The Innovative Life Skills Pedagogy

Cinema- A successful life skills intervention

Author: Ms Prachi Misra 

Why an Innovative Pedagogy?

How fast are we able to recollect the story when a popular film is mentioned? Is this recollection as prompt when a specific school topic is stated? How many lectures do we remember from our school days?

Research in the K-12 education domain (pedagogy) reveals that more than 60% of the human population comprises of visual learners. A typical quality of these learners is the ability to process and interpret information for a longer period upon exposure to images, illustrations and motion pictures. Another unique attribute of visual learners is the ability to think in pictures, thus excelling in comprehension and articulation. However, despite the dominance of visual learners, the pedagogy of classroom instruction is predominantly auditory.

The conventional instructional teaching methods are not conducive for impactful life skills based education. The traditional ‘moral science’ or ‘value education’ classes are primarily lecture based and therefore,not engaging for the students. Hence innovation in pedagogy is essential to increase student learning outcome.

..despite the dominance of visual learners, the pedagogy of classroom instruction is predominantly auditory

Teaching life skills as generic skills in relation to everyday life could form the foundation of life skills education for the promotion of mental well-being, and healthy interaction and behaviour. More problem specific skills, such as assertively dealing with peer pressures etc. could be built on this foundation. There are research indications that teaching skills in this way, as part of broad-based life skills programmes, is an effective approach for primary prevention education (Errecart et al., 1991; Perry and Kelder, 1992; Caplan et al., 1992 in Kumar et al.,2015)

Non-linguistic representations in the form of visuals have a lasting impact on the learner.In the past decade, cinema has emerged as a nuanced medium of communication, used for myriad purposes. Research in this domain indicates that use of media on a day to day basis eventually leads to influencing children’s perceptions (Chawla 2005; Gahlaut 2005).

Since films are a great medium to express and communicate thoughts and feelings across all age groups, life skills pedagogy can effectively utilize the impact of this medium. Various studies have indicated that stories that have memorable characters, clever plots, and universal themes help to lay the foundation for a lifetime of pleasurable and successful reading encounters (Lamme, 1987; Newman, 1985).

The traditional ‘moral science’ or ‘value education’ classes are primarily lecture based and therefore, not engaging for the students.

What is School Cinema?

School Cinema uses the visual mode of imparting life skills education through a film-based learning curriculum for children, parents and educators. The films module is supported by interactive workbooks that further reinstate the life skills, values and attitudes. Content of the workbooks is developed in accordance with the formative and summative CCE assessment guidelines (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) with an aim to evaluate the students’ thinking, emotional and social skills along with values and attitudes.
Extensive research is conducted for School Cinema module development. Surveys are used as the primary tool to arrive at topics, issues and challenges faced by children. This information is collected from children, parents, teachers, counselors and other stakeholders. Focused group discussions are held with groups of children, parents, teachers and counsellors to map prevalent issues that need to be addressed through life skills sessions. Post analysis, the most relevant and common issues or topics are shortlisted. Thus, each grade has a distinct module with ten movies for students, one film for teachers and one film for parents. The films deal with values, life skills, self-development, environment, social skills, adolescent education, citizenship and national integration.

Since films are a great medium to express and communicate thoughts and feelings across all age groups, life skills pedagogy can effectively utilize the impact of this medium.

Distinctive Experience of Making a School Cinema Film

A case study involving in depth interviews was conducted by LXL Ideas to outline the distinctive features of School Cinema. Selected via purposive sampling, primary respondents in this study were 4 filmmakers of School Cinema movies. During the interviews, filmmakers unanimously agreed upon a sense of responsibility experienced by them in the process of making films for School Cinema. Unlike commercial cinema, this process was focused at connecting with the consumers of the films through the value and message leading to stimulation of thought, ideas discussion.
Kenny Basumatary, director of ‘Myna and Asterix’ (film for class 6 on learning the value of money) and ‘Fight It Right’ (film for class 10 on anger management) said, “Not only I had a great time, but also learned quite a lot from the scripting stage itself. Discussing ideas and particular lines of dialogues further enhanced my understanding of several concepts. The TV episodes I direct are disposable watch-and-forget entertainment, but the School Cinema films are influential for thousands of young minds. I owed it to the team to deliver a product I could be proud of – a film that would inform and be entertaining at the same time.” Both the films have been featured and awarded in International Film Festivals like Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Seattle Children’s Film Festival.
Kate Chaillat’s film, ‘Too Cool for School’ addresses the issue of peer pressure in class 8 module. “I had a story in mind which spoke to my younger teenage self. School Cinema gave me the opportunity to make this happen. The hero in my story Ben internalizes the pressure he feels to the point that he thinks his head is growing bigger. As a teenager one tends to be locked in one’s own perceptions of self, making it harder to see how others may be feeling. It was important for me to show in this way that peer pressure is as much about the group of peers as it is about the individuals’ perception of that pressure”, says Kate while discussing the approach adopted to convey the message through the film. Reminiscing on how this was different from working on any other film project Kate said, “School Cinema makes films with a purpose and an audience in mind which is a challenge in itself, but they also give you the freedom to explore creative ways to put your ideas into the film. Before making this film for I had never felt like making a film with children and teenagers. Creating a film for school cinema was a collaborative experience. Compared to making a short film it was interesting to be able to bounce back ideas with the creative team.”
School Cinema’s teacher and parent films have been awarded and recognized in the film fraternity across the globe. Supavitra Babul, director of teachers’ film ‘I Say, Bhallaji!’ states that working with School Cinema has revived a certain patience and helped her follow discipline of the script in an all-new grammar. “There was a huge experiential difference in terms of pace of work, temperament, objectives and processes. It was more disciplined and focused. I was motivated towards making a film for School Cinema since I have been a part of feature films for children earlier and feel that films in the form of edutainment are more effective than pure academic education”, says Supavitra.

A case study involving mixed methods of focused group discussions, in depth interviews and surveys was conducted by LXL Ideas to outline the distinctive features of School Cinema.

Way Forward

Scope for innovation in life skills pedagogy is immense as this domain has garnered attention in past decade. Leveraging on visual mode of cinema ensures effective learning outcomes for students in the long run. School Cinema’s unique process is a groundbreaking intervention in existing pedagogical tools. Modules like these can be scaled up and further improvised and integrated for not just life skills education but also in the core subjects’ classroom instruction. Next article in the pedagogy series will further discuss this aspect, elaborating on the teachers’ response to the module.

About the Author

Ms. Prachi Misra

Ms. Prachi Misra is a researcher at LXL Ideas Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore. She holds a Masters degree in Women’s Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Honors in Political Science from Lady Sri Ram College, University of Delhi.

Ms. Misra has worked on various research based policy advocacy projects focused on the gender dynamics of livelihood, life-skills education, climate change and agricultural economy. Her primary research interest and prior publications revolve around issues involve feminist perspectives of life skills education, environment, religion and popular culture.

She was also an editorial columnist for The Lucknow Tribune and Head Editor for Scintilla Magazine initiated by Medical Students Association of India (2015-16). As an education management consultant, she has worked with multiple non-profit organizations on establishing monitoring and evaluation systems for life-skills training modules.This article (the second in the trilogy) for MENTOR explores life skills pedagogy through the powerful medium of cinema highlighting School Cinema as a successful and innovative intervention.

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