Wisdom of Crowds for innovative teaching

Publish: 9:04 PM, April 7, 2021 | Update: 9:04:PM, April 7, 2021

Dr P. R. Datta
The most fundamental contribution of education is to enable people to better themselves to engage themselves in socially productive tasks to build a stronger nation economically and otherwise. The assumption is that at the end of an academic programme, the learners, i.e., the students, would acquire capabilities that, in turn, would add to the competitive advantage of their respective countries through technological and also non-technological means. This fits well in an input-output model in which the inputs are the students. They are also the outputs but having gone through a transformation system, i.e., an educational process that makes them professionally more capable through value addition.

The question is whether any value has been added during the learning process, and if so, what is its quantum. This is where the question of teaching and assessment comes in.

In recent times, questions have been raised publicly about education’s effectiveness because it consumes a substantial national GDP at the national level. Accordingly, the demand for an accountable and transparent teaching and assessment system has been noticeable. While we have witnessed an unprecedented level of growth in Higher education in Bangladesh over the past three decades, change was mainly within the private sector. Both the number of higher educational institutions and the number of students in this sector reached an unprecedented level. The country has already proved it is in a rapid growth trajectory and is becoming one of the world’s most expanded economies. Therefore, growth and development must go hand in hand. Now is the time for the nation to have a more robust education policy, and institutions must be more agile to adapt and change their approaches to align with current needs. To address global dynamism, institutions must move with the trends and time.

Innovative teaching and assessment are essential to provide adequate scaffolding for knowledge and develop a moral citizen. However, it seems we are losing day by day the true meaning of educational philosophy that knowledge is an internal manifestation, and all educational system must recognise and discover this. Independent learning is not the current norm of our education; instead, it is tutors driven in which students are bombarded with information in a mechanical way.

Innovative teaching approaches are imperative to enhance learners’ learning experiences. Assessment should not be a one-time exercise at the end of a programme but needs to be continuous. As a course progresses, there should be a diagnostic exercise to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses so that there is definite progress in the students’ achievement – that weaknesses are minimised, and their strengths are maximised. Periodically, therefore, there should be home tasks, class tests and group assignments throughout the programme. This assessment phase, referred to as formative assessment, is meant to enhance the students’ learning process, mainly through feedback. There is another aspect to it that should not be missed the sight of. In this phase, if properly conducted, the students, through participation and contribution to completing their group assignments, can learn the outstanding contribution that group culture/teamwork makes to managerial effectiveness- an important factor in organisational performance often underestimated. Students are examined and receive marks and grades for their performance in the final phase of assessment, referred to as summative assessment.

The main thrust of teaching and assessment is to establish the effectiveness of teaching and learning as such. A properly executed diagnostic and formative assessment will show their impact on how far the participants have moved along the path of higher-order skills as propounded by Bloom (Bloom’s Taxonomy). The summative assessment will be the ultimate test to show how far the transformation process has enriched the students. If properly conducted, the students will now be that much more confident to face the world of employment. If this were to happen at a national level, society would be that much stronger. But its impact does not end here. As alumni, it is well known, and students significantly influence their alma maters in curriculum formation to take their universities/colleges further ahead.

In turn, this will have its effect on the teaching faculty as well. Assessment is, thus, holistic and should not be seen as bureaucratically burdensome if it is properly conducted and is weighed in cost-benefit terms.

However, sadly, teaching, learning and assessment paradigms in Bangladesh seems in its fixed mindset and does not want to move from their primitive nature to a large extent. It still lacks a coherent approach to provide a heuristic and robust nature of learning experiences to students. Most assessments are based on rigorous examinations at the end of the semester, while teaching is till one-way communication and tutors driven. To make teaching and assessment students centric the institutions and educators should focus on innovative practices that are only possible when collective intelligence is given consideration. The wisdom of crowds in teaching and assessment will enhance learners learning experiences and knowledge.

The introduction of flipping classroom & collaborative teaching will enable learners to change active users’ knowledge from passive learners. That will help them to become more confident and master of their field. In the age of globalisation & unprecedented technological advancement, we must focus on students’ teaching experience and create a growth mindset with the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary understanding that makes compound knowledge. Today’s students are more prone to social media network and technological platforms. These become an indispensable tool for many students and educators to gather information and communicate to the broader audience. Many organisations and social network users use crowds’ wisdom to collect data for the decision-making process.

The Writer is Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK