Mr. Swapnil Pathare

In the traditional education systems of India, results are defined by the scores achieved by the learner in written examinations conducted by the school. This checks the memorizing capacity of the learner and not their understanding, leading to the loss of application of that knowledge. This leads to the construction of weak foundation learning elements which are vital for the proper development of the skills during higher education. This situation is further troublesome for the divergent thinkers. With the lack of a proper approach a divergent thinker can get converted into a slow learner and one such approach is “teaching through passive learning” where in the teacher enters the classroom, verbally shares information and then leaves the classroom at the end. This highlights the absolute low levels of learner involvement in class. Under such conditions the session gets boring and the learner loses his/her interest in the same resulting into an almost zero gain of knowledge at the end of the day. However, active learning can act as a tool to solve this issue and help the divergent thinkers in the classroom in the process of learning. Through active learning a teacher can infuse fun and excitement into the process of learning thereby encouraging learner involvement through various activities into the process thereby eliminating scope of isolation and stimulating growth. Divergent thinkers face difficulties in the process of learning also due to a lack of focus. The use of teaching strategies in the classroom, to promote learning through application and participation can be a powerful method to help these learners gain focus. Learners exposed to active learning can stand parallel to the general learners in all aspects when routed through active learning, is the conclusion that I envisage from the changes observed within the divergent learner in my class.

Key words : Divergent thinking, passive learning, active learning, teaching strategies.

Introduction

The schooling phase of every learner is a vital zone in the learner’s life where in he/she should acquire basic mental skills, like stress control and relaxation, mental imagery, goal setting and focusing (Orlick and McCaffrey, 1991). These skills play an important role in the process of learning across any stream in the years after school. These essential skills can be called as foundation learning elements as they are important life skills.

A 2006 report from the British Medical Association supported the fact that anxiety is increasing within school children. An increase in anxiety can lead to the formation of mental health issues in later years. Therefore it is important for learners in school to be taught how to relax. Mental imagery also known as visualization (Zalta et al., 2014) has many benefits for the learner, like ; it aids in the process of understanding and remembering information; it helps the learner to frame and express complex ideas in a simplified structure; in collaboration with spatial teaching strategies it can help learners to handle their thoughts (Chang, 2007). Research on the powerful impact of stress conducted by John Hopkins School of Education states that when stress is positive it leads to the creation of positive responses within the learner and this further results into the stimulation of higher thinking and activities. However when stress is negative it instigates the creation of a mind-set which is damaging to the mental status of the individual (Tennant, 2005). Therefore stress control is also a vital skill to be taught during schooling. Goal setting can be used as a tool to develop the learner’s mind-set to enjoy the process of learning. The act of goal setting moves the focus of an individual to better results and conditions as compared to what he/she is at present experiencing (Locke and Latham, 2002). This movement makes the individual unhappy with his/her existing situation and encourages them to work towards achieving the better. This is applicable for all age groups but for the learners it can act a source of self motivation and inculcate the ability to explore beyond their comfort zones. To focus is to pay attention to. Focusing is a skill that helps deepen the understanding of the topic by carefully arranging the related thoughts in a sequence that the learner is comfortable with thereby easing the process of analysis for the learner.

At present except for focus and mental imagery, to a limited extent, the other mentioned life skills are not being properly focused upon in the approach of the traditional education system in India. In India the school education system is made up of two divisions mainly primary school and secondary school. Primary school includes the pre-primary section, also known as kindergarten and abbreviated as KG, and grades 1 to 4. Secondary school includes grades 5 to 10. The curriculums offered in India at the school level are looked into by an apex body, the National Council of Educational Research and Training – NCERT (Chandak et al., 2009). Throughout schooling a set pattern of learning and teaching procedure has been flowing for years. In this pattern the teacher is responsible for delivery of instructed sessions throughout the year and on the basis of the curriculum covered via these teaching sessions assessments in the form of a written, oral and practical examination are held at periodic internal in an academic year. The oral examination is particularly for the primary years. The issue with this assessment system is the fact that the quantity of matter to be learnt is huge and the format to decide if you are good or not is based on how much you can memorize and reproduce during the written examinations. Therefore accessing the learners memorizing capacity and not their understanding. The learners who are successful in achieving a good score in the written examination are crowned as intelligent while those who get a low score are draped with labels such as dumb, foolish etc. severely harming the learner’s confidence. The reasons behind the low scores of a few learners can be attributed to the fact that the sessions delivered by the teacher are very high on teacher contribution and very low on learner contribution. As such the learner is only acquiring information shared by the teaching faculty through his/her auditory senses and there is no application which soon makes learning boring and the learner fails to understand why they should make an effort to understand what their teacher is sharing with them. This point also applies to the learners who have achieved a good score in their examinations. In the present age in some schools the teaching faculty has initiated the use of powerpoint presentations to delivery their sessions however this still does not make much difference since the session remain high on teacher contribution and low on learner contribution.

