articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Forum
March, 2001

Multiple Ways

of Teaching and


in Bangladesh

An Introduction to the Multiple Ways of Teaching-Learning (MWTL) Approach
Shikha Chanda in Bangladesh

The improvement of learning quality is the cornerstone of the IDEAL (Intensive District Approach to Education for All) Project implemented by Government of Bangladesh with technical, financial and material support from UNICEF. By improving quality, IDEAL aims to attract more children into schools, to keep them there until the end of 5 year cycle, to provide them an effective and joyful learning experience, and to help them achieve acceptable levels of learning. Multiple Ways of Teaching Learning (MWTL) approach is the core classroom innovation in order to introduce more child-centred, participatory and group- oriented methods. The MWTL approach has been developed based on multiple intelligence (MI) theory. Professor Howard Gardner, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, stated in his book "Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences" that a human being has at least 8 intelligences and identifies at least eight different innate abilities, or intelligences, through which a person knows and learns. The theory leads to the premise us to think and believe that children learn in different ways and they have different learning styles that correspond to the intelligences in which they are particularly strong. This approach requires teachers to adopt multiple teaching techniques so that children can easily learn through their strongest intelligence(s), while at the same time developing the weaker ones.

Ms. Shikha Chanda is a teacher at the Kanchijhuli government primary school of Mymenshingh district, which is approximately 120 kilometers away from Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh. She has been there for a number of years but recently she was astonished to see the excitement of her pupils as they filed into class one by one each morning. Nowadays her classroom is packed with little smiling faces gazing at her in anticipation of the day’s lesson.

This sort of enthusiasm has never been witnessed before. Only recently after introduction of the MWTL approach under IDEAL Project have such changes been seen. This MWTL approach of teaching is child centred and activity based. The child is encouraged to use multiple intelligences to extract knowledge through his or her environment and from his or her own experiences. Listening to Shikha, it seems that if the aim of this technique is to create thinking, confident, creative and happy children. The project has indeed made positive changes in learning.

"These children are from the age group of 6-10. They have never been given this type of attention before. IDEAL project trained me in this new teaching-learning approach and I noticed the differences immediately. Before, my children were listless and became tired very easily from the constant lecturing and parrot fashion repetition of the lesson. Now they look alert and speak out and are no longer shy."

Many children come from illiterate backgrounds and they come to school with no preparation. This approach allows children particularly in grade I and II to complete their study in school so they don’t need to study much at home. This is especially appropriate in lower classes.

"We don’t just use the chalk and board method. Teaching through song, dance, recitation and acting is much more fun and it is very easy because the children really concentrate and feel they are learning through joyful activities", says Shikha.

She reported that before attendance was low and now it has increased and more children attend school regularly. "Now they are eager to come to school. Before the new system, the teachers would come into the class and tell the children to just get on with their reading and our aim was to keep everyone quiet and studious. Now most of the teaching is through participatory technique and activity based."

Shikha believes it is important for her to become like the children so they can relate to the teacher more. She spends time chatting with them and asks them if they had breakfast and if they got to school okay this morning. "I see the world through their eyes", she says.

In response to a question, the teacher told that the new teaching-learning approach is so flexible that she can work with the children individually or as a class or in groups. A typical day in the classroom goes like this: "I put the small ones in the front and the older ones in the back so they can all see the front of the class. I then make conversation with them. How they are? What they will do when they go home tonight? Sometimes I speak to them in English and say, "Good morning, children". Then we might sing a song together.

"Then I tell them to close their eyes, I hold up a picture of, for example, two birds on a wall and two flying. They open their eyes and study the picture. Then I put them into small groups and they have to talk about the picture and remember it. I will then sing a song about the picture and they all have to learn and sing it with me. I might also act out a story of some birds and get the class to copy bird gestures and act with me. I then bring them all to the blackboard and we have a question and answer session in which I ask what colour were the birds, what were they doing. Furthermore this would lead to more fact finding questions about what birds eat, how they fly and how they make their nests and so on."

One of the favourite pass times of the children is writing on the blackboard, the lower section of the classroom wall which is painted. Many children together can draw pictures. Through such activity based teaching, Shikha has realised that children will learn more quickly when they have inspiration and individual attention. She now believes that all children love to learn. It is an automatic process for them. They have a natural inquisitiveness. Teaching them then becomes a pleasure and joyful.

Shikha says that she always wanted to be a teacher since the days of her younger life when she was influenced by one of her own teachers. "I used to watch the way she dressed and walked and talked, she was my inspiration. The teacher was always happy and jolly, dressed very smartly and elegantly and time would fly when we had her for lessons. She never made learning boring. I learned to sing, recite poetry and dance from a very early age. So the MWTL approach of using song and dance to teach was a perfect transition for me."

However, many teachers are still hesitant to take the bold steps to transform their classes from the old "spoon fed" system of teaching to the dynamic application of multiple intelligence principles. The reason for this is that it involves more work on their part.

A lot of planning the night before needs to be done to prepare for a class, such as the collection of teaching - learning materials like pictures, photos, different colours or types of paper and perhaps the creating of a new song, or dance routine.

"We have to think about how to make a lesson interesting and different", says Shikha.

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Last revised March 1, 2001
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