Special Efforts towards Quality Improvement
Active Learning Methodology (ALM)
The SSA Tamilnadu has looked at how to carry forward the activity-based learning (ABL) of the Primary classes into Middle School or Upper Primary - Classes 6,7, 8.
In 2007, 10,000 Middle schools across Tamilnadu underwent a dramatic refreshing learning process, empowering the learner to break into knowledge systems effectively, whether in the textbook or in the world around. It is probably the most rapid transformation of schooling ever attempted in one year anywhere in the world. A 11 day workshop by Teachers from The School [KFI] in Chennai was organized in May 2007. The Workshop explored Active Learning Methodologies that are being practiced by The School, that shift the focus of the classroom from teaching to learning, and from the teacher to the learner.
Often, teaching and learning are linked logically in the teachers mind. The two processes are not linearly linked. Good teaching does not automatically lead to good learning. This is evidenced by the fact of disinterested, disengaged children in classrooms. The learner-based curriculum places the child's engagement with her/his learning at the centre and sees the teacher as a facilitator in the process.
At the end of the Workshop, 60 BRTEs from all the Districts in the State, in one voice felt that this approach could be tried and would yield positive results for students. It was decided that this approach could be piloted in 120 schools in 12 Districts of Tamilnadu, since 60 Block Resource Trainers were ready to initiate the - ALM process. It was felt that the responses would surely show if the process was effective, based on the students' and the teachers' responses. This phase of the work started in June 2007 and soon, by mid July extensive records of the voices from students and teachers in the 120 schools provided enough reasons for optimism. The responses were positive and completely supported the confidence expressed by the 60 Block Resource Trainers. While this was a source of happiness for all, there was much work to be done. How was the textbook to be used? How would teachers be trained? Would there need to be changes in the Assessment Format that impacted the Centralized Examination pattern in Public Schooling across the State?
An MOU was entered into with The School to gather support for the work regarding - ALM to move ahead. Trainers from SSA started working with teachers of - The School to generate the framework of lesson plans to enable active learning to happen in the classes. This enormous effort from the trainers, more than 2000 man days of effort, spent in deep and thorough study of the syllabus, the timetables, the methodologies and the materials, honing the lesson plans for transference to teachers, was a major thrust of the academic year 2007-08. These Lesson Plans were shares in a 'cascade' process by the SSA with all wings of the Education Department, and most importantly with the teachers, through the Block and Cluster Resource Centres.
The concerted work yielded good results. Any visitor to any of the Middle schools in the State could see the shift and energy. The emphasis subtly and definitely had shifted to learning, rather than teaching. The students rapidly displayed confidence as they mastered the elements of apprehending knowledge through effective reading, questioning, mind mapping, summarizing and writing, and the essential process of social contact with peers and teachers. The blossoming grew from strength to strength and soon a Government order was issued making ALM a major thrust across the State.
Overview of ALM
School is structured around transacting subjects, in the way knowledge has been organized through history. The Industrial Revolution made many things possible. It also brought in mass schooling that was built around the dominant view of the time - that students were like empty vessels and knowledge had to be poured into them. Access to knowledge meant having a teacher 'tell' and 'explain'. This was thought the most 'efficient' way of 'transacting' the required knowledge. And schools trying to communicate the 3Rs, had to have order. The classrooms have been largely passive for the past 150 years except for the odd school that tried something different.
Premises of the OLD order: Children do not know how to lead their life properly and need to be taught. They can then go out into the adult world and apply their knowledge. This has meant acquainting them with historical knowledge and then assuming that this preparation will lead them to college and jobs, and hence security and happiness.
Premises of the NEW order: Children and adults are no different in the psychological realm. They can learn the art of learning, living intelligently by doing so, not by preparation. If one knows how to learn, how to be collaborative and how to handle knowledge, one can live intelligently in the now. The processes of education are not different from the processes of intelligent living.
Constructivism had been offered as a meaningful approach to education, but did not manage to dent the structure of schooling. The knowledge revolution, with knowledge doubling every 5 years, 4 years and now every 2.5 years, has brought forward a rearrangement of ideas and fresh thinking, and a push for greater efficiency.
Some things are now universally accepted. The intelligent, citizen would need to be
- open to lifelong learning, not just already learnt knowledge/ skills
- not be tied to one way of looking at things
- open to alternative solutions
- willing to study, read, look at new seemingly unconnected information
- capable of collaborative functioning
- find the inner resources to listen to many views and respond
- by seeking clarification
- by rephrasing
- by finding / articulating non-divisive questions for common engagement.
- refuse to be isolated
- find the energy to shape collaborative endeavours
- patience for common objectives
- skill in planning and attention to detail
- refuse to be divisive or invalidated
- be equipped to engage intelligently in the knowledge age.
- able to see that all knowledge is limited
- be resourceful in and with the given context
- learn the other skills needed to make knowledge relevant
- be open to finding out the basic assumptions in what is being said, written, shown
- ask questions, clarify
- feel free to ask if a view is factual and true, and under what circumstances.
Some QUESTIONS that yielded the Methodologies:
v What structure of education can this imply?
v Is there a structure of education that would address the needs of the present and the needs of the unfolding future?
v Each person learns differently. Can we create structures that support this?
v Is there another approach to teaching and learning?
v Is teaching preventing the student from applying his / her capacities?
v How much of teaching is needed?
v What can the student initiate?
v Can school attempt to create space, not only for peer interaction, but also for individual work and effort?
v What can be the form of this work?
v Is the teacher / school to be deeply concerned with the emergence of thinking minds that will not rest with second hand knowledge?
Reading and. writing are individual activities, unless one is reading aloud for others to hear. Reading involves comprehending words. Reading also demands listening to what the writer wishes to communicate. Understanding means gathering relevant details and getting a sense of what one has read. Alertness and attentiveness demand that one understands whatever one is listening to, or reading, is another's viewpoint.