Brain based Kindergartens that Play and Learn
Every child is born with the same number of neurons, almost a 100 billion, but it needs stimulation and nurturing to help these neurons make connections, trillions of connections. This means the brain does not develop automatically, necessitating ‘brain friendly’ practices for a well-balanced…
Ninety-eight percent of the brain develops in the first five years. Every child is born with the same number of neurons, almost a 100 billion, but it needs stimulation and nurturing to help these neurons make connections, trillions of connections. This means the brain does not develop automatically, necessitating ‘brain friendly’ practices for a well-balanced and steady brain growth. The brain needs stimulation, complimented with ‘brain friendly’ practices like, routines, rituals, stimulating toys, more choices, child led activities, open ended questions, logic games, toys, and outdoor activities to nurture brain development.
The brain is the ‘center’ of all learning and growth. Nurturing and stimulating the brain would lead to happier and healthier learners. As described by the father of Kindergarten – Frobel, early childhood education is a ‘garden for children’. Stress, comparison and competition, threats, drill based learning, rote learning are all brain antagonistic and should be avoided in kindergarten. The brain releases cortisol, a chemical that helps deal with stress, when there is too much stress, then cortisol destroys brain connections leading to memory, attention, and learning problems.
Brain research states that learning something within a meaningful context increases memory
Teachers must use known concepts as a starting point to introduce unknown concepts going from simple to complex. Let’s say in a scenario if you are talking to children about ‘my city’, then it is important they first know about ‘myself’, ‘my family’, ‘my home’, and then ‘my city’. So if children know the story of Goldilocks, then the character Goldilocks can be used to teach them about three magic words – Thank you, Sorry, Please. By going from the simple to the complex, a learning link is created which helps kids relate and recall.
Movement and exercise nourish the brain
Cross lateral movements like marching, climbing, dancing should be implemented. This helps the left and right sides of the brain communicate, helping kids use their brains efficiently. One of the constant struggles for primary school children and their teachers is children not being able to write and not being able to sit or focus to complete a task. Well, early years’ specialist Dr Rebecca Duncombe, who led a study monitoring children of school age in UK, found a higher number of kids experience problems with their balance and coordination ultimately affecting their ability to learn in class. “A child’s physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading – all skills essential for school,” she said. This happens to our children in India, because we coop up children for hours together in a desk-chair prison and make them do ‘worksheets’ and ‘workbooks’ that can show us their achievement of having learnt to ‘write’. Children need movement to develop their body and brain.
Diet is known to activate memory
Kindergartens should make sure the diet of young children is healthy, for overall brain growth. Ensure that parents are made aware of healthy food choices. Motivate parents to avoid junk food, packaged foods especially with additives as they are known to cause attention, focus and behavioral issues. Especially control the salt and sugar intake.
Understanding why children misbehave or can’t wait for their turn
The pre frontal cortex, or what is commonly known as ‘the thinking brain’ or ‘executive brain’, is still not fully developed in young children. This ‘thinking brain’ helps us control our emotions, impulses; helps regulate memory, retention, and logic. Young children lack impulse control and self-regulation and so trying to control them would be a futile effort. In addition, young children lack the ability to delay gratification making them unable to control their impulses leading to lack of self-regulation. Simple every day activities can help teachers nurture these skills in children. The common garden ‘slide’ helps nurture brain development. As children wait to climb (patience), then climb the steps (effort) to reach the slide and then get the exhilarating slide down (reward) teaches young kids self-regulation and impulse control. This simple outdoor equipment is a great tool to help children learn to delay their gratification. The game ‘Simon Says’ too helps young kids with impulse control and self-regulation. Play it often in your daily routine. Parachute play is best to promote pro-social behavior in young children. When these essential pre frontal skills are nurtured, young children will feel more in control leading to lesser conflict and behaviour issues in the classroom.
It’s a fact that positive emotions greatly boost memory growth
The brain has an emotional filter known as ‘amygdale’, filtering all incoming stimuli and information. It accepts information and stimuli, only if it is ‘stress free’. This implies the more positive emotions we introduce our kids to, more the memory development. Therefore, to make your children learn for life, keep all activities, interactions, and stimulus happy and positive. If a child’s emotional center identifies stress, it then prompts the brain to fight, flock, flight, and freeze back. It simply means when the learning environment is stressful, kids tend to cry or throw a tantrum (fight), want to run away from the activity (flight), start behaving aggressively as a class (flock), are unable to reply or respond (freeze).
In addition, follow routines and rituals in kindergartens
Routines give a sense of predictability to young children helping them feel in control – elevating their positive emotions. Rituals add a touch of fun and novelty. This helps in children looking forward to enjoying them. This simply means when a routine table is followed every day it makes children more settled. After completion of an activity, if simple transitions such as singing a cleanup song, clapping hands, shaking your head, jumping up and down are made into little rituals then kids are happy and focused.
How to learn? Or, what to learn?
Brain research and neuro science has proved that 98% of the brain develops in the first six years. So it is imperative that parents and teachers use this crucial period to teach the young brain ‘how to learn’ and not ‘what to learn’. When we teach children how to learn they learn to be independent thinkers, problem solvers and logic seekers. When we train their brains what to learn then we have only one result – rote learning, a brain that cannot think, understand or relate or conduct executive brain functions, it can only remember.
The first thing that we need to focus on is to bring back the engine of early learning – Play
Almon and Miller used this analogy of describing play as the ‘engine of learning’, “as an engine is a machine that creates the force and is self-propelling, so with play as the engine of early years and primary years curriculum, self-directed learning is achieved.” For play-based kindergartens to become successful in our country we need to educate parents who are mostly ‘incredulous’ and upset when a child comes home from preschool and says happily that he played! Parents are clueless that most of the learning required in the early years happens through play. Play fertilizes brain growth. Play is the work of childhood and important foundations of learning are laid through simple play.
So should we do away with all ‘learning’ in Kindergartens?
Play isn’t the enemy of learning; it is learning’s partner. Play is the fertilizer for brain growth. Play is learning for kids. Did you know that the foundation of geometry and physics is laid in the kindergarten years? Yes, it is. Children interact with the basic principles of geometry and physics when they play with blocks! And that is why the kindergarten years are important and so is play in these years, because after all play is the work of childhood.
Why should kids play?
Every educationist and educational philosopher has advocated the need for hands-on play-based learning, be it our own Mahatma Gandhi who devised the 3 H method of education which involves the Hand, Heart and Head or good old Montessori who believed that play involves all the three aspects essential for learning namely, the muscles and senses and the brain.
So here are 10 ‘brainy’ reasons based on brain research on why children should play…
Touching, feeling, exploring, making, breaking are all activities that enrich the senses and this helps new synapses develop in the brain.
Free play, or play that involves choices, logic and thinking helps enhance the frontal lobe.
The hand and the brain need each other – brain expert Wilson states that neurologically, "a hand is always in search of a brain and a brain is in search of a hand".
Use of the hands to manipulate three-dimensional objects is an essential part of brain development.
Imaginative play, role-play are part of symbolic play. Symbolic play is when a child can use a symbol or object to represent another item, for example he uses a piece of block to be a telephone etc. When a child is able to experience symbolic play he will definitely be able to excel in reading and writing activities as reading is nothing but representing a picture or word in a symbol (all letters and words are symbols)
All play should make kids enjoy as positive emotions enhance memory and no play should be stressful or too competitive as our bodies release harmful chemicals under stress, which are not good for the brain
Play that is self-initiated, involving trial and error, problem solving, and has cause and effect is good for developing neural pathways
Play helps develop language skills as the more sensorial experiences the child has, the more the child will want to talk about it and hence language development will be enhanced.
Memory increases by revisiting information frequently – so play often as children like to play the same games every day. That is fine as long as the interest lasts.
Cross lateral movements keep both sides of the brain working – so the more creeping, crawling, marching play activities the child is exposed to, the better for his brain. How? Cross laterals are arm and leg movements that cross over from one side of the body to the other. Since left side of the brain controls right side of the body and vice versa, the two sides are forced to communicate when legs and arms cross over.
With brain research facts available to teachers today, it is important that teachers make the right choice of turning their classrooms into learning and nurturing spaces and not drilling and coping spaces. I urge teachers to use this Play based Curriculum Framework of the National Policy on ECCE- India, which has Suggested Developmentally Appropriate/ Age appropriate activities for our kindergartens:
For Children Under 3 Years
Focus on health, nutrition, and early psychological stimulation through free play and a lot of adult child interaction. Eg. (infant games, traditional songs and syllables, access to variety of play materials, individualized adult attention and interaction, opportunities to explore, early introduction to stories, infant books, drawings etc.) in a safe, spacious and clean environment.
For Children Between 3 to 4 years
Planned play based programme for all round development with more of free play. Continuous opportunities for more free activities but some guided programmes too.
Opportunities to listen to stories, learn rhymes, create, indulge in imaginative play, ask questions, do simple problem solving, experiment to promote active and interactive learning and generally have a ‘feel good’ experience for a positive self-image.
For Children Between 4 to 6 years
Moving towards an increasing ratio of adult guided vs. free play activities, and more of large group activities for 4 – 5 years and focused more on specific school readiness for 5 – 6 years, in increasing complexity in all of above.
Reading readiness: Eg. Picture sound matching, shapes, phonetics, increasing vocabulary, verbal expression, developing bond and interest in reading through picture books, storytelling, chart etc.
Writing Readiness: Eg. Eye hand coordination, interest in writing, left to right directionality.
Math: Developing skills in classification, serration, pattern making, reasoning, problem, solving, forming, concepts: pre number and number concepts and space concepts and vocabulary, environment concepts.
Motor development: Fine motor development through activities such as beading, pegboards, and puzzles and large muscle development through running, jumping, balancing activities etc.
Creativity and aesthetic appreciation: Creative drama, cultural activities, field trips etc. The programme should be relevant to individual and societal needs. The age demarcations are indicative and activities have to be planned according to the developmental level of the children.
Lise Elliot in her path-breaking book, What’s Going On In There? says, “The brain is without doubt our most fascinating organ. Parents, educators, and society as a whole have a tremendous power to shape the wrinkly universe inside each child's head, and, with it, the kind of person he or she will turn out to be. We owe it to our children to help them grow the best brains possible.” (L Eliot (1999)
About the author:
Dr Swati Popat Vats is the founder President of Early Childhood Association India. As President of Podar Education Network, she leads over 350 preschools and Daycares as founder Director of Podar Jumbo Kids. She is also National representative for the World Forum Foundation. She is Nursery Director of Little Wonders Nursery (UAE) that has branches in Jumeirah and Sharjah. She has received many accolades and awards for her contribution to Early Childhood Education and has been conferred the Fellowship of Honor from the New Zealand Tertiary College.
She was the founder consultant for the Euro Kids preschool project in India and helped set up TATASKY’s children’s television activity channel- ACTVE WHIZKIDS. She is the founder expert on the world’s first video based parenting website www.born-smart.com that helps parents understand and nurture brain development in the first 1000 days. Swati has coined the term ‘Kiducation’ for early childhood teachers and parents to help them understand that young children need education from the point of view of their development.
In her career spanning over 32 years, Swati has authored many books for parents and children and is a strong advocate of nature based learning in the early years and promotes brain research based teaching and parenting in her workshops across the globe. Swati tweets and blogs on education and parenting and can be followed on @swatipopat or www.kiducationswatipvats.blogspot.in
From Testing to Learning: Redesigning Assessments for Student Success
The re-designed assessment policy is the need of the hour due to the great number of factors or alternatives it presents for assessment.
A plethora of activities, ranging from standardized examinations to writing an article or working on a group project, could be used for educational assessment. This assessment may be period or probable on the completion of the syllabus, conducted mainly to assess the knowledge, skill, and disposition of students on the subject or content taught by the teacher. The article examines whether there is a need to re-design assessments or not. Further, it explores the ambit of models for implementation and benefits sort by re-designing assessments.
Need for Re-Designing Assessment
The education assessment system in India dates back to the British colonial era when standardized tests were introduced to evaluate students’ academic performance. This system was further enhanced after India gained independence in 1947, with the establishment of various boards and councils responsible for conducting examinations and issuing certificates.
Today, India has a complex education assessment system that includes board examinations at the secondary (class X) and senior secondary (class XII) levels, entrance examinations for higher education, such as engineering and medical colleges, and national-level tests like JEE, NEET, and UGC NET. Additionally, there are state-level exams for admission to state universities and professional courses.
In recent years, there have been several efforts to reform the education assessment system in India, particularly with the introduction of continuous and comprehensive evaluation at the school level. The focus has shifted from rote learning and memorization to assessing students’ conceptual understanding and analytical skills. However, the system still faces many challenges, including exam-centric teaching practices, high-stakes testing, and a lack of standardization and transparency.
Some educators and policymakers argue that the current assessment methods are outdated and fail to capture the breadth and depth of student learning. They also argue that the focus on high-stakes standardized tests leaves little room for creativity, critical thinking, and other essential skills. Thus, there is a growing demand for alternative assessment methods that can more accurately measure students’ knowledge and skills in various areas. These alternative methods may include project-based assessments, portfolios, oral presentations, and peer evaluations. On the other hand, some argue that traditional assessment methods are still essential and effective, especially in providing a standardized basis for measuring student achievement and identifying areas for improvement.
The crucial narrative underlies the fact that we as educators must equip our students with the necessary skill, knowledge, and abilities before their graduation in such a way that they become self-reliant and prepared for industry-based dynamics & requirements.
Benefits from Re-designing Assessment
Possible benefits that can be achieved by redesigning education assessment in India:
- Better Learning Outcomes: By redesigning education assessment, it is possible to incorporate newer pedagogies and techniques which are more effective in promoting deep and meaningful learning. This will lead to the better academic performance of the students.
- Reduced Exam Stress: Currently, the education system in India is highly exam-oriented, resulting in high levels of stress among students. Redesigning assessments will reduce the anxiety that arises due to long periods of study with a focus on rote learning.
- Improved Teacher Training: With the redesign of education assessment, teachers will need to implement newer teaching methodologies requiring continuous teacher training across all levels of the education system.
- Greater Focus on Holistic Development: Education assessments that assess various dimensions of a student’s development- cognitive, social, emotional, etc. – will help in developing a more holistic approach to education that promotes the overall growth and development of the student.
- More Efficient Evaluation: Newer assessment techniques such as adaptive testing or automated assessment will allow more efficient and accurate evaluation of student performance compared to traditional, pen-and-paper testing.
- Alignment with the Industry: Redesigned assessments can be aligned with industry expectations, leading to higher employability of students post-graduation.
- Improving Education Equity: By assessing each student’s individual potential and performance, educators can identify underperforming students and devise strategies for their improvement, thus reducing educational inequity in the country.
Overall, redesigning education assessment would benefit not only the students and teachers but also the educational system as a whole, leading to better outcomes and progress in the long term.
Educational institutions all around the world envisage and plan for the holistic development of students, the re-designing of assessments along with the focus on long-term projects contribute to comprehensive development in the following stakeholders:
Students: An assessment based on the aforementioned factors paves a way for attaining clarity towards choosing a profession as students can better understand the practical aspect of each field. It helps them to acquire the requisite skill set applicable to a specific profession whilst aligning & improving their current knowledge & abilities. Technological involvement is an essential imperative in the modern world which becomes a key factor of the assessment process as it equips students with innovative thought processes & problem-solving approaches. For instance, a student who wishes to pursue Management or Business Administration after school must also be assessed on Microsoft Excel or Presentation. When students get acquainted with pragmatic situations they are overset to embark on the possible solutions this ultimately adds to higher confidence & commandability in young individuals. Furthermore, various activities forming part of the assessment catalyze greater associations within the industry.
Teachers: With the redesigning of assessment policies within the framework of schools teachers will be required to continuously develop themselves to ensure deeper insights into subjects. There will arise a need to correlate with multiple activities prevalent in diverse fields with respect to the subject matter, which further leads to the development of mentoring relationships among students and teachers. Furthermore, the teaching pedagogy would have to encompass various innovative and creative approaches toward the learning process making the teachers technologically updated.
Institution: For any institution upon its foundation creating a culture becomes essential similarly a redesigned framework of assessment involves various aspects of collaboration. For instance, an institution can collaborate on a service project with another institution. Further various academic organizations form Memorandums of Association or Understanding with different industrial organizations, for instance, the culinary club at school can develop an MOU with Restaurant for providing internship experience to its interested students. The students enjoy the learning process and outcomes turn out to be quite outstanding compared to traditional assessment adding to the goodwill of the institution. Lastly, a healthy and thriving atmosphere of learning & assessing attracts national as well as global attention thus increasing the accreditations and recognition of an academic institution. For instance, a good number of schools in India excel in innovative inventions & development, these inventions could possibly be patented or recognized by various governmental departments.
Nation: When assessments are designed to deal with theoretical as well as non-theoretical aspects they contribute to the creation of life skills & soft skills in students ultimately leading to the holistic development of young individuals. Practical assessment requires practical solutions where students take steps towards self-sufficiency and self-employment. These students during their learning hours get acquainted with tasks related to adversity or risk management which indeed is a quality that all individuals in society must learn & master. These little steps practiced, taught, and assessed in schools build citizens with high cognitive & logical abilities. Ultimately schools are a pathway to the world, when schools collaborate and associate, a chain of collaborative efforts gets set up throughout the economy and society, and students act as the most important resource for the growth & development of any nation.
Take a view from the eagle’s eye and witness the outcomes of the traditional assessment system compared to that of the Re-Designed assessment system which is composed of a number of activities including up to a certain limit the pen and paper assessment approach as well. Uniquely the re-designed assessment policy is the need of the hour due to the great number of factors or alternatives it presents for assessment. Multiple factors are the key to recognizing student potential in different fields, in this way, the young potential is not discarded or set aside simply on the notion that a student has failed or lacks in one means of assessment. A popular quote as follows sums up the argument in favor of multiple assessments, being – “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Further, a re-designed structure for assessment benefits not only students but teachers, parents, academic and industry institutions, and the country as well.
Author – Sushma Bhadauria, Founder Principal, CLC International School, Sikar, Rajasthan
Outdoor Education for a Sustainable Future: Why We Need It Now More Than Ever
Outdoor education offers children opportunities to interact with their peers and develop social skills.
Outdoor education is the process of learning outside the traditional classroom setting. It provides a platform for children to learn in a more natural and hands-on environment. It is crucial for children in their early childhood years, as it offers a range of benefits that cannot be achieved indoors. Outdoor education can take place in parks, forests, gardens, and any other natural environment.
Outdoor Education can benefit students in various aspects. I have tried to summarize positive impacts on students.
Outdoor education offers children opportunities to interact with their peers and develop social skills. Children learn to cooperate, share, and communicate with each other. They also learn to negotiate, compromise, and solve problems. These skills are essential for children’s social and emotional development. Outdoor education also offers opportunities for children to interact with adults who are not their parents or teachers. This interaction helps to develop their social skills and build their confidence.
Outdoor education offers children opportunities to engage in hands-on learning experiences that promote their cognitive development. Children learn to observe, inquire, and explore the natural world. They also learn to think creatively and critically. Outdoor education provides opportunities for children to engage in open-ended play, which enhances their problem-solving skills. Children also learn to make connections between their experiences in nature and the concepts they learn in the classroom.
Outdoor education helps children to develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. They learn to take risks, make decisions, and solve problems independently. These experiences help to build their self-esteem and confidence. Outdoor education also provides a platform for children to connect with nature. Children learn to appreciate the natural world and develop a sense of wonder and curiosity. This connection with nature is beneficial to their emotional well-being.
Outdoor education offers children opportunities to engage in physical activities that promote their physical development. They can engage in running, jumping, climbing, and other activities that require physical exertion. These activities help to develop their muscles and increase their stamina. Physical activities also enhance children’s motor skills, balance, and coordination. Outdoor education also offers opportunities for children to play with natural materials, such as stones, sand, and water. These materials provide sensory stimulation, which enhances children’s cognitive development.
Outdoor education helps children to develop an appreciation for the natural world and an understanding of the interdependence between humans and the environment. Children learn about the importance of conservation and sustainability. They also learn to be responsible stewards of the environment. This awareness is crucial for the future of our planet.
Outdoor Teaching has its own Pros and Cons briefly described below.
Physical development: Outdoor education provides opportunities for children to engage in physical activities that promote their physical development. This helps to improve their muscle strength, coordination, and overall health.
Social development: Outdoor education provides opportunities for children to interact with their peers and develop social skills. They learn to cooperate, share, and communicate with each other, which helps to build their social skills and emotional intelligence.
Emotional development: Outdoor education helps children to develop a sense of independence, self-reliance, and resilience. They learn to take risks, make decisions, and solve problems independently, which builds their self-esteem and confidence.
Cognitive development: Outdoor education provides opportunities for children to engage in hands-on learning experiences that promote their cognitive development. They learn to observe, inquire, and explore the natural world, which enhances their problem-solving skills.
Environmental awareness: Outdoor education helps children to develop an appreciation for the natural world and an understanding of the interdependence between humans and the environment. This awareness is crucial for the future of our planet.
Safety concerns: Outdoor education may pose some safety concerns, especially when children engage in physical activities such as hiking or climbing. It is crucial for educators and parents to ensure that children are supervised and that the environment is safe for children.
Weather conditions: Outdoor education may be affected by adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow, or extreme heat. This may limit the time and frequency of outdoor activities, making it challenging for educators and parents to incorporate outdoor education into the curriculum.
Access to natural environments: Not all communities have easy access to natural environments such as parks or forests. This may limit the opportunities for children to engage in outdoor education.
Cost: Outdoor education may require additional resources such as transportation, equipment, and supplies, which may be expensive for schools and families.
Curriculum constraints: Incorporating outdoor education into the curriculum may be challenging, especially when there are limited time and resources. This may lead to a lack of consistency and continuity in the delivery of outdoor education.
Overall outdoor education is an essential component of early childhood education. It offers a range of benefits that cannot be achieved indoors. Outdoor education promotes physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and environmental development. It provides opportunities for children to engage in hands-on learning experiences and connect with nature. As such, it is crucial that educators and parents prioritize outdoor education for children in their early childhood years.
Author – Priyanka Singh, Principal, Semillero International PreSchool, Bangalore
Beyond the Classroom Walls: The Value of Outdoor Education
Outdoor education in the curriculum opens new vistas of exploration
“Children should learn through sensorial experiences and not through…the mere explanation of words”
Many educational theorists from time to time were interested in experiential education connecting children to nature, theory to practice, schooling to life, and school to home and community through practical learning in outdoor spaces.
Learning does not and cannot be confined to the four walls of a classroom. New age pedagogies are largely focused on experiential learning, relatability with the real world, and most of all meaning-making in the real-life scenario. ‘Outdoor Education’ therefore holds great relevance in stimulating and steering learning. Experiences, observations, and interactions with individuals, learning resources, natural surroundings, simulators, structures, and processes outside of a traditional classroom setting make an integral part of modern educational methodologies. Here are some of the reasons why outdoor education is important:
Physical activity and dynamism: Outdoor education encourages physical activity, which is essential for maintaining good physical, mental, and emotional health. Individuals who engage in outdoor activities are by and largely healthy, they display overall well-being.
Hands-on learning opportunities: When a student experiences a nature walk/ a field trip/ an industry tour/ a museum, an art gallery, or a laboratory, the hands-on experience enables them to explore, discover and learn about them through sensory inputs which are multi-dimensional. The learning in such a case is relatable, lasting, and contextual.
Multiple Intelligences at Play: In the outdoor learning model the student is not restricted to only auditory, and verbal-linguistic faculties. They would rather engage the subtler forms of intelligence which otherwise are not put to use. For instance, students will never get a better understanding of the vast space in the cosmos until they have watched the night sky live. Noting can match the experience of counting the stars forming a constellation in the sky, not even the audio-visual aids of modern times. A naturalist will learn by building a connection of concepts with the natural world outside the classroom and a Kinaesthetic Learner will learn by interacting with the subject of learning. A musical learner on the other hand will learn from the rhythm in nature and processes. It is interesting to note here that human beings are inherently attuned to learning through building relations, generating ideas, and creating solutions that are aimed at addressing real-world issues.
Builds problem-solving skills: Outdoor education helps students develop problem-solving skills as they learn to adapt to new environments and situations. Students are encouraged to think creatively and critically to address challenges that arise during outdoor activities. There is an ample number of teenagers and youth who are helping address the various challenges before Sustainable Development and the attainment of global goals. Adventure camps, Mountaineering, and Hiking bring out the best in the youth and create opportunities to develop physical, mental, and emotional endurance. Educators must integrate such experiences essentially into the annual academic calendar of the schools.
Fosters teamwork and collaboration: Outdoor education encourages teamwork and collaboration as students work together to accomplish tasks and overcome challenges. This helps build communication skills and promotes a sense of community and brings to the fore the leadership attributes of the children. Outdoor education enables the learners to experience a natural setup to interact, take initiative, step up to lead, offer help, or build dependability. Outdoor Education facilitates the development of social skills, effective communication, and much-desired collaboration skills for sustainable living in the context of SDG 2030.
Develops environmental awareness and commitment towards global goals: Outdoor education helps students develop a sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural world. The natural setting offers opportunities to understand the vastness as well as the non-renewability of natural resources. By exploring and learning about the environment, students develop a deeper understanding of the impact of humans impact on the planet and the need to take action. Their commitment to helping sustainable development and attaining SDG 2030 gets renewed as a result.
Improves mental health: Outdoor education has been shown to improve mental health by reducing stress and anxiety and improving the release of the happy hormone Dopamine. Spending time in nature has a calming effect on the mind and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety which are become the new normal in today’s world torn apart by the ill effects of technological disruptions.
Interdisciplinary Approach: Outdoor education build an outlook to view learning as an interdisciplinary pursuit rather than merely a process of gathering knowledge of the different subject matter in seclusion for the purpose of writing examinations and thereafter pursuing a profession with the aim of earning money to meet the needs of self and family.
