The Curiosity of Youth and Innovative Teaching Methods- a Discussion at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Education (IASE), India

Earlier this month Professor Judith Parker was invited to the Institute of Advanced Studies in Education (IASE) in Bhopal, India. IASE is in charge of the professional development of teachers from secondary school on and includes awarding degrees such as Bachelors, Masters and Diplomas to potential school teachers.

Professor Judith Parker demonstrating an experiment using glass and paper.

Professor Judith Parker demonstrating an experiment using glass and paper.

The morning of Professor Parker’s visit started with a prayer assembly with IASE faculty and local secondary school teachers. Professor Parker opened the discussion by asking the faculty to openly share their teaching styles and the various methods they use to get their students engaged. All agreed that student engagement is key to learning.

The afternoon session included active discussion among 35 secondary school teachers. The teachers were a part of IASE’s on-going in-service training course. Professor Parker started with an activity to peak the teachers curiosity and engage their attention. She asked everyone to form teams of three, with one member acting as an “observer” who had to hold a mirror, one member assigned to  draw a star, and the third had to hold a piece of paper so that the second person who had to draw the star couldn’t see the star directly but only its reflection. The reflection was the guide to help the second member draw the star on the paper. Teachers were very intrigued by the activity. Shortly into the activity the groups of three ignored everyone in the class and became busy with their activity. “Too difficult!”, “Impossible!” were some of their initial reactions.

Professor Parker walked around to each group asking if they needed any help and guiding them if they had questions. At the end of the activity, teachers were asked to explain the experience of the observer.  Reactions included- “I could have done it better” and “I didn’t understand why the person drawing the star was getting so confused”. Professor Parker explained that the purpose of the activity was to see how students feel when they are trying to learn a new skill, helping teachers to remember what it was like to be a student. Suddenly a seemingly simple task had become very complex and they remembered that learning can be a difficult activity. Looking at it from the child’s point of view gave a totally different perspective to the teachers. The impatience of the observer was a good reflection of how students sometimes feel in class and helped teachers realize how looking at things from other perspectives in not so easy. The teachers (like observers) need to take a step back and understand the bigger picture of how learning happens. This activity invited the participants to draw insights on what it is to be a student learning new concepts each day and trying to assimilate all this new information.

Secondary school participants discussing and writing their reflections.

Secondary school participants discussing and writing their reflections.

While this activity happened, Professor Parker was able to smile and go around to each group answering questions. She was able to convey her message by engaging the teachers in an activity rather than delivering a concept in a straightforward, “lecturing” way. All the traits of a good teacher! At the end of the session the teachers discussed how the curiosity of children is something that can be used to learn things beyond their assigned syllabus.

The day ended with high spirits and everyone feeling happy about the training session! We hope it might be a wonderful start of something new where teachers lecture less and instead work to peak curiosity and take learning beyond the classroom.

Note: Professor Judith Parker is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Adult Learning & Leadership Department at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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