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Solution for effective science learning

Mugging up the definitions and remembering the theories is not the correct way to learn science. Activities, experiments, project work are the integral parts of science learning; and observations, analysis, validation, arriving at correct conclusion are the steps of scientific methodology. Understanding of the concepts by practically witnessing them and thereby applying those concepts is the effective way of learning science. Unfortunately, in our school education this aspect of science is missing and science is taught just by ‘chalk and talk’ method. Therefore, question can be raised whether learning of science does take place in real sense or not. 

With the exception of a few schools and teachers, experiments and activities are not being carried out to understand various scientific concepts. Now the question is, what are the difficulties in carrying out activity based science learning in classroom. Why are we neglecting activity based approach? What is the solution to this problem? Can we really cater this need of science learning to give better science education to our children?

We can get answers to all these questions if we look at the innovative programme which was launched in Maharashtra, one of the states in India to promote activity based science learning in classrooms.  One of the primary focuses of this programme was to bring the government authorities, the experts in the field of science education and school teachers at par on one platform and together implement the activity based science learning in classrooms. 

The programme mainly consists of in service training for the science teachers for their capacity building.  It was carried out by the Department of Education, Maharashtra state under the guidance and leadership of Mr. Hemant Lagvankar, a renowned science communicator and educational consultant. Mr. Lagvankar is also a recipient of the National Award for science communication which is given by the Government of India, New Delhi and is considered as the highest award in the field of science communication in the country.

According to Mr. Lagvankar, teachers are anxious to “complete the syllabus” and they do not want to carry any “experiment” in this process of completing the syllabus. Teachers feel that, carrying out experiments in the classroom consumes more time. Most of the teachers also have phobia of carrying out experiments in front of students as they are worried about carrying out the experiment successfully in front of their own students. Also, there is confusion between “Teaching Aid” (which are to be used in the classroom) and “Experiments” (which are to be carried in the laboratory).

Considering all these so called difficulties in practicing activity based learning, content was developed and module for in service training programme. The training programme was divided in two phases. In the first phase, emphasis was given to generate resource persons as the programme was planned to carry out in all the 36 districts of entire state. The first phase was carried out in 2015-16 in which 30 teachers from each district were trained by arranging 44 workshops of two days each.  During these workshops, teachers were given a kit comprising of low cost material such as waste CD, pens, straws, pencils, rubber balls, mirrors, magnets, copper wires, laser torches etc. and teachers were trained to make teaching aids. A multimedia CD consisting of power point presentations, videos, photographs and a printed manual was also given to each participant teacher as a study material. Teachers learned more than 200 activities which they can carry out in the classroom while discussing the topics like sound, electricity, magnetism, laws of motion, chemical reactions, metals and non-metals, biodiversity, genetics, etc. These activities are obviously different from the science experiments which they carry out in labs. The innovativeness of this training programme is every activity is well correlated with topic given in text book. Teachers were also trained in the pedagogy of constructive approach of knowledge. More than thousand teachers were trained and they were equipped with the teaching aid kit.

After this two days workshop, teachers took demo lessons in other schools and demonstrated how the pedagogy can be effectively used. This was in fact self assessment of effectiveness of the training.  Teachers themselves realized that constructive approach of knowledge through activities can be implemented without disturbing their regular school time table and schedule. This methodology did not require any extra time and teacher could complete the contents according to their planning. They found that students participated actively in the classroom and their understanding about various concepts in science became better. 

After testing effectiveness of the training, Government of Maharashtra launched this programme in the second phase this year and more than 13,000 secondary science teachers were trained. More than 300 workshops were organized at various places within 6 months duration with the help of District Institute of Education and Continuous Professional Development (DIECPD) at every district. The important thing is that, the teachers who were trained in the first phase took up the responsibility to train other teachers in their district. So these teachers became ‘resource persons’ and they are now the asset of education department. Such type of training module is implemented on such a mammoth scale for the first time in the country and proved to be effective. 

‘Teachers enjoyed the training in spite of exhaustive schedule of the workshop. Teachers positively responded to this innovative module of training and told that such training was not organized till date. They opined that this training is really helpful in classroom practices. The teachers who are about to retire from their service told that they also liked the training very much and felt that such training should have been given to them in the beginning of their tenure of service. These senior teachers were participated in the training actively and were doing all the activities by standing for two days enthusiastically. They were enjoying all the activities as they were assembling the teaching aids and actually performing those activities’, as told by Mr. Lagvankar.

The key for in service training was to provide tools to the teachers and make them to work actively Instead of just giving lectures. Now the impact of such activity based training is most of the teachers are going to their classroom with some teaching aid in their hand. The biggest success of the project is that, now students have started preparing such teaching aids as the required raw material is low cost and readily available to them. Students are developing deeper interest in learning science and their attendance in the school has improved significantly.