TRI collaboration: placing the student at the centre of education

The Student is facilitating an international outreach initiative to provide an intersectional approach of psychological solutions in education. This article is by Deeksha Suresh (she/her) who works as the Academic Associate for Training and Research Initiatives, training and research psychological solutions hub led by a group of dedicated psychologists and psychotherapists, based in Bangalore, India.

At the heart of education is the student. Yet worldwide, policymakers sit on high chairs and determine a trickle-down economic system to execute and govern a large educational landscape. In many cases, bureaucracy allows for the enactment of a law by those individuals who do not have adequate knowledge about the working of a classroom or of the development of a child.

This leads to the formation of a rote-heavy framework, unequal demands and a murky grading system, coupled with the lack of resources required to ensure proper execution of curriculum. Somewhere in all the politics of education, we have forgotten the root of education: the student.

Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers’ theory provides for a student-centric education system where the student is valued through genuine and empathic understanding while simultaneously teaching formal academic content. It holds the core belief that what the student does is more important than what the teacher does. It allows for a further diminishing of the hierarchical system whereby the teacher ceases to be an expert who merely tells and becomes a mentor who guides in an atmosphere of learning. Rogers wrote that “the only learning which significantly influences behaviour [and education] is self-discovered.” Student-centric systems allow for self-determination where students are independent and can learn actively by engagement with tools and peers. Learning becomes an incentive and students can accordingly moderate their actions. So unlike the traditional systems of education currently in place, it does not ignore or suppress the responsibility or agency of the learner. While many assume that children ought not to be given a large sense of autonomy, Maria Montessori’s execution of student-centred learning for preschool students proves otherwise. The students learn through independent, self-directed actions and activities.

Incentive or reinforcement in a student-centred system relies heavily on Rogers’ concept of unconditional positive regard where reinforcement or positive regard is not contingent on the fulfilment of a certain task. Incentive becomes non-tangible. Similarly, oppressive punishment is rendered null and void. Correction of behaviour can simply be done by gentle manoeuvring and guiding of the child’s actions in the right direction. It also outweighs the current systems of evaluation of learning in that it is not dependent on summative assessment but rather on formative assessment which involves feedback, rather than grades or scores. The child is involved in the evaluation and in deciding on the method they will use to demonstrate their learning.

In congruence with Rogers’ principles is another philosophical thinker, Swami Vivekananda. He believed that “education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.” His foundations for education also relied heavily on individual growth, agency and the realisation of the self.

A university in Hong Kong executed the student-centred learning approach across the entire university by introducing teacher training and the development of an interactive learning environment. The success was evaluated through questionnaires completed by the students and it was found that over two years, the students’ perception of the quality of teaching and educational environment had significantly risen.

The idea of student-centred learning allows for the subjective process of the student, rather than the objective execution of education and might, at the very least, keep more children in education.

 

Image credits: GotCredit via Flickr

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