Dr. Shampa Chakravery has more than 25 years of academic experience and 5 years of corporate experience. In this article, she writes about how teachers teaching in various engineering institutes can utilize Technology and change their teaching methodologies which will enhance the students' learning experiences.
Spurred by the general perception that an engineering degree leads to attractive careers, engineering disciplines are among the most favored avenues for higher education in our country. Sadly, this hype has impacted in not so positive ways, the manner in which engineering courses are designed and taught in our classrooms. In order to cater to the much misunderstood requirement of being prepared for the industry, knowledge is often structured in water tight compartments and imparted as capsules, ostensibly leading students to the state of being "industry-ready". We need to seriously reshape our classroom pedagogical methods to equip our students with qualities that would not just induct them into the industry but more significantly, ensure their long term contribution to an ever-evolving world of technology.
Highlight interplay of multiple concepts
Almost all core engineering subjects contain a spectrum of interrelated concepts spanning several subjects and even disciplines. Traditionally, faculty members devote a full class hour towards focused coverage of a single topic. However, today the answer to any query is just a few keystrokes away. What we really need is to enhance higher order thinking by drawing attention to the synergy among multiple concepts. The "overlapped concepts" pedagogical style highlights the linkages between concepts.
Pattern the subject as a sequence of major themes. Visualize each major theme as the opening up of a wide-view window. Now, relevant portions of related concepts are deliberately brought into the purview to highlight their relevance to the current theme ï¿½ akin to opening up of several contraptions to orchestrate a panoramic view of the central theme. Later when a new theme is focussed on, these interrelationships are revisited and fresh ones established. The subject thus flows in continuum.
Tap the power of questioning
Questioning is a natural virtue in students, but its pedagogical potential is seldom exploited in class. When the thrust of learning shifts from single to multiple interdependent concepts, students may feel an initial discomfiture. If channelized properly, this can indeed act as a catalyst to questioning. Instead of answering their queries immediately, the teacher should encourage several students to field questions and then help the entire group to build a problem scenario that incorporates most of the issues highlighted. The moot point is that the very process of spontaneous questioning and constructing complex problem scenarios lends to the recognition of multiple concepts to solve them. The process of intrinsic learning starts right there ï¿½ through collaborative questioning.
The teacher can now initiate and guide through the next stage - finding solutions. When challenged with complex scenarios, students naturally engage in lively peer discussion to propose alternative solutions by applying different combinations of concepts, thereby triggering lateral thinking and creative ideation.
Start a class blog
An array of technology enabled options is available today and it is indeed being enthusiastically adopted by teachers and students to enhance the teaching learning experience. It is interesting to explore how they can be tapped to bring to surface latent creative abilities of students.
Starting a class blog is a great way to initiate proactive participation by all kinds of students. Let them take turns to post summaries of classroom discussions, teacher-student interactions, issues raised and even interesting class anecdotes, using the blog-sphere as an interactive platform.
This creative avenue for extending class hours has several spinoff benefits. It automatically generates a running record of all the concepts that have been covered in class. Students who have missed some classes thus remain in sync. Some students who are intrinsically reticent in class find a refreshing outlet through creative writing. This fact may actually help teachers in recognizing those students whose class participation or test performances may not reflect their true potential.
Blog enabled discussions generate a positive atmosphere of collaborative learning. Students engage in interesting debates through post and comments. If a student has a partial understanding of a topic, peers immediately rectify it. Students appreciate each other's views-points. Most students independently explore the web for expanding their knowledge and share it with peers. These mutually beneficial interactions for professional endeavours foster team spirit.
Once initiated by the teacher, a class blog is best carried forward by students themselves. Sometimes however, an instructor misses the fact that whatever he or she is trying to communicate in class is not getting across to the students in full measure. This results in faulty understanding of certain concepts that may otherwise go unnoticed. Maintaining a class blog helps uncover instances misinterpretations among students. When discovered, the teacher must intervene to post explanations for clarifying the concept in greater detail.
Tackle the depth aspect
A flip side of dwelling on concept-linkages is that it leaves little time to delve deep into a single topic. To tackle this, teachers can motivate students to embark upon a journey of exploratory learning through term-projects, creative assignments, and competitive technological proposals.
Every teacher leaves an imprint of his/her persona in the class. We need to think out of the box and devise innovative ways of disseminating knowledge in the classroom so that a whole new process of enjoyable teaching-learning ensues.