Tuesday, June 25, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Taking the next step with teaching and learning

Exploring innovative teaching methods beyond traditional lecture-text approaches for Bangladesh’s higher education

Update : 31 May 2024, 10:07 AM

In Bangladesh, the relevance of traditional teaching and learning methods in higher education today is a real matter of discussion. Considerable research on this topic has already been done internationally and it continues to be done as many universities abroad are adopting innovative teaching methods to better prepare students for success. This is further highlighted with the significant shift in curriculum design that integrates generic, employable, skills into the course content. 

Why education needs to evolve

One might wonder: What changes in the education landscape necessitate this shift in pedagogy and curriculum design? It is widely acknowledged that universities must adapt to produce graduates who meet the current demands of the industry and society. If Bangladesh is to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), where technological advances are surpassing human imagination, it must also adapt. 

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud computing, 3D printing, and the internet of things (IoTs) have reached unprecedented heights, automation in various industries and technology-driven services are already present. There is a prevailing belief that technology may soon outpace human cognitive abilities, potentially making human involvement unnecessary in numerous tasks. And this disappearance of routine jobs has already begun. Any task that can be codifiable is susceptible to being replaced by technology, which is changing the way people interact in the workplace. 

Emerging job roles increasingly demand high-level cognitive abilities, highlighting the critical need for graduates to develop generic skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, entrepreneurship, and adept machine-human interaction. Active participation of students in learning is essential for acquiring skills. The traditional teaching method mainly revolves around the instructor conveying knowledge to students. It heavily depends on lectures, textbooks, and exams -- often leading to a passive and disengaged learning experience for students. Whereas information is easily accessible today, and so this approach is becoming less effective and appealing. 

The higher education system in Bangladesh has exhibited minimal evolution and little responsiveness to global advancements. While instructors nowadays do incorporate multimedia and videos to enhance classroom appeal, traditional teaching methods still persist at the core. 

While there are many innovative methods proposed by education researchers, the practicality of implementation is crucial. In the context of the Bangladesh teacher community, where tradition breeds hesitation towards embracing academic change, it is more prudent to advocate for approaches that teachers can seamlessly integrate without facing significant hurdles. Each method has its unique strengths and challenges, making them suitable for different educational contexts and learning objectives. Here are some promising methods that are worth exploring in Bangladeshi classrooms:

Flipped classroom learning

This is an approach that involves reversing the traditional classroom model. In a flipped classroom, students first watch lectures or complete readings outside of class, and then come to class to engage in hands-on activities and discussions. Flipped classrooms are effective in many fields, including math, computer science, and natural sciences. They also work well in healthcare education, such as nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy. Business schools gain from flipped classrooms for case studies and group projects. Language programs benefit too, as students can study content on their own, allowing more class time for speaking practice. However, flipped classrooms are less common in the arts and humanities.

Problem-based learning (PBL)

PBL is an instructional method where students learn by solving complex, real-world problems. Typically involves small groups working together to solve a problem with guidance from an instructor who acts as a facilitator. While this suits diverse disciplines, certain undergraduate programs thrive on it, as it values critical thinking, problem-solving, and interdisciplinary teamwork. Programs in medical schools, health sciences, dentistry, engineering, and law embrace PBL. Success hinges on meticulously crafted problems, adept facilitation by teachers, and robust support for student learning and introspection.  

Each method has its unique strengths and challenges, making them suitable for different educational contexts and learning objectives

Project-based learning (PjBL)

PjBL is an instructional approach where students gain knowledge and skills by working on projects that are complex, authentic, and often interdisciplinary. Universities globally leverage PjBL in engineering, environmental science, architecture, and design to hone problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, and leadership. It is prevalent in computer science and IT, nurturing programming and software development skills through tasks like app creation and website development. Creative fields like fine arts, graphic design, and film production embrace PjBL to nurture artistic expression and innovation.

Experiential learning

This is a broad educational approach where learning occurs through direct experience. It includes internships, fieldwork, lab experiments, simulations, and other hands-on activities. It is highly valued across undergraduate programs, with certain fields prioritizing it for skill development and real-world application. Like others, arts programs also prioritize experiential learning. This is achieved through studio courses, performances, and collaborative projects, all of which foster artistic skills and creativity. Culinary arts and hospitality management programs emphasize hands-on training in kitchens, restaurants, and hotels, offering cooking classes and internships to develop practical skills.

While some advocates emphasize the enduring value of traditional methods, especially in cultures like Bangladesh where they are deeply entrenched, embracing innovation does not require completely abandoning proven practices. Instead, it involves integrating new techniques while preserving the strengths of established methods. Academics should identify contexts where traditional methods remain effective and judiciously blend them with innovative approaches.

In today's dynamic job market and rapidly evolving technology landscape, graduates must not only possess subject-specific knowledge but also crucially generic skills to navigate uncertain career paths ahead. Educators must integrate these skills seamlessly into course materials and deliver them with the same efficacy as traditional theoretical knowledge. This transition poses numerous obstacles for academics; however, it is essential for universities to tackle these challenges directly and adapt their methodologies accordingly. Ultimately, students' competitiveness in both local and global job markets will depend on universities' ability to address these changes and equip students with the necessary skills.

MM Shahidul Hassan is the Former Vice Chancellor, East West University and Professor, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Email: [email protected]

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