“When one Teaches, Two Learn”

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‘When one teaches, two learn’, is an inspirational quote stated by Robert Heinlein. This quote means that when a person teaches someone it’s not only the student but also the teacher who learns.

According to my experience and understanding, teaching and learning go hand in hand and teaching is a process of learning. E.g. – every time a student asks a question related to the concept, the teacher gets to think in a different direction to clarify the quarries and hence learns.

Having experienced as a soft skills and language trainer in a renowned University in Bangalore, there have been so many instances where I learnt new ways to impart knowledge in classroom. I had to research a lot of ways to bring in more interest in the normally dry topics such as grammar. Every session was a new experience where I learnt what actually grabbed the attention of students and what didn’t.

I know much more now than when I started my career as I have learnt so much in the classroom as a teacher/ trainer.

APPLICATION OF THE STATEMENT IN CLASSROOM:

On talking to other teachers and from my own experience I came up with a few points that I would like to share in this article. The following points talk about the ways one can apply the statement “when one teaches, two learn” in a classroom to make learning more fun and effective:

  • Include group discussion and role plays in the class where the students come up with ways to present their understanding of the concepts. In this case, the class, including the presenters learn the concept in an interesting way.
  • Give students the freedom to disagree to the concepts which not only gives opportunity for them to express but also gives the teacher and the other students an opportunity to open up to interpretations different from the standardized ones.
  • Use “teaching” as assignments and allot topics for the students to teach and conduct quizzes for the rest of the class. This would act as a positive motivation for the students to learn a concept going beyond their curriculum.

I would like to conclude saying, one can be a true teacher when they stop only talking/ preaching and start listening to students’ opinions that gives both the teacher and the students a platform to learn. Saying “I don’t know” or “I’ll let you know in the next class” would not take away credibility of teachers but put in more trust in the students about the teachers and their motivation to keep learning.

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“Bloom’s Hierarchy” Vis – a – Vis “Maslow’s Hierarchy”

Bloom’s Taxonomy, the commonly applied theory of learning, which begins with the lower order of learning (Remembering and Understanding) and goes up to the highest order of Evaluating and Creating.

In the process of learning, motivation is one of the key factors that affects one’s learning. The more motivated one is, the higher level of learning is achieved. When it comes to motivation, Maslow’s Need Hierarchical Pyramid explains the levels of needs that every human works to satisfy. The theory is applied in understanding human motivation, needs and behavior, in the society by sociologists, at work place by management professionals, by advertisers to grab the attention of relevant audience and by psychologists and behavioral scientists.

Let us, as Academicians/ Trainers, analyze Bloom’s Hierarchy Pyramid in the perspective of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy. In both the hierarchies, one can reach the higher level only when one has the lower levels satisfied/accomplished. Refer to the linking diagram below.

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The first level in both the hierarchies is the basic/foundational need. As one needs basic food, shelter and clothing to grow to higher levels of need-satisfaction in life, an individual needs to remember what is taught to move to the higher levels of learning. This is the first level of need in the learning process.

The second level is the sense of security and stability. Considering how satisfying the needs of employment, good health and monetary needs gives one a sense of safety and security in life, having an ability to comprehend the information that we remember gives one a sense of security and stability in the process of learning. This is the second level of need in the learning process.

The third level is the sense of connection and passion. Just as one gets connected with one’s environment and takes responsibility and ownership of one’s roles in relationships, one feels similar connection while applying and analyzing the information and feels passionate about learning. This is the third level of need in the learning process.

The fourth level is the sense of achievement. In this level, one needs to have the motivation, self-confidence and a drive for achieving. In the same way to be able to evaluate knowledge/understanding, one needs to possess self-confidence and sense of achievement in the field of knowledge. This is the fourth level of need in the learning process.

The fifth level is spontaneity, creativity and morality. One is considered to have the highest level of motivation when one is awakened to one’s own inner strength, and takes spontaneous decisions. Similarly, to reach the highest level of learning and contribute new ideas to the area of knowledge, one needs to be creative, spontaneous and have awareness of one’s capabilities and strengths. This is the fifth level of need in the learning process.

Universities and workplaces can utilize this combination of hierarchical theories for good/ better performances and results.

