During an interview, I was asked: "What has been the impact of the worldwide health crisis on education?" My answer was that the crisis made us realize that there are many pathways to learning.
To be exact, the crisis has catalyzed an overdue transformation in teaching and learning. It forced us to rethink the delivery and reception of education. For some time now, the new industrial revolutions, driven by fast-evolving technologies, have already opened a multitude of possibilities in knowledge sharing and approaches in human understanding. One can argue, however, that only in the past two years had these opportunities been widely considered in the education system. Today, human creativity is more equipped to challenge rigid structures and bureaucracies.
Educators in the country can learn from Stanford University's Nobel Laureate in Physics Carl Wieman and Harvard University's Eric Mazur. Both are physicists, but their ways offer promising results even in the humanities, social sciences, technology and engineering.
Wieman encourages adaptive learning from academic activities, which is moving away from the spoon-feeding paradigm of teaching. He says, "The brain is dynamic and not static. It naturally undergoes changes. The active changes in neurons develop intense thinking and improve the capability [of the mind] through proper brain exercises."
The active participation of students in their learning needs immersion. Immersion is at best when students are motivated to solve realistic challenges. They involve themselves when they participate in decision-making activities. Learning through collaborations with classmates and colleagues is a viable approach in education. As students learn, they also become responsible.
Meanwhile, Mazur critiques the effectiveness of the "lecture" and all university classroom practices that resemble them. He considers these as "passive" and "lethargic."
The lecture method, which has been around since the times of the ancient orators, has become stale for students during this time of technology-assisted education. As the humor goes, "In a lecture, the lecture notes of the professor get straight to the students' notes without passing through the brain." Frustration and boredom are inevitable because there is no mental exercise other than following a prescription.
Mazur explains that the highlight in learning is not the transfer of knowledge, which is "crucial because that could be done with many means now due to technology and information explosion." Learning has ceased to be a simple acquisition of information. It zeroes in now on what a student does with data.
Moreover, the Harvard physicist promotes a classroom where students actively gather information from anywhere. Notes are disseminated and studied before the scheduled class. So that the discussions in the actual class are the explorations on the depths of the topic. This requires the active engagement of students through the scrutiny of information by question and answer process. Better understanding develops as students try to solve the problems they observe together.
"What we should focus on is the assimilation of knowledge by students where they can build mental models to apply their learning," Mazur says.
Much of what Wieman and Mazur propose can now be easier achieved through educational technology. Portable gadgets now aid teachers in bringing education to almost anywhere. These are very useful tools of technology in a disruption-prone learning context such as our time, especially now that the role of an educator has already shifted from being a "sage on the stage, to a guide on the sides."
Jesus Jay Miranda, OP is an organization and leadership studies resource person. He teaches at the Graduate School of UST and the ELM Department of the Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC–College of Education of De La Salle University-Manila. Contact him at [email protected]