Inspiration towards Holistic Living: Outdoor learning helps institutions and individuals to envisage the core purpose of human life ‘ Holistic Living’ rather than investing their life into the pursuit of material-oriented limited life goals
Vasudhaiv-Kutumbkum: Outdoor learning helps build connections with other beings, races, and regions. One gets to interact with and reflect upon the interdependency of all living and no living beings on each other. This provides the young generation an opportunity to identify their roles and responsibilities rather than counting life through their rights and gains.
In conclusion, I would like to state that encompassing outdoor education in the curriculum opens new vistas of exploration. It has the potential to provide numerous benefits for students and adults alike as It encourages physical activity, provides hands-on learning opportunities, builds problem-solving skills, fosters teamwork and collaboration, develops environmental awareness, and improves mental health in addition to building strong connections with surroundings. Outdoor learning provides the opportunity for learning about a diverse range of issues ranging from climate change to food security, diversity, discrimination, and the like.
In the context of all the benefits that outdoor education has to offer to supplement school education and complement the core objectives of the school curriculum, it is imperative for schools to provide due weightage to gardening, field trips, excursions, adventure camps, sporting activities, and community engagement.
Author – Soma Singh, Head of School, DPSG International, Ghaziabad
Teaching for Thought: Nurturing Critical Thinking in the Classroom
Success in school, in a career, and in one’s own personal development all depends on one’s ability to think critically.
Analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information to create judgments and make decisions is critical thinking. The ability to think critically equips pupils to deal with ambiguity, find solutions to difficulties, and make sound judgments.
Critical thinking is more crucial than ever in today’s information-rich culture. Students need to develop skills in analysis, evaluation, and synthesis in addition to memorization if they are to be able to use knowledge effectively in the real world. Success in school, in a career, and in one’s own personal development all depend critically on one’s ability to think critically. Even more crucial now, as AI and automation advance, is the ability to think critically. It’s what separates us from robots.
While critical thinking has long been recognized as an essential skill for students, the rapidly evolving educational landscape requires a fresh approach to cultivating this skill in the age of technology and AI. Doing that is not a natural process but requires training, practice, and exposure to diverse perspectives.
Here at GGIS, we try to create an environment that promotes critical thinking by incorporating various strategies and activities that challenge students to think critically. Let’s understand the same through a few strategies:
PRACTICE 1- Encouraging Problem-solving
The first stage in developing critical thinking is to identify the problem, generate potential remedies, and evaluate its efficacy. The activities may include group work, brainstorming, and decision-making exercises and may be either planned or unstructured.
Instructors can facilitate learners’ exploration and experimentation with various materials and concepts through hands-on learning opportunities. Students can be separated into groups, and each group can be assigned a unique problem to tackle. When students confront issues or obstacles, instructors can urge them to persist. Students can be prompted to generate as many unique solutions as feasible for a given topic.
Using real-world problems can add a thrill to the learning process. For example- find a way to make a broken toy work again, etc. If learners are too young, then teachers can model problem-solving skills for kindergarteners by thinking out loud as they solve problems. For instance, teachers can explain the actions they are taking to solve a specific problem or demonstrate how to break a problem down into its component elements.
Giving learners of all ages the opportunity to address problems is vital to the development of critical thinking.
PRACTICE 2- Encourage Questioning and Inquiry
One of the most effective ways to foster critical thinking is to encourage students to ask questions. This can involve asking open-ended questions that require students to think deeply and provide evidence to support their answers. For example- how many different ways can this chair be used? Or what other shapes could you make with this block?
To encourage students to ask questions and try out new concepts without worrying about being judged, teachers can provide a nurturing and accepting classroom setting. During class discussions, group projects, or individual assignments, you might have your students come up with and talk about their own questions. This helps in creating a classroom culture of curiosity and inquiry.
Instructors can pique their students’ interest by giving them chances to learn about and experiment with new topics. Teachers can lead children on a nature walk and encourage them to make observations and ask questions. Real-world challenges are a great way for educators to foster students’ analytical and problem-solving abilities. The finest approaches to inspire curiosity and questioning are through THINKING ROUTINES and EXPLORATION corners.
Educators may foster the next generation’s development of imaginative and analytical abilities by offering such ample space for students to learn about the world and its many mysteries.
PRACTICE 3- Use Diverse Perspectives
Historical, cultural, and social perspectives and points of view can be incorporated into teachings by teachers. Exposing children to a variety of ideas can aid in the development of their critical thinking skills by encouraging them to consider alternative points of view.
When children read books with diverse characters and perspectives, they are exposed to different cultures, beliefs, and experiences. This can help them develop empathy and understanding for others, as well as challenge their own assumptions and biases. They will understand and appreciate diversity. Asking a child to consider why someone might have a different opinion than their own can help them learn to analyze and evaluate different viewpoints.
Viewing the news on multiple channels, reading articles from multiple sources, and listening to podcasts can help children grasp that there are multiple perspectives and that it is important to evaluate the credibility of different sources.
PRACTICE 4- Promote Collaboration
Students can communicate ideas, viewpoints, and feedback through collaboration. Educators can promote this by encouraging students to work in groups, participate in conversations, and offer constructive comments to their classmates.
Group projects urge youngsters to complete a task or address an issue through collaboration. Children are required to exchange ideas, argue contrasting viewpoints, and come up with a solution that benefits all parties.
Children get the opportunity to voice their thoughts, ask questions, and consider the opinions of others during classroom conversations. This form of collaboration fosters critical thinking because children must attentively listen to one another, examine various points of view, and assess the evidence offered.
Peer feedback is an integral component of teamwork and fosters critical thinking, as children must analyze the comments they receive, evaluate their own work, and make adjustments depending on the input of others.
PRACTICE 5- Teach Analytical Skills
Teachers must give opportunities for pupils to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information from a range of sources in order to teach analytical skills. Real-world examples are the most helpful in this regard. Asking pupils to find cause-and-effect links is a straightforward technique to improve their analytical skills. For young children, the instructor can ask to assess the story elements of a book, including the characters, storyline, and place. For instance, teachers can ask students to identify the story’s primary character, define their personality attributes, and explain how that character solves a problem.
All pre-math skills, such as comparing and contrasting, sorting, categorizing, and recognizing patterns, etc., assist pupils to polish their analytical abilities, which in turn can aid in the development of critical thinking.
PRACTICE 6- Teach Metacognitive Skills
Metacognitive skills help students to reflect on their own thought processes. This involves teaching children how to evaluate their own learning and reflect on their own mental processes. Using peer feedback or self-assessment tools, for instance, students might be encouraged to reflect on their own learning and highlight areas where they need to improve.
Young learners can also be taught these skills by asking them “What did you learn today?” or “What was your favorite part of the lesson?” or “What are you curious about?” This can assist young learners to acquire a sense of ownership over their educational experience and a greater awareness of their own learning. The instructor may request that students depict their reflections in their reflection journals. Instructors might utilize visual aids such as posters, photographs, and graphic organizers to assist students in organizing their ideas and thoughts and encourage the students to provide and accept peer evaluation.
PRACTICE 7- Encourage Creativity and Imagination
Critical thinking goes beyond mere analysis and assessment. It is also about invention and creativity. Instructors may foster creativity and innovation by providing students with the opportunity to think creatively and generate novel ideas.
For instance, instructors may assign students to paint, draw, or sculpt utilizing various materials and techniques. Pupils can be instructed to collect natural objects, such as leaves, sticks, and stones, and incorporate them into their own artwork. Learners can be given building blocks and other materials and instructed to design and construct their own structures.
Instructors can present students with a provocation, such as “Once upon a time, there was a magical forest,” and encourage them to write a story based on the provocation. With music and movement activities, creativity and self-expression can be fostered. For instance, instructors may invite pupils to create their own dancing techniques or songs.
Overall, Critical thinking forms the basis for becoming a founder of a startup, as it aids in the identification of opportunities, evaluation of risks, and formation of well-informed decisions.
Author – Madhu Bhatia, Gems Genesis International School, Gujarat
From GPA to Gains: A New Approach to Learning and Achievement
It is the need of the hour to make a paradigm shift from grades to gains.
Gains vs Grades – what a diabolically opposite position the title has taken when they should be complimentary to each other.
Grades have absolutely no relevance in life but have assumed a pseudo-magnanimity when you are a student. I have an interesting observation to share. Success isn’t defined by the grades you achieve in school. Grades do open doors, it is an entry but that’s where it ends, at the threshold! After that what matters are study skills, work ethics, and commitment to being the best version of yourself. And honestly, my backbenchers always outperformed my stars in a class far too many times, in life!
