New possibilities – Post graduate diploma in learning and teaching
Most of the teacher education programmes in India are outdated in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. Classrooms across geographies are subject to teachers’ incompetency as well as incapability of individuals to become teachers. This is indeed a big systemic setback that needs urgent attention. In order to address these concerns related to classroom learning and teaching, it’s imperative to re-imagine what’s desirable in ‘teacher education’. In this, I Am A Teacher (IAAT ) is a new possibility.
In an attempt to create a unique model that responds to the needs and concerns of teacher preparation, I Am A Teacher (IAAT), a non-profit professional organization based in Gurgaon, was founded in 2014. The title ‘I am a teacher’ was consciously coined to infuse a sense of pride within teachers about their profession and about their identity as a teacher. The overall attempt of the organization is to bring a new paradigm shift in the way people view the teaching profession.
Cause for concern
Every year, almost 93 percent teachers in India fail the Central Teacher Eligibility Test. In this, our teachers are not failing; we are failing our teachers; we are failing our children! High absenteeism, low motivation of learners and teachers, poor subject mastery, rote learning, low achievement levels of students, lack of infrastructure, resources and inadequate classroom practices—these are characteristics of our schools and classrooms and this has been the big sad story of Indian education since decades with very little positive changes taking place.
While several reasons can be attributed to the current status of education in our country, teaching quality has been noted to have a huge influence on student learning. In the recent years, this has been reiterated in the National Curriculum Framework (GoI, 2005), which highlighted that ‘the quality and extent of learner achievement are determined primarily by teacher’s competency, sensitivity and motivation’. Despite policymakers attributing considerable importance to the role of teachers, very little evidence exists to show that adequate measures have been taken at an institutional level to curb this challenging issue.
As an alternative and practicebased model, IAAT offers Post Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (PGDLT), which is designed into an innovative, practice-based teacher education programme that has the potential to fundamentally transform the ways in which teachers are nurtured and catalyzed a system-wide improvement.
Conceptualized by Smriti Jain, an alumnus of Harvard Graduate School of Education, this oneyear training programme is based on activities which the student teachers get into through real classroom situations, building a strong connection of theories and practices. Like the way no medical institute exists without a hospital, no teacher education institute should run without being attached to a school.
PGDLT is inspired by the ‘Residency Model’ prevalent in the US, where teacher preparation is fast changing from traditional theory-based model to a more practice-based model. The National Center for Teacher Residencies, which is an apex organisation in the US, has a network of more than 20 residencies and is IAAT’s thought partner in this endeavour. The programme has some of the most eminent academics, researchers and educationists as its permanent faculty and some progressive educational thinkers as guest faculty. The curriculum is benchmarked against some of the best teacher education programmes of the world. The admissions cycle to the programme is from September to April.
Tied up with some credible academic partners, such as
Boston Teacher Residency; JodoGyan, an organisation working on math curriculum and pedagogy and The Heritage School, IAAT aspires to raise the bar on quality teacher education. Under the PGDLT, the student teachers are placed in a host school. For this year, it is The Heritage School (Gurgaon) where the trainees will be spending the whole session in classrooms teaching alongside experienced mentor-teachers who model best practices. Student teachers are intensively mentored and guided throughout the year on training session by a clinical teacher educator who is present in the field. Besides classroom practice, they have coursework throughout the session that helps them integrate theory and practice, and eventually earns them the PGDLT.
How is PGDLT different? In conventional teacher training programmes, one finds classes may or may not be linked to practical issues in schools, unlike the seamless blend of practices and theory in PGDLT. Moreover, PGDLT emphasises on ‘creating a positive learning environment, fostering inquiry, differentiation, lesson planning and making learning relevant.’ Demonstrative pedagogy, collaborative learning, comprehensive and continuous assessments throughout the course, planning and teaching gateways, observation and self reflection are some of the core structures of the programme.
Structures for the PGDLT programme are a mix of foundational and methods courses along with certain important enrichment modules planned to develop understanding about education within the residents. The methods courses are designed keeping in mind the preparation of teachers towards the early years or elementary age groups. Journey of a PGDLT student teacher begins with Mindful Personal Leadership sessions in which student teachers begin to be aware of themselves, connect with their true self, introspect, question their beliefs and assumptions, reflect on their own ideas about learning and teaching and re-ignite their curiosity about themselves in relation to the world around them, leading them to develop fresh perspectives.
While Self Awareness is a continuous process, they subsequently embark on a quest to develop and hone their ‘knowledge and skills’ both as learners and educators. Since the approach towards learning and teaching is based on fundamental principles of experiential learning, demonstrative pedagogy and active involvement and ownership of learning by the students, IAAT makes this happen through group tasks, group study, hands-on experiences, dialogue, workshops and so on.
Mentoring system at IAAT is an evolving framework and is designed to ensure a seamless blend between the content studied in the class and the teaching practiced inside the classroom. In order to achieve this, a comprehensive process of planning, teaching, formal and informal observation and one-on-one coaching is practiced to improve learning in the classroom. In the structural components of monitoring, one student teacher gets attached to one mentor and one class for the whole year; and he/she has the opportunity to visit other classes too, depending on the need. Practice teaching starts in the beginning of the year and is carried on till the end. All student teachers practise inside the classroom for three days a week and have theory classes two days a week. Apart from main classroom teaching, they participate in all the other processes, be it planning, reflection, assessments, parentteacher meetings and so on. A teacher educator is attached to 10–12 residents for closely mentoring the student teachers.
Ready to teach
By the end of the IAA’s PGDLT programme, student teachers are able co-construct their knowledge about children, learning and teaching, build a repertoire of effective practices and are ready to teach and lead in their classrooms. By the culmination of the programme, student teachers are grounded in the experiential learning pedagogy that helps them build lifelong bonds with children, peers and the community at large. The programme adapts to the contextual needs of different schools and communities that it works in collaboration with. Finally, the intent is to set up a model of excellence in one context and replicate it across several contexts, be it progressive private schools, affordable private schools or government schools.