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Revamping of an age-old concept ‘Learning by Teaching’ Striving to create an invaluable workforce

27 November 2013 07:17 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Grad­u­ate un­em­ploy­ment is at­trib­uted by some an­a­lysts to the poor con­tent of de­gree pro­grammes be­ing of­fered and the out­da­ted teach­ing meth­ods adop­ted.  Against this back­drop, the High­er Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­try, as part of its plan for sweep­ing changes in the uni­ver­si­ty cur­ric­u­la, is now head­ing to­wards the in­tro­duc­tion of a new teach­ing meth­od­ol­o­gy at the uni­ver­si­ty, which is the con­cept of learn­ing by teach­ing.  Rath­er than con­fin­ing stu­dents to being mere at­ten­tive lis­ten­ers, stu­dents learn by teach­ing oth­ers in a class.

Dr. Su­nil Jayan­tha Nav­ar­atne, the High­er Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­try Sec­re­ta­ry, has in­tro­duced   the new con­cept to the lo­cal uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem and has con­tex­tual­ised this con­cept, based on in­sights from re­search done at in­ter­na­tion­al­ly re­pu­ted uni­ver­si­ties.   

The qual­i­ty of the con­tents of de­gree pro­grammes of­fered by Sri Lan­ka’s uni­ver­si­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Arts stream, has been ques­tion­a­ble. Lack of skills, in­no­va­tive think­ing and prop­er pub­lic re­la­tion­s are known as rea­sons that di­min­ish the em­ploy­a­bil­i­ty of grad­u­ates pro­duced un­der the age-old teach­er-cen­tred teach­ing proc­ess.



- In an in­ter­view with Dai­ly Mir­ror, Dr. Nav­ar­atne said, though em­ploy­a­bil­i­ty of sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates re­mained high, arts grad­u­ates were en­coun­ter­ing great dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ings jobs in the mod­ern cor­po­rate sec­tor, in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.



" While learn­ing by teach­ing, stu­dents be­come au­then­tic con­trib­u­tors and ex­perts in a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and ap­proach the learn­ing ma­te­ri­als at a high­er lev­el of com­mit­ment, un­der­stand­ing, and pas­sion "



“The same sce­nar­io is faced by ex­ter­nal grad­u­ates. We have to change this sit­ua­tion and pro­duce hu­man cap­i­tal. We need to pro­duce a work­force up­da­ted with skills, knowl­edge, cre­a­tive think­ing and per­son­al qual­i­ties,” he said.

Stress­ing the need to in­cul­cate all these val­ues in un­der­grad­u­ates to mould them in­to qual­i­ty hu­man cap­i­tal, he said ‘teach­ing to learn’ is the con­cept pro­posed in this ex­er­cise.



" The learn­er’s chal­leng­es change dai­ly as do the tech­nol­o­gies we use and the knowl­edge we seek. With all the changes the en­dur­ing val­ues we can count on are re­spect, crit­i­cal think­ing, team­work, and in­tel­lec­tu­al dia­logues. "



Call­ing it a mod­ern teach­ing prin­ci­ple evi­denced in re­search car­ried out at lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties in the world, Dr. Nav­ar­atne said the prac­tice of hav­ing stu­dents to learn by teach­ing, trans­forms the role of a teach­er. “Al­ready, cur­ric­u­lum de­vel­op­ment is un­der­way. We will give free text­books on each sub­ject to stu­dents. These are the text­books used in ad­vanced uni­ver­si­ties in the Uni­ted States and the Uni­ted King­dom,” he said.




" In to­day’s world learn­ing is an ex­treme­ly dy­nam­ic life-long com­mit­ment. The learn­er’s chal­leng­es change dai­ly as do the tech­nol­o­gies we use and the knowl­edge we seek. "



Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Lin Li­nof from the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Texas, who has done ex­ten­sive re­search on this meth­od, ‘teach­ing has be­come scaf­fold­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing an ac­tive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment - it has be­come learn­ing.’

In com­ments pos­ted on his web­site he said, "It is learn­ing to find the stum­bling blocks, gaps, ob­sta­cles, and dis­o­ri­ent­ing mo­ments and al­so learn­ing to scaf­fold and to sit­uate the stu­dents in an en­vi­ron­ment where the stu­dents can help one an­oth­er to dis­cov­er the knowl­edge them­selves.

I see teach­ing as a life-long learn­ing proc­ess. It takes a con­tin­u­ous ef­fort to re­flect on, in­no­vate, and trans­form one’s prac­ti­ces in or­der to be an in­no­va­tive and trans­for­ma­tive teach­er. This is es­pe­cial­ly true as our so­ci­ety changes rap­id­ly with new me­dia and tech­nol­o­gies and as teach­ing and learn­ing are no lon­ger bound by time and space. In prac­tice, I have in­cor­po­ra­ted dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to en­cour­age an ac­tive and stu­dent-cen­tred learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments. One ap­proach is learn­ing by teach­ing as best il­lus­tra­ted in the fol­low­ing learn­ing pyr­a­mid:


The con­cept of learn­ing by teach­ing has been dis­cussed fre­quent­ly in re­search and has been evi­denced in my own re­search (Lin, 2008) and prac­ti­ces. While learn­ing by teach­ing, stu­dents be­come au­then­tic con­trib­u­tors and ex­perts in a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and ap­proach the learn­ing ma­te­ri­als at a high­er lev­el of com­mit­ment, un­der­stand­ing, and pas­sion. With the ev­er-evolv­ing tech­nol­o­gy, rec­og­nis­ing stu­dents’ ex­per­tise is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant, be­cause each stu­dent, not sur­pris­ing­ly, of­ten brings with him or her some spe­cial ex­per­tise and knowl­edge that a teach­er or oth­er stu­dents do not pos­sess. En­cour­ag­ing each stu­dent to be a teach­er pro­vides a pos­i­tive en­er­gy for ev­ery­one to teach and learn from one oth­er.

In to­day’s world learn­ing is an ex­treme­ly dy­nam­ic life-long com­mit­ment. The learn­er’s chal­leng­es change dai­ly as do the tech­nol­o­gies we use and the knowl­edge we seek. With all the changes the en­dur­ing val­ues we can count on are re­spect, crit­i­cal think­ing, team­work, and in­tel­lec­tu­al dia­logues. I see teach­ing as one of the ide­al pro­fes­sions that of­fer such con­tin­u­ous learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties – to learn with col­lea­gues as well as to learn with and from the stu­dents.”
Com­ment­ing on this con­cept, Prof. Sus­ir­ith Men­dis (Phys­i­ol­o­gy –Ru­hu­nu Uni­ver­si­ty) said such a meth­od is al­ways im­por­tant for a high knowl­edge re­ten­tion lev­el for stu­dents. How­ev­er, Prof. Men­dis said it should be done in an or­gan­ised en­vi­ron­ment so that stu­dents per­form teach­ing oth­ers as part of their learn­ing proc­ess, un­der the watch­ful eyes of lec­tur­ers.

“We have to do it care­ful­ly. Stu­dents’ teach­ing abil­i­ties should be checked prop­er­ly,” he said.

Al­so, he said, in med­i­cal fac­ul­ties, it is com­mon that se­nior stu­dents teach their jun­iors.

“It is a prac­tice that has ex­is­ted for years. It is not a new con­cept for med­i­cal fac­ul­ty stu­dents,” he said. 

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