Introduction to Phenomenon Based Learning curriculum (PhBL or PhenoBL) in India
It is common observation that if you wish to teach anybody anything, you need to make it interesting enough. Children especially in their formative years develop a liking or hatred for a subject based on how it was introduced to them. If the teachers or parents made it interesting enough, the child liked the subjects or just hated them.
Taking off from this understanding is the concept of phenomenon based learning. This method depends on the study of a topic or concept from a holistic point of view, which is thought to be much more interesting than a detailed subject study methodology.
The latter methodology is thought to be outdated and not in tune with the demands of the 21st century. Many higher schools are now making use of Phenomenon Based Learning or PhBL, which can be topical as well as thematic. So who benefits the most out of PhBL?
Since PhBL link content as well as the subject matter effectively, it is beneficial for both the teacher and the student. Whether it is passive learning where the teacher is in control or a more active learning environment that is student centered through project based learning, PhBL has been found to be very conducive to assimilation of subject matter.
One example of this can be cited with reference to studying specific topics or phenomena in subjects like geography, history or about personalities. In the subject based method, the student would have to set aside time to go through the whole subject. Here the accent is on a specifics that fit into the overall context of the subject, instead of remaining abstract and within the larger confines of the subject.
How does Phenomenon Based Learning take place?
Here it is the student who selects the topic of study. This way the engagement of the student during the learning process is more intense. Moreover, when this is done for all subjects, the student is able to pick up knowledge and assimilate topics across subjects in a much shorter period of time.
The teacher also finds it convenient to assess and evaluate the student. If need be the student can dig deeper into the topic chosen. He or she can provide inputs on what they feel about the topic, how it can be enhanced and there is better awareness at a holistic level.
The PhBL boasts of the following features:
a) It promotes inquiry based learning and this can be applied not only at the educational institutions but also at the workplace environment. By encouraging the students to ask questions, the teacher facilitates learning that is well accepted.b) There is a lot of real world situations that are part of the learning process. The level of abstraction is much lesser and students are able to use skills to solve real problems.c) The learning is contextual. The immediate utility of the concepts and application to real world ensures that the learning is not forgotten. Information that is often only read or listened to in the subject based learning methodology tends to be forgotten much faster.
If education is the foundation for kids to contribute to society and become successful in life, then it has to be delivered in a manner that is functional. There is no utility to be gained by making children cram content without understanding it or learning something by rote without having an interest in it.
The phenomenon based learning or PhBL is one such concept that attempts to shepherd children through their formative years in learning through the use of tools and education that makes learning fun.The need for such a change in the delivery of education is urgent since the skills children will need in today’s world are much different to the past. We have to equip our children to be ready for the present as well as for the future. Phenomenon based learning reform therefore has to be rolled out as quickly as possible in educational institutions.
How does Phenomenon Based Learning work exactly?
This system works by kindling the natural curiosity and interest of children to learn about things. The traditional school subjects have not succeeded in helping children learn concepts holistically and have been pretty subject specific. When children are exposed to topics of media, technology, energy, human development at the holistic level, they begin to appreciate the need to understand them and become more receptive to learning. Moreover, the skills required to survive in the 21st century such as critical thinking, innovation, communication and teamwork get developed in children from an early age.
Real world phenomena becomes starting point in PhBl Instead of asking children to learn abstract concepts, PhBl exposes them to real world issues and how information as well as the skills required managing that information becomes relevant. The curriculum is designed such that there are better chances for the integration of subjects and themes using pedagogically relevant methodology. There is no subject that is taken in isolation.
Children are encouraged to learn through inquiry, managing projects on their own and through teams, problem shooting and solving. The learning environment is thus a diversified one and not restricted to boring classroom lectures delivered by the teacher.
What are the goals of PhBl? This system focuses on the deeper understanding of concepts within children, rather than a very superficial one, associated with traditional learning. Children are encouraged to approach or observe issues from different prisms and not be bound by unipolar views. The need to ask questions and find answers is developed through PhBl.
This phenomenon based learning system leans heavily on the solution of real world issues by seeking answers. The application of information and skills transcend subjects within and outside the classroom, making this learning interesting for children. There is thus a natural transfer of skills. It is only when children are able to apply the skills in a real life environment that they understand the importance of learning. The theory and other content learnt in class through reading or learning by rote often remains at the superficial level and children are unable to internalize it effectively.
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