Shift towards ‘teacher’ as a ‘manager’


Dr Pulak Bhattacharyya
Principal, International School Guwahati

Education is probably one of the fields where changes and developments have accelerated to significant proportions, especially in the last few decades. The new Global Education Monitoring Report by UNESCO shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). It also shows that education needs a major transformation to fulfil that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet.

The emergence of knowledge society has unleashed newer domains of knowledge and skills. Consequently, there is increasing irrelevance of domains of knowledge which had dominated the learning universe over the last few decades. Here, Dr. Pulak Bhattacharyya, Principal, International School Guwahati addresses these changes and the way ahead.

TPS: How do you look at the newer challenges forcing the learners to shift the paradigms of their learning continuously?

Dr. Pulak: Understandably, there is an increasing irrelevance of domains of knowledge which hitherto had dominated the learning universe. The developing knowledge society shows the need for education systems to step up attention to environmental concerns. While in the majority of countries, education is the best indicator of climate change awareness; our country is yet to fully explicitly include this in the curricula of the central and state boards.

The need today is to shift the learning paradigm to content beyond books. Education systems need to ensure they are giving people vital skills and knowledge that can support the transition to greener industries, and find new solutions for environmental problems. This also requires education to continue beyond the school walls, in communities and the workplace throughout adulthood.

There is also an urgent need for education systems to impart higher skills aligned with the demands of growing economies, where many jobs are being automated and skill sets are changing fast.

TPS: With newer learning opportunities in the newer knowledge fields, the classical model of learning through a classroom delivery by a teacher appears to be challenged. How do you expect the pedagogical models evolving in the future?

Dr. Pulak: Gone are the days of ‘Talk and Chalk’. Today the classical model of learning through a classroom delivery by a teacher stands outdated and ineffective, in the view of the changed and updated objectives of modern day learning.

Pedagogical models today are gradually undergoing a change from a teacher-centred approach to a more desirable student-centred approach, coupled with a variety of aids to support reinforcement of learning.

In the coming days, while teachers will still remain an authority figure in a student-centred teaching model, students will play an equally active role in the learning process.

The teacher’s primary role would be to coach and facilitate student learning and overall comprehension of material, and to measure student learning through both formal and informal modes of assessment, like group projects, student portfolios, and class participation. In the student-centered classroom, teaching and assessment would stay connected because student learning is designed to be continuously measured during teacher instruction. Many schools are already in the process of implementing such pedagogical models in varying degrees.

TPS: Convergence and divergence of knowledge is resulting both in convergent and divergent thinking in handling the domains of knowledge. It calls for effective thinking models in learning situations for which the current curricular structures are not conducive. Do you think freedom to learn with self-accountability is possibly an emerging scenario? What will be the role of a teacher in such a situation?

Dr. Pulak: With the changing trends in education, the emphasis has now changed from preparing students for examinations to preparing them for life and career. Convergent thinking leading learners to answer close ended ‘objective’ questions is now rapidly being replaced by analytical, discursive topics that require divergent and more appropriately, lateral thinking that encourages learning with self accountability.

The role of the teacher today has further changed from that of an instructor, to that of a facilitator and now gradually to that of a manager. The teacher in the changing education scenario needs to guide students into being accountable in themselves and to remain invested in their own work. One probable way of having this done is to have students regularly assess their daily commitment to schoolwork. A rubric can be prepared that students would fill out each day on how well they have met their school responsibilities. Students would then have a visual of how well they have met their objectives. By grading themselves, they are able to see their approach to learning. Such a tool would help students connect their efforts to their learning outcome.

Further, by holding students accountable for themselves and their work, teachers are giving their students the freedom and the tools that they need to better themselves for their future. Student accountability generates student responsibility, and students who develop these tools will go very far in life.

TPS: There are strong indicators in knowledge processing that the focus is shifting from just cognition to effective integration with affective and psycho-motor domains. Does this warrant a fresh thinking about the classroom designs to a more liberal and integrated designs?

Dr Pulak: Learning is not an event. It is a process. It is the continual growth and change in the brain’s architecture that results from the many ways we take in information, process it, connect it, catalogue it, and use it (and sometimes get rid of it).

Learning has generally been categorized into three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. However, with the changing trends of the teaching-learning process, today the shift has been towards an amalgamation of all these three domains. This definitely warrants a progression in the classroom designs to a more liberal and integrated mode.

