August 20, 2019 · blog

Quality of instruction is perhaps the central component to raise an institution’s standards.

‘Quality’ for every stakeholder of education is different. For parents, it is the kind of learning environment the institution provides. For teachers, it is the quality of students, i.e., the number of students who are willing to accomplish higher standards. For employers, it is the quality of outputs an institution produces, etc.

No education system in the world has excelled without making a significant investment in enhancing the teaching methodology. Method of instruction, in general, refers to general principles of teaching, pedagogy and management strategies followed in a classroom environment.

Indian higher education system is one of the largest in the world, but like many other education systems, grapples with the challenges of adopting the right teaching methods.

Here are a few pedagogical approaches to enhance the teaching & learning process for higher education institutions.

1. Strengthen teaching standards

Higher education standards set the vision for teaching & learning. But the vision cannot be realised until the standards permeate the education system, guide the curriculum, mode of instruction, strategies, teacher preparation, professional development, and student assessment. Strengthening teaching standards is the process of carefully designing learning experiences.

For example, in engineering discipline, curriculum should bring an overall development focusing on developing student’s understanding of scientific & engineering practices; crosscutting concepts; disciplinary core ideas; deepening insights into how different parts of the world look at various problems, etc.

2. Plan for a variety of instructional management strategies

Instructional strategies should emphasize not only on the education content but also on the methods & environments of the teaching process; to engage as well as achieve the learning goals of a course. Technology is an integral part of teaching in the current day & age, but nothing can out beat the importance of physical presence to build a strong teacher-student relationship.

  1. The basic approaches to teaching include - teacher-centred & student-centred strategy. While the first one follows the method of accepting students as passive receivers of knowledge through lectures & direct instruction; the latter focuses on equal participation of students and teachers in the learning process. Although both have their pros and cons, a student-centred instruction model has shown success through various qualitative studies. This method can help students open up, demonstrate the processes, and apply the concepts to real-world situations.
  2. Grunert O’ Brien opines active learning method can help students engage in the
    course material and develop a collaborative attitude. Active participation in the
    course lets students take ownership of their goals and motivate them to achieve it.
  3. The theory of multiple intelligence by Dr Howard Gardner suggests that teachers
    should be trained to present their lessons in a variety of ways, including community learning, on-ground training, the inclusion of art & digital technology etc. As a best practice, institutions should organise instructional-skills workshops from industry experts from time to time, which introduces teachers to new teaching methods.
  4. Service learning is a combination of experiential learning & community service. In this process, students learn from actual problems and try to achieve real objectives & in turn, reflect upon themselves. This is a deep-dive approach which can benefit all stakeholders of the community. It offers hands-on experience, develops critical thinking & reasoning skills, helps understand diverse cultures & communities. It can provide new insights & dimensions to classroom discussions, open up new avenues for research & publication. In all, it is a concerted approach to find solutions to real- world issues.
  5. Flipped classrooms – Unlike the traditional methods, in flipped classrooms,
    students are advised to look up on available channels and learn about the topics
    themselves. They are then told to apply the knowledge by solving problems & doing practical work inside the class. This is a typical hands-off instruction method where the teacher gets involved only to see if the application of knowledge is in the right direction. This method allows students to learn at their comfortable pace and actively contribute to the classroom session.

3. Creating meaningful experiences –

A typical class in a college starts with lectures which might not be the most exciting part for many students. Instead, engaging them with discussions, questionnaires, challenges and group activities for a particular topic, in the beginning, can set the context for the lectures and make the sessions enjoyable.

  1. As an example, Steve Stern, a professor in the UW-Madison History department, is famous for breaking up his lectures into an appetiser, main course & desserts! While the appetiser segment is meant to kindle the students’ interest & curiosity, the main course actually explains about the stuff in discussion, and finally, the dessert provides them with questions to broaden learning, a quick assessment, or a final thought. On the whole, this type of engagement creates meaningful experiences for students.
  2. Instructors need to be trained on the art of understanding what drives their
    students, and what matters to them. Norman Eng. (Doctor of Education), in his book ‘Teaching College’, says, ‘Think like advertisers to understand your target market – your students. Whether a lecturer, an assistant professor, or a graduate assistant, the pedagogical success is within the grasp of the teaching faculty.

Higher education system is extremely diverse. The one-size-fits-all, teacher-centred, traditional lecturing approaches cannot bring about required changes in the system. ‘Flexible pedagogy’ and personalising the methods to suit the requirements of a majority of the students is the way forward.

The education policies, henceforth are bound to focus on laying down teaching processes & equipping teachers with right strategies & tools to ensure quality education.

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