Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Conceptual Learning; pedagogical approach

Conceptual Learning; pedagogical approach

Education in broader sense is the process in which the learner constructs knowledge system of the social setting he or she lives in; what is experiential or empirical is correlated, tested and inferences are made. As the children grow they construct their own images about their immediate environment, the family, the society and the vast universe; quite often these imageries either stem out of the immediate cultural setting the children lives with or from the emotional intelligence. Education is set of scientific tools to enable the learner to make further investigation in to what they already know and to comprehend it based on a particular method of investigation to draw proper inferences; education is the journey of observing, knowing, transacting about it with the wider society and arriving at what is truthful but not just transmission of information from one pole to the other. At wider level it’s not just set of information but seeking of wisdom and internal or subjective strength to contemplate upon, to draw inferences to cope up with the immediate society they live with.

In the conventional education system the “the taught” is perceived as the mere receiver of information rather than recognizing the potentiality of the emotional intelligence if the little learner. The learner’s potentiality is either undermined or their subjective strength un recognized, emotional intelligence suppressed and is reduced to a passive listener and receiver of cargo of information at the other end. Often class rooms turn out to be traumatic and phony not recognizing the skills and wisdoms or methods of knowing and investigating capability of the pupil. Monotonous transmission of textual information as observed by us doesn’t enable the learner to retain any set of information that is transmitted; instead it makes the student fall in to lethargy and feel sleepy. The set of information that is transmitted out of the context neither interests neither the learner nor the text which is seen as curricula interest the learner. The text doesn’t help the learner to relate it to what he or she already knows since the information is transmitted in fragments out of the particular context the leaner is living. Most often while the tutor is engaged with constant transmission of information the taught gets distracted to escape the phony and monotony of transmission and engages in discussions among themselves; either the taught are immersed in their own world of finer nuances of their emotional intelligence which the phony transmission cannot bridge across. Hence it’s required to engage the students to build connectedness between the nuances of their emotional intelligence with what is required to be inferred upon to arrive at what is nearer to scientific truth. Self searching engages the learner in making their own investigations to reflect upon and to arrive at basic conceptual understanding of the particular area of knowledge; text books can only help them to correlate their conceptual learning and to correct the mistakes; the role of the tutor is to be seen as a friendly guide equipped with proper tools to provide basic guidance and to see that the learners are on the right track of knowing. This process of self learning invokes a sense of responsibility, inculcates the sense civility to transact with peers and to work collectively to make the journey of knowing easy cruising. This is perceived as active learning instead of passive receiver of information; since they make their own efforts to make investigation in to particular given or voluntarily selected concept of the curricula and to make presentations to co peer groups, the knowledge gets encrypted in learners and enhances the memory retention capability in them.

Why conceptual learning (concept based polycentric class rooms)

Conceptual learning can be seen as an effective methodology since the very process of the multilateral converse groups formulate the class room and opens up Pandora of queries from pupil which demands for obliteration of truncated text. Once the unilateral, monotonous transmission of information is stopped and democratic norms are set up in teaching methodology multilateral discussion, sharing of information, validating the available information would start and reflected upon by various peer groups within the class. Quite often the pupil not just obliterate the truncated text but  the inner cravings of pupil at growth stage demands for making or seeing interconnectedness with concepts that are distributed in other chapters of the same text book. A particular chapter of the text might open up diverse nature of questions which either demands for obliteration of a particular chapter or to go beyond text book itself. Take Science text for instance (Science 8th standard, Govt of Karnataka), Only a conventionally trained teacher can dictate terms to students to see various chapters as separate entities, but the curious pupil defies( only if given a chance by democratize schooling) to do so since they see interconnected in other chapters or in other disciplines of the study. Probably the classification of various areas in life sciences is only a technical obligation but for the seeker of knowledge the technical obligations matter a very little; pupil tend to move beyond and find answers since they crave for connectedness. Let’s take food production (chapter 22) and study of cells (chapter 5). The learners tend to ask question which fall out of the textual borders particularly in the context of these 2 chapters rather they make obliterations to see the connectedness. Chapter 22 discusses various aspects basic requirements for food production, just mentions about roots absorbing the nutrients from soil. The basic questions that arises from these classifications rather fragmentation of texts would be diverse levels of skepticism about the text itself. Typical learner’s questions on this would be ‘how can plants absorb nutrients against the earth’s gravitational pull?’

What the teacher tend to do is he postpones the answer or else avoids the question under one or the other pretext of either by citing the border of study discipline or else variable nature of study chapters; ultimately this muffles the learners craving and curiosity to know, to reflect upon and to contemplate. These are some of the key elements that are addressed while we design the texts either by compartmentalizing the study disciplines or else by not showing interconnectedness. If the little learner is not provided with various clues regarding how to move beyond the text and particular discipline and enable him to find resolution the conflict occurs in young minds, gets wounded and heads towards skepticism. What shall we do in such peculiar situation which stems out from compartmentalization of learning disciplines and chapters? Therefore the class rooms are required to make a departure from constricting the learner’s young mind and to move towards democratizing the class room by transcending it from unilateral transmission of information to multilateral conversing sessions to search for suitable resolutions to avoid skepticism in the class rooms. This transcendence of class rooms basically demands for resources that are variable in nature and tend crave for mono centric to polycentric in which condition teachers role is seen as that of a well equipped resource person; a democratic facilitator, a friend philosopher and a guide.

