By Daniel Curry 

If you are looking for the top schools in Gurgaon, or anywhere in the world, you’ll likely find progressive schools. In the broader discussion of conventional versus progressive schools, it is important to focus on the teachers who deliver the instruction. So what’s the difference between conventional and progressive teachers? They are, after all, the embodiment of the school’s pedagogy and philosophy.

Traditionally, teaching is thought to be a one-way transfer of knowledge from the educated to the non-educated. Conventional teachers deliver information through lecture or presentations which the students then must capture in notes or in memory. These classrooms are teacher-centric. In other words, what the school leadership and teacher are focused on is what the teacher is doing. Is the teacher delivering the content? Did the teacher cover all the material?

In this setting, many students will sit in close quarters to listen. They are generally not active participants, and the instruction is one-size fits all. It is up to the student to learn or to fail; if the teacher covered the material, then the student is held accountable to know it. The work of the conventional teacher happens during class as they deliver their lectures or lessons.

In many countries, schools still have conventional teachers. Schools who move to progressive methods must also spend energy on training teachers – many of whom are not interested in change. Conventional teachers have developed to think of their classrooms as their sacred domain where they and they only know best. Students are to follow instructions quickly and without question. This does not necessarily mean they are arrogant; only that they have experienced a system that hinges on them and their knowledge.

Training learners to think

For decades, educational philosophies have changed the way we think about education. Rather than being a one-way transfer of knowledge, education is about much more. William Butler Yeats said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Education is intended to train minds to think, reason, and apply knowledge. It should inspire and excite students to strive for greater heights. This indicates more of a two-way conversation or relationship than a one-way transfer of data.

Teachers teaching Vs students learning

Progressive teachers see themselves as facilitators of learning. Their classrooms are student-centric. Instead of asking ‘did the teacher teach it?’, they ask ‘did the student learn it?’ Progressive teachers also think of their students as individuals who have their own strengths and weaknesses. They differentiate their instruction so that every student understands the material. Success is measured by student mastery, not teacher delivery.  These teachers assess and reteach as needed so that every student succeeds. They aren’t the center of attention in the classroom, they are facilitators of active students who work independently, collaborate in groups, engage in peer learning, research, and present work.

Asking questions

Additionally, progressive teachers welcome and encourage questions from students. They ask open-ended questions to students to get them to think critically and challenge their presuppositions. The work of a progressive teacher is all done in the planning, and the students are the ones doing the work during class. Students are engaged and mentally stimulated in class.

The best schools have progressive teachers. Decades of research clearly show that these teachers make the difference in student achievement. Students achieve greater depths of knowledge, love learning, and develop life skills in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and more.

Irrespective of grade, be it pre nursery, nursery school, kindergarten, primary, middle or senior grades, learners thrive when they have committed progressive teachers. The Top 10 Schools in Gurgaon all have one thing in common – they are moving from traditional teaching to progressive teaching. The teachers are at the core of this shift, and the biggest gainers will be the learners.

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– Daniel Curry, Director & Principal, Vega Schools