gmail.com.

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