Shifting to Self-Directed Model of learning

Shifting to Self-Directed Model of learning

Does Digitization of Education Ignore the Social and Emotional Quotient?

In the contemporary times entire globe has witnessed revolutionary changes due to digitization of education. Digital Education in India is seen as a cure for ills of; access, affordability, quality and commercialization of education. It is seen as being capable of giving wide coverage at a low cost. No doubt the ICT (Information & Communication Technology) revolution has paved the way to introduce some breakthroughs in Indian education; students view it a flexible option and teachers find it convenient to prepare their learning plans well aided by technology.  In short it comes as a win-win for all.  It is therefore important to deliberate on whether and, if so, how far the impact of the digitized learning environment in Indian education will change the way in which teachers teach and learners learn. Are these modern technological innovations a menace to established ways of learning and teaching or are they the panacea to overcome some of the difficulties of access and affordability of our education system? Instead of finding out the technical or technological achievements in the field of information and communication which are, of course, revolutionary and to be acknowledged and admired. There is a dire need to analyze, the digital learning environment available in India and in that context what are the abilities, opportunities and the disadvantages. At present the educational experts in India, are deliberating on how to give equal opportunity of quality education to all, in such a situation it is important to understand how digitization of education will impact the schooling provision and the quality of education in the Indian context which is diverse and unique in nature. 

The advocates of digitized education who opposed tradional kindl o learning (e.g., Arnold, 1993; Boud, 1988; Dohmen, 1997; Friedrich and Mandl, 1997; Knowles, 1975; Zimmerman and Schunk, 1989) maintain that the competitive industrialized information and learning society needs a new type of learning which calls for active learners who are able to initiate, plan, implement, control and evaluate and also apply their learning themselves. Here the learners dominate the teaching and learning process whereas the role of the teacher is reduced to that of a facilitator and advisor or counsellor. This is termed as elf directed learning by the advocates of digitized education. The learners have to take over responsibilities for their own learning. They are supposed to be active in order to be able to learn, there is no interference of any person or institution. They will have autonomous learning. But the issue is that our students are not used to a very demanding and ambitious way of learning. The definition of self-directed learning is described as a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes (M. Knowles 1975).  Self-Directed Learning can be considered as learning by oneself (auto-formation), as opposed to learning through the actions of others (hetero-formation) (Carre, 2011). Thus, it can be concluded from the above definition that the self-direction can only be achieved when we are able to accept that critical thinking dialogue discussion between the students and the teachers. But it is not the case with majority of schools in India. There are several challenges like; provision of independent autonomous learning environment, a dependence on hierarchical sources, a focus on traditional system of learning, new approach to learning, a pressure to achieve, intrinsic motivation to learn, and a prior traditional teacher-cantered education.

Frambach et al, (2012). Identified that Self-Directed Learning abilities relate to prior educational and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it seems that the aspiration for learning, and the outcomes of that learning, are influenced by culture, so the learning responsibility locus may be located in the individual or in the collective (Poole). This is true in case of Indian students and their cultural traditions. A large portion of student population are first generation learners in other words, it might be more difficult to promote Self-Directed Learning in traditional Indian society that has some basic issues to handle like accessibility, affordability, quality, poverty, ignorance, lack of motivation etc.  Indian society is also beset with issues like unequal power distribution, low level of income and low productivity.  As per Brookfield (1993) any exercise of self-directness requires certain political conditions be in place. Learners must be able to exercise control over all educational decisions, they must be able to decide the goals, resources, methods and evaluation techniques that should be used. Self-direction calls to shifting to learners control for designing, conducting, and evaluating their learning. In India there are concerns of effectively exercising the independence, free from cultural or political influences. The ability of majority of Indian student to learn on their own is absolutely critical, for them it is not easy to cope with a world that keeps changing and producing new information and knowledge every day. 

However, another big concern/challenge in coping with the modern technology, and shifting to Self-Directed Model from the traditional means of learning is that we unintentionally forget the importance of social and emotional quotient for students. There is a serious concern of losing the personal communication and the personal touch between students and teachers. Our education system cannot only emphasize on academic results, as academic success is not the only important target for the students to be successful in life. Our students must be prepared to be more aware of their emotions to handle the stress and peer pressure when they step out of school and enter higher education and the world of work. Our educational policies time and again emphasized on values and social and emotional development in the students to help them build the ability to understand the feelings of others and controlling their own behaviors as well.  The National Policy on Education (1986) expressed concern over “the erosion of essential values and an increasing cynicism in society”.  It advocated turning education into a “forceful tool for the cultivation of social and moral values”. The Programme of Action of 1992 tried to integrate the various components of value education into the curriculum at all stages of school education. This is hinting on the presence and personal touch of a teacher/mentor in the classroom. It will help students not to lose the discipline and imbibe the universal human values that are directly linked to physical, intellectual, emotional psyche and spiritual facets of human personality. The focus today is on developing emotional quotient in students so that they can lead a successful life. Our students are exposed to challenges like; transition from joint family to nuclear family system, excessive competition, parental expectations, commercialization of education, negative impact of media, misuse of information technology, globalization, consumerism etc. This put immense pressure on them leading to distortion of values. Here teachers have a central role to play in imparting values in the new generation in meeting the challenges of the present times. Promoting social and emotional development for all students in classrooms involves teaching and modeling social and emotional skills, providing opportunities for students to practice and refine those skills, and giving students an opportunity to apply these skills in various situations.  

Thus the concern is that why technology is unable to substitute for good teaching. In fact education at all levels needs sustained motivation for the students to move ahead on the intellectual heights. Though students are exposed to wide range of knowledge and they are naturally curious to learn new things but they require ongoing guidance and encouragement to persevere in the ascent. Students need a caring supervision from human; teachers, parents, and elders. This is the only way of generating motivation in them. All in all, with the increasing social isolation of the modern world, it is moral duty of teachers and parents to teach students the critical life skills of socialization and morals. It is apparent that machines cannot take the place of people and hence, technology will never replace a teacher.

(Author is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education and Psychology, M.S.University of Baroda,