Wednesday, 2 November 2011

‘iCarnegie wants to train thousands of Indian teachers’

Teacher training is the most critical factor determining quality of workforce, says Michael W Bridges, social psychologist and director for educational excellence, iCarnegie Inc, a Carnegie Mellon University company. During his visit to India which was aimed at engaging with Indian faculty, Bridges, who has co-authored the book, How Learning Works: Seven Research based Principles for Smart Teaching, spoke to DNA about the importance of training teachers who deliver professional courses and how iCarnegie is planning to work closely with Indian teachers. Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think teacher training is prevalent in India?
India can benefit hugely by improving the skills of its teachers. Especially those teachers who deliver courses meant for higher education. We are trained to be engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects, but not trained to be engineering, medical school, law or architecture teachers. Providing that training is critical to ensuring high quality education. There are specific teaching approaches to teaching medicine, engineering, law, etc and thus professionals delivering courses in these areas need specific training. But it very rarely happens. And it is a global phenomenon. Teachers teaching from kindergarten to class 12 have strong backgrounds in the field of education, both theory and practice. But in the higher education set-up, teachers have industry experience and domain knowledge but not much teaching background. This must change. It is a nascent concept in India and Indian institutions have to recognise the value and ways of improving the system. If you can invest and develop good courses, curriculum, infrastructure, modern classrooms, then you have to also invest in teacher training.
How does training help teachers?
They are able to diagnose and solve problems, able to leverage and use technology in classrooms. They know how to build experiences for students, build their core competencies and train them in thinking, analysis, communications and soft skills. They can then adapt best practices in pedagogy and deliver concepts, conduct discussions, adopt problem-based approaches and help students to process information and learn. They can also help build leadership and inter-personal skills of students, improve their abilities to work in teams, etc.
How common is teacher training abroad?
At Carnegie, Stanford, MIT, Ivy leagues, etc there is a strong focus on research and teaching and on improving the quality of teachers. They have opened teaching centres so that good courses can be delivered. They hold workshops and seminars for teachers on how to deliver technology, pedagogy. Individual consultations are also held with the teachers across the year.
How are you looking at engaging with Indian faculty?
In India, we are partnering with Aspire (an education and skills firm) in teacher training. We have already engaged with about 100 teachers from Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi who teach subjects such as chemistry, finance, commerce and engineering. Going ahead, we want to engage with and train thousands of Indian teachers.

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