'New teaching methods need new tests'

'New teaching methods need new tests'

A classroom is four walls with tomorrow inside and we need the best of minds to shape this tomorrow, says Arthur Eisenkraft, professor of science education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA.

Eisenkraft has been a science teacher for high school students and has led a project by USA's National Science Foundation to introduce activity-based curriculum for physics and chemistry.

In India, he works with the Azim Premji Foundation to help teachers across the country improve the way they teach science in the classroom.

Eisenkraft observed that there are several common issues in science education in India and in the USA, one being the resistance to new teaching methods.

"Teachers want to teach in a different way. They know what is good instruction and the kind of problems that students need can solve using science. But they are concerned about exams and whether students will do well with new teaching methods," Eisenkraft said.

To encourage activity-based learning, the design of tests and exams needs to change, he said. "Tests expects one to memorise facts but nobody needs that in the 21st century, where you have the access to information. These tests need to mirror good instruction. They go hand-in-hand," he said.

In his experience of working with teachers in India, Eisenkraft has found them to be open to the idea of changing the instruction methods. "They are very excited and receptive. They are willing to put in extra hours to learn to engage their students better. They just need someone to introduce them to these ideas," he said.

The Eisenkraft method is to give students a challenge to work on, at the beginning of the month. For instance, they are asked to design a safety device for a car and they learn the science needed to complete the task.

With automation and new technology taking away old jobs and creating new ones, education has a bigger responsibility to ensure that the students are ready to face the future.  

"It used to be okay if only some students, the best of them, got a good education because there were plenty of jobs for the rest. But the old jobs will not be there tomorrow. The finish line has been moved and teachers have to make sure that students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow," he said.

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