ABL – A Revolution in Teaching & Learning

‘Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.’ Here Swamiji identified education with life itself.  A child has impulses, predispositions, capacity to assimilate and grow, and in the process these bring out its hidden abilities and talents. Swamiji’s ideas are in accord with this view. He said: ‘A child teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is to take away the obstacles, and knowledge comes out of its own nature. Put a hedge round it; so that it is not killed by anything. And there your work stops.’
Our Vidyalaya tries to spread this kind of Man-Making education to the students through different approaches and one such approach of pedagogy is ABL (Activity Based Learning).
An important aspect of the teaching-learning process is what the students do and how much time they spend on different types of learning activities in class while teacher undertakes various activities. ABL methodology emphasizes  a multi-grade class having students of all the grades of primary stage in which students learn at their own pace. ABL is an innovative approach adopted in the Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalaya, Badarpur to provide joyful, self-paced and self-directed learning environment to children. At present the ABL class is a composite class of grades I II & III. The curriculum covers Mother tongue (Assamese/Bengali), English, Mathematics, EVS and Hindi. Competencies in each subject are split into different parts; completion of each part is called a milestone. Each milestone has different steps of learning process and each step of learning process is represented by a logo. Milestones are arranged in a logical sequence from simple to complex and also different types of activities such as introduction, reinforcement, practice, evaluation, remedial and enrichment activities. The relevant milestones are clustered and linked as chain and this chain of milestones is called ladder. The ladder is like the syllabus of a subject of a particular class. The ladder directs the students to go forward and reach the desired goal. The entire text book is brought to classroom in form of cards. The cards are arranged in various trays and placed those in different racks as per the direction of the Ladder.
To enable the children to organize in groups, group cards are used. Evaluation is inbuilt in the system. Separate cards and activities are used for this purpose. Each child is provided with worksheets for further reinforcement activities. Child's progress is recorded through annual assessment chart.
The learning material is systematically stacked on the shelves and colour-coded for each class level. Each child is provided a separate blackboard at his/her eye level to write, which is called as low level blackboard. This makes possible for every child to read others’ exercises. The teacher closely monitors the levels attained by every child and sometimes pairs an advanced learner with the slower one without hampering child’s freedom to select the pace of learning.
The Teaching-Learning Materials (TLM) are prepared and   modified as per the necessity by a team of experienced and dedicated teachers of VKVs. The text books are divided into different concepts and on the basis of it TLM are prepared for the students at each school level.
During an academic year teachers facilitate students within the framework of ABL to complete the prescribed course of study.
ABL methodology envisages a record of the students’ achievement in the most recent test given by the teacher on reaching a milestone on the ladder of the relevant grade.
A question that arises and needs to be answered is about what the rest of the students do when the teacher is engaged in a particular teaching activity with few students. The situation is different in ABL classes from that of classes in which the conventional teaching and learning takes place. In a conventional classroom environment, for most of the teacher’s activities, students are supposed to be engaged in a single learning activity that corresponds with the teaching activity. For example, when teacher is lecturing or explaining something verbally, students are supposed to be listening attentively or observing the teacher.  But under ABL environment students are generally involved in a varieties of activities which may be independent of what teacher is doing at that moment. For example, teacher is helping some students, the other students may be involved at that moment in some other activities not related to teacher’s activity, such as using TLM, seeking help from peers, writing on blackboard etc. The correspondence between students’ and teacher’s activity is to be seen in this context. The following discussion on this aspect relates to only student centric and instructional supportive activities of teachers.
Among the student centric activities, an important activity of a teacher is to ‘provide feedback to students’. When the teacher provides feedback to a few, the rest of the students remained busy with their own assigned tasks. Similarly, while teachers spend time on asking or replying to the questions raised by one or a few, again it is so because teachers asks or replies to individual students and not to the whole class and only the concerned student answers the question while other students remain busy with their own assigned work.
Some of the important features of ABL are:
    Individual learning pace
    Individual attention by teachers
    No fear of examination
    Pupils get the joy of learning by doing
    Involvement of  pupils in decision making
    Understand the dignity of labour
    Develop sense of responsibilities
    Peer learning
    Understand the importance of cooperation
    Students role is active, teacher is a facilitator