Among the different types of learner within a classroom one type is the divergent thinking type. These are called divergent thinkers. A divergent thinker is an individual for whom divergent thinking is an innate quality. To draw a line between the problem and the solution, a convergent thinker would look for and consider the most obvious and straightforward steps, i.e. A – B – C etc. while on the other hand a divergent thinker would also be open and consider steps which are not obvious to logical thinking, i.e. A- A1- A2- B-B1-B2-C-C1-C2. or A-B-A1-B1-C-C1-A2-B2-C2 and so on. For example: Let us consider two individuals ‘A’ and ‘B’. Both are given a task – of baking a cake for which the required ingredients, recipe to be followed, and the cooking equipment required for the same is given. ‘A’ is a convergent thinker and ‘B’ is a divergent thinker. ‘A’ would follow the recipe and bake a cake while ‘B’ would think and do differently as compared to this protocol. ‘B’ may wonder “what can I do more with these ingredients?”, “what about garnishing the cake differently?”, “can I do something which the recipe does not state in turn land up baking a cake which would be better than what it could be as per this recipe?” The divergent thinker would have thoughts on these or similar lines which move off the set course and while actually doing it also be excited to try all the various branches that get created. However a divergent thinker is not necessarily a slow learner. Slow learners are the learner that cannot keep up with the class due to a low IQ which would be due to disabilities however divergent thinkers become slow in the traditional education system in India because the system does not have scope for investing time into exploring new zones that stem from the mainstream and therefore while the divergent thinker caters to his/her curiosity to explore these zones the rest of the class has already moved a few steps further. The pace of the teaching sessions in proportion of the quantity of information to be absorbed stands outside the limits of a young divergent thinker in school. Due to this unproportionate picture the divergent thinker soon is forced to and is also treated as a slow learner in the class. However the above mentioned life skills can act as a strong tool to shield a divergent thinker and level their pace with that of the class, especially with the skill to focus. The main issue with a divergent thinker is that this learner thinks in all directions at the same time and works to study all those directions in great detail at the same time as a result their pace in co relations to the time brackets do not fit in correctly. A proper balanced use of the foundation learning elements would not only help the divergent thinker to border their thinking but also increase focus and pace of acquiring information from all the scattered directions thereby gaining stability. But since adequate stress is not placed onto the foundation learning elements within the traditional education system of India the divergent thinker is at a loss.

Some divergent thinkers regain their webbed thinking capabilities after schooling and develop their mind further however some lose that ability. Divergent thinkers can be one of the sources of creativity in the Indian society and losing the web thinking will result into a loss of creativity. To avoid this degradation and re-title divergent thinkers into a category other than slow learners it is essential to incorporate the concept of active learning within the Indian classrooms. Active learning converts the process of learning into a fun filled experience/game, it increases learner contribution in the sessions , balances teacher contribution on an equal platform in the session and makes the session more application based for the learners, catering to all the “why’s” in the mind of the divergent thinker.

Procedure

One of the options to infuse active learning into the Indian classrooms is by using a teaching strategy. A teaching strategy is a teaching technique. To understand the effectiveness of teaching strategy in the classroom two sessions with grade 9 learners from the IGCSE curriculum have been considered.

The grade 9 class had 20 learners out of which 18 learners had selected for biology as a subject. The two sessions being considered for this paper dealt with the topics of mutation and its types and evolution respectively. The classroom in which these sessions were conducted were air-conditioned, had a white board, projector, an operational computer system and soft boards.

