Ideas : Advanced Teaching Methods

I have often wondered what is that holds back our education system ? Why our children are low on creativity & innovation? Research has recently proven that learning Sanskrit language enhances the grey cells in the brain & promotes better retention of facts & figures. If this be the truth why after years of our ancestors learning Sanskrit we are still unable to develop cutting edge technology?

The answers are a bit complex & will require detailed explanation. The problem lies at two points, the house hold of the learner & the School where this purpoted learning  is being imparted.

Average House holds have the following general atmospherics :-

  • The father is literate / semi – literate/ illiterate, earning for a living.
  • The Mother is literate/semi- literate / illiterate working or handling house hold chores.
  • The enrolment itself starts  on  a wrong note with the age of the ward being falsified to cater for unforeseen circumstances ( failures in class)
  • The conversation in the house is to pass exams & get a job ( A Govt job is manna from heaven)
  • Parents take pride in putting a child on display for guests visiting the house to show how smart the child is in rote learning/cramming by reciting poems etc from school curriculum.
  • Tuitions are now a must as the school has abandoned responsibility of education.
  • Majority of the households give a spin to the concept of Reservation & create negativity that unless the child is a topper there would be no jobs.
  • Among students where Reservation is available as a guarantee , there is a crisis of confidence to excel & beat colleagues by securing better grades  in academic pursuit, as the be all & end all of all aspiration is to get a job by means fair or foul.

 

The School has generally the following Eco-system:-

  • Government aided schools are in a mess ,as the Infrastructure is archaic.
  • Even the poorest of Parent desires to put his children in a private run English Medium school ( reality could be otherwise)
  • Private schools made on subsidized Govt land have become mini empires with their own rites,rituals, process of enrollment , fee structure.
  • Getting one’s ward into a decent school  is a Herculean task & is energy sapping.
  • Once the ward is enrolled in school  , Parents themselves become achievers.
  • Some schools are like cults, bowing ,scraping, subservience can lead to rewards like monitor badges, school appointments.
  • Teaching ,Learning ,Innovating, Research & Development, Modification of Curriculum, Brainstorming,Out of the box thinking & Laughter are all casualties as teachers have to complete the syllabus with little scope of deviation from dictating notes & at times lack of imagination.
  • Teaching is not among the highly paid jobs in the country.
  • Most teachers are misfits as the process of hiring teachers lacks detailed scrutiny & rigour of selection.

To understand & learn a topic quickly these six questions may come in handy (Journalists often use these to narrate their story coherently) :-

Who are the Characters involved ( names,groups,party’s etc) ?

Where are the events unfolding ( location,places,geographical area) ?

What is happening  ( event ,action,work)?

When is it  occuring ( time frame ,dates,year ) ?

Why is it happening ( background information, reasons,causes) ?

How is it impacting ( importance, people,relevance,context) ?

 

It is a known fact that peer learning is the most effective way of teaching or learning, provided the peer who is imparting education or learning has a grip on the subject. For this a teacher pre-designates a topic or lesson to be prepared by the whole class. There is a law of normal distribution which manifests in more ways than one. In a class of say 50 students there will always be 07 or 08 who are brilliant ,sharp,quick on the uptake, who can comprehend & assimilate the topic given . The normal bell curve explaining this phenomenon looks like this :-

 

 

Image result for bell curve for normal distribution

             |——– 16%———–|———————– 68%————————|————–16%———|

( laggards/tail enders)       ( mediocres / average students)      ( toppers/ brilliant)

 

there would be 34 -35 students who are average students ,who may not be able to grasp the topic in its entirety but feign in the class that they have understood every aspect related to the topic. The tail enders , laggards comprise of 07 or 08 students who despite trying their best are struggling to cope with the topic, trying to understand its nuances.

