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Towards Being a Better Educator—Understanding the Learner

Session 1 Planning for Teaching

The first session of the ‘Online Faculty Development Programme’ titled ‘Towards Being a Better Educator—Understanding the Learner’ began with a prayer, followed by introductory remarks by Prof. Gauri Mahulikar, Dean of Faculty, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV). The host for the session, Neethu S. Kumar, Assistant professor, School of LLS, CVV, introduced the speakers of the day, Ms. Devika Nadig and Mr. Vijay Gupta, directors, Shikshangan Education Initiatives, Pune.

Mr. Gupta began with his remarks on the current paradigm in school education, ‘Anybody can teach’. He extended this thought on this to higher education as well and emphasised how important preparedness is in teaching at any level. The speaker then discussed what makes teaching effective—the need to set out learning outcomes and achieving them. In this context the speaker brought out the idea of ‘What—How—Whether cycle’ which prepares the teacher in terms of what is to be taught (concepts and ideas); how to teach (the teaching-learning processes); and identifying whether the learning results in achieving the expected outcomes (assessing learners). Ms. Nadig elaborated on the role of understanding Bloom's taxonomy (rather the revised taxonomy) in this context. Both presented an example each, from the domain of Management and Education, illustrating how a teacher can set learning objectives for a course in line with Bloom’s taxonomy with a clear distinction of conceptual and procedural knowledge.

 

The participating educators were then broken into six groups based on the schools they belonged to. Each group worked on a course (or a part of a course) to set out learning objectives in line with Bloom’s taxonomy. After ten minutes of discussion within the group, each group had a representative presenting their discussions. The presentations covered a variety of topics from the domain of Management, Law, Music, Sanskrit language and Philosophy. The speakers gave their critical feedback on these presentations and facilitated future discussions before concluding the day’s session.  

  

 


Session 2 Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Mr. Vijay Gupta and Ms. Devika Nadig, Directors, Shikshangan Education Initiatives, first recapitulated their discussion from the previous day about preparing learning outcomes revolving around concepts and skills, before linking it with the day's topic, which was based on Lee Shulman's work on Knowledge Growth in Teaching (1986).

 

Mr. Gupta introduced the participants to the concept of 'Pedagogical Content Knowledge' (PCK) and how it is important for being an effective teacher. Further, he talked about the two dimensions of PCK, namely, the essential questions and pain points/misconceptions of any subject/discipline and explained it using examples from the discipline of management.

The second part of the session focused on understanding how the brain/mind learns in order to be an effective teacher, where Ms. Nadig listed twelve learning principles of the brain/mind. She went on to explain three principles from these, namely—Brain, Mind and Body are one dynamic unit and thus they need to be worked as a whole; Brain/Mind is social and that social interactions shape our brain and fills our mind with experience and language; The search for meaning is innate, that is we are born curious and that our brain is programmed to respond to novel stimuli. She even listed the implications of these principles on teaching.

 

The session witnessed some interesting and intriguing discussions and questions being raised, including one on the Western and Indian school of thought. The day closed with homework being assigned for the next day followed by a closing prayer by the host for the day, Ms. Vishaka Venkat, Assistant Professor, School of LLS, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth.

 


Session 3 – Pedagogical Content Knowledge-II

The session began with a recapitulation of the previous day’s discussion on Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). A few of the faculty members explored PCK based on a few questions and concepts that their respective discipline addressed. The session was a continuation of the principles of Brain/Mind research. Four principles were discussed in detail.

 

The session started with an explanation on the fourth principle of how the search for meaning happens through patterning. Patterns are crucial in the teaching-learning cycle as they lead one in forming mental models of reality. The teaching implication of this principle looks at how a teacher creates opportunities for the students to develop mental models. The fifth principle looked at how emotions are critical for patterning. Cognition and emotion are inseparable. Thus, the teaching takeaway was that the learning process will not happen in a classroom if students don’t feel comfortable and safe in the teaching environment.

