Bring Life to Learning and Learning to Life

education_researchChildren are naturally inventive. They do not need to be told to be creative. Perhaps, they need guidance, motivation and inspiration to boost up their creativity. Research, design and evaluation provide the opportunity to young children to enhance their intellectual learning. The concept of research development is not yet accepted as fundamental to educational change by our educational institutions. Many schools still believe in traditional teaching methodologies. However, educational research culture should be adopted for an improved educational system in our country.

Educational research defined

It is a field of inquiry, the systematic generation of new knowledge, development of new ideas and experimenting with new techniques. Clear and open-minded questions call for real research and thinking and furnish ways for evaluating answers. It aims at advancing knowledge of education and learning processes, while simultaneously developing the human resource.

Teachers’ professional development – a crisis or negative teaching culture?

Teachers’ learning and professional development is not much valued in Pakistan. They are merely trained as classroom teachers. The research-based teacher training culture is hardly seen in Pakistani schools. Research culture has made its way into higher educational institutions but not in schools. School heads and principals expect teachers to teach their students but not lead them. Teachers are required to teach the syllabus prescribed by the school. They are not encouraged to experiment with new innovative approaches of teaching. Anyone, who shares a new idea from a book or design creative activities for students, is criticized. In such schools, positive views of professional learning are counter cultural. Due to negative and unsupportive attitude of the school management, teachers do not bother to take interest in research and are compelled to use the age old traditional teaching methods.  Thus, negative teaching culture has seriously impaired learning skills of teachers.

To respond to these challenges, many educationists face confusion and constraints in their minds as to how can they make schools research oriented.  What goals and strategies should be adopted to create research learning environment in the schools?

 Action research strategy

Today, many schools are using research culture in their schools; however, they are not aware that their teaching methodologies are based on research. The teaching strategy used in classrooms is action research strategy.

Action research involves three forms of research:

  1. Exploratory
  2. Evaluative
  3. Experimental

The teacher uses research element in developing the curriculum, content and activities. To make the classroom climate interactive, teacher uses teaching methods that include group discussion, individual presentation, searching information from the library or internet and creative writing tasks. The research projects introduced in classroom help to explore student’s learning strategy and also strengthen student-teacher relationship.

School – a teacher’s hub

To promote teacher as a researcher and a proactive learner, work place learning such as school is considered as an essential element in enhancing the professional development of teachers. The work place must provide continuous learning opportunities for teachers and encourage them to reflect and practice new ideas or new skills in classroom. Many teachers believe that they learn most effectively from the judgment and perception of their students in the classroom.

Collaborative learning

Another important source of learning for teachers is co-operative learning in which teachers share their new ideas and introduce modern teaching methods to their colleagues.

Some schools are following observation and assessment approach which is also beneficial for enhancing teacher professional development. This includes peer coaching and teacher evaluation which encourage teachers to improve their professional competencies. The teacher, as a person and learner, has to develop skills, qualities and attitudes such as commitment, confidence, flexibility and passion for learning, analytic and conceptual thinking to enhance his professional skills respectively.

Importance of research-based learning

The sole purpose of stimulating educational research in children is to give them an insight of what they learn. The curriculum, modes of instruction, assessments and learning opportunities should be clearly linked with natural environment and developed to cater the needs and interests of the students. The firsthand experience in a child’s education comes from nature. Dienes (1969) suggests that children need to build or construct their own concepts from within rather than having those concepts imposed upon them. This means that children at a very young age are inquisitive about their surroundings and have a desire to explore them. It is the responsibility of teachers to let children explore, think and question. The questions formed in the mind enhance learning and intellectual capabilities of young children.

Let the wind of change blow!

The present scenario implies that in order to bring a cultural change in schools, the teachers, students and communities should collectively work together for a unified goal. Research and development has great significance in shaping developing communities. The first step to raise awareness among teachers and parents to bring a meaningful change in our education system is the collective acceptance of re-thinking schooling. Workshops, seminar and other training sessions provide a platform to teachers and educationists to collectively think about redefining their goals and objectives. Having the same vision in mind, an educational institution organized a seminar which focused on enhancing research culture in schools. The guest speakers in the seminar talked about the significance of research in teaching and learning; and pondered over various reasons that are causing hindrance in increasing research skills among teachers and students.

The focal point of that seminar was to emphasize upon a radical change in education system. The change has been centered to the need for schools to create an environment which is conducive to promoting research skills in teachers and students. We need to provide the learners with a fundamental precept of Islamic education integrated with Islamic Tarbiyah. An eminent Muslim political thinker Al-Mauwardi in his book entitled “The Leadership and Politics” writes that the essential characteristic for a Muslim educator is to have knowledge, perception, intellect, intuition and revelation which enhances research skills in teachers and students. Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah said: “To gain knowledge and research in children, an educator must encourage children to be creative, inquisitive and ask questions. Children should remain quiet and listen attentively and understand well. And lastly act upon the knowledge being gained.

The seminar outlined the fact there is a general consensus that schools need to adopt research teaching approaches. But this process of change is still a big challenge for various schools who still believe in unreflective and conventional teaching methods. Radical change in education is impossible unless education leaders critically analyze and understand the goals and objectives of research in educational development. Research element reveals that transmission of knowledge, values and beliefs into classroom practices offers multiple opportunities for students and teachers to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.


Learning was as serious as faith


The word ‘Jamiah’ in Arabic means ‘university’. The word ‘Jami’ stands for ‘Masjid’. Many scholars of the early Muslim civilization saw a clear connection between learning and faith. The first revelation, “Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists).” (Al-Alaq 96:1), was a significant sign to urge the early Muslims to learn new things and share their discoveries.

Travelling teachers, known as Ahl al-Ilm (the people with knowledge), became the means to spread knowledge between towns and cities. By the late ninth century, almost every Masjid housed an elementary school for boys and girls. Kids began school at the age of six. Among the early skills school kids learnt were how to write verses from the Quran and the 99 names of Allah. They then went on to memorize all 6,239 verses of the Noble Book.

The affluent members of the society hired tutors to teach their children at home. Each Muslim school had an exclusive architecture with arched hallways leading to a courtyard for outdoor lessons, a prayer hall, living quarters for students, and an ablution room. Talking, laughing, or joking was not permitted in the classrooms. There were mainly four different types of Muslim schools: regular (primary schools), houses of readers (high schools), houses of Hadeeth (religious schools), and medical schools.

Most schools had libraries filled with books written in Arabic on such advanced topics as chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Education was free, and some students were even provided with books, stipends, and lodging facilities. An Awqaf was set up for building schools, paying salaries to teachers, and arranging meals for students. Much like college students today, students at universities in the Muslim world took entrance examinations, joined study groups, and had to pass final exams to graduate.

According to a travelling geographer, Ibn Hawqal, the city of Palermo in Muslim Sicily had 300 Masajid that taught various subjects in the late tenth century. By the fifteenth century, the Ottomans had revolutionized schools by setting up a kind of learning centre called a Kulliye. Each complex had a Masjid, school, hospital, and dining area.

A quest for advanced education among Muslim scholars led to the spread of universities throughout the Muslim world: Baghdad, Timbuktu in Mali, Fes in Morocco, Bayt al-Hikmah in Tunisia, and countless more.

The spark of learning lit up the Dark Ages in the European world, too. European students travelled back and forth to Muslim cities to study at colleges and to learn Arabic, in order to access the latest discoveries, intellectual advancements, and inventions. This contributed to the spread of Islamic knowledge and the exchange of ideas in the world at that time.