Let learner be the focal point – Dr Arundhati Hoskeri

Let learner be the focal point
Dr Arundhati Hoskeri
Designing a methodology requires an insight into the learner’s inborn potential, the key factor to embrace child-centric teaching approaches
There are various approaches for teaching and learning but the student-centered approach has gained traction over the last few years. It is interesting to note that academicians have been waxing eloquent about the benefits of the approach but long ago, Swami Vivekananda spoke about it. He said every child is born with innate capabilities that need to be recognized, nurtured and channelized. A teacher is the one who needs to kindle this spark, create interest in learning to securely erect the edifice of knowledge.

Approaches for teaching and learning

Knowledge-centred learning where the learner acquires knowledge and transfers such knowledge to different situations, applies his/her knowledge to solve problems and challenges. The teaching is focused on imparting relevant information.

Assessment-centric teaching that focuses on evaluation, feedback and re-evaluation throughout the learning process and then final outcome at the end of the program which are termed as formative and summative assessments. Such learning will be meaningful when the learning goals are concurrent with assessment objectives so that we get desired learning outcome.

Teacher-centric teaching where, it is the teacher who decides how to impart knowledge and chooses the content, curriculum designs and methods that he/she thinks is best suited for the students. In this case every learner’s curiosity may not be fully satisfied.

Student-centric learning in which the main focus is on the needs of learners. Instructional designs are created keeping in mind the prior knowledge of students, their ideas and interests.
The planning begins with learner in mind and it is about what and how the students desire to learn. While designing the instructional program, pedagogy and learning environment, the learner is the main focus point. This method annihilates the distance between the learner and learning. Research and experimentation in this direction has resulted in a broad spectrum of teaching/learning approaches that actually lead to a paradigm shift in education.
Some of the many strategies that can be used in a classroom are:

Active Learning (Bonwell CC and Alison J A, 1991): It is about involving learners in not just doing things but also to think and reflect on what they are doing. This process is more skill based than mere transmission of information and learners are encouraged to read, understand, discuss, and write down to progress on an explorative journey while developing higher order thinking. For instance, we can split a classroom into small clusters and assign a particular task. Students explore their strategies to understand and come out with meaningful learning. After an assigned time slot in a group the students shift to a next group.

Project based learning: Students are assigned projects either individually or in a group to acquire knowledge and skills by working on the assignment by investigating, gathering authentic information, understanding, reflecting and finally coming up with a likely solution for challenges. Though it extends over weeks to months this approach develops a lot of skills while keeping the learners actively engaged. For example, make a video on a social issue or maintain a garden by converting biodegradable waste from school kitchen to manure and support the environment.

Inquiry based learning: Learner is given a set of probing questions or scenarios and made to think and learn rather than just knowing established facts. This helps the children to actively engage in the learning process and leads to a better understanding.

Peer-lead team learning (Lydia T. Tien, Vicki Roth, J.A. Kampmeier): Students are put in small groups and assigned a peer team lead who facilitates a particular task in that group. Students learn collaboration, team spirit and are actively engaged in their learning.

Collaborative Learning (“Collaborative learning and the ‘conversation of mankind’” by Kenneth A. Bruffee): Here both the teacher and learner are actively engaged in the process of teaching and learning.
Some of other useful strategies that are conducive to student-centric teaching and learning are, problem based learning, cooperative learning, inquiry guided learning, learning through brainstorming and discussion, role plays, presentations, case studies, experiments, simulations, debates and KWL method (what the students know?, what they want to know?, what they want to learn?). Student-centric teaching and learning is the best way to empower our society in the making.

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