Reaching the Minds of Students
Jasmine J. has been an assistant professor of education at St. Christopher’s College of Education for 12 years, and she describes her teaching as a source of joy. Whether she is teaching the pedagogy of mathematics to students at St. Christopher’s, or serving as a resource person at United Board faculty development workshops in South India, she maintains a singular focus on her goal: “How can we facilitate the learning of students?”
With support from the United Board, Mrs. Jasmine participated in an online short course offered by Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning; in total, United Board support has enabled 21 educators from nine institutions to take the course. “The Harvard program was a great opportunity,” Mrs. Jasmine said. “What I found most interesting was the focus on psychology and assessment. How can we use psychology to enrich the learning experience for students?”
Her question points to a new generation of learners and the expectations they bring to the classroom. “Previously, the focus was on having teachers impart their knowledge to students,” Mrs. Jasmine explained, “but generational change means teaching styles need to change too.” Learning can’t be passive, the Bok Center instructors pointed out, so teachers need to use games, small group activities, and other techniques to help students “learn by doing.” Mrs. Jasmine appreciated the focus on “backward design,” an approach in which teachers first identify learning outcomes, then develop the assessment tools that will measure evidence of students’ learning, and, finally, plan the learning activities and instruction. The emphasis is on the higher order learning of Bloom’s taxonomy: how can the teacher and the learning activities help students to analyze, synthesize, and create?
This learner-centered approach highlights a challenge for some educators. “We have to go to the students,” Mrs. Jasmine said – and that means teachers need to get comfortable with technology. “For students, everything is oriented to technology, so without technology we cannot reach them,” she pointed out. “We need to be able to reach the minds of our students, and that means connecting with their affective domain” – their feelings, attitudes, and emotions – “in order to reach the cognitive domain.” This was true even before the pandemic and the growing emphasis on remote learning makes ease with technology even more important.
“The minds of all my students are important to me,” Mrs. Jasmine said, and through the Bok Center course and the connections she made with other educators, she gained new insights into how her students’ minds work and how her teaching can bring out the best in them.