The sixth principle showed how the brain perceives parts and the whole simultaneously. The maxim of teaching here was that a teacher should explain the whole and part to the students. Graphic organisers and mind maps are effective in teaching concepts for the whole and the parts. The seventh principle saw how learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. Teaching can be made impactful as we cater to the multiple interests, needs and wants of students. The classroom environment, notice boards can be utilised to reinforce learning. The eighth principle explained how learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes. When the students are aware and unaware the process of learning takes place. Therefore, a teacher should wait for the learning to fall in place as they engage the students and keep revisiting the concepts.

After discussing the four principles, the forum was open for a question-answer session. The session ended with an active discussion as the faculty analysed how the patterns, mental models, emotional association and unconscious teaching happen in their classrooms.

  


Session 4 Pedagogical Content Knowledge-III

Ms. Devika Nadig and Mr. Vijay Gupta continued with their discussions on the ‘brain/mind principles’. The first half of the session discussed the remaining principles—The two ways of organising memory; Learning is developmental; Complex Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat; Every brain is uniquely organised.

  

Ms. Nadig elaborated on each of these principles along with their implications on teaching. Even though there are many ways for organising memory, they focussed on the Static (Long term memory) and Dynamic (Working memory) memory organisation and stressed on the point that for learning to be enduring, knowledge must reach the long term memory and this would happen if meaningful and relevant connections are made during the learning process.

She further explained topics like brain plasticity, self-regulation capacities, learning built on prior knowledge and executive skills. The environment where learning happens is equally important with it determining whether the brain takes the high road or the low road. This was explained with respect to different centres in the brain. From a classroom perspective, this stresses the role of providing a threat-free environment with just the right amount of challenge to engage the learners.

 

The session ended with the last principle, which reiterates the point that each one of us is unique. Though our brains are organised in the same way, each one is wired differently based on the different experiences it goes through. As skilled teachers, we need to take into account these differences amongst our learners. The session witnessed invigorating discussions which particularly touched upon rote memorisation as a skill and providing a challenging enough environment to the learners among others. The day closed with a poll and the promise of another vibrant session tomorrow.


Session 5  Motivation and the Learner

This session was jointly conducted by Ms. Devika Nadig and Mr. Vijay Gupta. The session started with the continuation of the discussion on assessment from the previous day, as a way of looking at the ‘whether’ of learning. The concepts of formative and summative assessment were discussed and the importance of using rubrics, as a tool for authentic assessment, was highlighted. An example of rubrics, in the field of management, was given and the Six Traits Writing Rubric was used as an illustration.

 

The remainder of the session was on motivating learners and featured a detailed description of the five principles how people are motivated to learn: relevance, control/choice, self-efficacy/mastery, interest and social interaction. Each of these was explained with examples. Together these emphasise the need for teachers to keep reminding students that they all have the capacity to learn and that they will be given all the help necessary for it—thus leading to motivated learners in their classrooms.

 

The session concluded with a summary of all the topics covered over the first five days of the workshop, specifically the concept of ‘What-How-Whether’ in the context of teaching and learning. As questions were invited, a lively discussion on motivating learners of different types and capacities followed. Discussions on group assessments, rubrics, measurement of learning, collaborative learning, learning styles and the need for a change of perspective when thinking of assessments, also took place. Eventually, the day closed with everyone having lots to think about and with many clues for productive implementation of such principles in different teaching-learning scenarios. 

As this was the last session of the present FDP to be facilitated by Ms. Nadig and Mr. Gupta, they were accorded a vote of thanks and appreciation by Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal, Vice Chancellor of CVV, on behalf of all the participants.

 


Session 6 – Micro-Teaching

The sixth session was on Micro-teaching. The host for the session, Asst. Prof. Ajaykumar K., introduced the speaker of the day, Dr. Radha Mohan, Professor and Head of Education, School of Ethics, Governance, Culture and Social Systems.

The speaker began the session by highlighting the importance of micro-teaching at various levels of education. She opined that the art of teaching does not merely involve a simple transfer of knowledge from one to another. Instead, it is a complex process that facilitates and influences the process of learning. The quality of a teacher is estimated based on how much the students understand from his/her teaching. A classroom cannot be used as a learning platform for acquiring primary teaching skills. The pedagogical skills for teaching can be acquired only through structured and efficient faculty training techniques. With the introduction of microteaching about five decades ago, the lacunae of scientifically proven or effective methods to be followed in teacher training programmes have been overcome.

