By Vineet Nayar,
Undoubtedly, teachers remain the most critical link between knowledge and learning delivery. The success of a robust education system lies in not just identifying pedagogical strategies or learning gaps alone – both these deficiencies require efficient and effective teachers for the system to produce ideal results.
One of the most fundamental and universal challenges faced by teachers is to bring a sense of parity into a classroom which is diverse. Even though students are classified on the basis of school years, it is a very well-established fact that every student has his own and independent learning trajectory. Quite often, this emerges as a challenge for teachers who have to account for various other conflicting factors such as time-bound teaching schedules. However, the good news is that antidotes to these concerns exist in the form of strategies that can be more effective in bringing all students to the same level. Focusing on using repetition as a tool and emphasising on ‘ease’ is one way to create a sense of parity in the classroom.
The role of repetition, recognition and reinforcement in teaching has been well-established by research. From philosophers like Aristotle to modern thinkers such as Norman Vincent Peale, a well-known mantra is the importance of incorporating repetition through exercises in a way that ensures that new ideas are seeping from the conscious mind to the sub-conscious. Early education, especially that focuses on introducing the fundamentals of any subject is built heavily on creating this repetitive pattern through varieties of learning. For instance, when students are introduced to something as basic as a sleeping line or a standing line, they are not only made to practice drawing it multiple times but also taught to look for the same in real-life objects such as a log of wood or an electricity pole. In many ways this repetition which is also called practice is the building block of developing any skill that eventually leads to accomplishment.
This also allows teachers to take cognizance of the varying levels of learning and student response in a classroom. One of the most fundamental principles is that teachers may not want to graduate to the next stage of learning till it is established that every single student is on the same page. While teachers often struggle to ensure this at every stage, the idea of ‘aasaan hai’ helps them also internalise this sense of ease which then feeds into their pedagogical process. This system of repetition is a two-way street in the sense that not only does repetition help one learn new information, the mind too reacts to such patterns if there is an element of award or reward. This phenomenon is recognised by the field of psychology as positive reinforcement wherein the mind recognises that performing a certain task yields a reward and that is why it constantly performs (and rather well) the said task. Habits are often instilled in young children through this mechanism.
These ideas and principles are especially relevant to the Indian education system if we can successfully build on these to introduce the concept of ‘sab aasaan hai’ (all is easy or all is well, as goes a popular Bollywood song). One may see that when parents introduce a seemingly difficult activity to their children, they preface it with don’t worry, this is easy. These words of encouragement are meant to act as a stepping stone to new ideas and to ensure that any preliminary fears of new concepts are taken care of so that there is no impediment of learning. Millennial internet slang would describe this feeling through the motivational words, ‘you got this.’ What is then the purpose of building such a motivation? This idea is based on the very natural human reaction where learning anything new seems like a Herculean task – at least, prima facie – and triggers fear immediately. This fear can be overwhelming and powerful enough to obstruct the process of learning and make someone feel like they have a learning impairment where none exists. Such a fear is difficult to diagnose or identify and can lead to many learners lag behind in the process. Not only is it a colossal loss of talent – who knows a child afraid of maths today maybe the Aryabhatta of tomorrow – but this is also germinating a feeling of lifelong regret where as adults they may look back and experience a sense of loss of opportunity.
It is well-known that one of the more effective ways of teaching new concepts to children is to build on existing forms of knowledge or use local references. Once again, this borrows from the concept of repetition and reinforcement. So over time, this reinforcement will develop into a ready-made reserve of motivation for a student who is likely to feel more confident and motivated to take up newer challenges. The fear of the unknown or what lies ahead triggers an uncertainty that philosophers and saints have been trying to understand for ages. But successful policy-making requires one to constantly think a step ahead of challenges instead of waiting for them to reveal themselves.
By making this idea of ‘aasaan hai’ an integral part of the curriculum as well as the pedagogy, we will be able to create a generation of learners who will also be equipped to be better teachers and efficient problem-solvers. New age concepts such as design thinking are based on a solution-first approach. What better milestone than early learning to embed the framework with the answers for tomorrow in one’s mind and system?
(The author is Founder Chairman Sampark Foundation and Former CEO HCL Technologies. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily that of Financial Express Online.)