New Age Teaching and Learning Skills
The skills required for top scholastic performance in today’s world go far beyond what is taught in Indian schools. In order to ensure long term success, progressive academic institutions, without waiting for the Administration to act, need to up-skill teachers with modern teaching and learning tools.
In 2012, India ranked second last amongst 73 countries which participated in the United Nations Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) conducted annually to assess the quality of education systems worldwide. The test is administered by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretariat. In 2013 India was not even in the 64 countries surveyed. On top were students from Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Netherlands, Switzerland and some other countries.
How come recently developed Asian countries are setting new benchmarks of academic excellence for the world to follow? The author’s research shows that –
- All stakeholders – government, teachers and parents – planned long term and built world class but affordable infrastructure.
- They ensured the syllabi remained relevant and updated in line with the dynamically changing needs of the society and industry.
- Wide spread adoption of new age learning skills by teachers and students. These skills have been developed by educators based on recent discoveries of how the human brain remembers, retains and recalls information.
In this article we will deal with the most important three (of six) learning skills. We will understand their relevance and discuss ways for teachers to assess them.
I. Speed Reading
To prepare quality lesson plans teachers need to regularly read new material. Similarly, students, to acquire deeper understanding and prepare quality notes of the subject need to read beyond the curriculum. Time is always at a premium. Speed reading can save upto 50 percent of the reading time required.
During our workshops with teachers and students, we have discovered that 200 words per minute (wpm) is the average reading speed of participants. To be classified as literate, United Nations specifies a minimum reading speed of 400 wpm with 80 percent comprehension.
The first step to speed reading is determining your current reading speed. Take any age appropriate book, journal, magazine or newspaper. Ask a friend to time while you read for two minutes. Count the number of words you read and divide by 2. This is your current reading speed in wpm.
One of the common barriers to speed reading is lip reading loudly or silently. This habit restricts you to speaking speed of around 150 wpm. You can get rid of this habit by being aware of it and making a conscious effort to remove it.
Another simple technique to increase reading speed is to use a pointer moving at a pace faster than your eyes over the page. Don’t back track. Keep moving forward at a steady pace. Practice for two weeks. Check your reading speed every alternate day and keep a record.
By the end of two weeks you should be able to read 400 to 500 wpm.
If you want to read at speeds of 500-800 wpm you will need to learn to read five to seven words at a time using peripheral vision.
II. Mind Mapping
Mind Mapping developed by Tony Buzan, a British educator and author, is one of the most powerful teaching and learning tool developed in recent times. Mind Maps use whole brain learning and are useful for all types of teaching and learning, regardless of language, subject, culture, age or career preferences.
Teachers prepare lesson plans and top students prepare notes as Mind Maps. Mind Maps:
- Save teaching and learning time
- Boost understanding
- Boost memory
Mind Maps save time because they only use keywords. Keywords contain all information and are approximately 20 percent of any text. The balance 80 percent are connecting words like: the, and, there, is, of, for etc. and contain no information. Their only purpose is to link the keywords to form meaningful sentences.
Mind Maps organize information vividly which is the natural way human beings think. Therefore it is possible to capture information of 15-20 pages on one sheet of paper using simple rules.
The overview of information on one page helps visualization and association of the information in a way that boosts long term memory and understanding.
A good Mind Map ensures that all details and examples are included. Therefore, a good mind map contains answers to all possible types of questions on the subject. A good Mind Map saves time because you don’t have to refer to different source materials and facilitates several revisions which boost understanding and memory of the subject.
III. Developing Long Term Memory
This is the third scholastic skill to master.
Research by George Miller of Princeton University in 1956 found that the maximum number of random items any one could remember were plus minus seven. Another behavior scientist Hamilton noted that to remember more than seven items was possible if linked or associated with one another.
Based on these researches and the fact that all of us have a natural gift of memory, scientists and modern educators have demonstrated that visualization and association are the corner stone for long term memory of large amounts of information and facts.
The mind thinks in images and pictures. Not words. Therefore, develop the skill of visualizing in your mind’s eye the keywords which contain all the information you want to remember. Visualise the keywords vividly in colour and all details using your five senses.
Then link this visualised information in the sequence you want to remember them, by spinning a humorous and absurd story around it. Stories are easy to remember. Therefore, recall of the information is easy.
Test scores and interesting lectures full of facts and anecdotes provide excellent feedback and assessment criteria of long term memory skills.
In conclusion, if the Indian education system has to find its rightful place on the world stage, then amongst other things, the system must adopt new age learning skills and train teachers to use them for teaching and lesson planning. Teachers must also train students to use these skills to study better and compete internationally.
(For details refer to ‘New Age Learning and Reading Skills’ published by S. Chand Group and visit www.apsarafoundation.org
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Ajay Aggarwal, Author, Master Trainer and Business leader After a successful corporate career, Ajay for the last three years, as CEO of Apsara Foundation, is devoted to promoting “New Age Learning and Reading”. He is working with several schools to institutionalize these skills by training their teachers and students. He has authored a book with the same title, recently published by S Chand Group. For more information visit www. apsarafoundation.org