It was an important lesson that I learned from my parents actually, my mother. Always concentrate on the efforts put in not the result. Results do matter but gain more than grades have a direct connection to it. A wonderful session by the motivational speaker Simon Sinek in some way indirectly perpetuates this fact. He states based on research that the human brain does not understand negative transmissions. A skier if told ‘do not look at the trees’ would end up looking at them and lose focus of the path that he needs to tread at neck break speed. But instead, if the skier was told to look at only the path, he naturally only focuses on single-mindedly getting through the slopes by concentrating on how he needs to get to the end goal. Imagine if every educator and every parent maintained a stance that helped the student focus on gains than grades. We would all be looking at a higher purpose or goal than just an A+ or the ridiculous expectation of a 100% score.
Hopefully, now that we are at the brink of the AI age maybe and it’s euphoria to believe so, we will not need a gradation system. Let’s imagine like in a Sci-fi movie AI can gauge the extent of knowledge and understanding a student possesses. It may seem a bit robotic but aren’t even the present exercises equally robotic in a manual way today? We standardize everything, expect the same answers, study the same material, and aspire to the same goals. In the industrial age, this was looked upon to be an equalizer, but that age is history today so why have we not adopted a better system that matches our requirements?
An interesting survey that was conducted during the pandemic stating that 60% of the working population wanted to change their profession or engage in a passionate and creditable form of employment. What does that say about the effects of the present reporting system or our education system? How relevant is it when it can’t help you find your calling, help you create a place of your own in society without feeling threatened or challenged, or the need to be a conformist?
There is the famous “Bell Curve” used as a parameter for understanding the makeup of the classroom. If I use that as a yard stick for satisfaction with who you are in life based on the data above, then 15% of the population is very happy and 15% is miserably unhappy but 60% will always try to get there: to be happy or save yourself from being miserable. Then does that mean it’s gain, relatively yes, literally no?
Gain is defined as a verb that means to obtain or secure something desirable; reach or arrive at a destination. As a noun is defined: an increase in wealth or resources; or the increase of power or voltage in an amplifier. By no means do grades relate in any way to the description above. It is a need of the hour to make a paradigm shift from grades to gains.
Let’s start mapping students to understanding than objectives. Let’s match students to aptitude than pay packets. Let’s start equating success to being content than a bank balance. It may seem herculean but not impossible. Let’s start the journey from grades to gains!
Author – Akshada Kamat, Head of School, Vedanya International School
Should We ChatGPT?
As a language model, parents should be aware that ChatGPT is trained on a wide range of texts from the internet, including texts that may not be suitable for children.
ChatGPT has taken the world especially the education world by storm. It has left colleges and universities scrambling to stop students from submitting AI generated essays, while companies are racing to integrate the technology to their existing applications and tools. As a language model, parents should be aware that ChatGPT is trained on a wide range of texts from the internet, including texts that may not be suitable for children. Also, the power of thinking, collating, imagining and dreaming of new realities and new avenues of considerations may be adversely affected by this use. So, I place myself in the chair of a modern-day parent rushing from one chore to another, trying to maximize the best for their children and list out the following tangibles.
- Apply for Jobs: Many of you are confident about your expertise and suitability for a particular role but struggle to communicate that in a crisp manner while you write your cover letter. You can tell ChatGPT the job that you are applying for, paste your work experience and receive a draft cover letter in about 10 seconds. But do remember it will not be very ‘warm’ like you wanted, so definitely read through and make it a tad personal with specifics included.
- Outsourcing Thinking: It is a great tool to brainstorm ideas. How to make the birthday party for your child ecofriendly? Ask the question and you will be provided with ideas that could help you generate better ideas. You could even ask for various holiday itineraries, by placing your choices from a beach holiday to an animal safari. ChatGPT would provide travel times, sights to see, amenities available etc. Imagine if you just said, ‘I am taking a family of 4 to Sikkim and our budget is xxx’, and it spits out a reasonable plan in 10 seconds, how convenient that would be. Also, it would probably make Google obsolete and you no longer need to surf through multiple websites and blogs to find something that suits you.
- Online Safety: As parents your guidance regarding online safety is foremost. Make your child aware of what it means to be cautious about the information they share with others and to be aware of online predators and cyberbullying. Limiting screentime and monitoring screentime activity is very essential.
- Parent Presence: With any technology especially something as new and as powerful as ChatGPT, you should be the one introducing your child to it and setting out the limitations of the model. Discussions should take place in your presence so that you can monitor the conversation and highlight the risks. Remember this is not policing but creating a safety net for the young so that they are not misguided and abused.
- Limitations of the Model: Parents should definitely highlight how this is only a machine learning model sans emotions, ethical considerations, common sense and critical thinking. ChatGPT only responds to questions based on the information it has been trained on and may not always be accurate or appropriate. Children should be taught to question the sources of information that has been generated and also evaluate the credibility of the same. Verification of response is mandatory for all, especially children who in many cases are under the misconception that whatever technology provides is infallible.
- Positives: Parents should not fight the new technology as our journey will be further fraught with such innovations that children will be forever exposed to. This is their new world; their new realities and we cannot like an ostrich bury our heads into a quagmire of our truths alone. So parents need to encourage children to use it in a positive and productive way. Sit beside them and work along with them to highlight how possibilities provided by this tool can further titillate their imagination to produce more effective and meaningful responses. Personalizing of information is the key to handling this tool successfully and productively. The personal touch and one’s unique imagination cannot be sacrificed at the altar of a mechanized tool.
So, parents, another milestone to set and another 21st century innovation to master. But together we can. We have to ensure that our children have a beneficial and a safe experience with ChatGPT. Being open-minded and gaining knowledge about the novelty behind this technology is what parents should aim for. There is a plethora of positives that can be unearth but only if we collaborate on this journey and not play an adversary to what AI has to offer. And who knows what more is to come. The cards are on your side of the table, parents. Do not let this opportunity go by.
Author – Sudeshna Sengupta, Director, Academics, Vedanya International School
What is Hybrid/Blended Learning?
We are lifelong learners and need to keep pace with the fast-paced technology so that our students are ready to take the next leap. Our classrooms have to echo that thought and vision at all times through new pedagogies and teaching-learning strategies.
The COVID wave – consider it a bane or boon – but it somersaulted us to an array of digital world experiences. It propelled us to rethink and reorganize our mindsets, our practices, and our expectations. Overnight, we moved from an offline teaching mode to online, and credit to the teaching community for doing it so seamlessly. Now, we are back to offline teaching but do we continue with our old practices? An obvious no so we need to infuse our online experiences within the offline to ensure that quality education reaches one and all.
One key pedagogy to achieve the goal is blended learning, an approach that combines face-to-face learning with online learning incorporating certain elements that support students to have control over the pace, time, and place. The material resource investment is minimal but human resource investment is high till the ethos is assimilated within all.
So let’s understand the varied types of blended learning and its implementation in the school teaching-learning process.
1. Station Rotation
In Station Rotation, students will rotate on a fixed schedule as per the teacher’s discretion. The teacher begins her class of 40 students with instruction on narrative writing from 9:00 am to 9:15 am. She then splits the class into three groups where one group continues to learn with her. The second group works on a collaborative assignment on narrative writing and the third use their laptops or computers placed in the class and researches blended learning and after 15 minutes the group switches so that every group has varied experiences. A block class of English can support the various transactions and supports students to build research, collaborative and knowledge skills.
In the same format, if computers or laptops are not available in class then students use the computer laboratory in school and this rotation would then be called as Lab Rotation.
In this methodology, all students with varied learning needs are supported. The only challenge is the Technology and time management skills.
2. Remote & enriched virtual learning
It is a course or subject in which students have required face-to-face learning sessions with their teacher of record and then are free to complete their remaining coursework remote from the face-to-face teacher. In class, the teacher gives a project to students on ‘Analysing any work of Shakespeare’s or Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwalla’ w.r.t. the criterion of plot, characters, theme, language, thought and values.
She briefs students on works of Shakespeare and the elements of a play within the school timetable and they complete all the work at home.
3. Flex blended learning
During certain weekends if the teacher wishes to support the students further in class especially if the concept has been challenging or students have underperformed in an evaluation, the teacher records her remedial teaching and uploads in-class computers. She designs a task around remedial teaching. She expects students to report to school wherein students enter the class on their own time, access the teaching, complete the task and leave. If they have any further doubts, they could approach the teacher in the school or their peers. A useful TIP would be for the teacher to Collaborate with their colleagues in club activities.
4. Flipped learning
As per TeachThought, a flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school. This is the reverse of the more common practice of introducing new content at school, then assigning homework and projects to be completed by the students independently at home.
This methodology is most useful when you want students to have some knowledge of the content before analyzing it further. So if a teacher wishes to conduct a ‘Book review’. She shares the e-book, 'Totto-chan' with the students. She asks them to read and shares certain discussion points. In school, students discuss the book and write personal book reviews. The teacher has used her class time constructively and has been to achieve greater learning outcomes.
