Transforming School Education and Teacher Training

Disruptive Innovation in Indian Teacher Education: Some thoughts

1. The challenges to the Teacher Education System and an approach to address them have been articulated in the 3 Volumes of the Justice Verma Commission report, available on the NCTE website at ncte-india.org. The first of the Terms of References of the Commission was the adequacy of the existing Teacher Education System in the light of the recently enacted Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.

2. Some key elements of the suggestions in the report are longer duration face to face pre-service programs, acknowledgment of the potential of distance learning for in-service training, encouragement of innovative methods of teacher education, development of comprehensive professional development programmes for school teachers and faculty development programmes for teacher educators. It also recommends access to a dedicated school as a laboratory where student teachers get opportunities to experiment with new ideas and hone their capacities and skills to become reflective practitioners.

3. The Commission was notified on June 28 , 2011 and submitted its report in August 2012. The Plan of action indicates that its recommendations would be implemented by June 2015, according to the information available on the NCTE website. Available here: http://www.ncte-india.org/Plan%20of%20Action%20made%20by%20R%20govinda.pdf

4. The iPad was introduced in April 2010, and has undergone several changes and many new devices have come up. Between June 2011 and today, a mobile revolution has swept India in the form of basic phones, feature phones, smartphones, phablets, tablets and other handheld devices, including the Government supported Aakash device, but the potential of handhelds and wireless connectivity in teacher education seems to have been ignored by regulators and policy makers, including the Justice Verma Commission. The mobile is used for a whole range of activities, except education, where it is explicitly banned not only for students, but for teachers as well. It is time that this was changed and we adopt the handheld device and wireless access to Internet as the basic transformational model for the nation.

5. Sir John Daniel addressed the issue of “How do we recruit and train 10 million teachers?” at an ICET Conference at Oman, between 14-17 December 2009 and made a fundamental ‘Keplerian’ revolution by suggesting that ” A new approach to teacher education that focuses on classroom-based in-service education rather than theory-based pre-service education is needed”. The full script is available at : http://www.col.org/resources/speeches/2009presentation/Pages/2009-12-14.aspx

6. If we accept Sir John Daniel’s advice to respond to Justice JS Verma’s recommendations and adopt the recent technologies of MOOCs and pedagogies of ‘ Flipped Classroom, Adaptive personalised learning, Social Learning and Learning Analytics’ we have a very neat, speedy and elegant solution to the problem of teacher provision for implementing the RTE Act and the first term of reference of the Justice Verma Commission.

7. So we can have a very short (about 12 weeks) and intensive face to face pre-service program, where the key competence built is the ability to use hand-held devices, such as the Aakash tablet to perform resource based teaching-learning with both curation of available resources including those on the NROER repository and creation of additional specific resources. Also develop self-learning abilities for continuous professional development. And then continuous professional development ( perhaps with flipped learning) while actually teaching at a School, as suggested by Sir John Daniel. In fact Coursera is offering MOOCs for continuous Professional Development of Teachers. Massive Online Open Courses for Educators or MOOC-Eds are built on research-based models of effective professional development, professional learning communities, and online communities of practice. The courses focus on authentic, project-based learning, collaboration, and peer-supported learning. And now even engineering courses are being offered in distance learning mode using MOOCs by the IITs, hoping to impact about 4 Lakh engineering students.

8.If one were to pursue the profession of medicine, law, architecture or even finance as in a CA, CFA or CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), one could choose to be employed by a large corporation, the Government or be self-employed. But these options are not available to a qualified educator. One may have a teaching credential or a Ph.D. with impeccable academic credentials, but one cannot formally
teach as a self-employed academic for recognised qualifications. For most learners, an expert experienced person who can deliver should be acceptable as an educator whether or not the teaching happens in a traditional classroom setting. Using technologies mentioned earlier, the need to gather at appointed times in a specific place need not be mandatory, and learning can happen wherever the learner is present.

9. The CBSE is a progressive Board, and encourages students to take on an additional subject beyond the minimum mandatory number, and this may be learnt outside the School. Hence this additional sixth subject could be taught/learnt using a Tablet or phone, by an independent educator. And since almost any subject could be the additional subject, it is legally possible to study any of the curriculum subjects, using new technologies and pedagogies and still appear for the CBSE Board and have marks obtained in it included in one’s credentials. So why not a pure online system for both learners as well as in-service teacher trainers?

10. I am a great votary of the maxim that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. With that in mind, I am, with the help of like-minded colleagues, designing a program for this purpose. The program is aimed at fostering entrepreneurship while at School and encourages students to pursue ‘Entrepreneurship’ as the additional sixth subject at the Class 12 CBSE using the new technologies and pedagogies. This will be beneficial even for those pursuing traditional medical or engineering streams, as it will develop an idea generating mindset. This will also make them innovators and self-learners who can then pursue MOOCs from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridgeand the UK Open University, which are ranked amongst the top Universities of the world, and no Indian University figuring even within the first 100. This CBSE academic course can be supplemented with a set of 32 modules on Entrepreneurship Skills and ‘virtual apprenticeship’ to become innovators and enterprise creators.

11. Another fundamental change that we need is to acknowledge the fact that each learner is a unique human being with attributes that can be captured in a learner disposition and that the learning has to be a personalised customised and engaging experience. The learner is not a ‘dimensionless point’ as in Euclidean Geometry or a ‘point mass’ as in Classical Newtonian Physics. Without acknowledging these facts and making use of them in the design of the learning experience at the School ( individual learning plan as against a whole class lesson plan) and ( personalised professional learning and development plans ) for School Teacher training, we are building an edifice without a strong foundation. So data driven, informed by Learning Analytics and monitoring learning progression to inculcate the desired learner dispositions, is the only way to achieve universal quality education.

12. A reasonable starting point would be to make a summary of learner attributes and ‘learner dispositions’ recording the performance in tasks given and the learner’s intelligences and learning styles. We can draw upon the contribution of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences describing eight different types of intelligence (musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic) that can help reveal the individual strengths.These can be supplemented with Carl Jung’s learning style dimensions can also help see which learning strategies might work best for a learner. Other models such as the VARK ( Visual, Aural, Reading/Writing and Kinesthetic) learning styles and Kolb’s learning styles (diverging, assimilating, converging, accommodating)can offer more information about how a learner prefers to learn new things. An engaging, effective and enjoyable learning experience has to be built on these by a teacher who performs multiple roles.
Certainly not by allocating nursery Schools to children by lottery with distance from home being the predominant criteria.

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