Learners tend to see finer nuances while studying various disciplines and the need to be addressed there in the class room itself instead muffling them or else by postponing or asking them to seek for resolutions somewhere else.

Empowering of teachers is another methodology which is looked at but again it can’t invoke the senses of learners to search for answers and resolutions for constant occurrence of conflicts among diverse varieties of know how; inter connectedness, collating and interpolating and amalgamation by peer, concept centric groups is the way out seek resolutions making the class room in to multicentric searchers and polycentric self seekers of various know ledges to arrive at the truth. This conductivity in the class room enables the little learners to enhance their skills brings in self confidence and their behavioral patterns in the class room and society would tend to bring in qualitative change.

This age group is one which is trying to construct their sense of self identity, their own unique style of behavior and their own style of conversing and communicating with peers and with the teaching facilitator; tend to construct their own egos and this requires to be encouraged by not just calling them by names but recognizing each ones unique nature and style of learning. Recognition of ones identity and would enhance their pride and polycentric multilateral transmission and mutual interaction would bring in a healthy competition among peers and groups and this eases tensed atmosphere in the class rooms.

The functioning of polycentric, Conceptual learning space

Let us take the prevailing conflicting area at hand and see how the learners multicentric peer groups, the teaching guide resolve it, what’s going to be the guides and learners journey in this process. The conflicting area is that the chapter ‘food production’ simply states that Plant roots absorb nutrients from soil but doesn’t grapple with the conflicting area that occurs in the learners mind that ‘how can plants absorb nutrients defying the earth’s gravitational pull’? The learners logic would be somewhat like this: the plant canopies are above the earth and there would be gravitational pull, how can the plants absorb nutrients against the gravitational pull ?

This conflicting area in learners mind need to be resolved within the class by the concept based peer groups. All the elements that are in conflict with each other are required to be identified by the facilitating guide, if for instance if the gravitational pull of the earth in conflict with roots absorbing the nutrients defying gravity. These are the concepts that need to be investigated by the peer groups though this falls outside the ambit of the given chapter and text book. The facilitating guide might have readymade answers to immediately resolve the conflict by just transmitting it, but ones the peer groups are assigned with this to investigate the nature and process of the class room changes qualitatively. Since the conflicting area of gravitational pull of the earth and the plant root absorption of nutrients defying the gravity is much complex than how simple it seems and generates cascades of questions; one question heading to another. Ultimately the questions that arises from these concepts would be in what form are the nutrients available to for plant roots? If the plant had to absorb these nutrients what is the process in which nutrients move upwards defying the gravity? What is the internal structure of the roots to absorb these nutrients?

Having these conceptual questions at hand the peer groups would be formed in accordance with learners area of interests and affinities to make further investigations. The facilitating guides journey is to enable the learners/ the young investigators to give instructions about the methodology, the use of resources that are immediately available to find suitable resolutions for all the areas of conflicts that are at hand. Lets us now assume all the 3 groups voluntarily choose their own areas of interest, make collective attempt to browse through various resource, gather information for the conceptual questions and come back to present their findings to the rest of the groups in the class room the outcome would be somewhat like this:

Group A: The nutrients in the soil are available to plants in Ionic form

Group B: The plant tissue membranes absorb the nutrients

Group C: The Osmotic pressure in the root sphere might defy the earth’s gravity to enable the        plants roots to absorb nutrients

So the process is breeding new questions and thus is the methodology of investigation in sciences; this cascading effect of breeding new questions and problem areas in science learning cannot get encrypted in students memory unless they does it on their own; this cascading effect and questions arising in young fertile minds is not properly addressed in both the curricula and in the prevailing teaching methodology.

Let’s assume now the next generation of questions arising out of the initial level of investigation would be: A) What is Ion and what is ionic form, 2) Why Ions defy the gravity and move upwards to the plant canopy, C) What is Osmotic pressure in the plant root zone? Does Osmotic pressure defy the gravity?

Science teaching obviously breeds newer generation of questions and this breeding of questions is typically akin to the very nature of science and requires to be effectively addressed to get the complete process of investigation and the findings get encrypted in learner’s memory. This methodology of science teaching in class rooms builds stable premises in the learners mind to make further investigations and brings in self confidence to properly address the cascading effect that science learning breeds and to take on the new challenges that are ahead; and thus the subject matter prescribed doesn’t look alien and abstract to young learners.

Science learning involves dimensions such as already prevailing notions or cultural constructs of a particular concept which needs to be addressed only suitably replacing it by one’s own effort and multiple cosmologies continue to prevail even after continuous transmission of information around a particular, given scientific concept and this requires to addressed and tread upon on a culturally sensitive terrain instead abruption in to the cultural psyche of the young learner. The romantic imageries that are constructed in the childhood either through grand ma’s stories or through prevailing cultural, cosmological world views cannot be replaced and make science learning easy to cruise through unless the learners gets prepared, construct their own premises of scientific investigation methodology and thus is visualization of concept and learners polycentric class rooms in which the facilitating guide has a greater role to play; responsibly sensitive to the learners requirement, the cultural mileu and the most being commitment to scientific investigation methodology; a friendly philosopher and a guide.

L.C. Nagaraj, 

Independent Researcher.