When students from other countries come to Saint Rose, it isn’t only to study American approaches in their field but also to share common goals and challenges. This was the case with Kashmira Jaiswal, a school administrator in western India, who spent Spring 2015 at the College to learn new ways to engage students.
“What Kashmira focuses on in her work is quite similar to what we are all grappling with,” said Associate Professor of Teacher Education Drey Martone. “The idea is you don’t want to get ‘through’ the curriculum you want to get ‘into’ the curriculum. You really want to pull the students in. The key is how do you define what that looks like?”
Six years ago Jaiswal came to Saint Rose through the International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP). An initiative of the U.S. State Department, ILEP, now known as the Fulbright Distinguished Award for Teachers Program, welcomes outstanding secondary-school educators to the United States for professional development.
Jaiswal, whom Martone described as “a real doer,” was a student in Martone’s technology and assessment courses. Once home, the now-vice principal of Navrachana Higher Secondary School lost no time introducing approaches she learned in that and other classes to the 150 teachers on her team.
“It has been a great journey since the ILEP Program,” Jaiswal explained via email. “I have been consistently upgrading my skills and helping my fellow teachers with their professional development while continuing to look at the repertoire of my learning experiences and contributions to the school community. “
Today, more than 8,000 miles apart, she and Martone share their quest to sharpen teaching and learning.
Recently, she invited Martone – who is leaving the College on June 30 to return to the classroom as a fifth-grade teacher but will still serve as an adjunct faculty member at Saint Rose – to help judge (remotely) a competition she created challenging students to identify goals for sustainable energy projects and then build the projects. Martone got to see her own work in action, she said, and developed ideas to introduce in her classes.
Earlier this spring, they connected again, via Zoom, when Martone accepted Jaiswal’s invitation to offer a workshop.
For two hours – early morning in New York, mid-afternoon in India – Martone spoke to 300 K-12 educators about building high-order thinking competencies through authentic assessment.
The goal: teach something so fully that students are able to use the lesson to create or build something with a purpose outside of the classroom, similar to what adults do.
For example, she demonstrated, that rather than memorize a list of endangered animals, students learn the biology of a particular animal and what puts that species at risk. They then follow by writing members of the government proposing action. Another example: Students learn how solar energy works, including the math behind the size needed for panels to harness enough light. Then, they appear before the school board to propose solar roof panels.
“We’re saying we want students to think about their own questions,” said Martone. “Rather than be problem solvers, we want students to become problem-identifiers who think beyond what the teacher is telling them.”
Once she was on Zoom for the recent workshop, she noted there was almost no difference between her audience in India and online learners close to home. Teachers reflected on the new ideas, asked questions about how to use them, and shared ideas about how to apply them to learners of different ages and with different needs.
The goals of the session were similar to those she encounters in our own Western system, where many teachers are still encouraged to teach to a standardized test and rely heavily on textbooks over active lessons.
“Teachers are really all in the same community and when the pandemic started I was so impressed with the sharing of resources,” Martone said. “I viewed this session as an opportunity to share ideas and take these next steps together.”
Her colleague overseas agrees.
“Bringing about a change in the pre-existing systems is a formidable task, and it takes much grit and determination to cross impediments and roadblocks,” said Jaiswal. “But, with the support of altruistic friends like Dr. Martone, spreading the light of knowledge becomes quite an achievable goal. I look forward to more meaningful connections with Dr. Martone and The College of Saint Rose!”
By Jane Gottlieb