*Published in MSRUAS Newsletter

Adult Learning and Its Application @ Workplace

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Albert Einstein said, “Learning is Experience, everything else is information”, and “I never teach my pupils, I only provide them conditions in which they can learn”. These statements help us understand the nature of adult learning-Experiential, voluntary and self-driven.

This article (based on interviews conducted with teachers and students) throws light on the psychology of adult learning, illustrating how adults learn through the usage of various techniques, which make learning effective and interesting. These techniques would also benefit supervisors at the workplace to train and guide young adults and motivate them to learn:

1)         Creative Learning Methods

These methods deal with innovativeness and originality in learning. Given below are some of the techniques teachers said they were using to make learning more effective.

A. Brainstorming and Group Discussions

Young adults love an interactive way of learning and learn better when they are in groups. Teachers stated that Group Discussions and Brainstorming activities help young adults in sharing their ideas and viewpoints on various topics.

Students too shared that they like to discuss concepts in groups and exchange ideas and examples related to certain topics and concepts. This would help them in the corporate setup where each young employee is given the opportunity to share their ideas about on-going work, and understand the scope of their task better. Brainstorming and Group Discussion activities could be arranged regularly in the form of team meetings as well.

Some young adults also mentioned that they learn and understand well when they debate with their peers on an issue or a problem that they are given to solve which can be used as one of the techniques to make training and learning at the workplace, more interactive

B. Assignments and Original Work

Teachers said that they encourage students to come up with original and innovative work to bring in ownership in the learning process. They mentioned that they like to give assignments which the students enjoy working on and learn without realizing that have learnt something. This way the learning will be long term and not just for a short term goal of writing an exam or in context of in the corporate setup, completing the current project. This method can be used in organizations to bring in ownership in the young employees towards their tasks and roles play in the team.

There are also managers who encourage their young employees to work on original ideas and help them publish the same in various journals.

C. Utilize Flow Charts And Mind Maps To Explain New Projects And Assignments.

Young adults show more interest and grasp better when simple visual representations like Flow Charts and Mind Maps are utilized. This simplifies complicated procedural concepts. In organizations when new projects/initiatives are introduced, these techniques make it simpler and more interesting for the young learners. It would not only help them get a grip on the nature and scope of their tasks but also give them more clarity on their roles in the current project

2)         Multi-sensory Methods

They are techniques where an individual uses more than one sense like eyes, ears and muscles to receive information from the environment and processes them to form a meaning. This information is used through our senses to understand, remembers, solve problems and get new ideas of what they have absorbed from their surroundings. This leads to very active and long term learning.

A. Encourage Participation And Proactive Behavior In All The Activities

Young adults love to be given the opportunity to learn more. They always want a platform or a forum where they can ask questions and get a chance to work on something innovative. On being asked about their preferences in active form of learning, some students mentioned that they love to ask questions till they are convinced and understand a particular problem or a concept. If they are given that space where they can ask more questions and participate, their urge to develop and grow in their area of interest will be kept motivated. This would enhance their work and career satisfaction too.

B. Audio Visual Techniques and Live Demonstrations

Young adults usually find learning more interesting when they watch videos and clips related to the concepts being applied in at work. Some videos (through YouTube or other mediums) that demonstrate or illustrate procedural tasks in a simplified way can be utilized to explain projects in a more interesting way. This will help in giving the employees a clearer picture of their job description.

Another observation is that the young adults love to experience the whole process being carried out by their supervisors which gives them confidence and motivation to perform and grow in their career. The young learners wish to be given the opportunity to evaluate their team members by observing their work and performance. This would enable them to learn where one can go wrong and get hands on experience in giving constructive feedback and also be open to receiving feedback.

3)         Semantic Methods

These methods and techniques of learning deal with giving a meaning to whatever one is learning. Some of the techniques that I came across as very common in the responses I got in the interview are:

A. Meeting On The Scope Of On-going Projects

Each young learner can be given pointers to come prepared to talk about in meetings. It is very important for any employee to keep in touch with the current issues and practices going on in their area of interest. Teachers said that they see to it that their students are up to date with the current trends.

This technique is used by many managers in organizations too.

B. Arrange For Guest Lectures/ Workshop Programs

Young adults like gathering information of how things work outside their organization. This helps them to be more open to learn the same concepts from different perspectives. Companies are already working on arranging regular training programs for their employees from external sources.

