John Dewey, an American philosopher and psychologist, was one of the 20th Century’s leading education reformer and an intellectual who proselytised democracy and advocated equality in terms of educational rights. He considered education as a bridge between the society and its residents, and considered it an instrumental tool in bringing about the socially inclusive development. John Dewey, for a major part of his life, fought for better application of educational policies in schools, including the need to adapt as per the changing times and global scenario. He was a firm believer in allowing students to make an informed decision in terms of selecting the course or subjects as per their interests.
His philosophy centred around the need to develop an ability in children through which, they can experience as well as interact with the curriculum. For him quantity was a negative value and one, which is detrimental to a child’s growth and potential. It is fair to say that John’s philosophy is not only based around the need to set up better educational resources and their implementation, but also on allowing a child to express themselves and establish their own set of parameters. A child’s curiosity to learn is unmatchable and cannot be adjudged, therefore it is imperative to make them equally involved in improving the overall classroom scenario. Therefore, it will be fair to count it amongst the most effective teaching and learning strategies which are followed in some of the top schools in India as well as abroad.
“Problem-based learning”, is another concept which is often talked about, yet never given its due diligence. The purpose of education isn’t limited to developing a certain skill set that caters around developing a child’s basic potential. Education is much more than the need to make an individual ‘employable’. It is the basis of the evolution of man, and education is what differentiates a leader and a follower. As Dewey once greatly remarked, “Education should equip students with the abilities to be reflective, autonomous, and ethical beings capable of critical discourse”. Also, this comprised of John Dewey’s hypothesis of effective teaching methodologies.
If you have read this article till here, you must be wondering whether it is a biographical work on John Dewey or the strategies to build the positive classrooms. However, the truth is, during the research phase of writing this article, I couldn’t find a person more apt and just to relate to. His educational philosophy or his constant fight for the educational rights of child makes him a true educational reformer in every sense.
Therefore, deriving from John’s life long struggle and fight for a child’s development and establishment of positive classrooms, these are the five key pedagogical changes needed to make our classrooms interactive, attractive, and immersive for the children.
Role of Teachers
Teachers, especially in India, have enjoyed extensive support as well as the respect they deserve. Since ancient times, they have been a fundamental part of developing our society and helping children attain the status of being a “learned individual”. They are highly regarded and have been trusted by millions to form strong bonds; one of the most effective teaching methods which guarantees both results and performance. Therefore, it is fair to acknowledge that they play a monumental role in forming a good-quality education system and bringing the necessary reforms. Dewey was one of the firmest believers in the role of teachers and their direct impact on the mental, moral, and the spiritual lives of youngsters in their seminal years.
A teacher, while in a classroom, wears multiple hats. Right from designing the teaching methodology, to setting up daily tasks and judging the kids; a teacher is involved in even the minutest happenings in the classrooms.
- Interactive: The success of a classroom depends on the levels of interaction between the teacher and the students.
- Participant: A democratic teacher is more likely to produce better results by encouraging children to participate and interact
- Prompter: A good teacher will always prompt students to learn and innovate; from invention to improvisation, a teacher is every where.
- Tutor: From providing advice and guidance to checking the progress of a child, a teacher is involved in each.
Times have changed, yet the role of teacher hasn’t changed. Nonetheless, the role is more critical in the present scenario. On top of everything else, a teacher has to be an effective communicator, an inventive thinker, and a master of technology. To summarize in a sentence, a teacher has to enact all of it as an effective teaching practice.
Interdependent learning concerns the basic development of skills, whereby congenial skills are linked together and development is included. It is fair to say that the skill is critical for a child’s holistic development, yet rarely it is followed even in some of the top schools in India. This instructional approach organizes classroom activities into social learning experiences and academic criteria. Interdependent learning encourages students to work cohesively and complete academic tasks collectively. Moreover, it encourages children to exploit the communal knowledge and resources. Interdependent learning isn’t limited to collective learning, but also includes exchange of information; evaluation of ideas; monitoring work flow.
Five elements central to improve classroom environment:
- Positive interdependence: It encourages children to seek each other’s support to polish and strengthen their skills.
- Individual and group accountability: This particular skill allows children to be accountable for their results when they work individually and when they work as a team.
- Personal interaction: It encourages personal interaction between the mentor and the student.
- Teaching of interpersonal and interactive skills: This encourages teachers to also assert on improvisation of interactive skills of the pupil.
- Group processing: This ensures that they classroom is dealt as per the overall performance of the group, and not on the individual skill levels.
Howard Gardner is considered as the father of the multiple intelligences theory. He identified seven different intelligences, which a child needs to work on, in order to gain absolute development.
It emphasises on the development of the whole child. John Dewey further strengthened the theory by stressing that the child is artistic in more than one way. This philosophy has led to the change in curricula in various top schools in India. The results have been unfathomable. Teachers and curricula creators have lately recognized the need of bringing a balance to the curriculum and emphasis, nowadays, is placed on blending the traditional academic subjects with other not so conventional subjects like arts, crafts, music, and physical education. Children can succeed in an environment free of boundaries and where they believe they can evolve holistically.
The seven key elements of Multiple intelligences theory are:
- Bodily-Kinesthetic: This involves the health and wellness potential and the skills required to work on the bodily requirements.
- Interpersonal Skills: It relates to building the interpersonal relations and ensuring a sound environment in the classroom.
- Verbal Linguistic: This includes the verbal improvement and association of skills.
- Logical Skills: This centres around making the students aware about logical challenges and making them aware about their skills.
- Nature Smart: This skill develops the environmental relationship between a student and their surroundings.
- Self Smart: This allows children to be self-motivating and be able to judge themselves as per their needs.
- Visual-Spatial: This allows students to be picture smart and be able to interact with their surroundings.
- Musical: This deals with the development of co-curricular skills which leads to the holistic development of the individual.
Alternative Testing for Classrooms
Presently, schools are obsessed with homogeneous testing and it is an enormous challenge to move them away from this conventional means of testing. This standard testing methodology marginalises those with a different sense of judgements and skills. This forces them to follow the herd mentality, which ultimately curbs their growth and sense of judgement.
However, without the proper involvement of the teachers, alternative testing formats cannot function and will ultimately falter at a later stage. Schools and teachers have to work coercively to ensure the success of such a teaching method. For instance, various alternative testing methodologies of classrooms are:
- Portfolio Evaluation
- Performance Evaluation
- Self-reflection evaluation
An understanding of these methods is fundamental during teacher training and the explanation to the children of the methods equally so.
The concept of one colleague collaborating or exchanging ideas of the best teaching practices based upon experience seems reasonable, but not possible in all academic environments because of the workload placed on teachers. This idea basically helps teachers to ascertain the level of understanding and ensure that students attain the required level of self-sufficiency.
To resolve teaching issues, this free interchange of ideas is precisely what fosters overall development of teachers, just as cooperative learning improves the classroom environment.
Yes, it will be challenging to include all these five strategies and more often than not, schools and teachers will fail. For schools looking to build effective teaching methodologies, tools and relevant policies play an important role. For teachers looking to build positive classrooms, interpersonal cooperation and holistic development will be key. The many schools using the positive action stand as testimony that concentrating on positive, strengthening, and intrinsic enthusiasm in the classroom results in a positive environment for teaching and learning and improves academic thoroughness.