Thursday, January 19, 2006

Our First CASW Session

The hot bondas placed at the centre of the table was staring at us. The venue was all pervasive with the strong fragrance of coffee. The venue was the computer lab in the basement. Nice and dark, appropriate for projections for PowerPoint presentations. Our Mentor Ms. Dharma Kannan had taken charge to guide us through our first Collaborative Analysis of Student Work (CASW) by becoming the facilitator of the session. She politely yet firmly laid down the structure of the session. There were to be two presentations that day. The first presenter, Srini was brimming with energy to put forth his selelcted topic for discussion. Anitha was the second presenter for the day. We as a group of teachers a week ago had decided to bring forth one student work and analyse the work by raising one or two key question that would help enhance the process of learning on the whole and benefit the learner or teacher by co-constructing strategies for improvement. Srini’s presentation was based on class 9D’s DOD trip to Bandipur. The objective was to sensitise students to local concerns in personal development and increase awareness towards civic amenities and hygiene. Based on the DOD experience, Srini felt that there was a dissipation of intensity post-DOD scenario. In this background, the key questions that Srini raised were:¨ How to sustain further interest to consolidate learning?¨ Do life skills need to be assessed?¨ What tools could be used to assess life skills?Based on Srini’s presentation, I felt that, he had done extensive background research and requisite preparation to make the learning activity effective.
My responses overall to the three aforementioned questions were:Some tools/ methods to sustain further interest is to bring the media into class room in the form of visuals, news paper reports, article reviews, case studies. One of the visuals that changed the way I look into resources was a photograph shot by a free lance journalist Kevin Carter in the drought and civil war-ridden Sudan. An extremely malnourished girl (3-5 years of age), barely alive, collapsing on the ground unable to drag herself to the nearest feeding centre for food. About six foot behind the girl is an eager vulture waiting for her death. Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer’s price for feature photography for the year 1994. But the trauma of the conditions also led to his suicide after three months of the photography assignment.For the photograph visit picture changed the way I viewed resources in general and food in particular. I feel it is necessary to shock our learners about the realities of our times. It might keep their intensity forever alive, bring in sensitivity that is utterly lacking at present in many of our learners. Meeting people who are affected on account of decisions of the government could be another method to keep their learning curve alive. Many a times, especially during outbound trips, physically tiring the learners does allow them to stay with the objectives of the program.It is rather difficult to assess learning in the sphere of life skills. I do feel that a lot of learning during outbound trips happen at a sub-conscious or unconscious realm. So as a facilitators in the learning space, we may not be able to see tangibles immediately. But something we as facilitators will have to consciously and consistently do is to provide/make opportunities where learners are exposed to the realities of contemporary world.The second presentation was by Anitha. She was experimenting in her class by bringing in student-teaching methods to include all learners in active learning. Her key questions were:Will this teaching methodology work for any topic?How can have students/participants fully attentive during student presentations?I must say that the student presentation was rather technical and needs a certain flair for the technology to keep them alive to the proceedings.To me the first key questions is very exciting and appropriate. The future of learning lies not with the teacher but with the learners. The more learners actively involve themselves in actual teaching and planning the greater the effectiveness of the program. So immaterial of whatever transient result was, Anitha should continue with her experimental forays. The larger larger and a very real challenge is to have all the learners focussed to the presentation of their peer. A few of my strategies have been:¨ Asking learners to jot down pointers during presentation.¨ Extending the pointers into a mind-map at the end of the presentation.¨ Awarding points for questions.¨ Answering questions not being the burden of the presenter alone but the entire class.¨ My own specific/pointed oral question on the presentation to learners where I choose in random people to answer.The process of CASW itself a great experience. The time-structured process did a lot of good to me and I had a feeling that, it is inclusive of all the participants. I felt so more when during Anitha’s presentation, I felt it too technical and did not know what to write. But as time progressed, I did have some valid things to write and say. Thus the time for thinking and writing and talking doe a lot of sense. I was also throughout fighting my innate urge to respond immediately to certain statements made by the presenters. The structure of the process made me to jot down the key points and thus focus on the idea more persuasively. I also saw many views and strategies to the same problem. While I felt awarding points to keep the attention of my learners was effective, I heard voices that said rewards, on a long run might not work. I actually say a constructive growth of diverse ideas and strategies. I am looking forward to the next session when I will be the presenter and will wear a different hat.