The first session, based on mutation and its types, was conducted using scrabble for the set induction, scamper for the procedure and a life style risk management case study for the plenary. For the set induction scrabble sheet (Appendix – A) was shared with the learners in the class through individual hand-outs. After the allotted time limit was over the same sheet was projected on the whiteboard and randomly the learners were asked to come forward and solve it directly on the whiteboard and provide the connecting link between the answer and the clue provided for the same. For the procedure scamper hand-outs (Appendix – B) were used. These hand-outs were distributed among the learners, instructions pertaining to this activity and how the learners are being expected to attend to this activity was shared. Scamper is a teaching strategy where in each letter from the word ‘scamper’ represent one aspect. ‘S’ stand for substitute, ‘C’ stands for combine, ‘A’ stands for alter, ‘M’ stands for modify, ‘P’ stands for put to use, ‘E’ stands for eliminate and ‘R’ stands for rearrange. The entire class was divided into six groups and each group was given one aspect of scamper to deal with. Each scamper hand-out had a scenario which was based on that aspect of scamper and the learner had to identify it and answer the questions that were asked in the hand-out. Among the learners were distribute six aspects while I solved the seventh aspect along with the students. With the start of this segment I joined the learners with a desk and chair and solved the scamper sheet in their presence. After the allotted time was over a discussion on the same was conducted. For the plenary life style risk management case study hand-outs (Appendix-C) were prepared and shared with all the learners. This was not a group activity but an individual activity though they were sitting in groups for discussion amongst themselves to solve the hand-out. These hand-outs portrayed the picture of an individual living a very busy life and charted out his actions to balance this lifestyle. The learners had to identify aspects capable of causing damage and also create a solution to control and minimize this aspect and its effects. After the allotted time discussion on the same was conducted. After the plenary, a short assessment in the form of a worksheet was distributed which the learners were asked to solve in the allotted time frame. At the end of the session a feedback form was asked to be filled and re-forwarded to me.

For the second session which was based on evolution, set induction was conducted using three column vocabulary, procedure was conducted using a think pair share strategy with a movie clip and plenary was conducted using loop card. For the set induction sheet a three column vocabulary sheet (Appendix-D) was used. This sheet was distributed amongst the learners. After the allotted time this sheet was projected onto the whiteboard and the learners were asked to, randomly, come forward and help fill the empty column. For the procedure first all the learners were given a hand-out (Appendix – D) structured on the movie to be watched. The learners had a few minutes to glance through the content of the hand-outs and understand the same. Then we watched a movie on evolution. After the movie the learner were grouped in pairs wherein they had to discuss the answers of the questions they got from the movie with their partner and then decide on one answer which they jotted down into their hand-out. After this point all pairs shared their understanding and answers with the entire class and using this a platform a discussion on the topic was conducted. For the plenary using loop card the points that were dealt with in this session were revised once again. For this teaching strategy the learner were asked to stand in a circle. Loop cards (Appendix-E) were prepared for this segment. Each loop card had two points – a questions and an answer. However the question and the answer slip with each learner were not correlated meaning that the answer did not solve the questions on the slip in the same envelope. With the start of the loop card, we proceeded in a clockwise direction, each learner would read out their question and the other learner having the matching answer would read out the same after the questions thereby combining the two.  After the plenary a short assessment was conducted to check the progress of the learners.

As the teaching faculty I acted as a facilitator in all segments, for both sessions, and provided assistance to the learners by directing them in the correct direction using questions, mostly.

Observation

This grade, through observation sessions, was found to have one divergent thinker. In the first session the divergent thinker exhibited very low learner involvement into the session especially during the set induction. Student involvement increased as the session flowed through the procedure and the plenary though in the first session the divergent thinker did not display the same by making any contribution to the session. The factors that have led to this observation were the change in body posture, body language and the answers that the learner provided for the questions in the worksheet which were based on the points covered in the procedure and the plenary. This further improved in the second session as the learner started contributing and adding thoughts to the discussion phase of the segments of the session. The change within this learner was further clearly visible through the worksheet distributed at the end of the session. This learner was successful in answering two challenge questions – one application based and one value based – correctly in which the rest of the learners in the class either were found to make a mistake or did not attempt. The value based question that was attempted correctly by the divergent thinker was left unattended by the learner who scored the highest score in this worksheet.

