Blending in

Dr Laghate feels that importance should be laid on the fact that learning styles are changing, and increasingly, educators should assume the role of facilitators.

Blending in

Traditionally, a class is taught by a teacher mainly through lectures – it provides a singular medium of instruction. The teacher presents information in an oral presentation while students listen, take notes and occasionally ask questions. This method sometimes leaves little room for class discussion or hands-on work; the teacher is the focal point and usually takes most of the class time. Grades are usually based on written exams.

This method of teaching is often hard to duplicate in an environment where knowledge is all-encompassing and easily available, where changing mindsets of students should lead to changing mindsets of the teachers as well. Dr Indu Shahni, Dean of HR College of Commerce and Economics rightly puts it when she says, “No longer is the teacher a sage on the stage, but a guide by the side.” Increasingly teachers are being viewed as facilitators, especially in professional institutions looking to offer specialised knowledge.

A facilitator is an instructor who leads the class in discussions based on the material covered. This is a student-centred approach. Facilitators rarely lecture; instead, they lead the class to discuss the material and share personal insights from real-world examples. This approach allows students to apply the information to their own situations, making the learning more meaningful to them.

While both approaches are effective in their own ways, new-age learning is better suited to a facilitator approach to teaching because of the delivery system, student learning styles and student interaction. Information now can be delivered over a number of channels, not just physical books, it is usually delivered through reading assignments, posting discussion questions and various electronic presentations (eg, video, PowerPoint or audio). While lectures can be delivered through these methods, the impact is not quite the same.

Also, studies have shown that there is diversity in learning styles among students, so focusing on only one method of presentation limits the effectiveness of the instruction.

This effectively means that teachers cannot now get away with knowledge acquired a few years ago. They have to be dynamic, and have to be abreast of the field – not only academically, but also industry-wise, to conduct lively sessions with students and engage them for the duration of the session.

What does this mean for students? It means that many classes use the facilitator approach, which requires more inputs from students as well, compared to a traditional classroom. Students can’t hide in the back of the classroom because all other postings from students are monitored and saved, so an instructor knows exactly how much time you have spent in the class as well as how much you’ve added to the discussion. Many classes require you to post answers to discussion questions regularly in order to receive participation points, whereas in a traditional class, the teacher only took attendance. Some students may see this as a negative, but the truth is the student gets a lot out of the arrangement as well. The more you interact with the material and can apply it to your situation, the more you will be able to learn. After all, isn’t that why you opted for the course in the first place?

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