A Teacher’s Inquiry
This question posed by a teacher during an interactive practical session marked the true essence of Experiential Learning at the Teacher Empowerment Program (TEP) conducted by Prayoga Institute of Education Research from 10th - 12th January 2024. The very purpose of conceiving this multifaceted program was to ignite the thought process in teachers and enable them to seek answers. This question on fire was a glimpse into a teacher's classroom. Such questions arise when a curious mind is kindled through experiential learning. Hence, equipping the teachers to cater to the demands of the classroom requires different skills and strategies that this TEP focuses on, which makes it unique and useful.
Citing a quote from Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam, “Like raindrops quintessential to the germination of a seed, teachers are to students. They are the vehicles of movement and progression,” Dr. K S Nagabhushana, Director-Research, Prayoga welcomed the teachers at the inaugural address of TEP.
Prayoga, an organisation for science and education research aims to reach out to every child and make accessible to them the power of experiential learning which is to learn by doing. In order to reach out at the grassroot level, Prayoga collaborates with government and private schools across the entire state including the most interior of places. The objective of conducting a program of this nature is to empower and enrich the teacher who is instrumental in bringing about changes in educational practices. To empower them to be a hundred percent teacher and help harness the full potential of each child as a learner.
TEP is a platform for teachers designed by immensely passionate educationists and researchers who provide content knowledge along with essential pedagogical skills and strategies.
To make it more experiential even for teachers then the regular approaches of teacher empowerment programs, here the participants got a slice of every aspect of a classroom. A blend of theory with pedagogy involving science experiments was the key highlight in the design of the program. This true amalgamation helped the teachers in practising the pedagogy, experiments and communicating the content of science in a simulation.
This program showcased to an outsider that there is so much more to education than just impartation of subject knowledge. The sessions on pedagogical skills gave an insight into the “behind the classroom scenes” and explained what it takes for a class to be what it is. Our very able resource persons who are teachers and educationists themselves gave effective solutions for every classroom situation. One may belittle a simple pause while speaking, but how crucial it is and how it can help bring back a child’s attention to what is being said, was demonstrated skilfully. A classroom setting is an extremely powerful one, with even a small act from the teacher bearing an effect on the child. The mock classes reiterated that every action and word from the teacher is to be meaningful and learning oriented. Pedagogical skills based on recent advances in education research were incorporated and used as reference by the resource persons for presenting to the teachers.
The finer, intangible aspects of a class and the nuances of teaching were deliberated upon.
During working sessions, the teachers got first-hand experience to implement these skills and practice on science topics of 6th standard during the mock classes. One more interesting question that came from a participating teacher was whether to focus and give importance to a child’s strengths or weaknesses during a task. It was rightly pointed out that both have to be made use of at the appropriate time to make the learner capable of learning.
Methods to move away from rote learning by introducing novel approaches like discovery learning into a class were thoroughly discussed.
The prescribed curriculum of science for the schools were made experiential by adding meaningful learning experiences and putting them together as facilitator’s handbook. This hand book was written, experimented and provided to the teachers to practise teaching of science effectively.
The areas of focus included content of science, pedagogical skills, psychology of the learner, communication and presentation. The expertise of facilitators and the smooth manner in which the sessions progressed were commendable. A mix of both English and Kannada for communication was used, even for the technical terms promoting science communication in Kannada as a local language. In summary, this program catered to all requirements of a classroom, language and intellect.
In all likeliness, most teachers may have been intuitively applying these principles of education with or without knowing the names of theories and scientists. But as the teachers themselves said, the difference this program made is through the resources and materials. The fact that there are able people to turn to, for help, guidance and to go through the journey of transformation together makes this more distinct. The teachers also conveyed that this program is a combination of pre-service and in-service but more effective in helping them apply the learnings directly into a working classroom.
Mr. Basavaraj from Dharwad expressed that in 30 years of his teaching profession it is only now that he notices that the classroom scenario is children centric and bidirectional with equal involvement of both the teacher and the children. He also said that it was the first time that this kind of initiative had been taken for science at school level.
Ms. Roopa, a government school teacher in Dharwad, said the labstations give every child access to do and learn science. And although everyday they are posed with new situations and challenges, she will always strive to be a hundred percent teacher. She also assured that as a maths and science teacher, she would try to employ the pedagogical aspects in the maths classes as well.
One of the teachers in the program Mr.Kushal, who has attended all three workshops for this academic year, stated that he has indeed learnt a lot from these programs. He also put forth a suggestion asking if resources could be provided as short video clips on science experiments. He said that it will be quite beneficial in understanding the usage of given equipment and in performing the experiments.
Many teachers requested that Prayoga be associated with them throughout and not just for the 5-year duration of the program. This stands testimony to the kind of impact that Prayoga has and is having on schools, teachers, children, and education.
Two prominent guests presided over the valedictory ceremony. Ms. Radha, Senior Assistant Director of Public Instruction, Government of Karnataka, and Dr. S N Omkar, Chief Scientific Officer, Department of Aerospace, Indian Institute of Science. They infused more enthusiasm and energy to the teachers in their motivating speeches. Dr. Omkar said that a teacher must continuously strive to be the best and be determined, intelligent and not succumb to weaknesses. The teachers agreed with Ms.Radha's stance on how a real teacher is always a learner.
Being a teacher is just not about classroom teaching through chalk and talk, but beyond. The entire personality of the teacher is a lesson in itself. Prayoga intends to make teachers the facilitators of learning, where every child learns with the presence of one such confident facilitator.
Science Communication Specialist