The task of educating young minds is a challenge today, both for educators and schools in general. It requires a humongous amount of research, thinking, planning and careful execution. Some principles, however, stand out as time tested and universally applicable across all curricula and can be effectively implemented to enhance the process of teaching-learning.
Learner Centric Curriculum
The most significant among these is ensuring that the curriculum designed is learner-centric in every aspect. It has to be carefully graded, developmentally appropriate, backed by thorough research and suited to the needs of today’s learners. A constructivist approach to learning ensures that learner’s natural curiosity is channelled effectively through inquiry to achieve the desired outcomes and develop a well-rounded, holistic understanding of concepts that transcends disciplines.
An Inquiry-Based Approach
An Inquiry-based approach that fosters natural curiosity has great relevance in learning by making connections between learner’s environment, experiences and the key concepts. Inquiry-based learning motivates the students to learn and advance their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It gives them a platform to ask questions thus, giving them the opportunity to think critically and resolve the issues in their day to day life. It also helps develop their creativity.
Development of habits of mind: The focus on critical thinking and conceptual understanding promotes the development of intellectual dispositions by providing opportunities to students to apply their learning to solving global and local and real-life problems. Get students to think, discuss, explore, and find answers. Let them relate what they learn to the world around them. Ask them to research and look for information rather than merely relying on the textbook, mugging up and regurgitating the information in the examination. At the end of the day, the experience that a teacher takes them through in the process of learning remains indelibly etched on their minds rather than the content.
Nurturing international-mindedness and intercultural understanding: Focus on multilingualism, language learning, along with a strong focus on developing knowledge of other cultural groups, appreciation of different ways of being and behaving, and developing positive attitudes to others and engagement with global issues in terms of undertaking activity outside of schools, in the local community and/or other foreign communities promote the development of intercultural sensitivity and respect. Do this by weaving in activities that require ferreting out relevant information about other cultures – link them to your lessons as extrapolatory themes.
Inclusion and differentiation: Practise differentiation to meet the needs of all learners. Differentiated access to content, multimodal approaches to assimilate content along with assessments that promote multiple ways of demonstrating competence and understanding ensure that the needs of all learners are met. Differentiation enables the teachers to give students the best chance at learning, regardless of their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Teachers design a variety of lessons keeping in mind the learning style of different students. Students are given a choice board to select a given number of tasks and showcase their understanding in any way that they feel comfortable with. It could through role-play, written content, ICT, oral, through drawings, etc. Students who have a good knowledge base but are reluctant writers get an opportunity to share their ideas and opinions through a medium chosen by them. So, use different ways and methods to cater to all students –each one of whom is unique- Remember, we cannot apply the principle of one shoe fits all!
Collaboration: It gives a platform to the teachers and students to discuss and share ideas thus developing their interpersonal skills, too. Collaboration helps build trust and open communication between the students' group as well as between the teachers and students.
Use Assessments as Learning, Not a Test of Memory or Retention
Encourage reflection, promote goal setting and self-regulate learning to fill the observed gaps. Make sure the assessments are designed to test relevant thinking skills by creating meaningful tasks that allow the students to show their understanding of the subject - not just their memory skills.
Finally, make learning a celebration for the young. Be vibrant and passionate about what you teach and the passion is bound to percolate to the pupils! Make learning fun!
About the author: Dr Neeta Bali
With an experience of over 34 years in the field of education, she started her career with Mater Dei School in Delhi as Head of Department, English, and served for over 18 years. She then headed schools like Apeejay School, Noida, GD Goenka World School, Gurugram, Kasiga School, Dehradun, in India and even spearheaded partnerships with some leading schools in Scotland & Utah. Currently, she is the Director-Principal, GD Goenka World School, Gurgaon, Haryana.
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