The Teacher  being a facilitator can organize the class in a syndicate or group set up  with one brilliant student, five average students & one or two laggards. Thus creating  seven to eight syndicates wherein the toppers are the communicators who discuss & explain the concept to everyone in their syndicate or group. The teacher goes around monitoring , observing each group from close quarters & as a sample, checks with the weakest student whether the concept has been undertood or otherwise. Notes for the topic are kept as pre- arranged photocopies,tagged books,CD,Pen drive for the class to carry after the lesson is over. To begin with this can commence in class rooms  once a week & then the frequency can be increased. This would be effective from Class 8 onwards, depending on degree of difficulty of the topic / lesson.

This method will have some immediate spin offs:-

  • Learning would be faster & better.
  • Learning will become fun and a game ( because in some other subject, some one else will become the leader of the syndicate)
  • The shy studious type, intelligent but reticent will open up & speak, as he/she  will have to explain the topic to his/her  peers /colleagues.
  • Students will come better prepared as they may not want to be found wanting in front of their colleagues.
  • The average students & tail enders will learn to catch up.
  • Teacher will become a facilitator taking the students on a journey of self discovery.

 

More on how Creativity & Innovation can be initiated in students in my next blog 

 

 

 

 

Territory : Internal Vs External (Kshetra & Kshetrajna)

  1. From the day we join training academies to be transformed from a rookie boy cadet to a trained Officer warrior (gentleman ?) by a process of unparalleled rigorous & thorough training, we are taught to be achievers. In academics, military subjects, sports etc. Achievement is good but a warrior is human & humans need nourishment. The body needs physical nourishment; mind needs mental nourishment, our innermost feelings like hopes/fears/dreams/emotions need reference points and sorting ofcourse our atma/soul/conscience needs righteous reinforcement.

 

  1. Among the entire species that inhabits planet earth, only humans, being on top of the evolutionary ladder are the one’s who can think, imagine & rationalize. They do not exist only for hunting /gathering food, given a chance a human wants to expand, grow and make a sense of the happenings around him to find meaning in life. Human beings are also territorial.

 

  1. We all are aware within us the atma/soul/conscience exists which acts as a judge /policeman/gatekeeper to gently remind us of right conduct/empathy and duty. This is the Kshestragna.Since atma is intangible, immeasurable & cannot be quantified in the physical world, it gets a short shrift, most often neglected, leading to one sided growth.

 

  1. As Officers we are programmed to achieve. Everything from day one has to be quantifiable. Marks, grades, courses, appraisals, ranks, power, pelf, perks, size of bungalows and brass on the uniform. This is the Kshetra (territory). Because the atma resides in a physical body it perforce gets to be defined with individual achievement or property /expanded self.

 

  1. A hierarchical organization like the military infuses a fierce competitive spirit of chasing the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, in a mistaken belief that the next rank/ more power will bring us greater happiness/ satisfaction even if it is I- Me –Myself or a self serving mode. We need to realize that we really feel expansive or big when we touch others lives positively or contribute to something/cause bigger than our own puny self. Our own personal glory /achievements will yield diminishing returns unless the Kshetragna is well catered for.

 

  1. To grow as a balanced human being & more so a warrior who has an exalted value system of sacrifice & duty it is imperative to understand that growth is both external & internal. The Kshetra (external achievements) & Kshetragnainner expansion) have to be in sync. One cannot exist at the cost of the other. In fact both have to be developed in tandem. Many miserable failures today in higher ranks are due to skewed growth externally. They may have all the fancy titles, awards, property & material possessions but feel emptiness/ hollowness in their twilight years. Some carry the burden of guilt to their graves for having done nothing worthwhile & having harmed the deserving subordinates in their own career progression.

 

  1. Introspection, empathy & sensitivity to the environment is the key to balanced growth as a warrior. It is the Kshetra Kshetragna that requires wholesome nourishment. Without quantifiable external achievements how would one achieve a sense of self worth / identity? And without righteous internal nourishment how does one make peace with himself. A harmonious / aligned (internally & externally) individual will not only bring glory to himself but will also be a constant source of inspiration to others .

