Centre of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CoESME), in association with Wilson College, Mumbai, conducted their first fully online workshop on Research-based Pedagogical Tools (RBPTs) from May 18-23, 2020. Responding to demands of the present lockdown induced situation, CoESME decided to move their flagship workshop to the online mode. Over 1500 applications were received, of which ~120 teachers were selected to attend this highly interactive workshop. The participant group was very diverse, with men and women in almost equal numbers and teachers from 13 different states of India and all four disciplines of science (physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics) present. CoESME members and senior teachers trained in previous national-level workshops by a team of experts from UK were the resource persons.
The workshop introduced teachers to Research-based Pedagogical Tools (RBPTs), that focus on process of science rather than information, and help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. In its face-to-face mode, the workshop has a 3-day activity-based format where participants work in groups to design RBPTs customised for their own classrooms.
The regular modules were adapted to suit the digital mode, while maintaining the interactive and participatory nature of the workshop. There were ~3-4 hours of live online sessions per day, along with assignments and group work. The plenary sessions used a variety of interaction tools like polls, direct Q&A, chat box and live word-cloud generators. Participants got a flavour of the inquiry process themselves, through an online inquiry model designed on the CT-STEM platform. Subject-wise parallel group sessions were conducted with 2-3 mentors per subject, where participants worked together remotely to create and present their own RBPTs.
Dr. Gareth Price (Sheffield Hallam University, UK), who has been a resource person for the RBPT programme since its inception, gave a special talk on effectiveness of inquiry-based teaching. Dr. Harinath Chakrapani (Dean, International Relations and Outreach, IISER Pune) and Dr. Anna Pratima Nikalje (Principal, Wilson College) were present for the valedictory session to encourage the participants and receive their feedback.
CoESME, established at IISER Pune under MHRD’s Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers’ and Teaching Scheme, has been working to enhance the quality of science education. It has conducted programmes for capacity building of school and college teachers, with focus on active, student-centric learning through modes like hands-on and inquiry-based teaching. A series of workshops on RBPTs has been one of CoESME's major projects, executed originally in collaboration with Newton Bhabha Fund (British Council) and Dept. of BioTechnology, Govt. of India. Under this project, nine national and ~30 regional level workshops have been held all over India for ~2700 college teachers of science and mathematics courses.
The online version of the workshop has taken this teaching method forward in the current situation. This workshop will serve as a pilot for future activities of CoESME to be carried out in the virtual mode on a much wider scale.