Towards a Knowledge-Centric Classroom

The classroom is the worst place of learning’ says John Dewey. The classroom is a place of teaching. There is a lot of teaching and less of learning in the classroom. We are absilenced, domesticated and taught community. Therefore, we have the challenge to build learning communities. This would require us to transform our classroom into a learning space. Dewey holds that we learn by doing. Based on this and other insights, We have produced activity-based learning programmes for the classroom. There are others who use a problem-solving approach to produce knowledge. But unfortunately, in most places, the classroom has simply become a space of knowledge consumption. What we really need is to transform it into a place of knowledge production. When we maintain the classroom as a place of knowledge consumption, we are maintaining the capitalist market. Although the consumerist model of a classroom is older than capitalism, and one may link its origin least to the time of Plato’s Academy, we cannot but hold that the present knowledge-consuming classroom is reinforcing the market.

How are we to change the spirit of the classroom from knowledge consumption to knowledge production? To achieve this goal we have to transform our philosophy of education. The philosophy of education is linked to the pedagogy as well as the entire process of education which sets the learning outcomes for the students. One of the very important ways we can address this issue is to scrutinise how our evaluation produces learning. The way we conduct exams, and what questions we ask produce learning among students. They learn to critically anticipate and smartly choose what is deemed as important for exams. While the teaching model that we follow may not produce learning, the good news is that our evaluation system produces learning. The students learn to face them and get their grades and certificates. This is why we have begun our reflection here. Students become learners without being taught. We have to introduce these techniques in the classroom and thus produce learning communities in our classrooms.

What will happen if we let the students join in the process of knowledge production? Students as producers will convert our classrooms into learning communities. Students as producers call for a radical shift in our approach to education. It is even more radical than what is called active learning. Active learning engages the students and uses problem-solving, role plays, case studies, debates etc., as tools to produce learning classrooms. Active learning produces a participatory classroom and is a good starting point to move to a student as a producer model. It links teaching, learning and researching. Students then become part of the research culture. To achieve this research outcomes have to be made part of the evaluation. The quality of research outcomes has to depend on the manner it contributes to public knowledge and accordingly has to be evaluated highly.

The consumer model of the classroom is teacher-centric. The active learning model of a classroom is student-centric. The student as a producer model of a classroom is knowledge-centric. Student as a producer gets totally immersed in knowledge production. He/she becomes an active learner and the classroom being a place of knowledge production and produces a learning community. Today with the growth of AI, especially Chat GPT-4 students as producers of knowledge are more suited to take responsibility for every knowledge or learning outcome that they produce. It is , therefore, high time that we bring this model to our classrooms and share the knowledge produced for the good of our society. This approach has several blessings. It will certainly require the students to develop several critical, research and applicative skills. Therefore, we will produce a critical education process in our classrooms.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao