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Learning from One Another

16 Sep

“When children teach other, they learn better”. I remember hearing this from a teacher in a simple school in a small town. Then I heard the same last year from Vicky Colbert WISE Laureate – indeed this is what transformed education in Colombia via the Escola Neuva system. Through difficult terrain, poor communities, scarce resources – here was a power to be harnessed – the peer.

Learning from each other is a natural way of picking up knowledge and skills. As children and as adults we learn by watching each other, even more so by copying each other’s actions. The next stage is trying it out – learning by doing. There is an old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” But there is one more step. A recent study of retention in learning marked out a pyramid where ‘learning by teaching’ showed a retention rate of 90%, compared to a 5% retention rate for a lecture or a 30% retention rate for a demonstration.

What does that look like in a classroom? A class full of teachers will be chaotic surely? If all the students are teaching each other, then what is the role of the teacher? The role of the teacher evolves to being so much more than a passive fount of knowledge. A peer learning class needs to be arranged differently. They are given challenges, tasks and resources. They share their learning journey, nudged and directed by the teacher till all the students have reached basic competence in that learning module. This means that the style of teaching must be very different. Not only is it more participative but also engages the teacher in different ways. The learning resources became important but what is most important is the question asked by the teacher that sets the children off on the adventure. Too wide, and there is chaos. Too narrow and they are merely parroting lines to each other, even copying from each other mindlessly. This is a trap the teacher must avoid – the point of peer learning in classrooms is to encourage students to think and engage with the learning. Not just copy from each other or the board.  Designing the question, organising the class, managing the range, channelling energy constructively – the teacher’s focus moves to these in peer learning classes. And learning levels go up more – not only has each child been engaged, each child has received personal attention from the teacher and has been taught using a pedagogy that improves retention levels.

Changing pedagogies midstream is always a bit daunting for most teachers. Only few would have been trained in peer learning, others will have to figure it out on their own. Unless, they have a peer learning group. What is applied to the classroom can, and does work for teachers too. Teaching and learning is enhanced with peers (or why would schools exist!) and the best teachers keep learning new techniques and sharing them with their peers. Not just colleagues.

There was a time when peer learning was restricted to one’s circle of colleagues and the only peer learning network that was active was in the staffroom. Occasional training sessions extended it for a while to peers across other schools or in the same district. Technology has now removed these barriers. Peer learning groups are being supported by tech companies such as google, by newspaper groups such as the Times (UK based, working in India) and others. Facebook groups are a great way of creating peer learning networks across the country and even the globe. Look up a group to join, or even create one of your own. It doesn’t have to be all serious and theoretical for learning to happen. For example, we used to share little stories of what happened in class with the Facebook group. Sometimes we would share laughter and often it would get responses that were very supportive and helpful. Teaching tips can be shared. Another great tool to create a peer learning network is twitter. Teachers and educators come together and discuss ways to improve their teaching practice or other issues in education. The Indian education chat is called #EduIn where one can meet a community of educators. Others are more global and include groups for new teachers, teachers learning to incorporate technology in their classes, mathematics teachers etc. Shared blogs with multiple contributors work as peer learning for both teachers and students, as do whatsapp groups. Both the flipped classroom model as well as peer learning pedagogies can use these tools extensively.

Whether peer learning is technology driven or not, there is a great deal of value in peer learning groups. In Punjab, STIR and NISA are working in the Rajpura district of Punjab to bring teachers together regularly to speak about in class innovations, teaching practices, solutions and experiences. The teaching community meet at one of the schools in the district on a regular basis and worked together to share and learn. They were able to improve many outcomes in the school district in a short while, but of course there is a lot more to be done. Similar efforts have been in place for decades in Rajasthan and other places.

Peer Learning Networks do not have to be an overly formal construct – each of us can create a PLN where we identify and nurture our sources of learning. While many of us do so naturally it is more of a conscious effort for others. A PLN gives better results if there is a semi-formal structure around it not the least because it ensures that we put in the time and resources required to make it work. A semi-formal or formal PLN will also set its goals, monitor progress and have a community of care that helps it course correct as required. For example, subject based peer learning networks of teachers could be very useful where they share teaching tools, resolve classroom hurdles, share worksheets and quizzes and even create intra-school events. Sometimes only a peer learning network can help – or even understand what the problem is and how to find your way through the maze.

Peer Learning is not a magic wand that resolves all problems but it does form the basis of sustainable solutions. This is where we tap into all parts of learning – previous knowledge, relevant experience and the adventure of sharing to grow our skills together. The PLN grows together as it encourages and supports the whole group to improve themselves.

Meeta Sengupta is a writer and advisor on education. She designs institutional interventions to improve learning outcomes and bring a sense of fun and movement in classrooms. She can be contacted at meetasengupta@gmail.com or on twitter at the handle @meetasengupta

http://www.teacherplus.org/cover-story/learning-from-one-another

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Teaching: A Multi Skilled Vocation

8 Sep

Let me say this again. Teaching is not parenting. Teaching is not mentoring. Teaching is not facilitation. Teaching is not lecturing. Teaching is not helping students pass exams. Oh, and teaching is certainly not bullying, hectoring or cajoling. And equally vehemently, teaching is not entertaining.

Teaching is an act of energising.

It borrows tools from all – the parents, the mentors, the facilitators, entertainer and the administrator. But the core act of teaching is never just one of these roles. Teaching is a performance art at first sight. But really, teaching is a skill that draws on various disciplines to enable and direct a transfer of energy in the classroom.

This is why training a teacher is a tough challenge.

Because teachers grow and evolve in their skills. Currently teacher training is treated like a one time vaccination, maybe one with a top up dose every once in a while. The key to getting teacher training right is to understand teaching and teachers better.

Teaching is an act of transformation. When a teacher teaches, their task is not merely to transfer knowledge from a textbook to the answer note book in an examination. The teacher opens up a new level of understanding and enthusiasm in their students. True, every student is not enthused or transformed by every teacher interaction. But this is the dripping of water on stone. Once exposed to a new level of understanding, a student can never go back to the previous level. That is what a teacher does. Step by painstaking step. This transformation takes energy, and it needs skills and tools.

In doing this a teacher uses many tools. Sometimes the tools of parenting – affection, instruction, negotiation – even bribery. A teacher uses the tools of mentoring – gently guiding and supporting them through a journey of self discovery. Often nudging them along, more often then not giving them access to things that will help the students achieve results faster. Teachers are administrators too. The attendance register, the lists of tests and marks, the progress reports, the reports of the parent teacher meetings and so much more.

The planner’s tools come in handy here – one plans ahead, has games and charts ready, activity sheets planned, the board comes alive, peer learning is managed. The tools of an entertainer come to the fore – when the teacher ups the energy levels in the room. A tiny bit of bullying – but never to hurt, never so much that it is remembered as more than a joke. And some micro-power play. For the moments when one needs to call the whole class to action. For the moment of teaching, a teacher is everything rolled into one, responding to the gaps in the classroom. Everything in balance, everything in small doses, everything applied for a purpose. And everything within limits.

Using the tools of parenting does not make the teacher a parent. There are bounds that a teacher cannot cross and responsibilities that a teacher cannot, and must not handle. While professional affection and care are essential to good teaching, every teacher knows that there is a line they cannot cross. As mentors they may even hear personal stories from the children, may know more about the student’s state of mind and home life than they want to know – but that does not put parental responsibilities on a teacher, nor does it make a teacher wholly a mentor. A teacher cannot be responsible for feeding, clothing, sheltering a child. Nor can a teacher provide family values or indeed demonstrate long term care and loyalty. A teacher has a line may overlap with parenting – but the teacher cannot cross that line.

Nor should a teacher cross the line when it comes to being an entertainer. A teacher be neither wholly a crowd pleaser nor a bully. Often the process of teaching in many classrooms is more bullying than energising. It is hard to energise the unwilling. If a teacher must bully, or hurt the student in any way to ‘teach’ them, then this is not teaching at all. It is an admission of failure on the part of the teacher, it is a cry for help.

And this is the call, this week, as Teacher’s Day approaches in India. Teachers are asked to be so many things at the same time, and yet receive such little help or support across the various competencies and skills. Those who do receive support, encouragement and constructive feedback have done wonders. Now, create mechanisms for supporting and growing teacher’s skills. Give them reasons to want to do better for their students. Give them ways to renew their energy, to return reinvigorated to their classrooms. Give them the tools to be leaders, fighters, tutors, administrators, artists and more – these are the tools they will pass on to the next generation. For who else can design the future, but our teachers.

 

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/teaching-a-multi-skilled-vocation/

Teacher Connect

2 Mar

 

Teachers should be in tune with times

Thursday, 23 January 2014 | Meeta W Sengupta | in Oped

The technology and teacher inter-connectivity boom in India is still at a nascent stage. It needs to spread for results to be evident

The tide has silently risen — and teachers are better off because they join. I speak of the conversations between teachers across schools, networks and geographies. Teachers are acknowledged to be at the centre of improvements in education — they are the single factor that determines the quality of teaching and learning that happens in a classroom. While much of these have been measured by student achievement, a teacher’s contribution is a lot more in terms of the values, the team skills and the emotional support that they offer to their classroom. Teaching is an act of transformation — it takes a lot out of the teacher and they too need validation and renewal.

A decade ago, the only place where teachers gathered would be in teacher-training sessions organised by their authority or in consultation meetings — where only the senior teachers had access. Training sessions were designed to be top down, and were often honoured in the breach rather than in actual renewal. Teacher training often became just about compliance. The past year has seen significant changes because of sterling work done by many to address the systemic issues that teachers face on a day to day basis. The first being isolation.

It is not only single-teacher schools in far-flung rural areas where teachers feel isolated. This can happen in a large, populated urban school too. Teachers who wish to innovate in their classroom, or have an idea that they think will work for a school, or maybe an interesting activity or lesson plan do not always find support within their schools. Every teacher has much to share based on their experiences and efforts. But for such sharing to happen teacher communities needed to be enabled both within and outside schools. One of the positives about team-teaching is that all teachers share materials and plans, which makes them effective support systems for each other. The downside is that it takes an initial investment of time from the teachers who will see benefits only once they make a success of it. Team-teaching has been seen to be effective only in schools that are technology enabled and where the teachers themselves naturally integrate technology with their teaching preparation and practice.

It is this technology boom that has enabled teachers across the world to connect with, teach one another and share what they can. This change has been slow in coming to India — many of the schools here barely see electricity, let alone have computers. Those that do find the journey as digital immigrants varied — the schools that have been able to enable open access with well- designed content have benefited the most, other schools find ‘computers’ to be a chore since it is seen as a separate subject and task. Teachers lead the change and those who have had support and are able to adopt it for use as seamlessly as a textbook or a blackboard are those who have more to share.

The technology and teacher inter-connectivity boom in India is nascent. Some of it is via Government networks such as those that link universities across the country. Many of these are enabled via email groups, Facebook and other social media. Large newspapers with significant education supplements have invested in developing communities of teachers across the country, as have social entrepreneurs who help create social learning platforms for teachers to share materials within school networks. The most ambitious of these is the open education resources programme that encourages teachers to share their teaching resources with others, for free, and to access and use other teachers’ shared resources.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/oped/teachers-should-be-in-tune-with-times.html

Teacher Shortages: Malawi’s Tale

25 Feb

 

#Teacher Tuesday

 

UNESCO estimates that over the four year period between 2011 and 2015, 5.2 million teachers will nbeed to be recruited for primary school alone to achieve Universal Primary Education.. this is about 5% of the current primary school teaching force. More interestingly, only about 1.6 million of these will need to be additional teachers, the rest – 3.7million will be needed to replace teachers who will leave the force.

 

Teachers leave. They love their job and yet they leave. Why?

 

Often the answer is – teaching conditions.

 

This is a global issue. The shortage of teachers and their challenges are well known. Teachers find themselves overwhelmed, often alone and unsupported in classrooms that are inadequate and with fewer resources than required. Teacher Tuesday here is a project that aims to tell their stories.

 

Ten weeks, ten countries, ten teachers.

 

This week, we tell the story of Esnart from Malawi. She has been teaching for 25 years and now teaches others to support learning. Her biggest challenge so far? Teaching a class of 230 students.

 

(I will admit, it is daunting. Day after day. I ran a 3 hour workshop for a 1000 students with a co-teacher. Primary school students. Language teaching and story telling. Interactive. It was stupendous fun. And exhausting. To do this day after day is an act of heroism) Esnart had a class of 230 students. And inadequate buildings. She taught them under a tree. Resources in rural school is  challenge. Ten children sharing a book. Pulling and pushing, the book often tears. Many cannot afford a notebook while a slate is provided by the government. Others write in the sand. I read her interview and wonder – what happens when it rains. Is it easier to write on wet sand or dry? Or do the children not turn up to school when it rains. I hear they don’t – when it rains, it is a holiday. Many school buildings leak.

 

(I think of India, where I live now. It is not very different in many rural areas. Students study under very difficult circumstances and teachers often spend most of their efforts coralling them from around the village. They have basic resources, but do they equip the students for the world ahead? Do the teachers even have the capacity to deal with complex technology that their urban peers claim to be natural for them? I see Malawi here too, as I also see the change that is sweeping through the larger village clusters)

 

Esnart and her colleagues know that they need more teachers. Not just in the morning hours (school goes on till 11.30 a.m.) but also for the extra sessions that are put on for supporting other learners later – either after school or in the afternoon. But finding teachers who want to work in rural Malawi is not easy. They are far away from good healthcare and services. Local recruiting has helped, but even so, many of them want to relocate to the cities after their training and after gaining experience. Regulations and policy changes have supported teacher retention in rural areas – teachers now have to sign  a contract to serve in a local area for five years.

 

(Again, I map these to the Indian story – rural areas show high levels of absenteeism. Just like in Malawi, student achievement levels are far lower than is expected of their age cohort. Teachers prefer to live in the cities, traveling far to reach the schools they are posted to – often not making the long slog. India too is working to hire local para teachers, and the challenges of training local people is part of the struggle to improve quality in remote areas. Malawi is interesting in using holiday time to teach these young teachers – a policy that India would do well to emulate)

 

Conditions are difficult and motivation levels cannot remain high in such tough circumstances. Esnart highlights the difficulties faced everyday by teachers and students while being part of the solution – she offers tools and techniques to support teachers and improve their ability to deal with whatever comes their way – large classes, shortage of resources, multi grade classes – come rain or shine.

Where Will We Find the Teachers

14 Nov

11/11/2013 |

teacherImage: Shutterstock

Globally the cry rises—where are the teachers? Where are the people who led and inspired? The ones who were respected because they built citizens of note in their tiny classrooms? The ones who made their students think and do, so that they grew up confident and competent.

Too much to expect?
We still look for these, but even if we do not find them, at the very least we need competent teachers who can raise literacy and numeracy levels in the classrooms of the world. We need teachers who care enough to land up in class, and we need them to hold the cohort together and push them to achievements appropriate to their level. We do not even expect them to teach as was traditional. In the brave new world of the flipped classroom with edutech resources and blended learning tools to hand, the teacher curates and leads explorations.

Still too much?
Then just teachers to teach the basics and keep the classes productively occupied so that they do reasonably in their tests and examinations? Land up, take attendance, listen to the students and exhort them to do better? Maybe as a support teacher or a substitute teacher?

But where shall we find the teachers? The shortage of teachers is a global reality. This year, Unesco estimated that 1.6 million new teaching posts need to be created to meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015, and this rises to 3.3 million by 2030. (Source: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/world-teachers-day-2013.aspx)  To this, one needs to add the number of teachers that need to be replaced due to the high rates of attrition from this profession. This in itself should be a warning signal to policymakers and educationists for high rates of withdrawal from a vocation can only mean that something is deeply wrong and needs careful attention. India, too, has a large chunk of the shortages. Without trying to reconcile these with the global numbers (for education statistics is a whole new minefield) I just repeat the reported shortages to be between 1.2 million and 1.4 million currently. (Source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130707/news-current-affairs/article/india-faces-shortage-nearly-14-million-trained-teachers, http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/shortage-of-1-2-mn-teachers-in-india-sibal_646295.html) The story of teacher shortages is repeated everywhere— states in America, Africa (especially sub-Saharan Africa) and Arabia.

With 57 million children out of school, many of them in remote inaccessible areas or in conflict zones, the teacher shortage is an even more complex issue than simple supply and demand. The teaching profession is in turmoil, with many countries reporting high levels of dissatisfaction among teachers due to administrative workloads, relatively lower pay and unsafe working conditions. At the same time, teachers face pressure from administrators to prove performance in classrooms as measured by student achievement. This in itself is a controversial issue that does not enhance the desirability of the teaching profession.

The biggest minefield here is the debate over trained teachers or untrained ones being recruited to government systems. While some experienced teachers have succeeded without training, this clearly cannot be a systemic response to recruitment. At the same time, ‘contract’ teachers (or para teachers, and even substitutes) have been seen to perform adequately in the classroom. They are seen as a way to boost the numbers—and this has seen mixed reactions. However, it is generally acknowledged that underqualified teachers are likely to end up in lower cost schools (as they do) and it is richer students who will be able to take advantage of better qualified and experienced teachers.

The current solutions for meeting the teacher shortage are largely local or national. Globally, the trend seems to seek to fill the gaps with education technology solutions. While everyone is agreed that not even the venerated (and now on trial) MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) can replace teachers completely, there are a number of charter schools and academies that have nascent proof that certain blended learning models do improve student achievement. So, with teachers and with graded pathways, education technology does reduce teacher workload and free them up for other things. Does this mean that they can handle multi-grade cohorts and reduce the number of teachers required? Will this help reduce the shortage? It may well be the way forward till we find and train the right teachers.

So, for now, if there are fewer teachers than we need and standalone e-learning technologies cannot fill the gap, then what can we do? A few suggestions:
1.    Technology has a role to play in education to reduce teacher workload, to introduce standardisation and to mechanise the process of assessment. It is a great feedback tool even though it may not be the best source of inspiration to learn. The issue with most edutech tools so far is that they have been created by developers distant from the classrooms and sold to teachers. This is like the computers of the eighties when only a few ‘trained’ personnel could enter the hallowed halls of computing. E-learning solutions must be demand-led, not supply-driven. It is up to the e-learning community to invest more time in understanding pedagogies, understanding the needs of the students in their various contexts and then building support systems for core teaching. All learning takes place in social contexts, so the materials must adapt or be customised to new situations—not merely translated or transliterated.

2.    Teachers need to be grown, and then supported. If the teaching profession is seeing a shortfall, then this needs urgent attention. More and better people need to be drawn into the profession, trained as they teach and supported through their teaching careers. Teachers need to remain motivated to be able to inspire generations of learning. More on increasing the pool of teachers here https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/increase-the-pool-of-teachers/ . This needs to be seen as a global crisis that needs immediate attention and funding.

3.    A crisis often is an opportunity to innovate. The teacher shortage forces us to find other solutions to educate and skill our youth. Tools such as peer-to-peer learning, flipped classrooms etc need to be deployed to support higher student attainment. Other innovations such as travelling teachers, mobile and online events, among others, need to be brought into the mix to create solutions for teaching and learning communities.

Bringing in teachers, training and supporting them well is essential to educating our next generations, but this is not a simple recruitment drive. Finland, known for its excellence in teaching and learning, invests seven years per teacher—as much as a doctor or a surgeon. It takes national commitment to build a strong cohort of teachers, and it takes even more to retain them in the profession—an investment that is essential to our futures.

How I Would Teach History

14 Nov

It started with a discussion over a sentence from an NCERT text:

“The British saw large animals as signs of a wild, primitive and savage society.

They believed that by killing dangerous animals the British would civilise India.”

This was class 9, History.

After the usual outrage on textbooks and social engineering, I was asked a very interesting question –

“When my children come to me and ask me to explain this, what will I tell them?”

And my response was – “Tell them there is more than one book”

And that is how history should be shown – it can never really be taught.

As I wondered, I began to plan my perfect history lesson.

(Never having been a history teacher, this was an exercise in pure pedagogy sans content expertise (declaring that upfront). There are many ways to design a lesson, I promise this will not become a workshop on lesson plans!)

First comes the story of the people and the peoples involved. But can there ever be just one story when it is about people, their lives and the grand battles they commanded? Can there ever just be one version of the truth or just one perspective? With a prescribed textbook there is – by definition – a prescribed version of the truth.

Of course the perfect history lesson would have great students (a range of abilities in the class, not all academic) and great resources (libraries and access to materials). And as a teacher, I’d start off the story and then send the students off to find out more. To bring stories back to each other.

What is the risk here? One, cynical students would not bother. Two, if they work individually they may lose their way, if they work in groups they may get lost in the group and be able to shirk work. In this case, I’d send them on their journey of discovery in pairs, or triads. Three, they may all come back with the same story – and that is the risk every teacher takes in an unstructured quest. There are advantages to giving the student groups their head and letting them run wild and find out whatever they can. If the topic is rich in diverse stories – say the Empire of Akbar, World War II, then I would be happy to take the risk. If the thing to be researched is remote from the context of the students or does not have much depth in its tales, then I would certainly partition and direct the students to give structure and boundaries to their quest.

I’d ask them to come back and tell each other the stories they had gathered. I’d add some of my own. I’d ask them questions. I’d tell them to ask each other questions.

(I can hear some experienced teachers voices in my head now – where will you find the time? The class will be chaotic! It will go all over the place. When will you finish the syllabus?

This is when lesson preparation comes in useful. The art of teaching is based on the science of planning. While the class looks chaotic to the casual observer, it is the teacher’s task to ensure that the questions follow a pre-decided pattern. The experience and training of the teacher must ensure that the facilitation of the learning is skillful. If a teacher depends on a general idea of where the lesson should go, it will be less than successful – the pathway of questions and stories must be managed – that is the purpose and task of a teacher)

And then, I would show them sides. If there was time, I’d ask them to act it out, to take sides and tell the tale. I’d let them feel the need to win, the urge of the cause, the power of their tools, their trust and distrust in people and the pathos of loss. The lessons of history are about learning for the future. If these are embedded in ways that they stir questions, reflections and discussions, then a large part of the teacher’s job is done.

Will the lesson end as the bell rings to signal the end of class? I should hope not. There is more to history even if one is limited by one’s prescribed syllabus. Much in history is the art of making connections between societies, civilizations, circumstances and times. There can never be a history lesson isolated from other parts of history, or even separated from geographies, the sciences or even mathematics.

