Learner Centric Pedagogy: A Contemporary Choice

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Professor N A Nadeem (Syed Nazir Ahmad) left for heavenly abode on 10 June, 2020. A gentle and a soft spoken academic, he was an ace research guide and an expert in academic measurement. An alumnus of SP College, Srinagar, Nadeem had developed a good scientific temper. He always maintained stable behavior and exemplary interpersonal relationships. He had his unique style of functioning and contributed to smooth governance of university setup. He always put forth his viewpoint with a smiling face and had a capacity of higher order tolerance. Professor Nadeem had an understanding of different education philosophies and thinkers. However, he had his own opinion about different issues. A registered resource person at HRD Centre, Kashmir University, he had a good impact on participants during orientation and refresher programs. He was a strong supporter of academic audit to improve upon quality of education. In his company, new knowledge was gained relating to education policies, assessment and curriculum transaction.

Transaction is an essential component of Curriculum Management. It was not very long ago, but just some years back, term ‘lecturer’ was replaced by ‘Assistant Professor’ for those teaching in higher education. Lecturer was used because in traditional method of teaching, lecture is delivered to which students listen. Though, lecturing is befitting for introducing a subject and developing a concept, but it is a monologue where students get limited information and facts from teacher without indulging in any thinking process, analysis or application of content. Though, it has a definite time frame, but being a passive method, it does not encourage individual learning nor is stimulating. Though, lecturing conveys information in short time but it is more teacher-centered than learner-centric. For better understanding of a topic, students are to be involved to apply their own mind and activate their faculties to integrate the concepts for lifelong learning.

There has been a shift from brick to click class room, close book to open book examinations, seminar to webinar and from teacher-centered to student-centric pedagogy. Student-centric learning ignites students to learn, be active participants, make their own decisions and be independent. Student-centered learning strategies shift the focus from teacher to learner, who acts as a facilitator guiding the students rather than giving instructions. This offers opportunity to learners to be active participants in the process and evaluate what they have learnt. It also encourages students to develop the skill of problem solving, critical thinking and life skills. Here, a list of student-centric pedagogies is put forth, which include: brain storming, buzz sessions, case study, concept map, debate, discussion, education through exposure, e-learning, exit slips, fish-bowl, field trips, flipped learning, games, group investigation, hidden talent, horse shoe, in basket exercises, jigsaw, kinesthetic learning, learning outcomes based curriculum framework (LOCF), misconception removal, open book, open choice, peer learning, presentation (oral/power point), précis writing, polling, poster, quiz, role play, round table, reaction sheets, seminar, symposium, socrative design, syntax, syndicate method, think pair share, think tank, viva-voce, videos, webinars, workshops, cross fire and Z to A.

Until now, the 5Es – Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate were used in teacher-centered pedagogy however there is a shift. Learners have to engage themselves in the process of learning in order to explore past knowledge acquired and new knowledge searched for. Students have to make observations and get ready to explore a topic. They have to explain concepts, ideas and present an argument. Further, elaborate them by referring to so many instances and test the validity of their arguments. Finally, have to evaluate the course content they have learnt and this is very important process. Here experiences are shared at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI). At the end of a topic or a practical session, the revered teachers, used to distribute slips to each learner and ask to construct any question based on their understanding and comprehension of the topic. The slips were collected and with some modifications all the questions put together in the form of a questionnaire, was assigned to learners to find and write down brief answers. This is a perfect academic case study of engaging learners fulfilling all the above five E’s of learning.

At the same time, teacher facilitates student-centric learning. From an effective teacher, a student looks to fulfill 5Rs – Relaxed, Relevant, Rapport, Rationale and Research. Students are to be put in a relaxed and conducive learning environment, relevant material to be studied by them, develop good rapport with each other preferably through virtual mode in the current age of technology to forge integrity, rationale or logic to be followed contrary to arrogance to be observed and finally try to come out with new ideas and thoughts. It is possible only when there is inquisitive approach and scientific temper adopted to find the truth. The teacher as a facilitator, coach or guide, councilor or consultant, therefore, has to identify the path that will be walked through by the learners when put in aforesaid phenomenon. The learner centric pedagogies does not absolve teacher from his professional responsibility. A teacher is there to lead the pupil by setting an example as a role model.  Teacher has a challenging role while teaching today’s millennial learners. They enjoy relaxed learning environment, flexible deadlines and expression of their opinions, so a teacher has to create such an environment of collaborative learning. With so much of access to technology and world at their fingertips, topics delivered have to be relevant based on application. Millennial’s seek appropriate directions and appreciate teachers having good rapport to achieve their life goals. They look for rationality behind each instruction or assignment, and if there is rationality behind policies and practices, they respond positively. As these learners are fast as per their age, more learner-centric approach is the need, less lecturing and more collaboration with peers. Thus, a teacher has to do a lot of research over a topic and the learning strategy to be adopted so as to facilitate in engaging learners.

Comparatively, learner-centric pedagogy is far better. It emboldens deeper understanding, critical thinking, problem solving, develops positive attitude,  self-confidence and gaining of other life skills. It develops habit of working in groups, put forth sound arguments, engage in a dialogue and produce ideas and innovations.  But, all this demands more academic work on part of learners with due support of teachers.

Dr. Nazir Ahmad Gilkar is a former commerce teacher and Dr. Shah Ubaid-ullah is Assistant Professor (Biotechnology) at Govt. Degree College, Baramulla. The views expressed are purely their own. Authors availed an opportunity to work with Professor NA Nadeem at CUK.