Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some stray thoughts on professional teaching methods –

Nowadays, several of us are involved in training-teaching-learning processes. Whether, as resource persons in a workshop or as a trainer in a training session or module developers, we are in adult education. If we are not educationists, or not psychologist, are we competent? It is only recently that faculty development among health professionals has started but most of us become trainers on self learning or experiential learning methods. Are these only applicable as adult learners? I don’t think so. In fact, Julie Conlan, Sarah Grabowski, Katie Smith, Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia (Authors of Review of Adult Learning at also believe that these methods are applicable even in childhood.) My belief is on small experiences again at my school Sardar Patel Vidyalaya.

Some expirience of ‘experiential and self learning’

In August 1965, the India – Pakistan War broke out. We were early teen agers studying Social Science text book when the war started. A normal reaction of fear and excitement – of black outs, of combats and of war propogandas – was natural. Every morning there was siren exercise at the school ground. But, our social science teacher changed the syllabus and his role – he took permission to adapt the 6 months syllabus into Kahmir issues, Indo Pak War, the military structure, role of UN etc., etc. Sources was supposed to be magazines, newspapers, radio like AIR, VOA and BBC, some stories, II WW comics etc. We were to prepare a daily news item and inform the daily prayer session of the whole school! We had groups for projects – about the structures and strengths of Indian and Pakistani Armed Forces, about history of Kashmir issue, history of Indo China War etc. etc. For the first time the ‘boring’ subject became an exciting and action oriented one. The groups competed for better presentations and better knowledge. A group actually went and met some high rank in the 3 wings! Incidentally, the whole class passed with bright marks! Involvement of the children was high, converted fear factor into a creative one. Its imprint is still palpable – I can ‘see’ the face of Shri M L Sharmaji – my ‘facilitator’ cum teacher!

What I am saying is nothing new, all our eminent schools have this as a part of teaching method. I am questioning ourselves: do we have in medical, para medical education such methods? How much of our education is based on problem based, learner centered, experiential/action learning methods? To what extent are we flexible in teaching in the formal education system? A survey conducted among medical students by CHC a some time back had pointed out a similar problems.

My loud ‘diptinking’

Have we done so in our ASHA/CHW training? We stick to one approach, one manual and train the trainers accordingly and defeat the very purpose of flexibile, learner centric approaches. My dilemma is what to do can be fixed but can how and who be also fixed? In an action learning, there can be a group of learners and a facilitator/learner’s coach or counselor (in the Open Distance Learning’s parlance). The trainer can learn how to train while doing, so the ToT should be an orientation workhop and the real ToT should be while working as the facilitator and not in the classroom! Let there be an observer and review meetings for discussing the Pros and Cons, areas of improvement etc. Even comparatively less educated self learn, learn while doing but trainers are not so less educated. They are doctors, nurses, social workers who have their own experience, knowledge of education, knowledge about the content etc. How much of instructions would have retention when action is in different environmental settings required?

What are your thoughts? Experineces? Experiments?


  1. thanks for sharing these dhruv. i saw this post only today. well, i too do a fair bit of training, but am not a trained trainer, nor have i taught formally in my medical college life apart from some classes one takes for undergrads during our PG days. and i have been an observer in many many trainings: in the govt health system; in the UN; and in the NGO sector. and i have always been struck by what makes a good or effective trainer.
    i think any person who aspires to train well must know the subject well enough to break it down into really simple concepts and language, use examples that the trainees can relate to, demonstrate what is being taught / explained. problem based learning is also very effective as you know.
    and the less literate a group is, the more preparation that is required to be done to explain concepts and ideas and to share information.
    repetition - something else that is essential, especially in groups that do not read, or are not in the habit of learning by reading. and unfortunately this is one aspect that is not factored into any of the govt trainings, be it of ASHAs or medical workers or ANMS. a one-off training is supposed to be sufficient. witness the training plan of the Pf control programme under the NVBDCP - the time is grossly inadequate for the knowledge and skills that are sought to be imparted.
    and of course, as you pointed out, one prescription for training of trainers is bound to fail: the trainer must above all, be able and willing to adapt, innovate and learn along with the group.

  2. Thanks, Ramani!
    I also opened my blogger a little late.

    My argument is simple: content is necessarily important - the what part- of training. But a trainer has to instill the hows also. If I am learning to drive a vehicle, I expect to be trained. But when I am trained as a driver, I have to learn how to steer. The trainer will train me to move the steering, clutching etc. etc. But I have to learn how to steer through a crowded street. As I have been pointing out an illiterate housewife is also a manager. Several are trained by mothers, grandmothers etc. to say cook. But when they take over as head of the household, she has learnt handling guests, family, the brats, the drunk husband. They may not have read anything but may have observed, chatted with peers, emulated what her 'good' mother did. Or even trying out - I have experienced in tribal families, young girls like to serve guests - water, tea. They may gaff but learning by doing. My arguments is that manual has content with no choice - thats correct. But let us have a list of things that the learners can do to learn the content. Rota is also one of the methods. Deconstructing it the way we did with children may be required even for adults. I did not learn computer through any class. We did in bits and pieces. The Help section in DOS or Windows are such tools. A lot can be added.