This is part 1 of the 3-part ‘Inclusive Teaching Practices’ series. This certificated course is being offered in Koramangala. Please contact 77600 21966 for more information. This course is being offered again, after a very successful first batch of graduates.
Why the Simlab is important:
This activity is very relevant and useful because many kids with invisible disorders are unidentified and continue to struggle in the classroom without help. They fall behind academically and catching up becomes really difficult. When teachers and administrators go through these activities, they can actually understand what a struggle it is for such students. This activity leads teachers and administrators to the question- ‘Knowing what we now know, how can we help such students?’ Students with invisible disabilities struggle because they themselves do not understand why they are underperforming even when they put in effort.
Teachers sometimes might feel apathetic about their jobs. It’s hard to be motivated and care when one feels that their efforts are not making a difference. That’s the trouble with focusing on teaching content. Students hold content in short-term memory until their next test. After that is done, the content is forgotten, unless it is used regularly in their area of interest. Students interested in robotics, for example, might remember and use all the Physics and Math they learned. The rest of the students forget it all pretty quickly.
Most of us have forgotten most of the content we learned in school. I don’t remember calculus, the order of the halogens, and the breakdown of kingdom, phylum, family or whatever the taxonomical divisions of biology are. I don’t use them on an everyday basis, after all. I also don’t remember the names of the characters in all the novels I have read. What I do remember, though, are the analyses and syntheses we had to do about the themes in the books.
I also recall learning about the different psychological theories of Piaget, Maslow and others. While I don’t remember many of the details, I do remember how I applied them in my work with students.
Content vanishes. When teachers spend the bulk of school time on teaching an unvalued asset, it can start to feel like the work doesn’t matter. I feel the same way about housework. I wash breakfast dishes, soon I have to wash lunch dishes. Then dinner dishes. I start all over again the next day. The sink is never clean, and I feel like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill every single day. I never seem to make progress. And so it is with teaching content knowledge.
What we should be focusing on instead is process. Process is a transferable skill, and it sticks. Students actually make progress and progress to the next level. Then further, and more complex skills can be taught. It is the substance of education, and very satisfying.
Content is cheap. It is ubiquitous and easily available. Books, libraries, the internet- sources of content knowledge are everywhere. What is not so easily available, and hence is so valuable, is process knowledge. How do I use what I know? What do I do with all the data I possess? How do I use my content knowledge to my advantage? How do I convey the information I own to my clients? Out of all this information, what is important and relevant to me? What new information do I need to further my strength in an area? Which source of information will suit my needs best?
The big over-arching question that process encompasses is- What do I do with all the content knowledge I learned in school? How do I use it? How is it relevant to me?
Teachers can identify with this conundrum. The teaching methodology course teaches all the details about Bloom’s Taxonomy and Gardner’s multiple intelligences, etc. Yet, how many teachers can remember the skill levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy? How many can remember the various intelligences listed by Gardner? Yet every teacher knows what to do when he or she enters the classroom. All that foundational content knowledge serves to help the process of teaching.
Teachers will feel a greater sense of purpose in their jobs when they focus on process, rather than purely on content. Focusing on content alone feels like running on a treadmill, and both teacher and student quickly lose interest. Focusing on process will actually give teachers the traction needed to move learning forward. What teachers need to be teaching is higher order abstract meta-cognitive skills.
Samam Vidya is very proud to present the first graduating class of the ‘Teaching an Inclusive Class’ course. We are very proud of the hard work put in by all the student teachers. We are also very thankful for the support of the Times Foundation in making this course a reality, putting the word out there through their newspaper, and granting us the space to conduct classes. We hope to continue the collaboration with future batches of teachers.
Here are a few vignettes of our group at work. Students learned how to apply the principles of inclusion in their classes, in various subject areas. It was a heavily activity based course, and they applied these methods in their own classes with their own students. The principles of inclusion that they learned were applied across grade levels, from preschool to college, and across subject areas, from Math to theater arts. The strong collegiate relationships formed among this group will ensure that they will always be a resource for each other over their careers.
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Are you a parent of a middle schooler? Check out the summer fun in this camp! Your child will become a tinkerer and a maker under the guidance of Tinkerama, write poems and stories, and learn household budgeting – the kind of knowledge that is not taught in schools. Your child will be a proud maker and poet and savvy financial planner! Math, language and Science will be snuck in to all these activities, without the kids realizing it. Call 77600 21966 or email email@example.com for more information.
We wish a happy, happy new year to all our friends and supporters! 2017 was a big year, and we can’t wait for the progress and projects that await us in 2018.
