Thursday, 23 January 2014

Does Experiential Pedagogy lead to Joyful Learning?

When my Principal, described the benefits of  experiential and participatory pedagogy, I was a little doubtful whether it would be really worth the time. However, being curious, I decided to give it a try with my Eighth Grade students. The topic before me was Newspaper Reports, a higher order writing task for which I decided to adopt a more participatory and student centered pedagogy. To make the lesson more student involved, I planned as follows:
1.The first meeting of one hour was devoted to the listing of the learning outcomes. This included specifics dealing with the format, value points, tense form, the heading and the by-line. 
2. On the second day, which was a thirty minutes session, I divided the whole class into groups of five students each. The groups were given their topics and then they were told to write relevant notes on the value points based on the inverted pyramid format where the first paragraph would be based on the following value points: what, where, who, why, when, the second paragraph would be based on the how value points, a summary of the events, and the third paragraph would include the conclusion-students expressing their ideas about what they liked about the event or, what they thought could have been done better, or perhaps how they felt about the event. This was a very noisy session as the students kept discussing their value points, often calling out to me for clarifications. I had to keep reminding the students to keep their voices low. It was a great feeling to see the students wracking their brains for the best possible points.The second day passed away in this manner.
3.On the third day, which again was a thirty session, the different groups were called out to read out their value points. After they had read out their value points, the other students were asked to voice their observations and suggestions on what they they thought could have been done better. This was the peer-assessment session of the lesson. Most of the suggestions were pertinent and relevant! I was amazed to see how well the students of the other groups came up with really interesting and relevant suggestions. The group that was presenting the rough draft did give a spirited defence wherever possible. I did step in when I felt that  had to moderate the discussion. Out of the five groups, three groups were able to present their ideas for the report. I was not disturbed by the fact that only three groups had been able to present their ideas, because I felt that a lot more learning had taken place because of the discussions.
4. The fourth day was devoted to the hearing of the  notes, and outline based on the value points of the report of the remaining two groups, and the reading of the first draft of the three groups. The two groups who had to read out the outline took about fifteen minutes of the one hour class. After they had made their presentations, I told the students to convert their rough points or outline into the first draft. There was a healthy competition among the students to come up with a first draft. After giving the students about twenty minutes, it was time to listen to a reading of the first draft of their reports. I was amazed by the quality of the first drafts as presented by the students in class. They had somehow come up with the most accurate and relevant formats and their value points had been well placed. After each group had read their presentation, there was a brief discussion of suggestions about improvements. I intervened wherever possible, and then instructed the students to photocopy their final drafts in their notebooks for correction by me. It had been a wonderful example of participative, collaborative and student-centric learning where the students had themselves come up with corrections and suggestions. The students also got a training in constructive criticism, they actively participated in the learning process, and there was a sense of pride and ownership about the end product.
The take away for me was that the participation, collaboration, and student-centric approach in the pedagogy did have its benefits. When students were made to think actively, and to learn to peer asses presentations constructively, it ensured that effective learning had taken place, especially because the students in the learning process!The more weak students also benefitted because they were part of a group of students who could train and coach them. The objective of differential learning was thus addressed effectively!  The benefits of experiential learning can, as such not be ignored! The benefits of experimenting with better techniques of pedagogy should be encouraged in all educationists by their immediate superiors! The class might have been a little noisy, but then I was not worried by this because I could see that active learning was definitely taking place! The key observations for this lesson suggest that collaborative learning had taken place, the workload didn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of the teacher, there was peer assessment which provided a healthy atmosphere of moderated debate.Yes, I am sure this approach would work equally well with senior students of grade twelve, I am positive!

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