A paradigm shift in teaching pedagogy: the need of the hour

Rajesh Bhatia

For the longest time, a child’s ‘success’ was measured in terms of his academic performance and Intelligence Quotient (IQ). But does a higher IQ necessarily guarantee success in the long run? According to The Harvard Business Review, IQ tests are a possible predictor of managerial success but not always, as skills such as vocabulary, arithmetic, and spatial reasoning are not really applicable to every workplace. Furthermore, psychologist Daniel Goleman, in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ states that only 20% of a person’s success can be attributed to IQ. He popularized the word Emotional Intelligence (Emotional Quotient or EQ as its derivative) and defined it as the ability to understand, use, and manage one’s own emotions and also influence others in positive ways.

As an educationist, I concur and believe that modern education must be structured in a more holistic way rather than being fixated on a one-dimensional understanding of grade-dependent intelligence. ‘Our curricula need to grow beyond conventions of rote learning and be more interactive, stimulating, engaging, and geared towards the comprehensive development of a child.’ This naturally calls for a change in the role of the teachers from instructors to facilitators who are cognisant of both a child’s emotions and her/his creative and intellectual potential.

Also, we cannot remain oblivious to the challenges posed by digital transformation and evolving job markets, where outdated skills will have no place. This is why it is imperative that students are prepared for rapid technological advancements and a highly competitive employment scenario via modules that develop their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. 

It is time for educational institutions to usher in a paradigm shift in teaching pedagogy and here is how we can achieve that:  

Focus on EQ

In 2002, influenced by Daniel Goleman, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) initiated an international campaign to promote emotional learning in academic institutions. Scholars and eminent professionals underscore the importance of inculcating emotional intelligence in students right from primary school and support learning that boosts their self-confidence, resilience, decision-making abilities, assertiveness, and happiness quotient. When we nurture a child’s EQ, it paves the way for advanced soft skills. Post the pandemic, children have been developing various behavioural issues like anxiety, attention deficit, hyperactivity, and lack of social skills and this is the time to nurture their EQ rather than force them back into the academic stream with no regard for their mental and emotional health. EQ, as studies have shown, also paves the way for academic and professional success.  

Introduce active listening

One of the best ways to nurture EQ is to go beyond chalk-and-talk models and incorporate active listening in teaching. Active listening conveys investment in a child’s point of view and when a teacher paraphrases the key points from a conversation with a student, she/he feels understood and validated. Active listening also demonstrates to students how they too can diffuse tension, win over peers, and build solid trust in their own lives. A lot of teaching right now focuses on how children express themselves without understanding the difficulties they may be facing while trying to communicate. This is why educators must be trained to study non-verbal cues like facial expressions and postures and extend help with unconditional empathy and without judgment. Teaching can never be one-sided and this is why every classroom must be a democratic space where open discussions are encouraged, the questioning spirit nurtured and differences of opinion respected.  

 Focus on holistic learning 

This basically means a shift towards experiential learning of different concepts and building a sense of personhood in a child. One of the greatest educational reformers in America and a founder of the public school system, Horace Mann advocated for character development as one of the key responsibilities in academics way back in the 1840s. A holistic learning environment helps achieve this goal through personalized teaching and recognition of individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests. It accommodates different writing and reading abilities and is both teacher-guided and self-guided. It encourages curiosity and creative expression through co-curricular activities and encourages contributions to the community. This I believe is absolutely critical for building a generation of socially responsible citizenry. Introducing children to plantation drives, food, and resource donation activities and sensitizing them to the needs of the underserved will make them eager to repair social fault lines as they grow up.

Shift to student-centered teaching

Traditional teacher-centered learning has undergone a shift in the 20th century, thanks to the contribution of educationists and psychologists like Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and Lev Vygotsky. In a paper published in 2019, education experts Harrington and DeBruler have mentioned that a teacher can serve as an architect of each student’s learning experience by incorporating blended, personalized or competency based learning models. However, the paper emphasizes that no matter what model is used, student-centered learning must revolve around students and teachers working and collaborating together to choose a path of learning that works best for each individual learner. The paper further says that in a student-centered learning environment, students co-construct their goals and have a ‘voice and choice’ in determining what, how, when, and where the learning occurs. Sounds radical for our over regimented classrooms, right? However, the future of learning and teaching is collaborative because it encourages an active learning process and helps students to develop their physical, intellectual, emotional abilities, and cognitive and social skills. 

Inculcate self-awareness in students

Psychologist Daniel Goleman terms ‘self-awareness’ as the key goal of emotional intelligence. To be self-aware, students need to identify their feelings and emotions and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Once children start to make an honest evaluation of themselves, they will be ready to take criticism and take corrective measures to work towards their goals. There can be classroom discussions on the ‘thoughts-actions-feeling’ cycle where thoughts lead to actions and feelings and this in turn leads to thoughts in a cyclic process. Once students learn how to manage stimuli and triggers, their increased self-awareness will also help them establish healthy relationships with others. Circle time and classroom discussions about feelings and experiences can help students clarify answers to questions like ‘what am I thinking?’ and ‘what do I need to do?’ Exercises in mindfulness could also go a long way in giving students effective mental health tools.

Create a smarter learning environment

UNESCO notes, “Learning environments have changed significantly in the past few decades due to the inclusion of emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT), both hardware and software, as well as a variety of online media in classrooms.” But this is not necessarily the norm and in India, we need to actively introduce students across all strata to smart learning environments and concepts like cloud computing, big data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). With projectors and smart boards, teachers can deliver their lessons more effectively and productively and expand the worldview of students and prepare them for global citizenship.   

The author is a leading educationist, entrepreneur, and founder of TreeHouse Education, who over the last 15 years, has been at the vanguard of providing borderless education in India. He can be reached at @rajeshbhatia1@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply