Monday, 2 February 2015

TLM (Teaching Learning Materials) Preparation Workshop

The idea of activity-based learning is rooted in the common notion that children are active learners rather than passive recipients of information. If children are provided the opportunity to explore on their own, and provided an optimum learning environment, then the learning becomes joyful and long-lasting. In this context, there is a need to orient teachers and develop appropriate context-specific teaching-learning materials which can be used to enhance the quality of the teaching-learning process. Nowadays children have become more interested in smart class techniques rather than old forms of education, where teachers only do lessons and give notes. Children will grasp the topics fast when we conduct activities about the topics we are going to explain. For this to happen, teachers should show an interest in making the class more active. 

The need for this workshop grew out of our classroom observations in schools.  In many cases we noticed that there was hardly any active participation by children. Though there are activities suggested in the textbook as well as the WebBox in the “DO” section, invariably most teachers just show them as a slideshow just like they use the videos/slideshows in the “SEE” section. This defeats the purpose of the “DO” section. Few of the possible hurdles that teachers face in doing the activities are – lack of material, lack of confidence, fear of an experiment failing in front of students etc. To overcome these we thought of conducting this TLM workshop where we provide the material, and the space for experimentation and teamwork. . The teachers learn working in teams as well as benefit from the models prepared by other teachers. Another advantage is that whatever material is prepared can be taken back by teacher for use in her classroom.

TLMs prepared by Mathematics teachers
TLMs prepared by Science teachers

Details of the Workshop
As a preparatory phase the Regional Programme Associates went through the “DO” section of the 2nd semester chapters and made up a list of activities that could be taken up during the workshop. Based on this list the necessary material was procured and kept ready.

The development of TLMs was carried out in three batches of two days each. The first day of the workshop focused on Science while the second day was focused on Maths. The topics were chosen from the 6th and 7th standard 2nd semester syllabus of the respective subjects. The first batch was held at the Pratham office on 4th and 5th December 2014 and the second batch was held at the Majestic Higher Primary School on 9th and 10th of December, 2014. The final batch was again held at the Pratham office on 15th and 16th December 29, 2014. In all, about 45 teachers participated in these sessions.

To begin with, 2 to 3 teachers were grouped into teams in each batch. Each group was given a chapter. They had to go through the Web Box “DO” section activities related to the chapter and then actually perform or conduct the activity. The Pratham team provided them with the required material. Once they had finished the assigned topic they were free to do more models related to the same topic, or a different topic. At the end of the day each team had to present the topic with the help of the activity / model they had prepared as if they were presenting it in their classrooms. The day ended with the teachers giving us feedback on the workshop.

During the Science workshop, teachers prepared electrical circuits models, water pollution models, covalent and ionic bonds models using beads, and flower model using color papers. They also made charts for a few topics. 

In the Mathematics workshop teachers created material like 3D models, charts for few topics, different shape based 2D representations, bar graphs, pictographs, and models to show circles, indices, exponents, congruence, perimeter of different shapes etc.

Teachers and RPA participated in the TLM Workshop held in Majestic HP School

Teachers were participating in the TLM workshop with enthusiasm and energy. Some teachers came up with their own ideas to make models. They also provided us with some additional ideas for the future. Teachers liked the team work approach where the enthusiasm of a few rubbed off on the others, resulting in a greater output than what we had expected. Teachers showed initiative and took home additional materials to make more models, since they do not have access to materials in schools. The feedback teachers gave about the TLM workshop was that it was very interesting; they would be more confident in using the material in their classrooms and it has given them more clarity of certain concepts. Overall it was a very good experience. We hope that the enthusiasm is taken forward into their classrooms resulting in a better learning environment for children.

Teachers and RPAs working in the TLM Workshop held in Pratham Office

Lessons Learnt
This being the first workshop of its kind to be held in Mysore, we learnt many things along the way.  The most important thing is that solely giving instructions (as in “DO” activities) is not enough. Only when we actually practice it we face several unforeseen challenges.
To cite an example, for preparing an electric circuit we thought LED bulb would be enough with some thin wires and battery to make a circuit. When we are doing the electrical circuit the thin wire would cut off easily when we try to remove insulation of the wire. We also learnt that the LED bulb has polarity just like a battery; connecting it the reverse way does not light it! When we connect the LED light to more two batteries it would burn out. In that process we have lost many LED bulbs. To overcome this problem we had to buy torch bulbs for making electric circuit and we also had to get thicker wires.

Another example to illustrate the importance of practice was:  while creating an electromagnet we thought a small nail, battery and copper wire would suffice.  We realized that the wire supplied has a transparent insulation coated on it which has to be scraped off before making electrical connections. Similarly the length of the nail, and the amount of windings of the wire around the nail all determine the strength of the electromagnet. Through experimentation and several failures we learnt the hard way!
One of the teacher attempted to do the experiment on electrolysis, which was not on our list originally. As per the instructions given it was simple – prepare salt solution in a small plastic container, and use graphite from pencils for electrodes and a battery for power supply. Trying to remove lead (graphite) out from pencils was not successful as it would easily break.  So we resorted to mending the pencils at both the end and connect the exposed ends to the battery and dip the other ends in the salt solution. The concentration of salt was not specified. By trial and error we figured out the quantity of salt in the solution (almost a saturated solution is required) which ensures that electrolysis does take place. Finally after a great effort we could smell success in terms of the pungent chlorine bubbling at the anode - another example of needing to try out experiments beforehand.

Based on the lessons learnt we intend to come up with an “Activity Manual” which gives more detailed and step by step instructions. This would include questions / guidelines at crucial steps so that teachers (and students) do not miss out observing the key points during any activity.  This would be in the form of a hard copy so that the teacher need not rely on the WebBox for the details.
Finally we as a team learnt quite a bit through this workshop. The key learning is that experiments have to be done and the learning we gain especially when things do not turn out the way it is stated in the textbooks (or WebBox) is of incomparable value. That is perhaps the true learning that should happen in every classroom. We hope teachers are now better equipped to be the harbingers of such true learning in their schools!