The stated intent sounds rhetorical. Yet, it is more than merely rhetorical. There has been considerable debate around the idea and practice of teaching as has existed in schools and colleges the world over for the past hundred-odd years. Traditional methods of teaching and classroom management are increasingly being abandoned in favour of more creative and collaborative forms of learning and classroom management.
It is not our case that the so-called traditional methodologies or pedagogical approaches have entirely become redundant or have failed. But increasingly, the fundamental assumptions of teaching and learning and the results thereof are being questioned in a world that has changed irrevocably in the past 50 years. Why even a year ago seems a long time ago. Such is the rate of redundancy in terms of ideas, technology, and mindsets.
There has been a reconsideration of the dividends education has paid off in terms of the outcomes of learning and its impact on society and civilization, creativity and innovation, learner engagement and output, learner attrition and disengagement, and the increasing inability of traditional pedagogies to meet the demands of a world on the cusp of machine learning, automation, and artificial intelligence.
So, change and the rate of change has been exponential. Learning, too, needs to reframe, recast, recontextualize itself. What is that framework, what are the nodal points of reference, and what are the points of departure and inflection? What does it mean to be learner-centric?
At the 39th Rajagiri Round Table, participants looked at the future of teaching in learning.
Manu Jose, Actor, Storyteller, Trainer: What is of central concern to learning is creativity. Unfortunately, what we do is to first put education in a box and then try to take it out of the box. For any education system to succeed in its mission it needs to be child-centric while acknowledging the uniqueness of every child. The lack of autonomy is the first box we create, that doesn’t provide the circumstances for children to grow. The teacher needs to be both resourceful and creative. In fact, one of the great challenges that face our teachers today is the traditional classroom of 60-70 students each! How do we introduce creativity? Gender and sexuality constitute the second box, where a certain patriarchy tends to dominates education. The third box is that of power and power relations. Education needs to be democratised and liberated. Theatre can be a powerful psychological tool that can be effectively used in teaching.
Dr. Rangarajan Gopalakrishnan, Professor, Theatre Person, Communication Specialist, Mentor, Rajagiri Centre for Business Studies, Rajagiri: Are students uniform despite the fact that they wear uniforms? The answer is a resounding No. So, teaching calls for a far more creatively nuanced approach. Teaching is learning in perpetuity. Often, we hear the statement “we are moulding you”. In fact, in the fitness of things, there is no moulding happening. How do we elicit the student’s potential? It’s simply by letting her to be creative. The disjunction between the teacher and the student goes against the spirit of learning. Whatever fails in class can only fail elsewhere. On the other hand, a teacher can be a performer — in fact, there is great kinship between the act of teaching and theatre. Theatre causes trepidation, exhilaration, leading to curiosity and better learning outcomes.
Tumisang Kopanang Eric Mathaba, Student, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology, Rajagiri: Can we make the way we communicate to learn and teach more distributive? For example, can we think of learning by singing? If teachers stop learning, learning will stop, especially in a changing world. But on the other hand, there is nothing more exciting than learning and discovering by oneself. Peer to peer learning is equally critical. Education today is getting be burdensome and tiresome. So, something is going wrong we are being taught or the manner in which we are learning.
Bright Mensah Kofi, Student, Electronics & Communication, Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology, Rajagiri: A ‘perpetual headache’ is what some methods of teaching have come to be. What if the teacher can come down to the level of the student? What if we asked by our teacher to teach what we have learnt in class? It will make for participative learning, a powerful means of internalising and relating whatever we have learnt to our environments. We should increasingly flip our classrooms. In fact, question is, have our classrooms changed in the past 300 years? The answer is no. Therein lies the answer to a lot of the leading questions that trouble us today.
Dr. Ramkumar Sreedharan Nair, Principal, Muthoot Institute of Technology and Science, Puthencruz: Colleges and universities, as we know them today, are going to be extinct in the next 10 years from now. Education will change. University education will be paid for by people who would like to access it through MOOC. Education can be imparted through cheaply available means. Then all you need to do is ‘learn’ where teachers are going to be irrelevant. I would say that teaching today is worse than monarchy, worse than patriarchy. It has become in essence narcissistic. Excellence cannot come through order. As I look to the future I would see myself as being a ‘curator’ to make myself relevant. All these grades and marksheets become irrelevant where exploration is regarded by the establishment as a sin. We need a paradigm change, where we move to social construction of knowledge.
Prof. (Dr.) P. R. Poduval, Former Director, School of Management Studies, CUSAT: Teach me not, but help me learn. That is what I would add as a corollary to make participants get involved in learning. But we need to make a distinction between formal and informal systems of learning. The method of teaching at school, college, or university got to be different. It has got to be methodology appropriate. But learning happens owing to students and not because of teachers. So, there is no communication in teaching and no shared wavelength. The teacher may be very fluent, may know his subject very well, but no learning is no imparted in class. Why? So, it is important to familiarise the learner with the language of the teacher. If a teacher makes thorough preparation for class, then s/he speaks more. And what about the student? S/he doesn’t speak and the learner is ignored. So, there’s an interesting paradox. We need to encourage students to ask questions. For that to happen, teachers should be encouraged to go to class only with an outline of the topic of the day and field questions.
Prof. (Dr. ing) Father Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor of Engineering & Director Rajagiri Media Trust, Rajagiri: As a teacher, I learn from my students. So, am I a teacher or a student? There isn’t a clear black and white distinction there. Today, it is the generation of the teach-me-nots and teachers need to accept that. Today’s young are increasingly becoming self-taught, questioning accepted canons and received wisdom. That clearly is the way forward, where teachers could end up struggling to be relevant. The teacher may not have all the answers.
Prof. (Dr.) V. Job Kuruvilla, Director, Thought Links Institute of Education and Lifeskills: We somehow anticipate that teachers need to upgrade themselves. But, yes, teaching teachers is difficult. A teacher’s qualifications are irrelevant if s/he is unable to build a relationship between souls — in this case between teacher and student. But are we really helping our teachers? Most teachers are in it not because of love for teaching, but out of other considerations. Add to it the fact that for most teachers, today’s class is exactly the same as that of 20 years ago. So, there must be a willingness to change bottoms-up. Teachers also mostly practise the punishment and reward formula to secure quick results. In fact, discipline creates an illusion of learning. And students go back under the illusion of having learnt something! If the teacher is able to help students connect the dots, then learning has happened. The moment you teach a child, the opportunity to learn is lost.