Myth # 4 – Students learn mainly by listening to the teacher.
Listening is seriously valued – you must listen to your elders, pay attention to your teachers… as if major wisdom is dangling on their lips and will be lost if not caught by the ears that very instant. Now that you can not only look up information but actually hear lectures on all conceivable topics on the internet, this is one notion that is already past its sell-by date. In fact, it should never even have been available in the ‘sell’ category. Ultimately, it is what we reflect on, try out, adapt and work into our own understanding that emerges as learning, something the ‘constructivist’ thrust of the current NCF keeps emphasizing. By continuing to practice ‘listening-to-teacher-explaining’ as the core pedagogy, we ensure our students don’t get around to learning in the manner and at the level they are capable of.
One reason why this continues to prevail is due to the notion that teacher must ‘control’ the class – and the class can be controlled only if the teacher has something to offer that can be held back at will – namely, explanation-giving talk. By treating themselves as the ‘source’ of learning, adults in general, and teachers in particular, manage to hold themselves in a position of power vis-à-vis children, choosing what and when to offer – and emaciate children (mentally). All this talk of ‘developing our human resource’ and the ‘demographic dividend’ will bear fruit only if adults seriously make an effort to give up this kind of ‘power’.
In many ways, therefore, this myth is a bigger blockage than you might anticipate, since it operates to defeat the purpose of our efforts after we have succeeded in bringing the teacher and the student into school for a duration that is long enough to enable learning. This is the hole in the bucket, or one big explanation of the continuing low levels of learning across the board.
Unfortunately, it is proving really difficult to deal with. Despite the enormous amount of resources and effort spent on teacher development, practice continues to revert to the listening mode. Part of the reason may be cultural – after all the concept of the guru \’giving\’ his knowledge to the disciple orally is three thousand years old, runs in our blood and makes it difficult for us to believe that teaching can be anything else.
One of the ways to address this might therefore be societally – it is only when parents, communities, society itself start expecting teachers to something different that it might happen…