G. Balasubramanian joined the Central Board of Secondary Education as a Joint Secretary and has worked in several capacities in Academics, Examination, Confidential and Administration branches of CBSE. He has also held the additional charge of the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Board. He has been instrumental to the introduction of several innovations in curriculum of CBSE which include frontline curriculum, Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Information Technology, Alternatives to Homework, etc.
In this article, Mr. Balasubramanian speaks of the competencies required from a 'professional teacher'.
“A teacher impacts eternity” is an age old saying. But the truth of the statement can never be debated. The impact a teacher makes on the lives of a learner is so significant that it shapes the learners’ thoughts, perceptions, lifestyle, emotions and activities. However, from the perception of a teacher as the fountain-head of all knowledge from where the wisdom flows, has undergone a tremendous change. In the instant knowledge society, where there is mind-boggling flow and dynamics of knowledge, the teacher is required to be competent, contextual and relevant. (S) he needs to have a more focused professional approach to deliver the defined, required curricular competencies to a challenging classroom. The teacher is required to be more than an information broker - a guide, facilitator, mentor, counsellor and motivator.
A professional degree in education may be an added advantage but does not necessarily incorporate in an individual a professional attitude to teaching. What are the required competencies from a professional teacher? They may be many but certain corecompetencies are:
1. Teacher as a learner
With the speed of knowledge dynamics, the teacher is required to be an eternal learner. Emerging systems of knowledge, skills, applications impact life styles and skills so much, that the learners are in constant touch with these changes and absorb them more easily than their elders. The teacher has, therefore, to be well-aware of the emerging knowledge and participate in the learning process along with their students. The role of a teacher is becoming a “co-learner.”
2. Technology relevance
The emerging tools and appliances in technology and their integration with the content and the methods of learning has taken away the formal learning methods to an ‘informal learning’ platform. The cognitive psychologists claim that a near 90 percent of learning of students is from ‘informal learning’ environments, rather than the formal ones. The ‘search’ for knowledge is leading to ‘research’ about their validity, use and contextuality to life. Technology as a learning tool has manifested in multi-dimensional ‘avatars’ and hence the teacher has to be not only ‘technology literate’ but ‘technology competent’.
3. Pedagogical skills
With a wide-based research in the role and function of the human brain, the understanding of cognition is getting redefined. Neuro-cognitive researches claim that it is only ‘learning’ that happens in the brain and hence the approach to pedagogy to enable and empower learning must be more focused, appropriate and learner-friendly. The understanding of differentiated learning skills calls for application of a wide-variety of delivery modes and better use of space and time in a classroom environment. The understanding of ‘multiple intelligences’ and the need to enlarge the spectrum of learning experiences in formal and informal spaces in learning calls for more creative and diverse approach to methods of classroom transactions. The success of a professional teacher is related to the ‘pedagogical intelligence’ of the individual.
4. Communication skills
The ‘one-way’ traffic of information flow where the learner is a mute learner in a silent classroom is no more acceptable. A teacher is required to be an effective communicator engaging with the learners using a wide variety of communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. The understanding about NLP (Neuro-linguistic programing) and its use to motivate, engage and facilitate a conducive and creative learning environment in a classroom is being debated worldwide. Teachers need to understand their effective implementation in a classroom. The ‘body-language’ of the teachers in a classroom needs validation, professionalism and finetuning for enhanced performance.
5. Mentoring skills
Learning is a unique individualised activity. No two learners learn the same way. The aptitude, attitude and the socio-economic environment of the learners impacts their purpose, destination and objectives of the learning. It is important that teachers need to understand, appreciate and mentor the learning curve of each of the learners in their orbit and mentor them more closely and effectively. The ability to counsel them both for their academic and emotional growth profile becomes an engaging responsibility of a teacher. Finding time and space for engagement with each of their learners is indeed a challenging proposition, but becomes an unavoidable one.
While a ‘passionate teacher’ is a great asset to the system, absence of ‘professionalism’ derails their journey to the ever-changing destination. Mere ‘professionalism’ might provide all the required concurrent skills, but a human touch to the environment is empowered by a ‘passionate approach’.
The learning curve appears to be a marathon and hence better and effective use of mental, emotional and intellectual competencies of the teachers is required to be a meaningful participant in this race!