Engaged Citizenship : Certificate Course for Social Science Teacher Mentors (Class VI-X)

Proposed Program

The Ferdinand Centre for Education for Social Justice (TFC), an independent Registered Society incubated in the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), was established in 2014 as a small non-profit R&D initiative. TFC seeks to deepen understanding of what kinds of learning opportunities can develop the “agency” of learners and empower them to participate as equal and productive citizens of a 21st century world.

Defining Engaged Citizenship

TFC believes the goal of school education must be to equip students with the core knowledge, strengths and skills that enable them to take charge of their own lives as they complete school and venture out to work-places or college, and to empower them to engage meaningfully and productively with the communities of which they are a part. This “readiness” to participate, with self-efficacy and agency, in the world around them represents the essence of “engaged citizenship,” and constitutes the spirit of the Right to Education for every Indian student.

Our Mandate: Developing Curriculum and Professional Capacity for promoting Student Agency & Engaged Citizenship

Proposed Program of Professional Development
of Cadre of Social Science Mentor Teachers

TFC’s strategies for Professional Development of Teacher Educators is informed by the vision and mission of the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) for universalization of opportunities to attend secondary schooling of adequate quality by promoting professional cadre development in education such that ‘it is not limited to mechanical training of secondary school teachers to help students score high marks in national board exams and to raise school averages with very little focus on developing thinking, application skills, attitudes and values’.

Built around this backdrop and on the preliminary understanding of Social Science Mentor Teachers’ learning needs derived from TFC’s 6-day engagement in Sep-Oct 2017, TFC proposes a coherent 18-month program kick starting the process of intense engagement and thinking; innovative curriculum development and ‘formation of a voluntary professional network for continuous professional interaction and development’ embarking on a path to developing agency as Teacher Educators of Delhi Administration schools.

Overall program goals, specific objectives and course content are derived from the 12th Five Year Plan, NCF position papers and NCERT curricular objectives for students of class VI-X, and 21st Century Learning Frameworks and resources for building student agency.

Program Goals

  • To prepare teacher mentors and teachers to create and teach 21st C Social Studies curriculum to school students;
  • To develop core teams of teacher educators and teachers to be mentors and peer coaches for a rigourous process of ongoing improvement in teacher and student learning;
  • To generate a community of teachers, other education practitioners and researchers engaged in a continuous process of collaborative learning, and creation of innovative, contextual and relevant education materials to improve classroom practice and student learning;
  • To create a platform for ongoing multi-system, multi-institutional professional dialogue.

Approach to Professional Development

The mission of the course is to empower teacher mentors with the knowledge, skills and confidence to transform their own teaching practice and over time to become teacher leaders, able to approach every problem as a challenge, with the attitude of “Yes, we can”, by developing adaptive expertise, “the ability to apply meaningfully-learned knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively in different situations” (Fullan & Hargreaves, 2012)1. The emerging approach to professional development is informed by the understanding that changing classroom practice is a long and arduous process that requires rigor, appropriate and continuous support, a facilitative environment to debate, question and take risks, and above all, consistency of focus and staying-power2. The strategy would be to help teacher mentors “to act their way into new ways of thinking. The underlying theory of change posits that “the effective change leader actively participates as a learner in helping the organization improve,” the program of active learning recasts the concept of experiential learning–earlier focused on “activities”, games and simulations–as a process of collaborative, inquiry-based learning to address real, immediate and complex problems, requiring not “input from experts” but dialogue with new ideas, frameworks and perspectives, towards crafting innovative context-specific solutions, which act as performances of understanding of the new knowledge.  This course for Social Studies teachers foregrounds complex, real-world problems–international, national, regional, and local–and focuses on creating deep understandings for flexible, creative use in varied situations. The course uses collaborative learning as both content and process, and technology as both hook and enabler.

This process of Professional Development is generic in many aspects: while the curriculum developed depends on the subject being taught, the understanding of curriculum as a concept and of learning methodologies, of assessment and of classroom management and the creation of a facilitative learning environment, as well as of leadership (teacher leader or student leader) remains constant for all subjects, though overarching “education” concepts might be unpacked and  illustrated using subject-specific examples.

Another piece that remains central to all PD has to do with inculcating a social justice orientation and an understanding of engaged citizenship, which we believe is (or should be) the goal of all education. We prioritize a focus on “Learning to Learn” or “Learning for Life” for all learners, regardless of whether they are teachers, teacher mentors or students.  Here we consider 21st Century skills as crucial to building the kind of agency that every individual requires in the modern world. This concept of PD requires that we use and evolve a 21st Century international research-based framework suiting the varied contextual demands during our engagement with the mentors.

Core Assumptions

  • Teacher mentors need a facilitative and enabling environment that provides both resource support and the freedom to take risks.
  • Teacher mentors will welcome and benefit from exposure to new ideas and learning opportunities that have direct relevance to their own concerns.
  • Teacher mentors will value a professional community for dialogue and shared problem solving, in which they can collaboratively develop and trial creative solutions to the complex reality of the current Social Studies classroom.
  • Active learning opportunities create deep understanding of new knowledge, which is generative, in that it can be used flexibly in a variety of situations.
  • Networks of teacher mentors and teachers at Cluster, Zone and District levels that function as professional learning communities will be generative in multiple ways, triggering new change initiatives, new partnerships and new networks.
  • At State, District, block and cluster level, faculty of resource institutions and education officials who associate with active learning initiatives of teacher mentors will, if provided support, eventually acquire the requisite attitude, knowledge and skills to mentor and support networks of teachers to become professional learning communities.

