Social Science Mentor Teacher Workshop I
Engaging With Social Science Curriculum:
Workshop Conversations towards Informed
and Sustained Improvement of Classroom Practice

Social Science Mentor Teacher Workshop I Engaging With Social Science Curriculum: Workshop Conversations towards Informed and Sustained Improvement of Classroom Practice
September—October 2017
Venue: DIET Rajinder Nagar

At the invitation of the Office of the Minister of Education, Government of the NCT of Delhi, TFC has initiated a sustained program of professional development with a cohort of mentor teachers of Social Science in Delhi Administration schools (Classes VI-X). A 5-day workshop was designed to unpack the Social Science curriculum and relate it to interdisciplinary understanding of current realities, explore progressive pedagogical approaches and engage with the concept of curriculum in theory and in practice.

Overall Goal:

To strengthen the teaching-learning practice of Social Science mentors by building an understanding of Social Science as a discipline and experiencing different pedagogic approaches that build 21st Century skills.

Objectives:

  1. To develop an understanding of the current situation of education
  2. To articulate a preliminary vision of possibilities to address emerging issues
  3. To develop an understanding of Social Science as a discipline
  4. To develop an understanding of the concept of Curriculum

Participants:

20 mentor teachers, 2 officials, 6 TFC members

I. Key Processes:
  1. Exploration of the Current Situation in Education: Participants described the problems and analysed the causes; a graphic was formulated to organize the data, identifying the level at which the key issues reside; participants engaged deeply with this graphic and enhanced the data with agreements, disagreements and qualifications based on personal experiences.
    Participants imagined the worst-case scenario for students, teachers and society that would emerge if the problems they articulated were to continue for the next twenty years and articulated their fears of a very harsh reality, where people are alienated from each other, are only involved with their gadgets, and crime is on the rise.
    In an effort to mitigate this harsh future, participants engaged in some Possibility-thinking, expressing a vision for the future where ‘people are happy, values are based on ethics and not religion; where learning is joyful, experiential and teachers have the ability to help children realize their potential.”
  2. Disciplinary Understandings: In a session drawing on the NCF position paper on Social Science, participants explored the different elements that comprise ‘content’, including current realities of the world we are living in. Using audio-visual resources, the topics of gender and injustice in society were introduced as examples; learning objectives under these topics in the Social Science syllabi for Classes VI-X were examined including sub-topics, leading to articulation of concepts, attitudes and dispositions, behaviours, values, and skills that can be fostered in students through a curricular unit on Gender in the SS syllabus.
    Exploring pedagogies: Addressing some practical methods like concept mapping and hypothesis-formulation to develop a coherent understanding of Social Science content, participants engaged in a lively discussion while unpacking the concept of “prejudice” through examples and non-examples, examining their own critical understanding using a worksheet on prejudice.  Using textbook chapters, participants discussed how formulating a hypothesis can generate interest in students, provide them with a platform to share their previous knowledge and approach the content with a spirit of inquiry.
    Designing Curriculum: Based on the principle that mentors must first themselves experience a complete cycle of inquiry-based learning, before sharing it with the mentees (the teachers they are working with), participants worked in groups to develop a teaching-learning plan for a history topic of their choice. The presentations covered topics like ‘non-violence’ and ‘decentralisation’. Participants used the guidelines shared in the first two days and came up with engaging teaching-learning plans.
  3. Deepening Understanding of Curriculum Concept: To foster a theoretical understanding of curriculum, participants engaged with the NCF paper on Curriculum, Syllabus and Textbooks. A broad overview of the paper was discussed, following which, each participant chose an area of interest from the following: Policy, Content, Design and Pedagogy. Participants took time to individually read the related section and then participated in a discussion based on guiding questions.
    From Theory to Practice: The group presentations made a preliminary attempt at outlining how this theory can be used in their own teaching practice. Thus, participants took the first step in substantiating the theoretical constructs of curriculum, its specific purpose and core elements and how it can be contextualized in practice.
II. Reflections and Outcomes:
  1. There was a high level of participation, intense deliberations and a willingness to share personal experiences to substantiate arguments. There was lively discussion on the pros and cons of suggested ideas and resources and a subsequent contextualization of what would work and what would not.
  2. Tasks were completed with a thoughtful approach and not as a mechanical exercise.
  3. Participants began by describing the harsh socio-economic conditions of students and attributed this to the low learning standards of students, but as the workshop progressed, they re-articulated this point and took responsibility for the learning levels of students.
  4. Participants said they were eager to engage in these processes and learn new things that they can take to their mentees.
  5. Participants found it refreshing to deeply examine the nature of social science curriculum, engage with its objectives and then map the textbooks to see the topics that addressed the objectives as opposed to the usual method where they look at the chapter first and then decide what objectives emerge from it.
  6. Participants shared the challenges they face while trying to incorporate pedagogies like project based learning for certain topics within Social Sciences. They also shared how they find it difficult to make certain topics in History like the French Revolution relevant to students.
  7. The group is able to engage when the w/s process is compelling and moves swiftly. Everyone feels that they know the current situation in schools very well but it appeared that using that knowledge to move to possibility thinking and generating solutions had not been thought about or articulated before.
  8. Participants found it interesting to approach the syllabus and textbook through the analysis of Objectives and also the pedagogy of examining a concept from a hypothesis.
  9. The group was animated and involved in discussions that involved political/social pressures that dictate content in text books and had strong opinions on the topics.
  10. These trends seem to indicate that the group would willingly engage with macro-pictures, the philosophy of social science and interdisciplinary approaches on the one hand but also need the skills to breakdown a chapter into understandable sections using graphic organizers etc., to consciously bring critical thinking and creativity into the classroom processes through formulation of questions, among other things.
  11. Participants were able to defend their opinions but also willing to listen to each other’s reasons for a different opinion and leave it for further reflection. Verbal communication is not the issue; the need is to learn to articulate thoughts coherently in a written form and present concisely to an audience at the appropriate level.
  12. There are tendencies to express strong opinions and to ignore issues by blaming it on the “system”. Along with other objectives, it has become clear that the PD program must focus on the idea of taking responsibility and bringing change within one’s own area of influence.
  13. Participants would have liked to attend the workshop regularly but had other engagements as well which resulted in irregularities in attendance. This caused some disturbance in trying to maintain a flow through the five days.

Next Steps:

Based on this 5-day engagement, which served as a need-analysis, TFC has proposed a 6-month long course with this group of mentors, to enable them to develop into teacher leaders, able to serve as mentors to Social Science teachers in this school system.

TFC and the Department would need to discuss modalities to ensure that the batch of mentors is able to participate consistently in the course and have the time and space to complete the learning cycle in order to truly benefit from the course.

Further, a system would need to be worked out to ensure that mentors are able to engage consistently with the same small group of “mentees” to internalize their own learning while also developing the professional capacities of the mentees as Social Science teachers.

The course could thereby be expected to develop small groups of teachers as a team, with a teacher leader, working concertedly to make a difference in Social Science classrooms across their school “cluster”. All these cluster-based teams would then also be networked through the Course, with the TFC team and TFC partners.

Broad Course Objectives

Personal and professional development of mentors and teacher leaders as well as teachers, for deep engagement with various concepts, processes and principles that comprise the core of Social Science as a discipline and for developing curriculum for deeper learning towards building both teacher agency and student agency for engaged citizenship in the 21st Century world.

Course Processes: While TFC’s understanding of the learning needs of teacher mentors and teachers is still evolving, the course is currently envisioned as a series of 21st C inquiry-based learning cycles including data-gathering and analysis of learning needs of students against a framework of desired learning outcomes (“Readiness” framework) to be formulated with the mentor teachers.

In subsequent workshop engagements, mentors will deepen their understanding of curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and creation of a facilitative learning environment, design Social Science units to build student capacities and partner with their mentee group (Social Science teachers) to teach the units, assess student learning and refine the Units for sharing with others.

Expected Outcomes:

TFC will partner with the DOE to develop a core team of teacher educators to design and implement PD programs. Finally, the project will strengthen TFC’s own team for developing need-based 21stCentury curriculum for teacher leaders, teachers and students.

TFC will test a preliminary hypothesis about inquiry-based professional development to develop contextually relevant curriculum to build teacher and student capacities in a Government school system.