 

 In fact Lord Sri Krishna while narrating the Holy Bhagvat Gita to Warrior Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra delves on this behavioral aspect of humans. I have made an attempt to explain its connotation in modern times. 

How To Negotiate From A Postion Of Weakness ?

I recently finished a course organized by Harvard Business School on “Negotiations and Deal Making”  at Mumbai. Some wonderful insights that came up during the discussions are :-

1. If your  Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is weak and you have less ground to maneuver do not give up.

2. It is a possibility  that the other side has the same problem ( weak BATNA) If not, then mapping & analysis of the other sides alternatives  can help you in deciding your course of action.

3. Romania after WW- I ( 1919) walked away with nearly double the size of its territory as part of war repatriation though it had the weakest BATNA but their delegation took a position that they were the best bet against the Bolsheviks who were rising in Russia.

4. At times, instead of  concentrating on your respective positions think about interests. A common interest can be found, instead of who is having more power.

5. Try to bring more value to the table in a negotiation/ settlement/ deal by being more creative & imaginative, every deal need not be who wins vs who loses but a win win for both the parties.

Negotiations & Deals are highly complex structured processes but it is not always a boxing match. Empathy will make you a better negotiator.

Empathy : Critical for Leadership

Making points emphatically,pumping fists, mugging up good lines is not Leadership. It is also not “a switch on- switch off mode”. Leadership has to be lived, day in & day out. Merely setting an example is not good enough, where things tend to go wrong is most Leaders are devoid or lacking in empathy. The ability to get the other person’s point of view & understanding why he holds that view ( compulsions,circumstances, influences,monetary situation etc) is empathy.

The combat  military arms used to have a very sound system of well organized platoons / companies wherein each officer knew his men better than their mothers ( knew them) This also included comprehending their emotional needs & counseling them when the chips were down. Nothing connects a person better than understanding his point of view and sharing his/her hopes, aspirations, doubts & fears.

According to Harvard Business Review there are three issues related to  empathy :-

  • It is Exhausting :- Empathy depletes our mental resources. can lead to “compassion fatigue”. demanding nature of work & low pay in non profits (military,police, charities) can exacerbate the element of self sacrifice.
  • It is Zero -Sum :- Empathy just does not drain energy & cognitive resources but it also depletes itself,  the more empathy you devote for your spouse the less you have for your mother. The supply is limited period.
  • It can Erode Ethics :- Empathy can cause lapses in ethical judgement. People are more inclined to cheat when it serves another person,people use this altruism to rationalize their dishonesty.

Empathy is a must for Leadership,just how much is too much is a matter of individual judgement.

A Marvel of Science

15 Laws of everyday Physics easily explained through a short Story. The
applications are genuine & worthy of appreciation as to how Science has
affected our lives & made Life so comfortable. Ideal for children who find Physics uninteresting.

Major Sandeep lifted his 6 feet, four-inch frame from the bed & slowly walked to
the washroom. “Hell what a job, after a hectic briefing session last night, now this
exciting flight to Siachen at 0600h”. As he immersed his huge frame into the bathtub with a hot cup of coffee he felt light & relaxed. Little did he know that Archimedes Principle was in play as the upward thrust of water he felt in the tub was because of the water he had displaced. Unknown in the background, the hum of the air conditioner maintained a steady temperature of 22 degrees Celsius putting the Avogadro’s Law to work as the room was under a steady temperature & pressure allowing an equal number of molecules of all gases in the room ( Nitrogen / Oxygen / Argon/ traces of others) to help in cooling & maintaining the desired temperature.

