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Learning through Reflection: RRCEE Web-based Modules for Teacher Development

The National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) (NCTE, 2009) and the revised norms and standards for teacher education programmes notified by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in December, 2014 in response to the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission on Teacher Education (JVC, 2012) has brought about a much-needed change in the perspective of teacher preparation. Given the paucity of academic capacity and support provided to student-teachers and teacher educators in most teacher education institutes across the country, the Regional Resource Centre for Elementary Education (RRCEE) has attempted to use the technology platform to enable a wider reach of new ideas, perspectives and pedagogies. RRCEE has initiated a basic online learning management system (LMS) directed at student-teachers, teacher educators and school teachers in selected disciplinary domains. Learning through Reflection: Modules for Teacher Development, the LMS currently offers one course each in three domains: mathematics education; language and contemporary studies. The main objectives of the web-based modules are to:

  • enable an engagement with educational theory that would address contemporary concerns and context by drawing upon diverse media
  • build a virtual space which augments the physical classroom by supporting individuals in contributing to the classroom and their own learning
  • build a virtual space for interaction amongst peers from diverse geographical contexts

To begin with, three web-based modules have been developed. Each belongs to a specific curricular area in teacher education, namely, Understanding Reading and Writing, Algebraic Thinking, and Diversity and Inclusion. The modules are designed to integrate aspects of theoretical engagement with questions and concerns of classroom practice, using the technology platform. The aim is to augment (and not replace) classroom teaching and learning through a rigorous engagement with theoretical constructs, frame, ideas and perspectives.

The web modules are an attempt to combine the potential of the web with theoretical ideas, frameworks that are often presented linearly, based upon the precincts of academic writing. A chance to bring these two together creates an interesting pedagogic opportunity, providing a unique opening and multiple entry points to engage with the theoretical. Wherever relevant, additional resources such as, schematic figures, visuals, poetry, readings, documentaries, key questions and activities around the topic have been embedded in the modules.

Language Module: Reading in Early Primary Years

Young learners access the world through interaction with people around them, such as, parents, siblings, relatives, peer group, teachers and so on. They are called the significant others. Vygotsky believed that children learn by engaging in activities with experienced and knowledgeable significant others.  In order to make young learners thoughtful readers, the response of concerned adults should not be on accurate production of the text. Instead, teachers should appreciate and facilitate the reading development taking place before their eyes. Reading experiences such as flipping pages of storybooks, observing teachers and peers reading, shared reading with and read aloud by teachers, all of these contribute to learning to read in the early years of primary school. Such reading practices are all the more required in settings like India where classrooms are filled with first generation learners.  Their first encounter with literacy must be a meaningful affair. The module on Understanding Reading will take you through several nuances of the process of reading in early years, the critical concerns that emanate from popular beliefs that drive the teaching and learning of reading especially in primary classes.

Mathematics Module: Algebraic Thinking

In the school curriculum, algebra is introduced in the middle grades (classes 6,7 and 8). Here children are expected to make a shift from number sense, which they acquire in primary school, to number patterns, relationships between numbers and generalization of patterns. The skill of moving from the particular to the general is of prime importance in mathematics learning and the development of this skill requires children to understand the language of algebra. The position paper Teaching of Mathematics (NCERT, 2006) articulates “Algebraic notation, introduced at this stage, is best seen as a compact language, a means of succinct expression. Use of variables, identities and factoring are means by which students gain fluency in using the new language”. Unfortunately, the emphasis in school algebra is more on developing skills of manipulating algebraic expressions and solving equations rather than on developing algebraic thinking.
In this module, we hope to take the reader through various aspects of algebraic thinking. We also hope to offer some ideas which may help the teacher to facilitate algebraic thinking among her students.. The emphasis is on children’s thinking and the challenges faced by them.  Some of the discussion will also provide a glimpse of various perspectives related to algebraic thinking as put forward by researchers across the world
The module is divided into various sections. Certain tasks have been incorporated into each section. These are meant to stimulate the reader to reflect on the subject and engage actively with the content. The sections deal with, the need and importance of algebraic thinking, understanding algebraic thinking; the meaning and importance of patterns; making generalizations; importance of functional thinking and algebraic thinking through multiple representations. The last section suggests further readings which may enable the participants to delve into a deeper theoretical understanding about algebraic thinking.

Contemporary Studies Module: Diversity and Inclusion

“I am different from you. I am different and superior to you. Since I am superior to you, you should not be a part of my community. Since you cannot be a part of my community, which is superior, you would be deprived of all the privileges, and consequently all benefits my community is entitled to. To survive with dignity you can try to become like me, and feel ashamed of your own identity”

This should not sound unfamiliar to people born in India, or maybe anywhere, just being aware of their social realities. We are all ‘entitled’ to multiple identities and are in continuous relation with identities of people and communities. There are layers of relationships we share with others in society.

The module on ”Diversity and Inclusion’ attempts to explore these layers. It motivates learners to reflect on the world around them, the popular media, literature and life experiences of their neighbours, and evolve a discourse on inclusion. It questions and challenges our own notions and helps us see the acts of exclusion happening in everyday lives.

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