Combining effective learning strategies

Combining effective learning strategies

At the turn of the last century, there were three remarkable developments that changed the concept of learning and education: the theory of multiple intelligence propagated by Howard Gardner, a book called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and 'Life skills education for children and adolescents in schools', a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Taking off from these, organisations like the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), The Teacher Foundation and National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) have worked towards converting good teaching into effective learning. It is a fact that education has to necessarily transform from the earlier teacher-centric methods to being learner-centric.

Sunanda Ali, who heads the Peepal Grove School in Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh, has rightly said, "Children do not need to be prepared for the future. They are the future." Teachers who do not change with the times are likely to get redundant very soon as experience is no longer going to help teachers be effective.

Children born in the 21st century are 'digital natives' as contrasted to the adults who are 'digital migrants'. As a result, many a time one can see many adults learning a lot from the younger generation on a variety of topics, particularly through digital platforms. While a teacher racks her brain to recall the right answers to difficult questions, any kid can Google all the possible answers within seconds.

Textbooks are no longer the source of all information. Perhaps it was his great vision into the future that Mahatma Gandhi had refused to give textbooks to children in his ashram. When well-wishers donated textbooks to him, he had them sent to the staff room for the teachers to read and then share their knowledge with their students. This concept is much more relevant today.

So, how did Howard Gardner and Daniel Goleman's works and the WHO report enable develop a better and effective way to facilitate children learn better? Let's take a look.

Major breakthroughs

Howard Gardner set the ball rolling with his theory of multiple intelligences. This theory changed the century-old thinking that IQ (intelligence quotient) is the only measure of the capability of a child. His theory only confirmed what great thinkers were musing over decades - that high IQ individuals do not necessarily do well in life.

With eight intelligences on the board, each student with diverse capabilities could blossom out into a successful adult - provided he or she is given the opportunity to nurture his or her talent. This is where the role of teachers comes in. Instead of treating all children in the class as mere roll numbers, if a teacher can identify the
individual intelligences of every student and encourage him or her to develop in that direction, every child can be an achiever.

The next breakthrough came with Daniel Goleman's book, Emotional Intelligence, which highlighted that five skills are needed by every individual for a balanced growth. These skills are self-awareness, management of emotions, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Behavioural scientists have already declared that EQ (emotional quotient) of an individual will perhaps play an 80% role in determining success and satisfaction, with IQ only accounting for 20% or less. And the good news is that unlike IQ, which is mostly inherited through the genes, EQ can be developed through sustained learning and practice.

If teachers can take up the idea of first developing their own EQ, if teacher training can incorporate these skills, and if students are taught by teachers with high EQ, the learning can be far more effective regardless of the subject and course that is being taught. The sequel, Working with Emotional Intelligence, can be very useful to teachers to help their students gain the skills required to enhance their EQ, and how teachers can foster among the children.

The third major step forward was when WHO published a list of 10 life skills that ensure healthy and holistic growth of any individual regardless of the country, background and circumstances. It is not difficult for a sensitive and motivated teacher to incorporate these in their method of teaching and make it part of the learning process in every subject. Unfortunately, so far, generally life skills are being taught in some schools as an extra-curricular subject, and not as part of every subject and everyday learning for students.

Bridging the gap

To facilitate the process for teachers all over the country, extensive surveys have been conducted by the Bengaluru-based organisation The Teacher Foundation over the past five years on means and techniques to develop social-emotional learning. They are expected to come out with handbooks for teachers who teach children of different age groups in different environs from urban to rural and from the higher to lower economic strata.

On the other hand, NIMHANS in collaboration with Bengaluru-based non-profit, Enfold Proactive Health Trust, has already brought out class-wise handbooks named On-Track to impart sex education, which forms an essential part of learning for children.

With such proven inputs and knowledge available, it is now up to all stakeholders, that is the school managements, teachers, parents and content developers, to incorporate these vital concepts into the learning process so that the new generation gets all benefits of becoming holistic, balanced, mature and competent citizens.

Life Skills

Life skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable humans to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of life. The 10 life skills outlined by WHO are:

Decision making

Problem solving

Creative thinking

Critical thinking

Effective communication

Interpersonal relationship

Self-awareness

Empathy

Management of emotions

Coping with stress

 

The theory of multiple intelligences

The theory proposes eight intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These are:

Verbal-linguistic

Logical-mathematical

Visual-spatial

Bodily-kinesthetic

Musical-rhythmic

Interpersonal

Intrapersonal

Naturalistic

(The author is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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