5. Individual rotation blended learning
As per https://www.blendedlearning.org/models/, the Individual Rotation model allows students to rotate through stations, but on individual schedules set by a teacher or software algorithm. Unlike other rotation models, students do not necessarily rotate to every station; they rotate only to the activities scheduled on their playlists.
The teacher allows students to rotate through different kinds of classrooms called stations. A specific ILP [Individual learning plan] is created for each student. For example: Parth and Mona's examples work on clauses, Mona is struggling with Clauses so she attends classes and solves assignments whereas Parth will attend classes, watch a few videos, and also complete a research project on clauses. Thus the teacher knows her students' skills in greater depth and supports them individually to achieve her target learning outcomes.
6. Inside-out and outside-in blended learning
In Inside-out, teaching and learning begin inside the classroom and move to an outside environment and in an outside-in classroom, it begins in an outside environment and moves inside the classroom. In a class environment, the Teacher discusses with students about ‘Sound of Music’ in class and ends the lesson by taking them to the theatre to watch the play. In Outside-In, Students watch the play in a digital environment and end the lesson in a physical environment by conducting role-plays.
The list of models is many but one has to review their resources and plan accordingly.
One can mention that they may face challenges in terms of technology, lack of training on digital platforms, lack of resources to create self-paced learning environments, or time management with vast syllabuses to complete.
Certain tips that can come useful are:
1. Teachers can begin with easily available digital content like Khan Academy, Pinterest, discovery Education, PBS Learning Media, and much more.
2. Review the available resources and plan a timetable. Most importantly, a team achieves more so collaborate with your colleagues in club activities.
3. Take small simple steps – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu. Choose the model that you are comfortable executing and then move forward.
As teachers, we are ever-evolving and we are that one profession that creates more professions so our responsibility and accountability stretch beyond the classroom. We are lifelong learners and need to keep pace with the fast-paced technology so that our students are ready to take the next leap. Our classrooms have to echo that thought and vision at all times through new pedagogies and teaching-learning strategies.
Christensen Institute, Blended Learning definitions, https://www.christenseninstitute.org/blended-learning-definitions-and-models/
About the author:
Kavita Sanghvi holds a Masters in Physics, Masters in Education, Masters in Philosophy of Education, and CAEL [Certificate in Advanced Course in Educational Leadership] Diploma from Harvard University. She heads SVKM's CNM School, in Mumbai. She is a Teach SDG’s Ambassador, Climate Action Ambassador, and Scientix Ambassador for India. She is a British Council Trainer and Ambassador.
Emerging Educational Trends: Experiential Learning
The pastures of Education need to be evergreen, sprinkled with the blooms and blossoms of the best ways to reach out to the tender, impressionable minds
Vagrant vegetation punctuated with Gurukuls, learning inspired by the stalwarts of prudence and erudition; wit that has belied all darkness and dispelled doubts and indecision; times, undoubtedly, have changed and so are the needs but, what has persisted is to cater to the best to the posterity.
In more modern times when Gurukuls are remote possibilities to go back to, with plush and well-equipped seats of scholastic excellence coming up, it is essential to distill and not dilute. The essence of such ancient seats of learning should have hands-on activities as its nucleus.
Tagore's Shantiniketan is a modern-day Gurukul and here if not in form but in spirit Gurudev as a mentor had endeavored to sculpt the best by encouraging the idea of a project which is an amalgamation of collective ideas with each one contributing in one's own way uniquely, while promoting camaraderie.
The scholars were asked to offer a cue, a thought nurtured by life experience which later nourished them to one of their kind. Rabindranath tempered them into thinking individuals who might not be academically prodigy but knew the art of contributing socially while being self-reliant.
He was strictly against rote learning. What better examples of Experiential Learning could it be that this policy venerated by Tagore has created Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen, Oscar Recipient and the doyen of Indian Cinema Mr. Satyajit Ray and the composer of the national anthem of Sri Lanka Shri Ananda Samarakoon to name a few. Albert Einstein too believed in creating individuals who can think, judge, and act independently while remaining socially relevant and hence emphasized Experiential learning.
NEP, 2020 encapsulates the spirited thoughts of all acclaimed philosophers, educationists, and policymakers who have insisted repeatedly that every bud is unique with its own appeal. Hence it is no comparison but in rhythm with the true Indian spirit where the unity nestles all diversities like a rainbow that learning should survive.
While the revamped educational policy has already started pealing the bells of high expectations, there are a plethora of nuances to be experimented on, with one being Flip Teaching. In this role reversal, students explore their knack for teaching which is a true augmentation of learning a topic before delivering in the presence of peers. Being an educator ups the performance thirst and bolsters confidence to unfold oneself in his or her own way while expressing pre-taught perceptional concepts with a new dimension. Nothing excites a student more than being engaged on a platform with the liberty to share and facilitate learning what he had once lapped up with his or her present audience.
Project-based learning would tap the innate or intrinsic beauties of a child, sharpen his skill befitting the 21st century, impart the real joy of learning together and bring him out of the predictable lines of contemplation. The outside world while entering the stereotypical classrooms where only scores matter, would propel a pupil to think out of the box, as the kid would understand the worth of interdisciplinary studies, being able to draw inferences from real life and the innovation and creative buzz would be robustly ringing in the corridors of a new young India.
It may sound clichéd but, is not it a stark truth that we as grown-ups remember when we do it? So it goes for a child too. From toddlers to adolescents, Flip teaching is an ideal way to learn by doing as it formulates a special equation and bonding between the pupils as when a child teaches a topic, he or she explains it in their own way and in their own vocabulary.
They communicate the topics not along the stapled path. There is not an iota of doubt that a child-educator can defenestrate the doubts and inhibitions which otherwise are challenging to meet with many a time for even a seasoned teacher. The comfort level can well do away with the hesitance to ask in fear of embarrassment or being adjudged. Just like the phone a friend in a popular Game Show here a child connects not only with the topic but is also able to grip and grasp the concept that he or she believes has been lucidly explained and hence, well understood by him or her.
The ease of sharing areas of doubt with someone of the same age inspires better teaching-learning. It peps up the eagerness to prepare the topic to be deliberated just as a public speaker or an orator would and in due process multiply the degree of understanding as it is when things would be clearly understood that they would be suitably deliberated. Flip Teaching is the heart-to-heart talk of a child to classmates. The role of being on and off the platform if not for all concepts at least for the arguably intricate ones would be greatly rewarding.
Feeling, and envisioning are much evolved as techniques for embracing ideas. When exposed to a persistent mode of theory learning a student may fumble and falter even the promptest ones as it is when a model is there as a real-life existence that a child absorbs effectively. The NEP would be a major learning indicator in this regard as from now onwards a child can from a wide range of new-age subjects pick and pursue. It is a blatant bitter truth that many professionals would become jobless as their job profiles would become obsolete since they had trained themselves in traditional subjects which had trained them as per the contemporary need and not for the requirement of times ahead. The Vocational Subjects, practical, hands-on experience-based subjects being part of the NEP bouquet is a bold step towards Experiential Learning as the student would be future-ready hence in tandem with futuristic essentialities. A pupil would not only accentuate his employability but slash the apprehension of abruptly becoming redundant, impertinent, and even a Cypher.
The greatest merit of Experiential Learning is that it is a big boost to the concept based and not crams learning. Einstein in his famous speech on the completion of 300 years of Higher Education in America had opined on how Education is that which remains even after we have left School. Einstein's theory of Education had no place for facts and figures but for a reason, logic, and gripping the essence through real-life performance. A specialized person trained in theoretical aspects sans practical exposure can neither serve the society of which he is an integral part nor himself. It is high time that as Second Home or home away from home where the kids are spending a lion's share of their daily time, need to go all out for the successful implementation of the same in spirit and letter. A child learning from ‘work your way’ is unquestionably far more equipped than those who indulged in learning by rote sidelining the efforts to earn experience of doing in real circumstances.
With growing tension piling into the social fabric it becomes all the more vital that students should share to sharpen their knowledge and get inspired by the idea that it is together they can grow better. The universal job market is emphasizing practical knowledge more than theoretical and so it should be the elementary obligation of Schools to insist on activity-based learning. As institutions of scholastic splendor, it should be imperative to ensure that students while learning even languages should have exposure to the practical application. Mere preparation to score marks would not facilitate in the long run so to stay longer in the run for excellence the millennial need to be imparted knowledge that can yield results in personal and social arenas. Experiential Education would not only redefine the existing orthodox approach to education where the crux is a marks enriched report card but now it would be the practical way forward to a star-studded larger report card of life.
