Every Student is Unique. And smart.

The traditional model of education does not support learning at one’s own pace. Almost all the teaching is done in classrooms where the teacher tries to go at a pace that is suitable for the average student. Moreover, the sequence of topics to cover and how much time to spend on each is decided without much consultation with the students. So for example, a student who had difficulties understanding the topic covered in the first lecture, will probably be left behind the rest of the class for the entire term.

The rise of the internet has led to reforms in the education systems worldwide and the above flaws are being gradually fixed. There is excellent quality study material available for many subjects online, often for free, and students wanting to learn them can do so at their own pace. One of the most exciting features that has emerged as a result of this is explained around the 13:30 mark in this video:

The speaker is Salman Khan (no relations with the Bollywood actor), who is the founder of Khan Academy that has been doing some excellent work in the emerging field of online education. Khan Academy provides video lectures and exercise problems for a wide range of topics online. Not only that, they also have systems for meticulously measuring the progress of the students who are trying to learn the material.

As mentioned in the video, they tried implementing their system in a school for pre-high school kids and observed a very interesting phenomenon. At any given moment, there were kids that performed really well and others that did not, which of course, was normal. However, just a few days later, the slow performers suddenly seemed to accelerate and overtake the students who appeared “gifted” in the first few days! And this wasn’t a one time event! It kept repeating over and over. The reason was just one simple fact: the pace at which a student wanted to learn a certain topic was decided by him and not the class teacher. Thus sometimes a student would get stuck with a concept because he wasn’t good at it and thus be left behind the rest of the class. But during this time, unlike the traditional teaching system, he was not forced to trudge along with the rest of the class. He was left free to go over the lessons as many times as he wanted to and understand the concept in his own way. But once this phase was over and he hit a streak of lessons that he was strong at, he would accelerate and go past the rest of the students.

The concepts that one person finds difficult to grasp might be easy for someone else. And similarly, the easy concepts for one might be hard for the others. The traditional classroom based teaching just does not take this principle into account at all.

Every student is good at something. It just needs figuring out what that thing is. But once that is done, the student will be able to make an accelerated progress and leave everyone else behind.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012. Written by admin. No comments.

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