Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Engaging Social Sciences in the 21st Century – Curriculum, Research, Pedagogy and Practice

The one day workshop on ‘Engaging Social Sciences in the 21st Century – Curriculum, Research, Pedagogy and Practice’ organized by the Department of Sociology, Christ University and National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore on March 17, 2014, was a platform where we as academic practitioners reflected on the curriculum, research and best practices in our own disciplines and there by thinking on the ways to transform our pedagogies in tune with the arising demands of the society.
In his inaugural address, Prof. V.S Ramamurthy, Director, NIAS, spoke about the relevance
of sociology and social sciences in systematically addressing the problems of society. He set the
tone for the workshop by calling for a ‘Bangalore Academia of Social Sciences’. 
The workshop was divided into four technical sessions. The first session was on the theme ‘Curriculum Design: Emerging Trends’. Dr. Anil Pinto, Registrar, Christ University, threw light on the changing trends in higher education sector with the technological advancements since 1993 with the opening up of internet services to the public. He stressed on assessment of knowledge, skills and values, the need to focus on learning outcome instead of learning objectives while developing curriculum, theme based curriculum and the need to promote formative and summative assessment.
Dr. Shivali Tukdeo, NIAS, made her presentation on Changing trends and the Relevance of Social Science Research. She spoke about the Friction between Indigenous systems of knowledge production and that which was transplanted from the Western frameworks. The four trends she focused were the emergence of new disciplines/peripheral areas of inquiry; intersectionality in selection of problems and analysis; multidisciplinarity and the prominence of applied studies 
The second session was on the theme Curriculum transaction. The first speaker: Dr Neeraja Rao, had her presentation based on the existing practices at Stella Maris College, Chennai. She addressed planning of courses in tune with contemporary realities, and different levels of assessment patterns for the highly motivated and the not so motivated students. She spoke about the introduction of Electives catering to the employability of students and the interlinkages necessary between UG contents and PG content. Other best practices were independent Study courses for highly motivated students and bridge courses for first generation learners.
The second speaker for the session, Prof. Vinay M, provided a glimpse of ICT at Christ University. His focus was on how teacher-student transaction has been transformed with the help of technology. Various technology based services available to students and faculty at Christ both for administrative and academic purposes were addressed. The interesting part of the presentation was an overview of the various free and open source software which are both user friendly for a person with social science back ground and at the same time make the learning process more interesting.
The post lunch session was on Best Practices at various institutions and departments. Dr. Samson R Victor and Prof. Greta D’Souza from the department of Education, CU, shared the best practices in teaching and learning process. They talked about the different learning methods which can make the learning process innovative and interesting. Their presentation revolved around how teaching at Christ University is a blend of teacher controlled, student controlled and technology based learning. Different methods and approaches which they use include peer evaluation, group learning, jigsaw method, cooperative learning method, reflective learning, problem based learning, programme instruction, role plays, and dramatisation. Brainstorming, Think pair and share, Learning management System, Journal Club, Digital Learning methods are other strategies being used currently.
Responding to these presentations Prof. Saurabha from Bishop Cotton Women’s Christian College spoke about the challenges with in a formal education system. She discussed about both the Problems within the system and the Challenges of being affiliated to a university where teachers have little choice/ flexibility in terms of syllabus and teaching-learning methods. This was followed by intense dialogue between the participants from different institutions.
All institutions have started introducing technology in teaching- learning; or initiatives to enhance computer literacy but everybody agreed that it will take time to become techno-savy. The missing link between usage of technology and employability and also the value/ moral dimension of education was highlighted. The larger question of the role of education to create holistic growth of individuals has also been taken up. The discussions focussed on the role of teacher as a facilitator helping the students to construct knowledge.
The fourth session was on Research. Dr. Smriti Haricharan’s (NIAS) presentation was on ‘Inter-disciplinarity in Research’. She focused on how inter-disciplinarity comes into archaeology by delving into megalithic burials. She explained how aspects of geology, history, literature, ethnography and archaeology blend together in her research.
Dr. D N S Kumar, Associate Director, Centre for Social Research, Christ University spoke on ‘Connecting Research with Teaching’. He addressed how research and consultancy will help us to connect with the socio-economic realities by giving various cases where research and consultancy have helped solve problems. He also stressed on the possibilities of creating data banks at the institutional level and also the possibility of diverting CSR funds as a better model for industry academia collaboration.
Teachers engaged in research and consultancy can take these real life experiences to the classes so that students can also be motivated to engage smaller research projects. Prof. Krishnaswamy, in his valedictory address shared his deep concern for the crisis faced by humanities and social sciences in contemporary society. He discussed how hedonism creeps into all levels of human life including that of higher education. He reiterated the urgent need to look at the goal of education from a holistic approach by synergizing basic disciplines and social sciences with advanced applied disciplines.
The one day intellectual exercise ended with all the participants taking home a lot to think and reflect upon. The workshop ended on a positive note with the possibility of moving forward to materialize the larger goal of forming a forum - Bangalore Academia of Social Sciences.

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