Teachers now face the need to construct more holistic lessons by using all the three domains in constructing learning tasks. This diversity helps to create more well-rounded learning experiences and meets a number of learning styles and learning modalities. Using more diversity in delivering lessons also helps students create more neural networks and pathways thus aiding recall.

With the new classroom design where the teacher serves as a ‘Manager’, the cognitive, affective, psycho-motor and also intuitive classifications need to be handled together. None of the learned behaviours are disconnected from each other at all. For example, someone who proposes a solution to a major problem caused by illegal immigration to the Assam, and the other north eastern states, can use a set of concepts, principles, methods, or surveys while solving the problem. One can make an appointment and interview the relevant individuals. Or one can make telephone conversations. One concentrates on the problem. One can feel happy when one proposes valid solutions to the problems; or can feel uneasy or sad when unable to propose a valid solution. As it is seen in this single example, to propose a solution and to using concepts, principles, and methods for it is a cognitive activity. Preparing a survey and delivering it, getting appointments from the relevant people, interviewing them, concentrating an issue is a learned psycho-motor behaviour. Feeling happy when proposing availed solution to the problem, enjoying cooperating with friends, adopting this attitude, or feeling uneasy or unhappy when one cannot dissolve the problem falls into affective domain. Saying that a certain person will help and having such a help in the future is intuitive. Thus, no matter how the learned behaviours are handled, they are not disconnected from each other. On the contrary, there is a significant and strict horizontal and vertical association between them.

TPS: Do you think the search for knowledge in schools of the future will be more unstructured, researching, personalized and self-rewarding? If you were to be a learner of the future, what are your expectations?

Dr Pulak: As per the visionary statement made by a European body on school education, by 2025, schools will remain the main providers of learning opportunities for the young generation. The existing, physical and formal structures of school education, including standardised degrees and testing procedures, are expected to remain intact. However, schools will have changed significantly with respect to pedagogical strategies. On the one hand, learning and teaching processes will have become more unstructured,flexible and research based in addressing and implementing individual needs and preferences. On the other hand, schools as institutions will have started to integrate external learning resources and practical learning opportunities. Technology is considered to be a facilitator for both of these strands, driving change.

For teachers, personalised learning strategies and increased institutional flexibility, transparency and openness will go hand in hand with a change in teaching practice. There is strong consensus among experts that the teacher role is changing and in the future teacher will be managers and mentors, while learning processes will become self-regulated, personalised and collaborative. However, it is underlined that teachers will actively engage in learning processes and will remain vital actors. They will not be replaced by ICT, nor will they become external observers or coordinators of the learning process.

A learner of the future can expect various changes in the teaching learning process. One is the incorporation of multicultural and multi linguistic learning aimed at training learners to be multi skilled professionals. Technology is seen as a key factor in facilitating language acquisition and helping children develop their identity at the crossroads of different languages and cultures.

Experts coincide that in the future more and more often people will want to (or need to) enter job fields without possessing relevant formal qualifications. They emphasise that, to respond to this trend, informally acquired skills and non-professional experiences will have to be recognised. While formal qualifications will remain important, practical skills training, whether or not connected to a degree, will be more important to prepare people for a entering into a new job field.

Finally, there is the strong belief and expectation that, in the future, professional relationships will change: hierarchies will flatten, an open approach between older and younger workers will prevail and training needs will be openly and collaboratively addressed. In parallel to this process, especially in countries like India, privileges and benefits currently associated with seniority and experience will be challenged. Competences will become a more important criterion for promotion than seniority.

Dr. Pulak Bhattacharyya M.A, B.Ed, M.BA, Ph.D, has been a teacher at the school, college and university levels from the last 23 years. A topper from Cotton College in Graduation and Post Graduation, Dr. Bhattacharyya completed his B.Ed from Gauhati University before proceeding to Oxford (UK) where he completed a course in ESL. He earned his Doctorate from the University of Kent, (UK).

Dr. Bhattacharyya was earlier an Assistant Professor at Guwahati College. He also served under deputation of Department of English, G.U. He was a senior faculty at Career Launcher, Delhi, preparing students for the CAT and other competitive examinations. He has been a key person in the introduction of International Cambridge qualifications in the Northeast. He has conducted umpteen workshops for both teachers and students around the globe. He has recently been honoured with the “Indian Leadership Award for the Education Excellence” by the All India Acheivers’ Association in collaboration with National Economic Development and Research Association (NERDA), New Delhi.