Flipping a toast from the toaster for that burnt astringent taste he preferred with
his second cup of coffee, he vaguely recollected that Ohm’s Law was the reason
for the current to be passing proportionally between the socket & plug as there
was a potential difference across the two points. As the driver put the key into the
car’s ignition & gunned the engine of the customized Jeep. Tyres screeched as the
vehicle overcame Inertia (Newton’s First Law of Motion) and the driver patiently
awaited the arrival of his boss. Sandeep always travelled light; a knapsack was all
he ever carried. As he jumped into the rear seat, his driver gave him a customary salute & put the vehicle into gear & set it to motion accelerating on the highway to the Airport.

The force generated while speeding on the highway was phenomenal as the engine was
tweaked for better performance & the overall mass of the Jeep kept lighter.
(Newton’s Second Law of Motion).

Arrival at the Airport was chaotic as the early morning passengers were
frenetically moving with their belongings in all directions. As the Jeep came to a
halt, Major Sandeep felt something pull in him back in his seat from the direction
of travel. (Newton’s Third Law of Motion) For every action, there is an equal &
opposite reaction. He laughed under his breath as this was also an important
tactical lesson he always remembered while facing the enemy.

Meanwhile, the turboprop, twin-engine Fokker Friendship aircraft sputtered on
the tarmac & the pilot gave last minute instructions to the mechanic to fix the problem as the force between the electrical charges to fire the high octane fuel
had reduced due to doubling of distance between the charges (Coulomb’s Law)
due to a recent modification in the engine.

Sandeep wore a black jacket to ward off the early morning cold. As he stepped
into the aircraft he kept on wearing the jacket as it would help him in absorbing &
later radiating heat energy (Stefan’s Law) during his mission & the HALO jump.
The engine of the aircraft revved after a brief communication with the ATC & the
pilot released the air brakes & checked the rudder. All external controls were
based on hydraulics. Thus the pressure applied to the controls in the pilot’s cabin
was transmitted to every part of the hydraulic fluid without a loss (Pascal’s Law).

At the rear end of the aircraft hung two parachutes of varying dimensions from
identical suspended springs fastened to hooks in the fuselage. The lighter one
weighing 09 Kgs hung at half a distance from the heavier one weighing 18 Kgs.
(Hooke’s Law) Sandeep reminded himself to wear the lighter one used for free
fall HALO jumps two hours into the journey.

Now the aircraft was taxi tracking on the tarmac with a whine & ever increasing
speed of the propellers, after a short run Sandeep felt a sudden lift (Bernoulli’s
Principle) & the aircraft was airborne as it climbed gently over the sleeping
town. As the pilot gave the engines more gas & worked the speed to cover the
distance quickly & the plane climbed to gain altitude the pressure in the cabin was
maintained & volume of air (gases) kept under control to avoid discomfort
(Boyle’s Law).

After two hours of flight, Sandeep was all strapped & ready for his jump, the NCO
gave him a second round of checks & the red light with hooter went on, the cabin
door opened & he felt a sudden blast of low pressure & temperature as the
temperature in the cabin dropped to zero & further down (Charle’s Law)  on a
thumbs up from the Jump Master he was out with his arms & legs spread-eagled
into the early morning sky over Siachen.

As he jumped out he could see the Sun rising over the horizon & the Moon slowly
fading away. He wondered how such beautiful phenomenon’s of nature occurred
& how an entire solar system lay suspended in space with each planet going
around the Sun in a disciplined orbit (Kepler’s Law) As he went down with
amazing speed in a free fall he saw different colors because of the scattering of
light from small particles suspended in the sky (Tyndall Effect).

As he hurtled down towards the target area, his oxygen cylinder was emptying at
a fast rate diffusing the available oxygen gas (Graham’s Law) into his lungs &
avoiding a blackout due to oxygen starvation. He looked for the target area under
the clear blue sky & gave a gentle tug to the lever opening his main parachute
4000 feet above the ground.

He was on a mission to kill, philosophically he thought to himself, the enemy I
eliminate today will again be reborn somewhere. The first law of thermodynamics
will always remain true as energy can never be created nor destroyed but only
transferred from one form to the other (Law of Conservation of Energy).