How many of us remember the atomic number of Oxygen? Who can name all the halogen gasses? When did the first Panipat battle occur? What is the formula for calculating the volume of a cone? What is the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?
We all sat in Science, Social Studies, Math and Language classes all through school. Yet today as adults, we can’t recall much of what we learned in school. What then did we learn in school?
In today’s world, knowledge is free. Or almost free. Basic web searches can give us facts about virtually anything we want to know. Any of the questions above can be answered by ‘googling’ on one’s smartphone in a matter of seconds.
If the only thing teachers teach is factual knowledge, then all that effort will have been in vain. Students will barely remember any of it- at most till their next exam. While factual knowledge is necessary to pass exams, it can’t be the only reason for kids to attend school, especially since all that knowledge will be forgotten in short order.
Forgotten in all the exam fever and tension about completing the syllabus is learning that endures. This is the learning that endures beyond school. What remains of Science class after all the periodic tables and chemical equations are forgotten? What remains of History class after all the dates and dynasties are forgotten? What remains of geography class after all the rivers and mountain peaks are forgotten? What remains of Math class after all the quadratic roots and volume formulae are forgotten?
If the answer is that nothing remains, it’ll have been a wasted educational career for both student and teacher. If a Science education does not create a scientific temper in students, if a humanities education doesn’t impart a strong critical reasoning faculty, if a decade of Math education doesn’t provide a strong foundation for applied skills, what then is the usefulness of such an ‘education’?
College bound students definitely need all the factual learning. It is the springboard to college and career. Any student capable of college is also somewhat capable of self-taught ambient learning (learning that endures). But not every student goes to college; there are several students for whom factual learning is merely incidental, and who would benefit from some ‘real’ learning.
So what is the difference between academic schooling and learning that endures? “When we do attempt to measure learning, the results are not pretty. US researchers found that a third of American undergraduates demonstrated no significant improvement in learning over their four-year degree programs.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/universities-should-ban-powerpoint-it-makes-students-stupid-and-professors-boring-2015-6?IR=T) This clearly implies that whatever is being taught in the classroom is not necessarily ‘learning’; and I agree.
Then what is learning? What did they measure for this study? “They tested students in the beginning, middle and end of their degrees using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an instrument that tests skills any degree should improve – analytic reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving and writing.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/universities-should-ban-powerpoint-it-makes-students-stupid-and-professors-boring-2015-6?IR=T)
Our education system needs to focus on learning that endures in addition to short term exam skills in order to create a useful and relevant education for the next generation.
Samam Vidya is launching a free continuing education center for school dropouts and students with learning disabilities over the age of 14. Students who leave school too early are unable to join the workforce, and these valuable years between school and employment should not be wasted. We want students to be in a positive sphere of guidance and supervision during this time so they do not make bad decisions and engage in petty criminal behavior.
We are offering an informal environment: While they might not like to learn in a formal school environment — with textbooks, syllabus, and exams — a non-threatening informal setup will help them to improve their knowledge and gain important life skills, which in turn will help them find jobs and success. They will learn time and project management, personal finance skills, computer skills and cyber safety, public speaking and communication, and ethics, among other subjects.
In addition to teaching literacy and numeracy, we will take students on field trips, and encourage them to make art and do yoga. We will also bring in guest teachers who can talk about their careers and passions, and give students different perspectives.
Every student is unique, so we treat them uniquely, according to their abilities and interests. We can’t wait to see our students flourish as happy and productive citizens.
On November 18, Samam Vidya revisited Chamarajanagar, outside Mysore, Karnataka for the second workshop in our series: showing them some ideas on how to teach a class that includes students with disabilities. We got to work with the same teachers as last time, when we taught them how to recognize learning and developmental disabilities in the classroom. It was a great group of teachers organized by Mobility India, and we enjoyed very much working with them.
We did a series of activities that teachers can employ in the classroom that can be used for students of all learning levels in the classroom. Teachers learned how to use the visualization technique to assess comprehension in students. They also learned how to use groups to maximize participation and learning. Teachers learned a few remedial as well as enrichment techniques. We also did an activity-based science lesson that involved station teaching. We also used grammar games to make the grammar lesson more fun. All the teachers we worked with were game for this and had so much fun with all the classroom activities!
Samam Vidya looks forward to working further with these teachers. If you and your school would like to have as much fun teaching kids as we do, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 77600 21966 to schedule your workshop today!
Padma Shastry of Samam Vidya will be conducting a simulation lab workshop about invisible learning and processing disabilities at PSTTI on Sunday, Nov. 27th in Bangalore. Call them now to reserve your space!