Towards Better Teaching Practices
Sumathi Sudhakar
WHAT DID YOU ASK AT SCHOOL TODAY? by Kamala Mukunda HarperCollins, 2010, 150 pp., 199
November 2010, volume 34, No 11

The education system and schools are currently under the scanner and it has become fashionable to blame all our woes on our ‘faulty education system’. Teachers, particularly, are soft targets: poor pedagogy, lack of subject skills, unwillingness to change, lack of reflection, lack of professional competence, insensitivity to children are some of the accusations laid at their door.

Here’s a book that is refreshingly different. What Did You Ask At School Today? by Kamala Mukunda is a clear-eyed and practical approach to real time classroom teaching which is based on a distillation of the best-known internationally accepted theories of education and developmental psychology. And while the book advocates and urges better teaching practices, there is an undercurrent of sympathy and understanding for the teacher’s situation that is currently a rare commodity.

It draws together threads as varied as biological processes and systems, biopsychosoical aspects of growth and development, moral development and emotional intelligence, theories of psychology, cognition and educational processes, intelligences, kinds of thinking, learning styles and skills, and teaching methodologies, and represents them in a simple, lucid style to enable understanding and assimilation of the diverse topics. Description of experiments, research studies, and examples from schools—nothing is passed up in the author’s attempt to find answers to her concerns.

What makes it even more appealing is the incessant voice of the teacher ringing through every page of the book earnestly translating this formidable mass of knowledge into practical demonstrable and executable methods and strategies for the classroom. To pack into one book a body of knowledge on a range of topics as diverse as this is praiseworthy in itself, but to be able to successfully present it in a style that is precise and simple and make it immediately relevant and useful to its readers is doubly commendable. And through it all the writer presents insights and perspectives that are not a patchwork of other minds but intrinsically her own. She challenges popular notions, wherever required and presents a perspective that is unique, different and an obvious distillation of her research and experi-ence. For example, speaking of memory, she questions the current trend of cont-empt towards this ‘lower order’ skill and powerfully argues that learning is remembering, and therefore it is important to provide different kinds of learning experiences to harness the different kinds of memory, which in turn will lead to better understanding and retention.

Altogether a book that no teacher can afford to miss, for it might inspire her to adopt appropriate pedagogy that will not only benefit her students, but also sharpen her skills, widen her breadth of understanding and brighten her own professional life.

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