One of the most satisfying pedagogy experiments I did was in the monsoon semester of 2017-18 at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the Ahmedabad University. I am especially surprised by the success of the experiment because it seemed to occur effortlessly and due to spontaneity, demanded by lack of time for planning. My pedagogy came about as a culmination of multiple factors, following were the major ingredients,
- I had just come back after spending a semester at the Olin college, where I was involved in a flurry of insightful activities around student centric learning. My major takeaways from that semester were as follows:
- Design the interaction keeping student background and aspirations in mind, get to know their culture, their fears and their dreams
- Make students co-creators of your course
- Give students freedom to express themselves and encourage them in the process
- Encourage peer to peer interactions
- Humanize delivery (can’t stress this enough)
- Listen to students: This is another point which is very, very important. Students usually are not very free in their interaction with the teachers, due to the power-play involved. So when someone speaks up, it is really useful to make that person feel respected and valued and it is equally useful to show that you are ready to address the point raised by them. I am especially indebted to Prof. Lynn Stein who during her visit at Ahmedabad University and to Prof. Jonathan Stolk during the summer collaboratory at the Olin college in 2015, impressed upon me the importance of listening, encouraging and being non-judgmental.
- As a result of decades of reading and observing I had come to realize the importance of having a playful and relaxed mind in effective learning. I tried to bring it to practice by starting my classes with music, TED talks, a short video clip or discussion about a favorite news item by students. Once we played with a ball in the class while discussing very useful mathematics (internally I was quite freaked out, wondering if the youngsters will stay serious about learning while playing but it worked out very well)
- Encouraging teamwork: This was supported by allowing a lot of discussion time when I discussed a topic that students found conceptually hard. Peer to peer interactions not only as a method of learning but also for social and cultural exchange and psychological well being, was very much stressed on, during the course.
- Engaging with the class informally, by sharing personal experiencing doing impromptu projects, for example I discussed poetry that I write and one Saturday afternoon a bunch of us went to the workshop and spent several hours designing and laser cutting, card-board earrings
- Encouraging class to ask “why?” for any curricular component that did not make sense to them, when they did not ask why, I usually asked them as to why did they think they were learning the topic and where were they likely to use it.
Since the course was co-created with students being responsible for their own education and because of having a class which was not traditional, the atmosphere was much more cordial. We laughed a lot, talked about topics from ranging from movies and politics to literature, sports and businesses. It would be great to see if I can better that experience in the coming semester.
Here is a link to my github page with course-notes.