Conclusion

Based on the observations given above, I can conclude that the use of a teaching strategy can improve student involvement with respect to the divergent thinkers. Based on the performance of the divergent thinker in the worksheets crafted to check the growth within the learners, I conclude that divergent thinkers are different from slow learner, under consideration of general circumstances.

Inference

On the basis of the conclusion I infer that with persistent and consistent use of the active learning route the needs of the divergent thinkers can be catered to in the future and they can stand on a platform parallel to general learners in the education system in India. This observation is based on a divergent thinker that has been part of an international curriculum and not the Indian curriculums. However based on these observations and conclusion it would be possible to predict that the same results can be obtained within the divergent learners in the Indian curriculums by conducting teaching session using teaching strategies. Considering the fact that Indian curriculum schools have wider teacher and learner ratio, the amount of information to be covered in one academic session is huge and the with time slots available per day it is difficult to implement three teaching strategies in a session however using one teaching strategy to initiate this change is a possible option.

Discussion

The traditional education system in India currently lacks the focus on the foundation learning elements during the school phase, mainly: relaxation and stress control, mental imagery, goal setting and focusing. The wide teacher and learner ratio, the amount of curriculum matter to be covered within one academic year and time span for each session are some of the factors that strongly encourage the use of passive learning techniques within the classroom. Young divergent thinkers having innate web thinking capacity follow their natural flow of thoughts and consider a spread of options and angles of every piece of information under study resulting into a slow pace and being left behind by the rest of the class. However a proper balanced use and stress on the foundation learning elements can help the divergent thinkers to improve their pace and explore information as per their needs, is a point that can be strongly emphasised upon through the observations, conclusion and inference given above. The use of teaching strategies in the session has stimulated the growth of four foundation learning elements – focus, stress control, goal setting and mental imagery. In scrabble and three column vocabulary the learners were asked to come forward and solve the sheet projected on the whiteboard and also share their thoughts on why they think this answer was correct. For the divergent thinker who had a very low student involvement factor to the extent that it did not make any difference for this learner to be invisible in class, this task was stressful and through this segment the learner acquired a glimpse of how it is possible to control your stress. Through scamper the learner acquired the skill to focus. By exposing the learner with seven aspects of a single point I indirectly created a web that this learner as a divergent thinker would be entering into naturally. However by providing the learner with the options that branch out of the main stream I placed a border onto the learner’s thinking domain thereby providing, at that point, a restricted zone for study, which fuelled the learner’s confidence because due to this restriction it was now possible to analyse more number of questions and also feel the increase in pace by which the learner can catch up with the rest of the class quicker than before. The lifestyle risk management case study taught the learner about goal setting as the learner was expected to craft a solution for the individual under study which was a part of the future. Therefore the learner has to first estimate the current position of the individual and then create a new position for him in the future. This also would have exposed the learner to the skill of mental imagery as the learner’s visualization would play an important role in crafting that goal for the individual. The other teaching strategies also have exposed the divergent thinker to the different foundation learning elements.

Considering this change, though small, within the divergent thinker I affirmatively envisage that when routed through active learning divergent thinkers can reach and stand on parallel ground as general thinkers in the education systems in India.

Reference List:

  1. Chandak H., Kumar S., Sharma R. and Kumar S., (2009), India 2009 – A reference manual, published by division of ministry of information and broadcasting government of India, pp. 208-242.
  2. Chang S., (2007), Teaching argumentation through the visual models in a resource based learning environment, Asia-pacific forum on science learning and teaching, 8(1), article 5.
  3. Orlick T. and McCaffrey N., (1991), Mental training with children for sport and life, The sport psychologist, 5, pp. 322-324.
  4. Tennant V., (2005), The powerful impact of stress, New horizons for learning, John Hopkins School of Education.
  5. Zalta E., Nodelman U., Allen C. and Anderson R., (2014), Mental Imagery, Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, Spring edition.

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In Search of Creativity: A compilation of international studies Copyright © 2016 by Mr. Swapnil Pathare. All Rights Reserved.

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