Approach to Curriculum Development

The approach to curriculum development is based on the understanding that most teachers have not had the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of Social Studies as a discipline or of the coherence of curricular areas that traverse the whole curriculum from Class VI to X. This  deficit in the teacher’s professional development results in a piecemeal approach to the year’s syllabus as a series of stand-alone lesson plans, an approach that sees the “teacher as technician” rather than as creator of new knowledge.

To develop a coherent understanding of the discipline of Social Studies and of the curriculum they must transact over 4 years, teachers need to unpack, re-conceptualize and reconstruct the curriculum, making it “their own”, re-organize the course (text book in this case) and reformulate the learning objectives so that they understand how to help students deepen and broaden subject knowledge over the years. Thus, the General Learning Objectives (GLOs) of a big topic such as “Democracy” would be divided into inter-disciplinary units–across the years (VI to X) and across Social Science subjects (History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, Social and Political Life)—with Specific Learning Objectives that dovetail into the GLOs.  In this understanding of curriculum, teachers would design entire Units rather than single lessons and further, would help students create new knowledge themselves, creating connections across subjects and time-periods.

Course Goal

To empower mentors as facilitative teacher-educators, able to take charge of their own learning and teaching, and in their turn empower teachers to make positive changes in their classrooms, in their schools, and in their peer learning communities

Course Objectives

  1. Mentors develop a shared understanding of the aims of school education in the 21st Century, and the role of Social Science in promoting them.
  2. Mentors understand the concept of curriculum as a composite construct of content, instructional design, assessment and learning environment, and are able to define a coherent curricular unit.
  3. Mentors understand the concept of “curriculum” and of a curriculum framework for Social Science and are able to develop the backward linkages of a topic to the overall NCERT goals of Social Science as well as backward, forward and cross-linkages with concepts within and across grade levels.
  4. Mentors understand and are able to design a 21st C learning experience (including a facilitative learning environment) for their mentees.
  5. Mentors understand the use of technology as a hook and as an enabler and are able to use technology to perform informed searches, collaborate with others, and present new knowledge.
  6. Mentors understand mentorship as leadership, are able to reflect on the characteristics of facilitative leaders, and to assess their own capacities in light of 21st C capacities defined by them.
  7. Mentors develop a community of learning and practice for ongoing collaboration and professional learning to improve student learning on an ongoing basis, beyond the life of the PD program.

Broad Course Description

While all courses and learning opportunities are based on assessed learner need, broadly each course will serve as a professional development opportunity for teachers and teacher educators to develop a rights-based understanding of education for social justice, gaining exposure to cutting edge research in brain-based learning (neuro-science research), teaching of students with disadvantaged backgrounds (“adversity” research), and Character and Mindset research. The course will also serve as a curriculum development opportunity, building the capacity of teachers and teacher educators to engage with new ideas and pedagogies to create powerful, context-based and relevant curriculum for their own students3. It will facilitate the development of an experiential understanding of engaged citizenship and prepare them to develop the same understanding in teachers and their students.

The course will provide teacher mentors and teachers the experience of a complete 21st Century learning cycle: active, inquiry-based, field-based learning to build core capacities. Teachers will learn to identify specific student need and design innovative curriculum to build key 21st C capacities–knowledge, character strengths and cognitive and non-cognitive skills—to help every student become an engaged citizen of a diverse modern democracy and to engage with life beyond school with courage, confidence and conviction in the power of the individual to make a difference in the world around her/him.

Teacher-teams will trial the curriculum they have designed, evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum in achieving the desired learning outcomes and refine the curriculum, along with context-specific curricular materials, for their own use, and that of others in their school system. The course will significantly improve the capacity of teachers to develop need- based curriculum and create a 21st C learning environment in their classes to empower students to take charge of their own development.

The course will create interdisciplinary understandings of social science curriculum, including contemporary issues of identity, diversity, social connection, democracy and legal rights, using film- and audio-visual materials, poetry, drama and art as well as talks by leading researchers and practitioners. Interactive and collaborative pedagogies, such as Theatre of the Oppressed, Socratic Dialogue and Panel Discussions, will engage teachers with concepts of stereotype threat, stereotype, prejudice and discrimination, and help them interrogate their own mental models and inherited understandings. A rigorous form of project-based learning (“gold-standard” PBL) will provide teachers the experience of an extended project to deliberately develop cognitive and non- cognitive skills and strengths. Teachers will learn to appreciate the power of the Internet as a tool for engaging with new ideas, for collaborating with others and for learning new ways to articulate and present the knowledge they are creating. And teachers will locate and contextualize high-quality education resources and “cool” tools to improve learning in their classrooms.

The course will consist of the following Learning Processes:

  • Interactive Workshops (21 days)
  • Field Engagement (21 days)
  • Online network meetings and webinars (18 half-days)

Design Principles to Optimize Desired Learning Outcomes

  • Rigorous need analysis prior to designing curriculum
  • “Relevant” Content: with a visible connection to students’ current and future lives
  • Collaborative learning opportunities
  • Social Justice Content through field-based learning
  • Interactive pedagogies, especially theatre and collaborative work on analysis and new knowledge creation
  • Deliberate inclusion of all voices
  • A robust formative assessment system to inform instructional design on an ongoing basis including self-assessment to help students take charge of their own learning
  • Technology as both hook and enabler for 21st C education

Endnotes

  1. Hargreaves, A & Fullan, M. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. (2012). New York, NY
  2. “A school that’s in deep trouble is going to take years to change, and it has to be a continuous process with continuous supports…it can’t be one person, but a group of people who are dedicated enough to stay with something for a long period of time” (Jack Jenning, President, Center for Educational Policy, Jan 25, 2012 cited in The Making of the Principal. Wallace Foundation, 2012).
  3. This, in our view is the definition of teacher agency: the ability to identify individual and collective student need and to create learning opportunities to address it.