Learning for the future: Adapt pedagogies to age of AI

Learning for the future: Adapt pedagogies to the age of AI

The rich diversity of content and formats available online, coupled with powerful generative AI tools, allows for tailoring learning to individual minds and personalities.

Representative image. Credit: iStock Photo

The disruptive impact of AI on education has been extensively analysed by experts, including Harvard’s  Chris Dede, who raises a thought-provoking point: “If you educate people for what AI does well, you are just preparing them to lose to AI.” In line with this observation, this article advocates for the adoption of innovative pedagogical approaches that respond to the evolving educational landscape influenced by AI.

Read | AI: Neither artificial nor intelligent

The key takeaways from the foundational course ‘Learning to Learn’, which was designed by the writers and taught at their university, are the adoption, improvement, and modification of learner-centric and science-backed pedagogies. Inspired by Constructivism, a learning philosophy supported by leading thinkers such as Maria Montessori, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget, Paulo Freire, Humberto Maturana, and Seymour Papert, the pedagogical approaches prioritise active learning through direct experience rather than passive information consumption. Constructivism emphasises exploration and play, and its influence can be seen in progressive learning approaches like Active Inquiry, Hands-On Learning, Social Learning, Learning-By-Doing, Project/Problem-Based Learning, and Challenge-Based Learning, to mention a few.

Shifting the focus to learners

The traditional “push”-based education model, where educators solely determine the curriculum, is no longer effective. Employers, parents, and learners themselves now play a more significant role in shaping educational content. This shift transforms learning from a “sole proprietorship” into a collaborative, adaptive, and evolving agenda--a “cooperative endeavour” ecosystem. Learners become central and take control of their education.

Empowering learners as owners and drivers of their education does not imply pandering to populism or consumerism, as some fear. However, with information readily available in various formats, the educator’s job changes from passing on information to curating learning journeys that enable learners to find credible sources, make cross-connections, and inspire new ideas and creativity. As simple cognitive tasks are increasingly being performed more efficiently by machines, teaching should aim to foster metacognition --the higher order cognitive process and ability.

Diversifying Pedagogy

The rich diversity of content and formats available online, coupled with powerful generative AI tools, allows for tailoring learning to individual minds and personalities. While harbouring suspicion against these new technologies is reasonable, the immediate and massive adoption of ChatGPT to write assignments and even examinations is already a phenomenon. Educators must not remain blind to their potential to diversify and customise learning. For too long, we have treated students as one gigantic monolithic demographic persona and not diversified our classroom as well as assessment strategies to do justice to learner diversity and untapped individual potential.

We all know the consequences of having to memorise dates, events, and dynasties when learning history. We also know the actual thrill and awe we experience when actually visiting a neolithic site or historic battleground. This is a simple illustration of how providing context to content completely transforms our learning experience and turns us into avid seekers of knowledge (yes, knowledge can be addictive!)—and this principle applies to nearly every subject. Once we successfully establish vivid and relatable contexts for the subject being taught, students pretty much turn into self-driven learners. Context answers the perennial question asked by sulky learners: “Why do I have to learn this?”

Education move away from regurgitating siloed information to integrating knowledge of/from various disciplines. Joining the dots in order to analyse and synthesise new ideas and solutions to real or future-world scenarios and challenges brings knowledge demonstration and applicability to the fore. Keeping knowledge in separate boxes renders it virtually useless and abstract. Posing open-ended provocations rather than interrogating the learner’s spot knowledge and computational ability, allows the learner to draw on the various, trans-disciplinary facets of their learning and demonstrate their integrated understanding.

For learner-centric approaches to work how we evaluate and grade students must change radically. Until date, testing is based on recall, and emphasises on memorising a collection of important parts and manipulating them to solve issues or develop hypotheses. This may have been acceptable in the pre-internet age (it was not), but it makes no sense now. Evaluation should incorporate integrative and generative understanding, that is, developing a grasp of the key patterns underlying or informing diverse disciplines and applying this understanding to research and solve real-world situations or create new knowledge. Varied modalities by which learners can demonstrate such understanding can become valid forms of assessment— a viva presentation, an artefact embodying the information learned, a visual record of their journey, or even a real-world initiative undertaken in the field.

Shfting from Power to Partnership

The final and perhaps most challenging change that constructivist pedagogy requires is for the educator to abdicate the authority position or role in the classroom, despite their enormous scholarship and expertise in the domain. With the arrival of the internet and autonomy, new-age learners must be equipped to reference multiple sources of authority (even challenge some of these) and formulate their own positionalities and narratives, facilitated by educators. The new educator must cultivate and nurture learners’ appetites for learning and teach them to process it critically and rigorously from their own standpoint rather than merely replicating that of somebody else.

The goal of education must be integrative, and the fundamental pedagogy must provoke, challenge, and affirm learners to discover, experiment, and test new ideas. The NEP 2020 provides hints and nudges in this direction that remain unexplored and under-utilised. This has left considerable ambiguity and reduced the power of its suggestions to tokenism. In closing, we hope that our policymakers push harder for progress and change and bring our education system in tune with evolving and new realities.
 (The writers are designers and teach at the School of Liberal Arts and Design Studies, Vidyashilp University)

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