Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ideas for injecting student centricness in teacher-centric schools

Teacher centric schools, the most popular format of schools in India, often suffer from one big disadvantage. As teacher teaches students in a group, he cannot customise his 'instructions' for each student to ensure that student 'gets' it. Some student learn, some do not. Child-centric schools like Montessori do not face this problem, because each student is 'addressed' separately by a teacher.

Can teacher-centric schools do something about this? For instance, the best teacher-centric schools in the world, the schools in Finland, have one of the best system to counter one of the central weakness of teacher-centric system. They assess every student immediately after the lesson, spot the lagging student, and then do immediate correction through an alternate teacher.

Another BIG idea that can help a school is to guide student based on his/her strengths and preferences. How can schools do this?

Schools can use Student Guide to help them.

Role of Student Guide : His primary role should be to help the student 'discover' his potential abilities, nurture it using different support systems, and use corrections in the nurturing by monitoring the student's progress. Many schools currently have Psychological counselors, who counsel 'mentally sick' students. Student Guide however should coach 'mentally healthy' students and help him prevent sickness instead of correcting after getting sickness.

Tasks of Student Guide: Student Guide will have 4 main tasks:

1. Profile every student in the school : Profile every student to understand his/her strengths, preferences, study habits, learning blindspots and challenges. More importantly, this should not be done through standard psychometric testing, because these 'snapshot photos' are too static and do not capture the dynamic changes of a child ( at least in India). Instead, this should be done through 'interactive sessions', meaningful engagements, and multiple observational inputs from teachers, students friends. This profiling can be done only for students beyond 7th/8th  class to ensure that students guidance can be focused and deep enough to yield results.

2. Guide students and their parents to unfold their abilities : Use the profiling information to guide student on a path to nurture those strengths. Because a student is too young, he also needs support from his 'family support' system. This includes enabling the student to gain the three core skills of self-starter: planning, communication and self-management. Ideally, this should be incorporated in the basic method of teaching. But , if it is not possible, external 'crucible' interventions can be used.

3. Utilise subject teachers in nurturing these strengths : Enable subject teachers , like physics, maths, language and History to nurture the student's strengths. For instance, helping the teachers to understand the development of three 3 key abilities and what can teachers do to build them in their given subject. The two connections that teachers can help the student are building real life connection of a topic and showing how the topic connects with other subjects. Not every school may be able to utilise teachers due to readiness of the teachers. In that scenario, external teachers can be used to support the school teachers. Many schools use Maths Lab and Science Lab to help their student nurture their specific logical abilities.

4. Fine tune the guidance by monitoring the students progress ( or lack of progress) so that the student gains self confidence in his own abilities. A student whose abilities are rewarded by the school, such as in Science and Maths, do not face this problem. But student with 'different abilities' often suffers from poor self confidence. Such students often need to see the 'ideal path' as well as the 'possible destinations' that their abilities will help them reach. More than anything, student must become a self-starter, who can chose his own direction when the time comes and then has the 'necessary skills' to execute those decisions.


Having worked in 'Talent identification and nurturing' for last 10 years, i have found that the role of schools is not in identifying or nurturing talent, but in exploring cognitive abilities in different domains (arts, science, history, language ) and ensure that the requisite abilities are learnt. Therefore the suggested role of Student guide is not 'talent identification', but 'abilities exploration'.

School should also take sufficient time to find the right Student Guide, because this field is fraught with experts who have the 'education', but lack sufficient 'experience' to work in this field.