Teaching Paradigms for the New Millennium
Teaching in the present day scenario is no mean feat! It is both a challenge and an opportunity. It is challenging to engage a generation hooked to technology in meaningful conversation about what matters in the ‘real’ world – the immediate physical world of their existence; sensitizing them towards issues that don’t affect them directly but defines the collective conscience of a society. It is also an opportunity to correct historical wrongs that have been left uncorrected and continue to haunt the education system.
The present generation of students in our schools are better evolved in comparison to the millennial generation (born between the early 1980s and the dawn of the 21st century). They have a technological edge over their teachers who are not as adept in accruing the advancements in the field of technology. They have a whole new array of career choices to opt for, better mobility, more avenues for pursuing their passion, etc. But at the same time, they are also regressed. Their inability to manage their time and resources, emotional disconnect, self-immersion, the real-virtual divide they oscillate between is presenting a host of challenges, the educators are ill-equipped to address and deal with.
The good news is the situation can be turned around to a win-win situation. Though the scenario today is different, the elements in the equation are still the same. Certain things are always constant.
The key is to read the pulse of the students to know what ticks and what doesn’t and using this intuitive knowledge to select relevant learning content and customise pedagogy to reach them. One needs to marry the art and science of teaching to arouse curiosity in the subject domain we want our students to engage with in a meaningful way. Once this is successfully done, the intended learning outcomes are easily poised to be achieved. So how does one go about first creating and then sustaining the curiosity of the learners? Here I want to share what I have observed one of my new colleagues so successfully and effortless doing to pique the students’ interest in the learning content earmarked for teaching. His approach needs a special mention due the fact that he is probably the only teacher among a particular group of teachers who has been spectacularly successful in engaging a very unruly and diffident set of students whom the rest of his colleagues grapple to ‘control’ and are very often seen at their wit’s end, unable to figure out how to deal with them. Upon interacting with him I came to know the ‘success mantra’ he swears by. Everything seemingly boils down to student engagement, teaching strategies and good planning. Let me elaborate.
The magic word here is engagement. For actual learning to happen, one needs to engage with the content at a higher level of cognition. It is here that the teacher’s own knowledge base, mastery of the subject domain and most importantly her insights about child psychology come into play and determines the extent to which she would be successful in getting the learners engage productively with the learning material. And for this level of engagement to take place, the teacher should plan in detail taking into account allocation of time, decide on the mode of teaching/engagement, design activities to trigger HOTS( Higher Order Thinking Skills), incorporating learning techniques catering to MI( Multiple Intelligences) and integrating life skills into lesson planning. To ensure total involvement of learners that can be sustained throughout a course of study in any given academic year, calls for a high degree of commitment from the educators.
When students are positively engaged their creative faculties are stimulated paving the way for students owning their learning experience. Let me illustrate with an example.
While taking up The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, the prescribed long reading text for class 11 as part of CBSE’s English Core course, I was struggling to enthuse my students to appreciate the literary merit of the play. This should hardly come as a surprise when we observe the kind of literary content our students are devouring today! A generation fed on ‘in your face’ humour, whose attention span is mostly suited for ‘micro-fiction’ and who take sadistic pleasure in mutilating the English language can hardly be expected to read, let alone appreciate a literary text written in archaic English with redundant words, long winding, complex sentences with subtle tongue- in- cheek humour! Determined to engage the students in a productive manner and engage them actively in reading the play, I carried out an experiment. Instead of ‘teaching’ the play in the class, the students were asked to read the play on their own with the help of secondary resources given to them along with the original, unabridged version of the play. To consolidate their learning, they had to work on assignments of their choice and submit it for evaluation. Having seen how students internalize learning through activities, they were given opportunities to understand, interpret and give creative/critical expression of their response to the text through dramatization/adaption of the play for performance (recorded videos were submitted); creating a comic strip; giving an alternate ending; writing a ‘ghost story’ inspired by the play and writing a contemporary version of the play (in modern English). Understanding the need to give the students space and freedom to choose how they would like to engage with the text, proved to be very resourceful in making the experiment successful. This project accommodated different learning styles and also catered to the multiple intelligences of students. Apart from serving the purpose it was intended for, i.e. making the reading of the play fun and meaningful by critically appreciating the various aspects of the play, it brought out the students’ creativity to the fore by capitalizing on their innate and varied abilities.
It was overwhelming to see students fired up and intrinsically motivated and thus owning responsibility for their learning. I realized then how given opportunities and the right stimulus, children could surprise even themselves by the quality of work they are capable of doing but seldom do owing to the disinteresting ways in which a literary text is ‘taught’ and the hardly stimulating assignments that teachers usually give them.
When we educators approach the teaching–learning process to address the whole ambit of education – skills acquisition, cognitive development, capacity building, character formation, mental and emotional wellbeing along with spiritual orientation, only then can we be satisfied about doing justice to our profession.
P Ajitha is an ‘accidental’ teacher who having stumbled upon teaching by chance has stayed put by choice having found the vocation enabling as well as ennobling. She teaches English and Life Skills with occasional foray into in-house teacher training at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore but prefers to call herself a co-traveller in the journey called education she embarks with her students and peers together. Like minded teaching practitioners can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.