To understand better in classes

To understand better in classes

How do children learn? By applying the theory of multiple intelligence to teaching. A learner is gifted with skills which facilitate learning; but in conventional methods, where the teacher controls the environment, follows the inflexible lecture method and chalk-and-talk strategy and encourages rote learning, is the learner using any of the faculties she or he is gifted with, to enhance the learning process? Is the child using skills of thinking, assimilation, reasoning and then responding? No, she or he is just a passive recipient and the learning in such cases is minimal.

This method does not trigger higher thinking in above average students, nor does it help children who have learning difficulties to cope with the learning instruction. The need of the hour is to move away from this traditional method towards more innovative ways.

Active creators
Children learn through active participation, discussions, effective questioning and reflection, thereby discovering meaning and eventually, learning. When they encounter something new, they align it with their past experiences, probably changing what they believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant.

In any case, they are active creators of their own knowledge, and to do that, they must ask questions, explore and assess what they know. It is therefore imperative that a learning atmosphere be created which takes this approach forward. It is this learner-centric innovative teaching that leads to better understanding in children.

To make classrooms truly learner-centric, adopting this approach becomes crucial. In a heterogenous classroom, children display varied styles of learning.

Understanding these learning styles (auditory, visual and kinesthetic) enables teachers to create an environment that facilitates each learning style. To be able to equip children with the skills required to achieve his or her true potential, classrooms must first sync the learning process to the child’s learning style. An interactive class that addresses this would use tactile manipulatives, audio-visual aids and free movement and expression. Such classrooms become active learning environments that foster creativity and critical thinking.

To keep students productively engaged, it is extremely important to have active learning classrooms where opportunities are provided for independent, creative and out of the box thinking, discussions and independent work. The uniqueness of each child is respected, encouraging different views and instilling a respect for varied opinions. They become engaged by applying their existing knowledge and real-world experience, learning to hypothesise, test their theories and ultimately draw conclusions from their findings. The aim of the teacher is to enable students to construct knowledge rather than reproduce a series of facts.

Learning does not end with the completion of a class or with graduation. It is a lifelong process. Hence, children should relate to fun, excitement, discovery and learn along with them. Children are also social beings and learn best from collaborative learning — working in groups, sharing resources, discussions, experiencing situations and applying strategies. The strategies they use help them understand, reason, memorise and solve problems. The teacher is a facilitator, gently directing the children towards discovering the answer, instead of providing it.

Value addition
The meaningful classroom activities related to authentic situations enhance the learning process by adding skills of team work, sharing, collaboration, discussion and presentation. For example, students improve their oral and aural language and communication skills by participating in debates. They improve their writing skills by being involved in the creation of a classroom newspaper. Students learn science by participating in community or school environmental projects.

Children learn best when their individual differences are taken into consideration. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory states that there are many dimensions of human intelligence other than the logical and linguistic skills that are usually valued in most school environments. Some children are gifted in music, others have exceptional spatial skills (required, for example, by architects and artists), or bodily/kinesthetic abilities (required by athletes), or interpersonal (abilities to relate to other people), intrapersonal (working with self), or naturalistic (nature and environment) abilities.

Schools that encourage such interactive and differentiated classrooms are the learning environments that enable the new generation to reach higher levels of thinking. While many progressive schools today have shifted gears, and are ensuring that classroom transactions are designed to cater to a varied and heterogenous group of learners, many schools, sadly, are yet to make the change. However, with technology advancing at the pace that it is and reaching out to more schools in the country, the teaching-learning process will eventually reach these young and eager learners.

(The author is with Sri Ram School, New Delhi)

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