So this post has been pending for a long time!
In my previous post I had discussed the need to move beyond active citizenship to something more transformative in nature. I detailed out my reasons for this. In this post I would like to tackle the ‘how’ of it, drawing on my experiences in curriculum design.
Transformation, for me, happens at two levels: at the individual and at the systemic. It’s a force which becomes effective only if all of us contribute to it. However, it still needs individuals to kick-start it. It’s this trigger person, the few who catalyse the many, which proves to be very elusive for those of us who want to make change.
Writing for children taught me how important they are to get the transformative force going. The socialisation of children starts at a very young age and the key thing which gets developed is habits. To cure someone of a bad habit is always far more difficult when compared to instilling good habits in the first place. When children make it a habit to not be prejudiced, to be open-minded, to be aware of their actions, they will carry it forward for the rest of their lives. Thus, when designing citizenship curriculum for them, my challenge was to find ways by which children can understand the different paths they can take, and help them make an informed decision on the path they finally choose. Finally, my main challenge was to get children to look beyond themselves (something naturally difficult, as children are quite self-centred in a way), to think about the world and the other people inhabiting it, in a way that was both sensitive and empathetic.
To do this I chose the ‘How People Learn‘ methodology. This envisages the creation a learning environment where:
1. Participants bring their own experiences and contexts to the classroom.
2. New concepts and ideas are introduced to them in the content and are interrogated in the learner’s context.
3. Participants then assess their own growth keeping in mind their learning, providing regular feedback as to whether they are meeting their own learning goals.
Importantly, this is situated in the participant’s community, where they can draw on local knowledge to understand global concepts and ideas. This is particularly relevant to citizenship education, whether it is local citizenship, national citizenship or global citizenship.
Thus, keeping in mind this framework as well as the importance of experiential learning, I created a series of modules based on a series of challenges for the learner. Such challenge based instruction causes a learner to view information as a means to reach a particular goal. Thus the motivation to learn becomes stronger. Challenges can be easy or hard, but not too much of either (for then the incentive to complete tasks diminish). While the content of these challenges were dictated to me by the objectives of the program I was working for, I was given free reign on the methodology and I must say, I had great fun doing that!
The most important thing however remains the guide, facilitator and teacher. For this kind of learning to succeed, the teacher has to be both receptive to the content as well as the methodology. The biggest woe of a content person, I think, is that we finally have no control over how the content is being delivered (despite the creation of exhaustive lesson plans keeping in mind external factors such as duration of a class, school holidays etc). Despite this, I am quite proud of the work I did on this. I will however let the children decide. Feedback will come in soon 🙂
If you would like to leave me some feedback as well – please do have a look at the book as it was finally designed.