Further, there was a discussion on the concept of micro-teaching, its components, importance and application in the context of university-level education. The key skills and tools that can be used were discussed through a series of hands-on exercises. The basic definition of micro-teaching, the comparison between macro and micro-teaching, the three phases of the micro-teaching process, the micro-teaching cycle and a few micro-skills were discussed.

 

Through her presentation, the speaker explained the rationale of micro-teaching—why it is important to teachers—by referring to the micro-teaching processes at medical colleges, nursing colleges, law colleges etc. The speaker listed and explained the difference between micro-teaching and macro-teaching. She highlighted that micro-teaching is a scaled-down teaching encounter in terms of class size, time, lesson and teaching complexity. The characteristics of micro-teaching were elaborated and it was concluded that it helps to identify, isolate and build critical teaching skills. She emphasised that in micro-teaching the focus is not on content but skills. The three phases in micro-teaching—skill acquisition phase, interactive phase and transfer phase—were discussed and explained in detail. The Micro-Teaching Cycle and its six phases were also discussed. She opined that the teacher has to pay attention to confidentiality, time limits, maintain collegiality, respect others’ attempts to experiment and enjoy, and learn from the process. The key skills of micro-teaching were explained and examples were given along with their respective appraisal guide. Online tools for evaluation were introduced, the importance of questioning was explained and a few research findings were discussed.

Later, the participants were divided into groups and each participant had to prepare a micro-lesson plan on any one of the micro-skills of their choice on a common concept chosen by the group, to demonstrate how they will use appropriate structure, activities and strategies to develop an understanding of the content they have chosen. The participants were asked to upload a video of the micro-lesson along with the lesson plan. The session concluded with Q&A.


 

Session 7 The Student-Teacher Partnership for Learning in the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS)

The final session consisted of an engaging and informative session by the Honourable Vice Chancellor of CVV, Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal, on ‘The Student-Teacher Partnership for Learning in the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS)’. The session started with an introduction to various aspects of CBCS, such as the multiple types of assessment, the credit system, registration and the grading system. Other salient features of the system, and their implementation, were also discussed, using pertinent examples. The explanation was interspersed with polls and questions from the participants, in the interest of clarifying each point better.

 

The session then moved on to a discussion of some of the unique and interesting aspects of CBCS: since the student has an ample choice, ideally, exercising that choice should lead to each student having a unique timetable and a completely different set of courses in their transcript. The significance of outcome-based course outlines was explained and a distinct perspective of looking at assessments as feedback rather than as judgment was described. Points such as the implementation of the End-Semester Exam (ESE), grading and its interpretation, as well as graduation requirements, in the context of CBCS, were also discussed in great detail. It was clearly emphasised that CBCS is essentially a partnership between the student and the teacher, with its ultimate goal being the achievement of learning. A lively round of discussion followed, as the participants sifted through all these concepts and engaged with the ideas shared by the speaker.

  

As this was the last session of the FDP, it closed with an online valedictory session, led by an address by Dean of Faculty Dr. Gauri Mahulikar, wherein she briefly touched upon an equivalent of Bloom’s taxonomy from the Mimamsaka tradition of India. She also beautifully used the Virata Parva of the Mahabharata as an analogy for the Minor/Elective courses in the CBCS system. Prof. Neerchal and Ms. Devika Nadig shared their experiences from the FDP, highlighting its positive aspects and describing how it would change all the participants as teachers. Dr. L. Sampath Kumar and Dr. Leela Ramamurthy shared their views as participants of the workshop, appreciating the resource persons and their efforts. Finally, Dr. Ajaykumar K. proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the organising team, highlighting the efforts of all the faculty and staff members, including the participants, resource persons, various admin teams and the organisers, in making the event a success. The FDP thus ended with a sense of productive discussions having had taken place and with the promise of a freshly energised engagement with the teaching-learning process, on the part of the participants.

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