Coordinator’s View

Interactive Learning?


Interactive Online Mentoring Sessions (IOMS) is the flagship of Gyan Vigyan Sarita. It was launched in early 2016, much before emergence of pandemic. Each of the words in IOMS and their sequence have specific meaning and relevance to an extent that IOMS has become a phrase.  It is one of the simplest and the most economical model of collective complementing of efforts of teachers at schools, by the elite section of society. Such a participation is also envisaged in new education policy of Government of India (NEP 2020). It is a way to optimize efforts of such passionate mentors right, from place of their work and stay, for the larger good. Our experience on the initiative of 9+ years on the initiative, ever since we started mentoring unprivileged children with the sense of Personal Social Responsibility (PSR) in chalk-n-talk mode in 2012, has been self-revealing. This is the motivation to disseminate the relevance of each word and its place value. This article is the first in a series of four.

In ancient education system in India the Gurukul model was based on allegiance of Shishya (pupils), in pursuit of their learning, to their Guru (the teacher). Later with growth of society in eastern world many models were evolved by scholars. Socrates encouraged his pupils to learn by contradiction, which was professed by Friedrich Engels in 20th century as Dialectical Materialism. Institutionalization of learning has led to many forms and formats of education.

Interactive Learning is different from learning by contradiction. The learning is pursued through exploration of reason     in the form of How and Why for any statement and observation encountered. In this mentor is more than a teacher who while providing basic concepts of a subject matter provokes students to correlate the concepts with the observations in his surroundings. Mentoring is a skill and is much beyond imparting subject matter. Mentoring of a group of students is not just producing a run of the mill. In this ingenuity of every student is recognized. Bandwidth of this ingenuity depends upon exposure of students and their context. Generally unprivileged students, targeted in IOMS, have a very narrow bandwidth.

Students even in a environment totally free for interaction generally hesitate to either ask questions or answer them interactively. A close observation and association with them reveal that their limited communication ability and fear of being ridiculed is the biggest rider. It, therefore, requires that the mentors take their students into a confidence such that –

1.       No question is considered to be silly. It conveys thoughts, observations and experiences of a student which may not be in streamline with subject matter being mentored.

2.       Mentor is serious to consider question of student and address distractions troubling a student and would make best possible efforts to convince him with the subject matter. This will be done by the mentor in a language or context of the student. It might require mentor to descend on concepts much below the subject matter under discussions.

3.       Interactions are purely democratic and students have freedom to disagree if logic, or illustration is not palatable. It happens only when a mentor is malleable in his mentoring to find a suitable illustration or context to convey his point of view in a convincing manner.

4.       No answer given by student is wrong; it is only a point of view of a student based on his understanding of the subject matter. If there is a departure in the understanding, it needs to smoothly steered on a correct track. If answer is correct it needs to be acknowledged in a manner where the students are encouraged, while other students are prompted to come up with their answers.

5.       In situations situation when a student’s answer is innovative and opens a new dimension of understanding, ingenuity of student to be able to think out of box needs to be encouraged to think out of box. It is indicative of genius in the student.

It requires a mentor to be vibrant which is generally uncommon. A teacher is person whom teaching is a matter of just a duty  and with a defined boundary. As against this a passion driven teacher is an inspired person who takes his work with a sense of commitment and as a matter of responsibility. Pursuit of responsibility, in a mentor, is towards perfection and is not confined within a close boundary. Flavors of Duty and Responsibility have been discussed separately.

Given an opportunity to look beyond, these target students have capacity to turn into more innovative than students from affluent families. This qualitative difference arises out of the intense survival instinct among target students, as against other students living in a comfort zone. Yet, wide diversity in performance of target students is due to multiple constraints viz. family, sociological, economic, hygiene and health in which they live.

The target students need support to grow despite their constraints, but over protecting them would turn them into parasites and quench the fire of their survival instinct in them. We consider it to be brutal. On the contrary, nurturing of survival instinct with self-respect will help to groom in them self-confidence. Students have to be made to realize that mentors in this kind of initiative are neither duty-bound nor under any kind of obligation to be doing it. Still, involvement of mentors in their pursuit is due to an inspiration to act with a sense of PSR. Such an involvement needs to supported and encouraged for the larger good of society and the country.

Learning also follows the law of gravitational flow; higher is the gradient greater is the flow. Accordingly, a mentor has to remain innovative always. During learning ignorance, lack of clarity and curiosity of students accelerate the learning process. It also ignites ingenuity of the mentor and invoke in mentor his innovative methods, explanations, examples and illustrations to convey the related concepts and the subject matter. Questioning by students makes them comfortable at learning.

Interactive learning model goes well as long as students are disciplined and take advises of mentors, revise concepts and regard basics as foundation to grow at learning. Unless this happens, it is not possible for any mentor to revise basics at each and every stage. In such a situation, any effort of a mentor to address basics at every stage of learning would encourage indiscipline among erring students and retard pace of learning of students who are disciplined. It will be an injustice to sincere students and must be prevented.

Summary: Interactive Learning is a bilateral process where entire onus of deficiencies cannot and should not be placed on the mentor.  Effectiveness at interactive learning requires students to reciprocate mentors with their inquisitiveness in the form of questions and answers and comply with the advices of their mentors from time to time. There is a famous saying that God helps only those who help themselves; and mentor is no way even close to the God; yet his efforts are spiritual.  It is, therefore, essential that Interactive Learning is acted upon and supported in letter and spirit.


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