Labelling a teacher as a good teacher or bad teacher is directly proportional to the attainment of learning outcomes. If the class has attained grade-level competency, it must be due to the teacher’s effort. If not, it might be due to neglect or the teachers’ incompetency. Attributing success or failure to an intervention strategy is a linear approach to looking at the outcome. We are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Systemic issues (read local context) are not considered. The teacher’s voice/reflection get drowned in the cacophony of a drill like preachy workshop routine.
We are a long way from attaining grade-level competency in government schools. We would be mistaken to believe that competency gaps are not the only gaps meddling with students’ learning outcomes. Mindset associated with teaching and learning practices needs to change. In his book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, Freire talked about the Banking Concept of Education, where the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.
This fact is mirrored in the four walls of a government school classroom to date. I have curated a list of systemic issues that need to be given their fair share of emphasis in the capacity-building workshops for teachers.
In government schools, the majority of the students are first-generation learners who work to support their family financially and hence are not regular to schools. Government schools are understaffed with as many as 55-60 students in one class who don’t turn up regularly. Ideally, we would want to cater to every learner’s individual needs, but we don’t have the resources.
Albeit, the learning outcomes espoused by MHRD are attainable by people of relative affluence as they don’t have to worry about opportunity costs (money, food, and shelter) of not coming to school. The socio-economic condition does meddle with the learning outcomes. It is high time that we give up on the notion of one size fits all in our workshops and take local context into account.
In his books, John Hattie has come out with a list of 150 influences that are related to learning outcomes. The teacher-student relationship ranks 10th in this list. In my field interventions, I have, on multiple occasions, observed the dialogical relationship between a teacher and a student. Safe to say that the classroom environment is not conducive to co-intentional learning. Often a teacher, mostly unknowingly, bring their prejudices to the classroom.
A qualitative comparison of several schools’ teacher training found their practices to reflect the culture in which they existed. For example, there was a teacher in one of my schools who said the student couldn’t understand much because she is from a lower caste.
These assumptions get internalized by the student. A teacher is regarded with respect. Respect is often confused with authoritarianism, which in turn annuls fear-free environment. Two researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson in 1968 that proved the extent to which teacher expectations influence student performance.
The “Pygmalion Effect” showed that positive expectations influence student performance, and conversely, negative expectations influence performance negatively. Teacher training must address the idea of fostering a classroom environment that facilitates students’ development, see a learner’s perspective, and communicate back to them.
The workshops are lecture-like, sermonizing, and didactic in design. There is a lack of space for reflection for participants. As an educator, it is imperative to have humility, to know the limitations of one’s practice. It can be very easy for a teacher to fall into comfortable, if not beneficial, patterns over time.
Teacher training must be modelled on reflective teaching, a process of self-examination and self-evaluation that effective educators regularly engage in improving their professional practices.
It can be done through role-play, appreciative inquiry, reflection circles, etc. Kettle and Sellars (1996) found that reflective peer groups encourage student teachers to challenge existing theories and preconceived views of teaching. Coming face to face with their practice would enable them to work on their teaching practices and help improve student performances on their own without the workshop coming across as intrusive.
The pressure of matching up to the learning levels of a student going to private schools is worrisome. We have forgotten that the life chances offered to children in private schools and government schools are not the same. Owing to this pressure, the teachers succumb to running behind attaining those targets, often disappointing.
The hard work that teachers put in for achieving those goals lies in shards, adversely affecting the motivation levels of teachers. The workshops somewhat assume a paternalistic attitude often berating if an individual target is not met.
Workshops need to make teachers believe that they are change agents –that all students can learn and progress. It needs to begin with the acknowledgement that we are not comparing monkeys with monkeys but with lions, maybe.