Corporal Punishment in India

It is extremely painful to hear of yet another incident near Mangalore where a child’s life is lost due to the carelessness of a teacher. This incident only highlights the biggest issue facing Indian education today – lack of qualified & sensitive teachers.

Schools today enroll anyone & everyone as part of their faculty & are not stringent about quality. Moreover schools don’t spend time or energies in training teachers & sensitizing them about the needs of children.

I am sure if the physical trainer was effectively qualified (not just had a degree) & if he had basic sensitivity in place, this incident could have been averted. If other schools can take this issue up seriously & put some stringent measures in place such incidents can be avoided.

If I don’t learn the way you teach me, teach me the way I learn… David Kolb

In the last 30 or 40 years, a number of educators have proposed that teaching would be more effective when schools and faculty members take account of differences in students’ learning styles. David Kolb an American educationist focused on experiential learning by which he developed the Learning Styles Model (LSM) that enhances learning.

Experiential learning is a term used to describe the sort of learning undertaken by students who are given a chance to acquire and apply knowledge, skills and feelings in an immediate and relevant setting. Experiential learning thus involves a, ‘direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.’

Experiential Learning…

David A. Kolb created his famous model out of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. He represented these in the famous experiential learning circle that involves (1) concrete experience followed by (2) observation and experience followed by (3) forming abstract concepts followed by (4) testing in new situations. It is a model that appears time and again. Kolb (1975) argues that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four points – and that it should really be approached as a continuous spiral from the educators and faculty point of focus.

According to Kolb, knowing an individual’s (student) learning styles enables learning to be oriented according to the preferred method. Having developed the model over many years prior, David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984. The model gave rise to related terms such as Kolb’s experiential learning theory (ELT), and Kolb’s learning styles inventory (LSI). Most schools today understand the importance of using various teaching approaches / ways of learning to enhance education but may be unaware of the proponent behind the same and its rationale.

According to Kolb (1984), “learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.” He proposes that experiential learning has six main characteristic:

  • Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes
  • Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience
  • Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world (learning is by its very nature full of tension)
  • Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world
  • Learning involves transactions between the person and the environment
  • Learning is the process of creating knowledge that is the result of the transaction between social knowledge and personal knowledge

Kolb’s Learning Styles

The David Kolb learning styles model is based on the Experiential Learning Theory (ELT). According to Kolb’s model, the ideal learning process engages all four of the following modes in response to the situational demands faced by children and adults. In order for learning to be effective, all four of these approaches must be incorporated. As students may attempt to use all four approaches, however, they tend to develop strengths in one experience-grasping approach and one experience-transforming approach.

Kolb’s learning model is based on two continuums that form a quadrant:

  • Processing Continuum: Here the students approach to a task, such as preferring to learn by doing or watching.
  • Perception Continuum: This is the students’ emotional response, such as preferring to learn by thinking or feeling.

According to Kolb, the learning cycle involves four processes that must be present for learning to occur. The resulting learning styles are combinations of the individual’s preferred approaches. These learning styles are as follows:

  • Diverging (Concrete experience) – Emphasizes the innovative and imaginative approach to doing things. Concrete situations are viewed from many perspectives and the child adapts by observation rather than by action. It is feeling-oriented. Cooperative group activities and brainstorming are usually preferred.
  • Assimilating (Reflective observation) – Pulls a number of different observations and thoughts into an integrated whole. The ability to reason inductively results in creation of models. Students like to design projects and experiments.
  • Converging (Abstract conceptualization) – Emphasizes the practical application of ideas and solving problems. Involves decision-making, problem-solving, and the practicable application of ideas.
  • Accommodating (Active experimentation) – Uses trial and error rather than thought and reflection. Students with an accommodating preferred style are good at adapting to changing circumstances; trial-and-error manner, such as discovery learning.

Depending upon the situation or environment, your students as learners may enter the learning cycle at any point and will best learn the new task if they practice all four modes.

Listed below are a few examples:

Learning to ride a bicycle:

    • Reflective observation – Thinking about riding and watching another person ride a bike
    • Abstract conceptualization – Understanding the theory and having a clear grasp of the biking concept
    • Concrete experience – Receiving practical tips and techniques from a biking expert
    • Active experimentation – Leaping on the bike and have a go at it

Learning algebra:

    • Abstract conceptualization – Listening to explanations on what it is
    • Concrete experience – Going step-by-step through an equation
    • Active experimentation – Practicing
    • Reflective observation – Recording what the teacher has taught, gather one’s  thoughts about algebraic equations in the notebook

How the Learning Styles Theory Impacts Education?

Kolb suggests that teachers should assess the learning styles of their students and adapt their classroom methods to best fit each student’s learning style, which is called the ‘meshing hypothesis.’

Thinking about learning styles can lead a teacher to think about different ways of teaching, and that is good. An effective teacher needs to vary techniques and to have an armamentarium of teaching methods and learning activities that can be drawn upon from moment to moment or from week to week to facilitate maximum learning for as many students as possible.

Methods of teaching, ways of representing information, and personality characteristics of teachers all affect learning and affect different learners differently. Learning styles impacts education in the following ways suggests Kolb…

CurriculumEducators/faculty members must place emphasis on intuition, feeling, sensing, and imagination, in addition to the traditional skills of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving.

