Time to move from Transactional to Transformational Pedagogy
All educators aim to empower their students with knowledge and problem solving and critical-thinking skills. However, this is a mammoth task, in the era of technology. Accessing information is not as difficult as understanding and interpreting the information accessed for both teachers and students alike. Researchers are at work in colleges of Oxbridge and the lvy League, and theories are all around us to be picked up. But, how does one access and employ what is best suited for the individual contexts that each person works in?
In recent years, research on interdisciplinary instruction has thrown up interesting ideas. Interdisciplinary instruction is a keen contender as one of the transformational teaching methodologies. It is based on the premise that learning of subjects does not occur in isolation. Categorization of subjects is more for the convenience of schooling than for any other educational significance. Since 1979 many researchers have identified a number of gains from interdisciplinary instruction.
Students often bring powerful pre-learnt ideas and notions to the classroom. The ideas may not exclusively belong to the target subject dealt with in the classroom. Interdisciplinary instruction encourages students to examine previously gained knowledge in the light of what is newly learnt, thus enabling the students to get a broader perspective of the concepts taught.
Firstly, all teachers recognize that students are often biased about previously acquired notions. Interdisciplinary learning introduces students to ideas from a variety of subjects. This exposure challenges their existing notions and they identify more ambiguous dimensions to their ideas. This is definitely one of the best ways to introduce critical thinking.
Secondly, interdisciplinary instruction, combined with collaborative learning helps students acquire the skills of questioning and analyzing, which are essential for critical thinking. It is undoubtedly proven that interdisciplinary instruction promotes strong cognitive development as it involves brain-based processes required to carry out tasks; it engages students and teachers in discussions, leading to broader understanding of individual subjects.
It is common knowledge that different kinds of knowledge is needed for problem solving. Sometimes we need factual information and at other times process information. Students may discover that the same information when received in different forms may appear conflicting. This necessitates healthy dialogue in groups or pairs. Plenty of information emerges in the exchange of ideas, thus bringing out amazingly new perspectives to existing concepts.
Sometimes the same concept is interpreted in different ways in different disciplines, especially crisscrossing in subjects like Mathematics and Physics, or even Science and Literature sometimes! What better reason to shed rigid compartmentalized learning processes!
While we all know that the benefits of transforming pedagogy to interdisciplinary instruction is bound to yield better results in learning, implementation demands from the teacher more than mere knowledge of concepts at its surface level. Genuine concern for the learners and the learning process employed is an imperative requirement. This methodology not only transforms the way something is learnt but transforms the learner’s personality as well. As learning happens in a collaborative environment, the transformational teacher has to create a learning community in the class room.
Some practical ideas that can be used are
- A class of forty students can form four mixed groups with some high, low and average achievers.
- Appoint a team leader for each group in consultation with the team members.
- Allot two days in a week for collaborative learning in the class.
- A lesson or topic is explained/taught in the class. Then the transformational teacher frames four questions that demand application of knowledge, covering all major aspects of the topic.
- Give each group a different question. Ensure all group members contribute to the activity.
- Monitor that everyone is involved in the discussion to arrive at points required for a conclusive relevant answer.
- Examine the conclusion of the groups critically and evaluate positively.
- Give another set of four questions the next day to be explored as an individual task.
- After evaluating the answer of each student, award group-wise marking/grading.
- Display the grades on a chart in chronological order in order to encourage and motivate students to work towards achieving results in collaborative learning.
- Working in groups will help promote the idea of peer correction.
- Discussion will foster strengths and eliminate weaknesses in the students learning processes.
- A gradual positive change in their identity and personality will become noticeable.
- The teacher’s ‘self-report’ as well as learner’s individual and peer ‘self-reports’ before and after participating in a transformative class will become the guiding principles to shape an appropriate strategy for the enhancement of adolescent adaptation and positive identity development.
Integrated curriculum may be considered as an effective solution to many problems related to curriculum. Interdisciplinary learning seems to have understandable capacity to serve the real purpose of education, that is, building of creative thinkers not programmed robots to perform predetermined assignments. It is time for the main stakeholders of education – the school and teachers – to analyse and accept the requisite transition from one phase to another.
Indra Raj Pathak is in the field of education for the last 27 years. He has taught, evaluated, mentored, appraised and headed schools. He has conducted and organised several workshops for teachers on varied themes in many states of India. He has specialised in multisensory teaching and innovative teaching practices and has presented a paper on Transformational Pedagogy in an International Conference in 2012 organised by IIT-New Delhi. He has reviewed several series of English books. In 2008, he attended CBSE Sr Sec Principals Workshop organised by National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi.
He is M.A. (English Litt) with a degree in Education. Presently he is Principal of Jindal Public School, Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.