“Seeing like a Constructivist”: Learner-centered Pedagogy and Teacher Education In Chennai, Tamil Nadu
By: Meera Pathmarajah
Published: 05/21/2014
Uploaded: 01/11/2018
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: 2014 (May) Teachers College Columbia University Ed.D. Dissertations, Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Bureaucracy, case, Constructivist, Education, India, Learn, pedagogy, state

Description/Abstract: Despite significant efforts and funds spent on child-friendly schools and activity-based learning in Tamil Nadu, teachers' pedagogical beliefs and practices have changed little. This dissertation draws attention to the ways in which state bureaucracies shape the role of primary school teachers and influence their classroom pedagogies. I argue that state bureaucracies produce a certain normative discourse about educational procedures, routines, and tasks that construct teachers as technicians of administrative labor, students as passive and neutral, and learning as memorization. Using qualitative vertical case study data from two Chennai-based Teacher Training Institutes, I show that bureaucratic structures and norms tend to restrict teacher agency and reproduce teacher subjectivities in ways that privilege knowledge as information acquisition.

Recent curriculum framework documents in India promote constructivist reforms and articulate the need for radical shifts away from behavioristic educational approaches. However, the isolation of teacher education from universities and research-based institutions fails to provide student teachers with reflective spaces to deliberate new educational ideas. The teacher educators in this study mostly lectured about textbook content and were disengaged from learners' backgrounds and social identities. Assignments, projects, and the teaching internship experience were treated as “work” requirements rather than as processes for building understanding and pedagogical skills.

Programs such as activity-based learning are ultimately conditioned by prescriptive pedagogical requirements and are controlled by the omniscient gaze of government authorities. Three themes that emerged in the practice teaching experiences of student teachers included: (a) memorization as the principal measure of learning, (b) the blatant prevalence of corporal punishment, and (c) the need for evolving locally contextualized understandings of children and childhood. This research poses new questions about the actualization of learner-centered pedagogy in post-colonial contexts and offers suggestions for redesigning teacher education programs in India.