InstructionTeachers should design their instruction methods to connect with all four learning styles, using various combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation. Instructors can introduce a wide variety of experiential elements into the classroom, such as sound, music, visuals, movement, experience, and even talking.

AssessmentTeachers should employ a variety of assessment techniques, focusing on the development of “whole brain” capacity and each of the different learning styles.

What may be worth noting is that the role of the educator/teacher is diverse and has several orientations. One important aspect is that of facilitator of student learning attempting to provide circumstances that will enable students to engage with their learning styles and construct for themselves their understandings and skills of the knowledge imparted. This role will interact with those of educator as learner himself/herself, a colleague and a community partner.

Aug 2008 – Don’t Dream – Focus on work…

Don’t Dream – Focus on work…

I saw this note on the notice board in a school in Nepal a few days ago while I was there visiting schools and educational institutions to understand how their system works. It prompted me to ask a question – What is the purpose of education? According to me, the purpose of education should be to create future citizens who have the necessary skills to live life and the confidence to transform their dreams into reality. Academic subjects alone do not equip our children to handle demands and situations that they will face ahead in life.

“We need to create future citizens who have the necessary skills to live life and the confidence to transform their dreams into reality.”

Realizing the importance of learning beyond academics; most educational boards in India today have prescribed Extra Curricular Activities (ECA) and Co Curricular Activities (CCA) as part of the curriculum. Inspite of ECA and CCA being part of the curriculum for a long time; schools do not give it due importance. Most often it is treated as a ritual that needs to be fulfilled.

Whenever I visit a school, I make it a point to enquire about the activities conducted beyond the curriculum and the importance given to them by the Institution. I must admit that principals love talking about the achievements of their schools and children in sports and other activities, but the amount of importance given to them compared to academics is very little. In our country we generally have only one scale of measuring the success or quality of a school and that is their ‘academic performance’.

For over 12 years now that I have been organising inter school events apart from facilitating thousands of workshops for students to help them grow as better individuals; I must admit that I have not come across a better way of teaching a child self confidence or self esteem than by giving him an opportunity to speak or perform in front of an audience. Art and creative activities improve their creativity and empathy. Children participating in ECA learn to handle pressure, perform at their peak when required, cope with failure and many such vital skills that shape their lives in future. I would definitely endorse ECA as a wonderful way of learning life skills.

While hosting the Horlicks Wizkids event last week in Mumbai, one of the judges for the singing competition was Ishmeet Singh the winner of Star Voice of India. When I met him he greeted me and said ‘Hello Sir, How you doing?’ I was taken aback and asked him if he knew me. He nodded saying that he was also a participant of Horlicks Wizkids two years back in Ludhiana. Likewise, I come across several successful young people who come up to me and thank me for creating opportunities and platforms that nurture talents. Years ago I thought that ECA were good fun and students love them as they do not have to study. Today I can say with authority that schooling is incomplete if children are not given an opportunity to experience education beyond the curriculum.

Dec 2009 – School meant Leisure…. Originally

I was browsing through the internet to understand more about schooling the other day when I happened to get to the depths of two words – school & education.

‘School’ comes from a Greek term ‘schol?’ which originally meant ‘Leisure’. Now it is such an irony, schools today constitute the biggest reason for stress among children and when the term school is mentioned you would think of everything else but leisure.

The meaning of education is ‘to lead forth’ in Latin, when I look at teenagers today I wonder where have we led them. I firmly believe that when children are born they are angels in the truest sense, we – parents, teachers, society, media etc. are responsible for ‘leading them’ to becoming the ‘devils’. On a serious note let’s accept it that they way we are bringing up our children is not the most desirable. ‘To lead forth’ also brings to my mind an important aspect of children’s upbringing which has to be a combined effort of the home and school.

In the past issue Mentor has been delving deep into some of the oldest institutions of our country and trying to bring their wisdom to the forefront. In our quest of finding old institutions we interacted with several legendary schools and realised the amazing depth and width of Indian education, but one thing that struck us was that very few schools documented their traditions and cultures. It’s a pity that schools don’t spend quality time on documenting their efforts and learning’s and putting them down on paper. Great institutions are build on strong values and foundations that do not change with every new principal or chairman that leads them, documentation makes the foundation firm.

If I take a cue from my own experience, I run 3 companies and each of my companies has a Company Policy which very clearly enlists

–          values & vision of the company

–          scope of work

–          general standards of conduct

–          corporate identity

–          company structure

–          confidential information

–          HR policies – recruitment, staffing, training etc.

–          Disciplinary actions

& much more

If schools can apply this and come up with their own School Policy Books – for teachers, students, parents and management. This would go a long way in bringing about consistency in the way schools function inspite of changes in the teams.

December 10th happens to be Human Rights Day and I thought I will enlighten you about Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays”. Now if you have to ‘lead by example’ I suggest you take a break in December. Take a holiday as it is your right, moreover will bring you face to face with a lot more realities you need to be ready for it.

Wishing you all the luck as you wind up 2009 and get ready to welcome 2010