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Undergraduate faculty discuss meaningful pedagogy

Reeteka Sud

Sindhu Mathai interacting with participants
Sindhu Mathai interacting with participants    (Photo: Reeteka Sud)

What makes teaching meaningful? 12 participants, most of whom were practicing undergraduate teachers from four colleges, considered this question at a recently held meeting, from two perspectives: were the students engaged? Did they learn?

Susan Philip, faculty at St. Joseph’s college in Bangalore, shared with the group that on one occasion, students in their college were tasked to use different art forms to convey scientific concepts. As the preparations went underway, students got very involved in the process, which was heartwarming for their teachers; but only until an informal student survey highlighted that while they were into logistics of the performances, the students really did not gain any better understanding of the scientific concepts involved.

How should a teacher plan their classes so as to reconcile student engagement with student learning? In an attempt to answer questions like this, IndiaBioscience aims to bring together undergraduate teachers in a discussion forum. Broadly, these events are aimed at facilitation of networking among teachers, as well as to bring researchers and educators on the same platform. The first of these meetings was held on October 1st at Mount Carmel College in Bangalore.

Sindhu Mathai, faculty from Azim Premji University Bangalore, was one of the speakers. Being a researcher in science education, she shared highlights from her own research as well as from literature, on ‘emergent curriculum’.  She made the case that even within the constraints of present education system, teachers and students can exercise flexibility, leading to effective student learning. “Exams in the current education system are not aligned to student learning. If we evaluate students on the knowledge they’ll need after they graduate, they would be more involved in their education than just being there for the degree”, believes Grace Prabhakar, faculty at St. Joseph’s college, Bangalore.

Participants appreciated gaining knowledge on structure of teaching from Mathai’s presentation. “This was very helpful. It introduced me to new concepts on structure I was unaware of; gave me a perspective on how I can organise my teaching”, shared Grace Prabhakar.

The importance of teachers to reconceptualise syllabus at the delivery stage,  in their respective classrooms, was unanimously asserted by all participating teachers. Networking with other teachers is key in this regard. As one of the participants, Manohar GM from Government Science College, Bangalore, shared “meeting teachers of the same discipline from other colleges facilitates one’s own teaching. When trying a new teaching method, it helps to know from your peers who are trying the same, or have tried themselves. Current system makes it very hard to try something all on your own.”

“Future meetings should have hands-on activities for teachers; perhaps include pre-workshop reading material that would be discussed during the workshop”, shared Asim Auti from Garware College, Pune.

The next meeting in this series is expected to be held in December 2016 in Bangalore.

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Education Coordinator