When: September 6th, 2022
Where: Delhi, India
Institution: The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj.
Participants: Ms. Shruti Shukla and Ms. Sudeshna Ghorui from Lead Foundation; Ms. Shreyoshi Saha and Ms. Divya from ImmerseGo; Mr. Vivek, Chairman of Vivek Modern School, Delhi; Ms. Nitika, Ms. Indu and Mr. Devang from Vivek Modern School.
Facilitator: Sunita Swaraj
Our teachers had the marvelous opportunity to learn from Prof. Doris Sommer, the developer of Pre-Texts and Founder of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University. Teaching children what to think instead of how to think can be dangerous. Advocacy-based teaching deprives them of the skills they need to reach their own conclusions. Instead, they learn to parrot what they know they’re supposed to say to get good grades. Children are really good at that, but it doesn’t translate to actually believing what they are saying or knowing why it’s supposed to be important. When you present students with different viewpoints, they develop critical skills, learn how others think, and understand why they came to a given belief. Our teachers acquired a plethora of knowledge from Doris during the month-long teacher training workshop. With the intention to bring this form of teaching to each and every grade of our school, our school has set forth on a journey of educational revolution.
On the 6th of September 2022, The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj had the privilege to host dignitaries from schools and organizations across the country. The school warmly welcomed Ms. Shruti Shukla and Ms. Sudeshna Ghorui from the School to Lead Foundation, which is one of the implementation partners for ‘Pre-Texts’ in India and aims to catalyze excellent education using the tool of collaboration. We also had the honor to have Ms. Shreyoshi Saha and Ms. Divya with us, who are representatives from ImmerseGo, an impact organization making experiential art integrated learning and wellbeing accessible to everyone through technology. Mr. Vivek, the Chairman of Vivek Modern School, Delhi also graced us with his presence, along with Ms. Nitika, Ms. Indu and Mr. Devang, who hold the posts of Principal, Vice Principal and teacher at Vivek Modern School respectively.
We welcomed our guests who had come to experience the learned practices of Pre-Texts which our school has been implementing since the month of July 2022. To help our fellow educationists explore and observe the various facets of the Pre-Texts’ application, our school devised a mindfully curated observation plan for the entire team, covering Junior School, Middle School and Senior School and subject areas ranging from English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies to niche subjects such as Marketing and Economics. A total of eight observations were conducted through the course of the day, with each observation session being followed by reflection time with different members of The Heritage School team, who have been a part of Prof. Sommer’s teacher-training module and are actively executing the learnt practices in our school by seamlessly integrating them with the school curriculum. During each reflection time, the academicians shared their first-hand experience of ‘Pre-Texts’ in action, clarified their queries and made our team privy to the various struggles and challenges faced by their organizations which were hindering their objective to foreground this revolutionary practice. Our team catered to all of the queries and inhibitions that were put forth by sharing their journey with Pre-Texts so far.
Our teachers shared that when we provide students with details for a particular assignment, lead a discussion, proposing solutions to confusions, we help them to tackle any challenging assignment that comes their way. By penning down doubts and questions about the assignment and then bringing a research-based tangent for addressing the areas which might be more enlightening for the concept, we are making the students independent and in charge of their own learning. It was discussed how over time; less guidance and feedback will be required to help students with the reflective thinking process and how they will eventually be able to lead the learning process. Once the learner starts to play an active part in the teaching-learning cycle, they become more aware of different learning styles and tasks. They become more aware of their preferred style of learning and develop key skills and strategies to become lifelong learners.
After a fruitful day of observations and learnings, the entire Heritage learning community and our eminent guests gathered together to cumulatively reflect upon their day long experience and share their reflections. Being exposed to different perspectives, through discussions with students, or through the deployed resources such as tangents and simulations, they witnessed how learners were able to represent different points of view, and participate in a dialogue with others, peers and instructors alike, about matters of importance, which are critical to the reflective learning process. It was shared that having students work collaboratively can facilitate this, as they learn to listen to others and consider different approaches to solving problems.
The visiting faculties were impressed by the efficacy of ‘Pre-Texts’ as it creatively engaged our students across grades and subjects. The reflective discussions prompted various questions such as, ‘What challenges are you having?’, ‘What are you planning to do about those challenges?’, ‘What problems did you encounter in completing the assignment?’, ‘How did you troubleshoot them?’, ‘What still needs work?’. Since every organization has its own limitations with respect to budget, teacher student ratio and the time constraints for completion of lessons, the observers were a little apprehensive about implementing Pre-texts in their respective schools. They also shared the various administrative constraints that they have to overcome in their respective schools if they are considering the implementation of Pre-texts. Since The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj provides immense facilities and freedom to teachers for implementing unconventional methods of teaching, execution of this practice was made easier by the existing progressive culture of the school.
To address these pertinent queries, our teachers explained their progress and the strategies they are using while they work on an assignment using Pre-Texts as the methodology. While reflecting, our teachers focused on their personal strengths, gaps, resources, standards, values, response to challenges and strategies. The reflective conversations lead to clarity about the relative effectiveness of their educational approaches by reflecting on their own teaching activities and comparing the same with the teaching practices of The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj. Thereon, our guests shared that they were looking forward to the changes in teaching methods brought on by implementing Pre-Texts and were considering using it in their respective schools based on the outcomes of this methodical approach.
The entire experience of Pre-Texts has been enriching for the teachers as well as the students.
When students learn new concepts or subject matter, they often experience a sense of uncertainty and disequilibrium until they can make sense of the new information. Critical reflection is necessary to assimilate the new information and resolve the state of disequilibrium. Pre-texts has sparked a new age outlook in the students and the curiosity has motivated them to engage in the reflective process of learning, while transitioning the classroom space from that which ‘covers material’ to that which is ‘focused on actual learning’.
Our school believes that by working in collaboration with the students, relationships become positive and demonstrate mutual respect. Students feel that they are a part of the learning cycle and are more self-aware. All of these things together result in a productive learning environment.
The day’s experience was not only helpful for the visiting teams’ endeavors to introduce an experiential and holistic education in the country but was also a wonderful way for our teachers to take stock of their experience. We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Prof. Doris Sommer for introducing us to Pre-Texts, the game changer of education in India and giving us the opportunity to be a part of this educational revolution.