Education needs and has to evolve and revamp in perfect tandem with changing times. The learning gap, loss of teaching days in many parts of the land, and unstable virtual community connectivity have been responsible for an irreparable loss for a large section of the student community during the pandemic. Hence, it becomes all the more important to innovate, and design activities that would engrain the notions of the different subjects so that the road ahead becomes less bumpy if not an absolute smooth sail.
In the post-pandemic scenario, it has become a compulsive necessity to resort to ways and means where the foundation can be curated to a robust offing.
Flip Teaching is a novel technique that is gradually picking up with the academicians as the output has turned out to be rewarding and synergic. The invisible girdle that encircles a child during the set Classroom Teaching can be smoothly done away with Flip Teaching. With a pinch of salt, the concerned educator too gets to realize what more needs to be done with his or her imparting of lessons. So it is also a lesson to be grasped by the teacher while the tables are turned and the student steps into the shoes of the teacher. Can as a stakeholder of the World of Academics one afford to overlook the fact that teachers' expressions used are at times unpalatable for the kid which when explained by a co scholar would be simple but certainly undiluted.
It is difficult to be simple and it happens with adults that they fail to comprehend the perception and exposure of a child and Flip Teaching in such cases can be a major relief.
Experiential Learning has been in vogue for a long in the West and in a few pockets of the East but now it is high time to pull up socks and take the big plunge for it is now or never.
The pastures of Education need to be evergreen, sprinkled with the blooms and blossoms of the best ways to reach out to the tender, impressionable minds and it is the sanctimonious obligation of every Educator to live up to the expectations and dynamic demands of fleeting time.
About the author:
Dr. Sunita Vashistha is the Principal of Maheshwari Girls Public School, Jaipur. She's a visionary school leader having 27 years of experience in Teaching and Education Administration. She has been twice Felicitated by the Ministry of HRD (now Education) for outstanding CBSE Results.
Teaching Online: How Some Online Classes Can Be More Effective Than Offline Classes
I hope to have shown how online classes are not always just a burden imposed when schools have to close, but can actually be pedagogically advantageous, enhancing the teaching and learning process in certain ways.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, teachers everywhere quickly adapted to online forms of teaching and learning. This transition took place with great willingness, effort, and skill on the part of teachers – but rarely with genuine enthusiasm, for understandable reasons. Online teaching was viewed mostly as a necessary obligation precipitated by the unprecedented circumstances; a burden to tolerate only for the duration of the crisis before returning to face-to-face lessons at the earliest opportunity.
Negative feelings towards online learning are perfectly valid. Teaching online classes requires working with different pedagogical approaches to what teachers are accustomed to in a physical classroom. Long hours behind a screen can cause fatigue, and it is difficult to maintain students’ attention when they are not physically in their teacher’s presence. Students also have variable connectivity and device access, and while learning online they miss out on the essential socio-emotional development that comes from being in a real-life environment with their peers and teachers.
However, it must also be recognised that certain elements of online teaching can actually be advantageous compared to offline teaching. In this article, I wish to elaborate upon some of the ways in which online classes can be viewed as pedagogically superior to offline classes. Recently, there has been a lot of talk of ‘hybrid learning’ being the future of education. By understanding the ways in which online classes can enhance the process of teaching and learning, it becomes clearer how hybrid learning can be a beneficial direction of travel for the education sector.
Formative assessment is an important part of quality teaching and learning. It enables teachers to quickly check the extent to which a class has understood a lesson, resolve misunderstandings quickly, and provide targeted feedback. For students, it keeps them alert and attentive in a low-stakes manner, improving their motivation and helping them with clearer learning goals and targets. In a physical classroom, teachers can perform quick checks for understanding in various ways: requesting a show of hands, having students write down an answer to a question in large writing and hold it up for the teacher’s view, or even more innovative methods such as the use of clicker devices through which students can respond to multiple-choice questions.
All of these methods have their limitations: the visual checks are rarely comprehensive or completely accurate, gathering formative assessment data is often a time-consuming manual process, and the classroom technology for formative assessment is often cumbersome and impractical to use, as well as expensive. In an online class, however, formative assessment can be both easier to conduct and more effective. Teachers have tools at their disposal through which they can have students complete a short quiz or type responses to a question. This generally takes up less class time, makes it easier to ensure participation by all students in a class, and yields more accurate data that is instantly presented to the teacher, which they can use to give feedback in real-time. For these reasons, formative assessment can be a more successful activity in online lessons as compared to physical lessons.
Another powerful feature of online teaching is the ability to seamlessly integrate learning content. In an offline class, too, it is of course possible to use content through a projector or interactive board. However, in an online class, there can be two layers to the content: the teacher and the students may view different panels simultaneously. It, therefore, becomes possible for a teacher to follow a lesson plan or script while delivering a lesson, in a manner that is hidden from the students – for example, a sidebar on the screen displaying text prompts to the teacher.
This may not be an advantage in higher-end schools, where pre-packaged or scripted lessons can limit the creativity and independence of teachers to plan their own lessons and incorporate innovative lesson ideas. However, in other strata of the education sector such as low-fee private schools, where it is not always possible to employ skilled, well-trained teachers, assisting teachers with a pre-scripted lesson can be the most effective way of improving the quality of lesson delivery. And even in higher-end schools, the method can be useful to support new and trainee teachers, underperforming teachers, or substitute teachers.
The generation and collection of metadata – subtle background information about a class – is possible when conducting online classes on certain platforms. Analysis of this data can yield valuable insights about students and teachers, which are not possible to gain in a physical setting. For example, by storing data on microphone usage during classes it becomes possible to track the amount of ‘talk-time’ the teacher occupies versus individual students, how many times different students speak in a class and for how long, etc. When analysed over time, this data can reveal patterns about how interactive classes are, the extent to which different teachers encourage class participation, how much different students contribute to classes, and more – all highly valuable information that can be used for school improvement, and which would not exist in offline classes.
It is also possible to automatically monitor the type of device a student is using, how frequently they join a class late, how stable their internet connection is, etc. This is useful information for knowing about students’ home situations, and potentially even for understanding the root causes of behavioural problems students might be exhibiting. This data can enable schools and teachers to more accurately interpret problems and make necessary interventions to assist students who are struggling both academically and behaviourally.
In many good schools, lessons are frequently observed by a range of stakeholders: principals, middle-level leaders, peer teachers, or in larger school chains representatives from centralised departments. In less progressive contexts, the purpose of these observations is basic accountability, such as monitoring that a teacher is attending class and delivering the syllabus she or he is supposed to be. In more progressive schools, observations are an important element of school improvement: they are used to identify the professional development needs of teachers, are the basis of coaching cycles, are a mechanism through which teachers can support each other to implement shared practices, and are a data source used in the evaluation of teachers’ performance.
When a school is running its lessons online, it becomes possible to conduct far more frequent classroom observations. Busy school leaders who otherwise would not have time to visit a lot of classrooms can keep classes running in the background while they sign paperwork; observers can seamlessly hop between lessons without losing time in moving between physical classrooms, and the possibility is opened up of teachers and leaders across different schools in different locations observing each other and professionally developing collaboratively. In this way, learning opportunities for teachers are increased, and professional development can be made more individual-specific and actionable.
Ideally, education is not supposed to end with the school day but should be a continuous process that moves seamlessly between school, home, and other environments with parental support. In reality, unfortunately, this is rarely the case, as parents are not normally in a position to keep closely abreast of what is being taught in school and how their child is performing, and therefore are not easily equipped to directly support their child’s learning. Online classes, however, can help to shift this dynamic and make the ideal of continuity in education between home and school more likely to be achieved.
When a student attends an online class from home, the parent can observe from the background. Initially, when they gain the ability to witness classes, parents tend to develop a greater appreciation for the hard work teachers do and become more supportive. They also get to witness first-hand whether their child is engaging properly and how their child is performing in the class compared to other students. In offline classes, this is left entirely to the teacher, and parents can even be in denial if a teacher reports that their child is not engaged in class or not performing well. With online classes, parents get to see reality for themselves and are more likely to make appropriate interventions at home and be receptive to specific feedback and action points suggested by teachers.
By outlining these advantages of online teaching and learning, I do not at all mean to make the case that schools should move fully online. For all the reasons mentioned at the beginning of this article and more, online learning comes with a great number of disadvantages too and is often impractical. It will always be vitally important developmentally that children should spend the majority of time physically among their peer group.
However, I hope to have shown how online classes are not always just a burden imposed when schools have to close, but can actually be pedagogically advantageous, enhancing the teaching and learning process in certain ways. One of the motivations behind evolving a ‘hybrid’ model of schooling, in which some learning takes place face-to-face and other learning happens online, could be in order to spend a proportion of teaching time harnessing these advantages of online lessons that are unavailable in offline settings.
