Self-Development: Skills and Character Strengths
Course at Ambedkar University Delhi
August-November 2015

 This course was conducted for First Year M.A. ECCE students of Ambedkar University Delhi during August-November 2015.

Course Goal
To help students take charge of their own development by building an understanding of skills, competencies and character strengths that enable meaningful engagement in the modern world.

Learning Objectives
The Self-Development course for M.A. ECCE students was initiated with the following learning objectives:

1. To help students understand the aspects of self-development that prepare them for college, for work and for civic life; 1

2. To create opportunities for students to assess themselves and systematically develop some of those strengths;

3. To help students understand the need for lifelong learning in the 21st C world and experience the processes of self-directed learning that are critical to ongoing self-development.

4. To help students develop an action plan to work on selected skills and character strengths, thereby starting to take charge of their own learning and development.

Overall Course Design
The Self-Development Course was conducted in 11 weekly sessions of 2 hours each.

Subject Content

Session Design
Sessions were designed to maximize student engagement with high-quality resources– guest speakers, web-based resources, and field-visits–in order to help students think critically about issues in the development of the Self as a member of society. Broadly speaking, the two hour sessions were structured as one hour of issue-based discussion and one hour of systematic development of skills and strengths through collaborative learning tasks.

Help students develop an understanding of the self in relation to India’s unequal world

The Sessions were designed around presentation of information using a variety of methodologies and learning tasks with clear learning outcomes. These tasks prioritized collaborative work and the development and presentation of individual and group ideas, with the overall goal of building skills of collaboration and communication.

Learning Tasks

What worked well:

  • All students engaged enthusiastically with technology-enabled and audio-visual learning resources; activity based learning tasks were also a big hit
  • The structured collaborative learning opportunities engaged the interest of even the most unmotivated students
  • Several students found the field-visits and expert-talks enriching and felt this was the first time they had thought about inequality in Indian society

What did not work well:

  • TFC had approached this as an academic course with requirements including independent work and a final project as integral to the development of skills and strengths, whereas the M.A. curriculum only had room for a “workshop” with no academic credit and no out-of-class work
  • Students did not have sufficient background to engage deeply with the complex social justice content in the short time available
  • Students did not complete any learning tasks outside class-time: the field-based project (PBL), reflective journal, blog-posts and independent film-viewings

Learnings for the next iteration:

  • TFC’s first-step of conducting a need-analysis before teaching a course, which was skipped in this instance, is essential to ensure that the course addresses student need
  • The sessions must explicitly include opportunities for reflection on the relevance of the course material and instructional processes to prospective ECCE teachers;
  • More film, fiction and poetry should be used to engage students with complex ideas.
  • The syllabus needs to be restructured to prioritize development of specific strengths and skills and to use social justice content judiciously, to develop those strengths for which it is essential, such as open-mindedness, respect, empathy and gratitude
  • Finding out more about the world should begin in the classroom, with their own peers
  • Since stepping out of their comfort zones is very difficult for most students, field-engagement requires concerted preparation and facilitation and regular, structured debriefing opportunities to enable students to process thoughts and feelings sufficiently.
  • Given the profound disconnect of most students’ “world” from the complex social realities of modern India, opening minds and hearts requires more structured coursework and learning support

  1. Various terminologies are used in the research: social-emotional learning, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, academic tenacity, performance and Moral Character etc. None of them are satisfactory, but they’re useful to categorize broadly two kinds of strengths and skills required. We have adopted the following terminology:
    Performance Character, which includes such things as critical thinking, growth mindset, creativity and innovation, long-term goal-setting, self-regulation, perseverance, love of learning, digital and media literacy.
    Moral or Relational Character, which includes respect, empathy, open-mindedness, fairness, zest, humility, gratitude,….
    Some strengths straddle these categories, such as Collaboration and Communication.