Friday, August 3, 2012

How important is engagement of students in classrooms?

It is often said that education is the shortest route to success for any country as it helps overcome many evils. Educating the masses is a herculean task but again there is no magic trick to educatiConventional Classroomon. Think about your ideal learning environment and what are some of the words that come to your mind when you try to describe or imagine about this environment?

I tried this experiment in one of our in-house meetings. The participants came up with interesting words such like co-operation, active, sharing, peaceful, authentic, emotional, variety, laugh, experience, participate, doing, imagination, alone, small groups, kind teacher, etc. I took up another question where the participants were to describe their school experience. The results were again something to take note of. The words were: boring, waste of time, forget everything, only listening, taking notes, I felt stupid, teacher talks, reading comics, long silence, don’t understand “why” I have to know these materials?

Today, time is everything and we are waiting to teach and learn the most. Children are learning faster through group projects, computers, tablets, etc. Stereo-typed classes in colleges and universities are not much appreciated if they still use the conventional methods of teaching i.e lectures. The real world is more about collaboration and team working.

Self education is good learning. Today such resources are easily available through youtube.com, CoursEra, Udacity, etc where learners can access vast amounts of interactive courses at the click of the mouse. These modes of learning are replacing the conventional classrooms. Students are more empowered to learn independently through such mediums. But, every medium of learning is bound to have its pitfall.

What is the crucial point missing in such learning environments? Active classrooms. Getting the learner’s attention for long span of time is putting in tremendous efforts. A lot of lectures are didactic. Lectures should include presentations, discussions and activities. Students should be constantly interacting with the content. As teachers, we should let their natural curiosity grow.

Students teach each other and it is a brilliant way to learn as well. Explaining concepts to others does help in better understanding and retention of the concepts. Lots of different things can be done in classrooms. For instance, moving the students around, using interactive content, learning with games, etc. In short, it is more than using a PPT. Presentations make you sleep and maybe that’s the reason most of us should realize ‘learning is more than just listening’.