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How does your child learn best?

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By Sandeep Dutt

In an educational setting, a learning needs analysis is a powerful tool that helps students identify their current position in terms of knowledge, skills and competencies and paves the way for them to reach their desired learning goals. This process is crucial as it provides a clear roadmap for students’ educational journey, ensuring they are always moving forward.

”Adults learn better when they can see a reason or relevance as to why they are following a programme of study. The learning provider can identify what programmes are needed by conducting a learning needs analysis with prospective students. Including learners from the outset will help ensure that course content, schedules, etc., align with the students’ needs. By assisting the learner in identifying the gaps in their learning, the provider will be better able to support the student. ~ Learner Centred Methodologies, by Rhonda Wynne, Ireland.
A learning needs analysis will help:

  • Identify what skills and knowledge the learners already have
  • Highlight skills/knowledge/competencies that need developing
  • Identify clearly what students wish to achieve
  • Outline and define expectations and goals
  • Establish the need and demand for the course you have in mind
  • Determine what can realistically be achieved given the available resources
  • Identify any obstacles or difficulties which may arise
  • Increase the sense of ownership and involvement of the students
  • Provide information about your student group – know your audience
  • Achieve a correct fit between the provider and student, i.e., the course matches student needs and expectations
  • Identify the content that best suits students’ needs
  • Determine what is the most appropriate delivery format – class-based, online or a mix of these and other formats
  • Determine what skill set and knowledge base is required of the tutor
  • Develop a budget and cost-benefit analysis
  • Establish when is the most suitable time to deliver the programme and over what time frame
  • Ascertain the most suitable evaluation mechanisms
  • Outline what results can be expected and if/how these can be measured

“Teachers plant seeds of knowledge that last forever” – Antonise Crawford. As in a garden, we need the right environment for the seed to flower, and our students will need much more than just the right environment to flower. We as mentors need first to map the needs of each child, as each of us is different, and often, it is said that no two people in the world are alike. The biggest challenge to help a child learn is thus taking the proper steps to help him/her grow both in mind and body and in heart and soul. A complete education is only possible if we know the actual needs of the students. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to a curriculum. The teaching methods matter, not simply the content forced on to the students. The methodology must fit the needs of the individual student.
At a very early age our current system of education starts working like an assembly line, and the curriculum rolls out the ‘one size fits all’ approach. This is where the inherent challenge lies, continuous learning will only happen when we can identify the student needs. The only constant is change; the needs also go through a catalysis, making the challenge even more significant. Student needs push us to explore new vistas of learning – study, skills, service and sports all offer avenues for us to find out the needs of the students. Once we have the student’s interest at the core of learning, we will see a quantum leap in learning and empower the seed of knowledge to develop into holistic learning. The needs of the parents, teachers, and all stakeholders will have to be supplemented by the needs of the student alone rather than vice versa. We have different forms of learning delivery and in most places the mentor is the one who leads the learning process. We need to offer the lead to the student, and the mentor is there only in a supportive role.

There are several questions for parents when evaluating a good school for their child. A few are listed here as a checklist (non-exhaustive); please visit www.goodschools.in for a more exhaustive list.

  • Teacher: student ratio (total strength of school, number of teaching and non-teaching staff, class size).
  • Quality of teachers (Qualifications, experience, levels of motivation, training and development undertaken, competency).
  • Academic and administrative support available to the teachers.
  • Access of staff to contemporary research and development and educational trends.
  • Curriculum design (academic and co-curricular activities).
  • Hobbies, sports, and spare time activities.
  • Every student should be involved in different aspects of the curriculum.
  • Academic options available to students.

The school is a ‘piece of land brought of life’, a land with freedom, opportunity, joy and space for each individual to find herself/ himself.

Does the school offer the opportunity for experimental learning?
The best knowledge is only possible when we see the facility that will ensure that ‘experiential learning’ is very much built into the school design. The school is a ‘piece of land brought of life’, a land with freedom, opportunity, joy and space for each individual to find herself/himself. How should parents choose amongst the array of schools available?  Should they opt for an old, established school? Should they instead try out a new, innovative school?  Is a day school or a residential school better for their child and their family?  What kind of fees should they expect to pay for what kind of facilities? Is a co-educational school suited to them or a single-sex school? The list of questions is infinite; the answer lies only in one challenge, which is to first all ‘identify student needs’, as this is the first and the last point of call for each parent/ mentor.

We must understand that student needs will change over time, and we should not become complacent.

Learning itself has a level of dynamism and energy, and this should propel us even further to our goal of building knowledge and competence in what we love to do. Step one and the final step will always be the students’ needs, different from what the school sets out as a simple timetable or the curriculum set by an education department of any state. The state, the school and society often have yet to understand the needs of the students. The economics of the process, the cost-effectiveness of education delivery, and the needs of the industry and the nation may direct us to deliver education in one way. This is where the real challenge lies.
There is opportunity in self-learning, collaborative learning, online learning, and informal learning, which is finding its protagonists today. The methodology is not the question; the objective matters most, and the bullseye is ‘identifying student needs’ alone. No effort should ever be spared to help the individual seed flower in the garden of knowledge and the world of opportunity.

(Sandeep Dutt is an author, mountaineer, and bookseller who inspires children to explore the world of books and helps schools deliver better. His website is www.sdutt.com, and as a subscriber to Garhwal Post, you can book a free online meeting with him.)