Since the onset of the pandemic, the learning of over 250 million students has been upended in India. Due to school closures and recurring restrictions on movement, the education and well-being of children have suffered greatly. At a time like this, Vega Schools is leapfrogging the learning gaps in the conventional curriculum through Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach. This 21st-century method of teaching is gaining popularity globally as it encourages the development of problem-solving, critical thinking and collaborative thinking in children. Mr Sandy Hooda, Co-founder, Vega Schools demystifies the concept of PBL and how Vega Schools is reforming the everyday learning and development of children.
How is the Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach different from the Inquiry-based learning?
Although both PBL and IBL are student-centered pedagogies and share some similarities, they are different. PBL is a modern learning system that brings in Experiential Learning, Inquiry-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning, thus making it very effective and robust. Most IB schools deploy Inquiry-based learning, which focuses on learning through asking questions and through units of inquiry. PBL, on the other hand, goes a step further and brings in experiential learning, where children learn through real-life experiences. It also weaves in project-based learning, where children learn through real-world projects. In a nutshell, when deployed really effectively, it is a superior 3 in 1 learning method.
How does the PBL approach help in overcoming the obstacles in the attainment of the learning objectives for the children?
We strongly believe that children learn best when they find their learning fun and interesting. Joy in learning sparks a love for learning, which improves attention, retention and even exam scores. But nowadays, with so many devices and distractions, most children simply don’t find their learning experience engaging, which means parents and educators need to up their game. Through PBL, learning becomes more interesting. It covers the national curriculum, as well as develops all the skills children will need in life beyond school.
What are the key benefits of the “PBL approach”?
In today’s world, when challenges abound, children must know how to apply what they have learned at school to real-life situations. PBL follows an ‘application of knowledge’ approach that deepens children’s understanding of concepts. As a result, children find the learning process more enjoyable and are highly motivated to learn. They also perform better academically. Vega Schools chose to deliver PBL with CBSE so that children receive the best of both worlds - the national curriculum delivered through a globally acclaimed learning method.
Curiosity is the cornerstone of innovation. How PBL approach instils curiosity in children and makes them future-ready?
When we ask a child if he or she finds academics interesting, the answer is usually a ‘no’. This is because children have not been encouraged to make mistakes or think outside the box. They have been told there can only be one right answer. In reality, children learn best when they find their academics interesting (and not just for recess, sports and friends). When children are encouraged to learn from mistakes, they become better problem solvers. When they are trained to find more than one right answer, they become divergent thinkers. Creativity comes from divergent thinking. These are the things the world will really reward in the future.
How is the PBL methodology assessed/graded in Vega?
We are a happy school and conduct many formative assessments, which are generally non-threatening. These assessments are constructed to make children keep learning and growing. We measure growth in learning regularly, rather than conducting summative assessments at the end of the term to assess how much a child has or has not learned. Children who haven’t learnt a particular concept are tracked, and special attention is given to them (also known as differentiation). It is a fact that all children learn differently, therefore, they need to be taught using a variety of techniques. To apply this method of assessments, our teachers work harder to ensure our learners learn all the things in the curriculum and become academically stronger.
How are Vega learning Leaders trained differently than traditional teachers?
We deliver PBL through a unique process called I-Lead, which is based on design thinking principles. We also have open learning zones (or classrooms without any walls). Due to the learning process and the school’s architectural design, teachers work collaboratively. We believe in a culture of warmth and affection. Our children regularly conduct happiness surveys, with questions like ‘do I enjoy my learning?’, ‘do I like my teacher?’ or ‘have I made a friend?’, results of which are transparently shared with everyone.
At Vega Schools, we believe that the role of a tutor should not be limited to the purview of the course, but they should rather aid and assist children in learning for themselves. Through the PBL approach, teachers become facilitators and encourage children to develop their own ideas and thinking and apply their knowledge to solve problems. We deliver PBL through a unique process called I-Lead is based on design thinking principles. By bringing down the walls between classrooms, we allow teachers to work collaboratively and children to learn in open learning zones.
How is problem-based learning for kids more than important in these COVID times?
During the pandemic, so many children could not spend time with their peers. They couldn’t study or play with friends. While online learning ensured there was no learning gap, it couldn’t address the social and emotional gaps. Children learn from each other - in terms of developing emotional intelligence, learning how to make friends, and developing the ability to influence others. They are the happiest when they are together. PBL ensures all these conditions are met, especially since the school architecture is designed with multiple and open learning zones where children can learn in a fun way in a variety of settings.
What is the relationship between the more progressive learning methods like PBL and the design of a school?
In order to encourage collaboration, the best companies in India and the world are bringing down walls and opening up their workspaces. A lot of research has been done in the last decade on school design as well. We strongly believe at Vega Schools that children learn best when they can move around and spend time in a variety of learning spaces. The most progressive schools across the world are removing the walls between classrooms. The era of a boxed-in classroom with a teacher doing most of the talking is drawing to a close. Those who do most of the work do most of the learning - and now the time has come to empower children to take charge of their learning.