As Class 5 students Bhavana and Kiran struggled to read words and solve basic addition and subtraction, their classmates stepped in and offered different tools to help the two – creating word games, play with letter cards and use pebbles or leaves to learn math. Within days, Bhavana and Kiran – students of Anudanit Prathmik Ashramshala in Nandurbar – had caught up.
As part of a pilot project, the Ashramshalas, boarding schools covered by the Tribal Development Project Office, at Nandurbar taluka in Maharashtra, experimented with a unique way of learning. Here, teachers are facilitators who, instead of following the fixed pattern of facing the class and directing lessons, challenge students and encourage them to learn their programs by developing innovative methods on their own. , in the form of group activities.
The pilot project, called ‘Vedh Project’, is based on the new concept of heutagogy, a student-centered teaching strategy. Launched last year for Grade 5 students at the 60 boarding schools in this tribal district, educators say the project has helped close the gap in learning outcomes after two years of a pandemic that kept children to go to school.
The Nandurbar Tribal Development Project Office has now decided to expand the project to include grades 2-7.
Saying that the initiative was born out of the need to address fundamental learning gaps, Minal Karnwal, Nandurbar Project Development Officer, who is the mastermind behind this initiative, told The Indian Express, “A baseline assessment conducted with the help of the NGO Pratham revealed huge learning loss. Along with the pandemic, general laxity has contributed to poor basic literacy and numeracy (FLN) among students. Grade 5 students did not know how to solve division sums or read complete sentences, which are expected learning outcomes at this level.
Karanwal says it all started by helping teachers identify where their class was at. “With the baseline assessment report at their fingertips, teachers knew their class had students with different levels of learning and they couldn’t teach everyone the same way,” says- she.
This was followed by a break from the traditional seating arrangement, with teachers forming smaller groups. For example, Shital Hande, a school teacher in Kochara, in the district’s Shahada taluk, had divided her class into three groups to meet the needs of students at different learning levels: those who could identify letters, words and sentences. “The groups were then faced with challenges to help bridge the learning gaps revealed in the baseline tests,” says Karanwal, adding that the goal of the project was to create a group of student peers and then hold them. in hand as they interact with each other in their learning process.
In addition to the baseline test, the assessment process involved an “intermediate level progression” and a “final progression” that the teachers conducted. These last two assessments were deliberately labeled as “progress” and not “tests” to avoid pressure on teachers that could possibly lead to data falsification.
While for the basic and intermediate level assessments, teachers from the same 60 schools were mixed, for the final assessments, teachers from neighboring Zilla Parishad schools were invited.
A Vadfali Ashramshala teacher, Dinesh More, explains: “After the baseline test reports, which showed where each student stood in terms of expected learning outcomes, days were spent implementing a remediation based on the challenges of peers in a class. After intermediate level progress, teachers had more clarity about their students’ learning levels. At this stage, teachers are also encouraged to learn from each other by sharing experiences or solving each other’s problems. And that led to another round of remedial teaching in classrooms, where students were motivated to help each other learn. Finally, the final progress has been made and it showed huge progress in the pilot project. »
According to data provided by the Tribal Development Project Office, while the baseline test showed that only 20% of students in class 5 of Ashramshalas in the district could read an entire story and 14% were still at beginner level, with no ability to identify the letters. , at the end of the 55-day project, 41% of students could read an entire story, with no one left at the beginner level.
Speaking of cases where children have helped each other, Karanwal says, “Teachers have developed challenges based on students’ skills. For example, a child who was good at multiplication was given a challenge to make it easier for those in the class who were struggling with it. This completely changes the traditional way a class works.
Anita Patil, who teaches class 6 at Nandurbar Prathmik Ashramshala, says the project has worked wonders for her. “It has only been a few months since the school started, but the students in my class have almost finished learning the entire Marathi language curriculum, completely on their own. And we will soon give them tasks to strengthen their
concepts, especially grammar lessons.
Karnwal says that at a time when schools are being given fancy kits and encouraged to start smart classrooms, Nandurbar teachers have designed their own pedagogical learning materials (TLMs) using sand, pebbles, electric wires , ropes and handmade cards.
“We only gave them a framework to apply to their classrooms,” Karanwal explains, adding that the initiative will now be expanded to include all grades 2-7 in the 60 schools covered by the Nandurbar project.