About the author:
Roshan Gandhi is the Chief Executive Officer, City Montessori School, Lucknow
As Chief Executive Officer at City Montessori School (CMS) – the world’s largest city-school with 57,000 students across 18 campuses in Lucknow – Roshan Gandhi is leading organisational transformation and modernisation, empowering CMS's 4,500-strong team to deliver a bold new vision for quality skills-based education at scale. He has also overseen the overhauling of CMS's infrastructure, business operations, and tech integration. A graduate of the University of Oxford with an MBA in Educational Leadership from University College London (UCL), Roshan is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at UCL. He has worked in and continues to consult for multiple educational technology companies, is a frequent keynote and panel speaker at educational conferences, and frequently publishes on educational topics.
Is innovation in pedagogy a function of “the purpose of education”?
The solution or the right substitute for rote learning is asking the right questions, not tough or too many questions, which cannot be answered by memorization.
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche.
Due to the present trend of giving new terminology, names, or jargon to educational activities, we seem to be losing focus on the real deal. That’s why I think it is high time to do innovation in pedagogy, by rediscovering the “why” of Education. Without clearly understanding the why of education, the best possible, past and future, innovations in the “How of education” will not bring the desperately required change in today’s education.
I often ask my peers, fellow academicians, colleagues, teachers, and parents a question. “Why do we teach?”
They come up with a variety of answers that range from finishing the syllabus, enabling a student to score better, getting good jobs, and getting future-ready. However, are these reasons in line with the learning outcomes developed by the NCERT or CBSE, or any other similar body?
I have always believed that every bit of learning brings in a distinct change in the behaviour, way of life, philosophy, thought process, etc of a learner. A student who can write an excellent essay, give a speech, or debate on a healthy diet may herself have unhealthy food habits. Most teachers will say that the objective was to teach them about a healthy diet, and for the student to be able to write an excellent essay. On the contrary, I feel having a healthy diet is the purpose of teaching science rather than just scoring good grades in science.
Science teaching must enable students to develop scientific temperament, scientific aptitude & aptitude, logical thinking, curiosity, and courage to question and find answers to new questions. Similarly, the learning of mathematics must make students sharp mined, good at imagination, develop the sense of space and time, observation ability, believe in multiple ways to solve any problem in daily life.
The ‘why’ behind education is barely remembered through generations, while we incessantly work on the ‘how’. The 21st century is no different in this sense. We forget why education is needed in the first place, while we work on pedagogy, new tools, techniques, methodologies, and what else not. Looks like we are busy creating a large number of proofs of doing new things, rather than making that change permanent, instead of ensuring that the student is capable of implementing that teaching in their real life. On top of it, most times we do this at the cost of burdening the students, unnecessarily, or of burdening the parents with extra expenses.
Purpose of Education
The most important question even today, in the 21st century, just like in our past, is – why educate people? What is the need for education? Is our education is preparing students for life? Or we are busy educating our children to score well in exams. While the majority of us educators, might say we educate for life, how confident are we? How often students with many documentary proofs of excellent performances in exams are equally happy, successful in life.
Consider this. If a child knows the solutions to all questions in the textbook on the topic of fractions and when her mother gives her half a chapati or she shares a bar of chocolate with her four friends, does she realize that she using the concept of fractions in her daily life? If not then probably, we have not fulfilled the very purpose of teaching mathematics.
The sole purpose of education is to prepare a child to face challenges, confidently, solve problems, efficiently, and be able to contribute positively to the family, society, country, and the world.
Education v/s Proof of Education
At times we miss out on the very well-defined purpose of most of the educational activities like the teaching-learning process in the classrooms, homework, assignments, projects, assessments, tests, examinations, co-curricular & extracurricular activities, etc. It is of utmost importance to be completely aware of the ‘Why’ of any activity one does in the name of syllabus completion or holistic development.
Classroom interaction must revolve around the daily life experiences of the students, in and out of school. The unique and diverse experiences of students in my Physics classes were the most important and most effective resource for me to develop common sense and wisdom in my students.
In place of giving several questions to solve in the notebook as homework, we must ask students to solve a few in the class under our vigil. A thick, well-maintained, duly corrected homework notebook can be solid proof for many stakeholders but may have almost nothing to do with the expected learning outcome. Similarly, at times the written reports, practical records, home assignments, etc can be proofs of education but not the education itself.
The original, creative, and self-experience-based answer must replace mugged-up or crammed answers to already known questions.
All assessments must have questions that are not solved in the class or as homework. Let students solve a few questions on their own, by using learned concepts, not the memorized content or solutions of the questions. We may thus, not have a solid repository of proof, but we certainly will have students able to meet the required learning outcome.
Almost all the topics in all the subjects up to class 10 in CBSE can be related to the daily life experiences of our students. It must not end up with students copying something from the board like answers or solutions to problems. Students need to learn how to solve problems rather than to learn solutions to a few important or tough problems.
To make learning experiential, taking students to the science lab or demonstrating some activity once a month is not enough or even the right type of experiential learning. The teacher needs to realize that every student keeps on experiencing and experimenting with life, all the time whether she is in school or outside.
If students are guided and trained properly, every experience from their daily life experience can become THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE. In other words, in place of teaching students’ subject matter, we need to teach them HOW TO LEARN.
We might talk of buzzwords like innovation, pedagogy, modern tools, and educational psychology, but we forget to read works like ‘Divaswapan’, ‘Totto Chan, and ‘Hanna’s Suitcase’. We need to understand that learning takes place all the time at all places. It is not limited to school or coaching classes. Textbooks or study materials can help someone score good grades in the present type of assessments, but the learning for life can happen only through real-life experiences.
If we look closely, learning as a process, has never stopped even when this world did not have language. It did not stop when countries were at war, when we did not have today’s technological advancement, even when the whole world was under siege in the pandemic, just because ‘life’ had not stopped. Therefore, it’s obvious that as long as life keeps happening, learning shall keep happening too.
Innovation is not in fancy jargon and costly teaching aids; it is in being able to bring school and real life together. Blended learning is not about blending online and offline, but it happens when we blend the personal experiences from the diverse daily lives of all our students in our classroom interactions on daily basis rather than just using technology.
In the context of ‘why’, as long as we keep on asking questions in our assessments, written or oral, which can be answered by memorizing, rote learning (temporary learning) will never stop and therefore permanent learning (learning for life) will not start. ’Knowledge’ does not only mean the memorization of facts, concepts, laws, formulas, or the proof of theorems and facts but it also includes the comprehension, understanding, and application of it all, in daily life.
Assessment must be designed to evaluate permanent learning rather than that of temporary learning. In place of orally asking three examples of vegetables, can we ask young ones to name three vegetables they had in the last week? The first question may have the same three names written in the notebook or textbook from almost all students of the class. Whereas the second question may have a variety of answers at times, not just the three examples written in the book or notebook.
A few may even be new to the teacher at times. These answers will then be in sync with the learning outcomes of teaching the topic vegetables. The students won’t need to do any preparation, revision, etc. Students will be able to understand that there are questions that can be answered just by observing the life around them and that learning also takes place without books or notebooks, or even without a teacher, outside of the school.
If a student can realize that their daily life experiences outside school can also help them to understand the various concept taught in the classes, they will be consciously looking for learnings from every experience, 24X7.
Hence, the solution or the right substitute for rote learning is asking the right questions, not tough or too many questions, which cannot be answered by memorization.
We need to ensure that history doesn’t teach our children that it’s important to win wars; but that it’s important to not destroy fellow humans. We need to ensure that technology doesn’t teach our children just about what problems to solve by building an app; but also, which problems are worth solving. Biology shouldn’t be just about becoming a doctor; it should also be about creating an everyday health routine and avoiding sickness and embracing health in the first place. Finance shouldn’t be about just how to create more profits, but also about how to manage everyday expenses and savings.
I am aware that I am perhaps leaving you with more questions than answers. But – What is innovation if it does not enable students (AND TEACHERS) to ask new questions and use the existing knowledge (not information) to discover and find answers to new questions? What is pedagogy, if learnings can’t be applied in solving problems of life?
So, let us find the ‘why’ of education and THEN innovate the ‘how’ of education, in line with that vision. Let me leave you with this parting thought by the modern-day Guru of innovation, Clayton M. Christensen, in ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’
“Resources are what he uses to do it, processes are how he does it, and priorities are why he does it.”
About the author:
Dr. Deep Khare, MBA, M. Sc. & Ph. D. (Physics), B. Ed. & M. Ed. (Regional Institute of Education, Ajmer) is presently Principal at Jodhamal Public School, Jammu.
He has 32 years of School education experience, started as a facilitator of Physics, continued the journey of learning as HOD Science, House Master at the Mayoor School (Mayo College, Ajmer), Master In-charge (Junior school) at The Lawrence School, Lovedale, Ooty, 9 years as Principal of Ivy League Academy, Hyderabad (Estd. 1988, a Full Boarding School), Founder Principal of National Public School, Gulbarga.
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