What then is the role of the teacher – is it one of a connector? In these times of access to information via the internet (hopefully to most in a few years) the teacher is not the person who tells the stories. The teacher curates and stimulates. The teacher seeds and watches over to ensure that the seeds germinate. If the teacher has embedded the questions, and shown the path to finding answers, it is enough to start.

 

How I would teach history

Meeta Sengupta
04 November 2013, 06:19 PM IST

Link:

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/how-i-would-teach-history

How I would Teach History

6 Nov

How I would teach history

Meeta Sengupta
04 November 2013, 06:19 PM IST

It started with a discussion over a sentence from an NCERT text:

“The British saw large animals as signs of a wild, primitive and savage society.

They believed that by killing dangerous animals the British would civilise India.”

This was class 9, History.

After the usual outrage on textbooks and social engineering, I was asked a very interesting question –

“When my children come to me and ask me to explain this, what will I tell them?”

And my response was – “Tell them there is more than one book”

And that is how history should be shown – it can never really be taught.

As I wondered, I began to plan my perfect history lesson.

(Never having been a history teacher, this was an exercise in pure pedagogy sans content expertise (declaring that upfront). There are many ways to design a lesson, I promise this will not become a workshop on lesson plans!)

First comes the story of the people and the peoples involved. But can there ever be just one story when it is about people, their lives and the grand battles they commanded? Can there ever just be one version of the truth or just one perspective? With a prescribed textbook there is – by definition – a prescribed version of the truth.

Of course the perfect history lesson would have great students (a range of abilities in the class, not all academic) and great resources (libraries and access to materials). And as a teacher, I’d start off the story and then send the students off to find out more. To bring stories back to each other.

What is the risk here? One, cynical students would not bother. Two, if they work individually they may lose their way, if they work in groups they may get lost in the group and be able to shirk work. In this case, I’d send them on their journey of discovery in pairs, or triads. Three, they may all come back with the same story – and that is the risk every teacher takes in an unstructured quest. There are advantages to giving the student groups their head and letting them run wild and find out whatever they can. If the topic is rich in diverse stories – say the Empire of Akbar, World War II, then I would be happy to take the risk. If the thing to be researched is remote from the context of the students or does not have much depth in its tales, then I would certainly partition and direct the students to give structure and boundaries to their quest.

I’d ask them to come back and tell each other the stories they had gathered. I’d add some of my own. I’d ask them questions. I’d tell them to ask each other questions.

(I can hear some experienced teachers voices in my head now – where will you find the time? The class will be chaotic! It will go all over the place. When will you finish the syllabus?

This is when lesson preparation comes in useful. The art of teaching is based on the science of planning. While the class looks chaotic to the casual observer, it is the teacher’s task to ensure that the questions follow a pre-decided pattern. The experience and training of the teacher must ensure that the facilitation of the learning is skillful. If a teacher depends on a general idea of where the lesson should go, it will be less than successful – the pathway of questions and stories must be managed – that is the purpose and task of a teacher)

And then, I would show them sides. If there was time, I’d ask them to act it out, to take sides and tell the tale. I’d let them feel the need to win, the urge of the cause, the power of their tools, their trust and distrust in people and the pathos of loss. The lessons of history are about learning for the future. If these are embedded in ways that they stir questions, reflections and discussions, then a large part of the teacher’s job is done.

Will the lesson end as the bell rings to signal the end of class? I should hope not. There is more to history even if one is limited by one’s prescribed syllabus. Much in history is the art of making connections between societies, civilizations, circumstances and times. There can never be a history lesson isolated from other parts of history, or even separated from geographies, the sciences or even mathematics.

What then is the role of the teacher – is it one of a connector? In these times of access to information via the internet (hopefully to most in a few years) the teacher is not the person who tells the stories. The teacher curates and stimulates. The teacher seeds and watches over to ensure that the seeds germinate. If the teacher has embedded the questions, and shown the path to finding answers, it is enough to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/how-i-would-teach-history