“Any fool can know. The point is to understand”; Albert Einstein.
As they say, all improvements are to a substantial level dependent on metacognition. It is one of those reflective moments in our lives wherein we stop to think what we did, where it went wrong and what could have been done to make it better. Drawing from my personal experiences, I was mulling over my academic journey and identify phases of real learning versus learning for the grades. To be precise, I was thinking with reference to my tryst with learning Physics in school. I was excited to study Physics, could relate to the subject but fell short in scoring grades only later to realise that I had to revisit the concepts to understand them better. With focus and an effort to unravel the mystery, I was trying to identify where it went wrong with respect to understanding and later needed me to revisit the concepts to ensure better understanding.
After much thought, there is something which I could relate as perhaps a flaw in my approach to an understanding of the subject. I later went out to discuss the same with lot of my colleagues and friends to observe resonance of the malady.
I realised that there was much stress on cramming up the definitions and formulas to learn a lot concept in physics. Definitions, I realised have earned the reputations owing to two important factors. Firstly, they are what a child is judged on and they have a bearing on the marks allocated. This limitation I think emerges out of two main reasons; homogenous textbooks and our image of scientific community conversing in this jargon-laden singular syntax of words. Second is the innate quality of science being restricted to an identical way of expression. Although, the second one is what liberates science and makes it special because it connects us across the globe and helps us communicate but more importantly in terms of communication. But the scientific communication I think is a secondary stage which should be preceded by the proper understanding of the concept. After all is communication usually meant for expression our thoughts, opinions, disagreements over a subject and not only reiterating the mugged up literal abstractions.
Expression of concepts by children should be graded based on their adequacy and clarity in understanding of a certain concept and not check how well they quote Newton, Heisenberg and Dalton to name a few.
“They say (and they are right) that two bodies attract each other inversely as the square of distance-a sad jumble of words until you understand them”. Michael Faraday (Lecture on The Forces of Matter at Royal institution of Britian).
That is in fact the mark of any good scientist or a teacher be it Faraday, Feynman or Einstein; they have always been able to express their ideas in lucid way. In fact it is this understanding of them that has enabled them to later works of great importance to contribute to progress of science. They have always been lauded for their creativity and novelty which I am sure cannot surface only from mugging up the axioms and definitions but through strong hold on understanding of the concepts.
How do we ensure understanding at a formative level? “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein
It has been scientifically also proven that retention increases through teaching others, even more than practice by doing. With schools so much focusing on retention, I am sure they will be happy to acknowledge the benefit of children using this method of learning where they get an opportunity to express their understanding to their peers. Not only retention, this will foster understanding with them because they will at least acknowledge the part of the concept which are not able to explain. This will also help other classmates connect with them and there will be more and more questions coming up their way in this journey. These questions are very important for a child as again helps them to connect with other concepts, assimilate their prior knowledge and build up a structure around a concept.
What I also feel is important is to let children have certain amount of liberty in choosing their mode of expression. A few of them would prefer a power point presentation, a few chalk and talk and someone might like to demonstrate it through an experiment. It is important to acknowledge that we are all differently comfortable and efficient not only with different ways of learning but also different ways of expressing.
Indeed definitions and formulas are important but they should be preceded by understanding and not expected to reverse the order. Engines, communication devices, electric bulb, antibiotics etc have been made by people who have understood the concepts well which helped them invent something new. The way science is being taught in schools will determine if we produce a country well versed with all definitions and formulas or a generation which has been empowered with understanding to help them progress and contribute to the society at large.
By Prakhar Ghildyal – Sales Team
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