All the above techniques and methods would work well with any employee, keep them motivated and satisfied with their job and keep their minds open to learn. At the end of the day every trainer/teacher/professional dealing with adult learners should keep in mind this quote by Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

*Published in Perfect Professional Magazine : Edition 11- ‘What’s your Learning Agenda?’ – Jan 2015, pg – 40

Inculcating Leadership Quality in Students in the Classroom

Leaders are those who help others and themselves do the right things in the right way. They set direction, for innovation. Leadership is an art of mapping out the path to “win” as a team rather than with individual interests.

In today’s competitive world, to get placed in a reputed organisation, freshers need to have an overall combination of knowledge and skills. It is very important that students enter their career with leadership and interpersonal skills that help them collaborate, communicate and work well in a team/organisation.

It is important to inculcate leadership qualities in students in the classroom, keeping the following techniques in mind:

Teaching integrity and honesty in regular classrooms sessions

Honesty and integrity can be taught in core subject classes such as mathematics and science, with morals like ‘cheating is bad’, ‘plagiarism is unacceptable’, ‘being truthful’, etc. Morality, justice and ethics are needed to be a true leader!

Building trust between teachers and students

One of the best qualities of a leader is to build and maintain trust with the followers. It is the trust that allows them to be approachable in case of clarification of doubts and emergencies. Teachers must demonstrate this kind of trust in the classroom in order to help students inculcate leadership qualities.

Social, cognitive and teaching presence of teachers

The attitude of wanting to learn continuously is important for a leader. This can be inculcated in the students with the teachers being available to them socially – outside the classroom, cognitively – the psychological trust (the belief that the person you are trusting is available, approachable and will be able to fulfill the expectation) and comfort the students feel with the teachers, and in teaching – during the classroom session. This availability of teachers to the students can help them learn being helpful.

Visible Vs hidden curriculum

Students learn more when they observe than what they are taught. Visible curriculum is the curriculum that is listed in the syllabus/ module planned to teach the students. Hidden curriculum is the qualities, skills and behavior that the teachers portray in class that the students observe and learn.

Risk taking

Give space to the students to express why they answered a question asked in an interactive session rather than telling them if they were right or wrong. Most students fail to make creative leaders because of the fear of failure or ridicule injected in them through student days. Making students aware that mistakes are a stepping stone to learning is very important to make leaders.

This leads to openness and readiness in students towards creativity and innovative learning. This innovative learning will lead to open mindedness which is required for an effective leader.

Psychology at Work Today

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In today’s life scenario, where the life style, competitions and other external and internal demands on an individual, becomes important to fit into any social set up, a healthy and positive mind is very necessary. Psychology is well needed in every field including education, relationship and marriage, corporate/ industries and clinics.

Psychology at work today is an important department, to keep employees motivated and satisfied to work and perform well. This is not only for the organisational benefits but also for many areas including personal growth and development such as self-confidence, crisis management and problem solving.

Employees spend more than half their day at work and then return to their personal life. Balancing between their personal and professional commitments plays a vital role in maintaining a good physiological, psychological and emotional health.

The article shares pointers from a casual talk with  Anitha, a 28 year old Software Engineer with B.Tech degree, who has has been working in an European based Multi National Company for the last two years (identity and background changed for the article)

What is her experience of balancing personal and professional life?

She says she is more stressed at work than personal life. Sometimes, personal stress can distract her and keeps her from concentrating at work but her work stress does not affect her in her personal life. She never worries about work outside the office. She feels getting right results for her project is a big burden on her. She gets really stressed when she is not able to get a required results and this might affect her performance at work.

How does she cope with the imbalance?

After being suggested, she makes a conscious effort not to be distracted by personal problems at work by scheduling herself with targets for the day and does not allow herself from thinking about her worries. She also tries to go about her projects with a positive attitude that she will be able to reach her set goal for the day before she gets back home. She says she is very successful in her efforts to keep the balance between her personal and professional worries. Although she shared that initially it was difficult to even consciously make efforts in trying to keep the balance between work and life but things have become better with experience and exposure.

What can companies do to help employees maintain the balance?

The HR managers can play an important role in such situations by giving the employees certain space to make independent decisions about their career and life so as to maintain the balance. They can appoint organisational counselors or psychologists to help the employees handle their difficult times in a constructive manner. A supervisor/ manager/ employer can also be given training in being a good mentor for their employees, making them not just good but an effective leader which will improve the quality of the working conditions in the organisation.