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Mother teacher or multiple teachers - what works best in lower primary schools?

Let us take a look at the insights from Anju Gupta’s action research project on employing multiple teachers in Grade 3.

Most schools in India follow the Mother Teacher Approach from Play School to Grade 3. Mother Teacher Approach is about a single teacher, sometimes aided by an assistant teacher or a support staff, who teaches all subjects for a specific grade level. When I took over as the Headmistress of the Junior Section of a leading school in Delhi, we had been following the Mother Teacher Concept from Grade 1 to 3. During classroom observations, I felt that Grade 3 students would benefit from multiple teachers instead of a Mother Teacher. It was not an easy decision to make. Employing multiple teachers in Grade 3 would mean a lot of giving and taking in terms of human resources and logistics. We had to pilot the idea before we went all the way in.

How does the Mother Teacher Approach help?

The traditional school timetable with rigidly scheduled time slots does not apply to Mother Teachers, as they are with their students throughout the school day. They gain additional teacher time and, as a result, increase their understanding of each child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses. A subject teacher coming in for 30 to 35 minutes a day for a lesson may not develop a similar sense of the students in that classroom as a Mother Teacher can. Mother teachers tend to develop a strong bond with the students. It helps them tailor the academic goals to the individual needs of each student.

How does the Multiple Teacher Approach help?

While the Multiple Teacher Approach is rigid and restricted by the traditional school timetable, it brings varied expertise and a variety of teaching approaches to the table. I felt that the Multiple Teacher Approach could kill the monotony in the classroom as students get a chance to interact with different teachers throughout the day. However, we had to find out if the Multiple Teacher Approach really made any difference in student learning, motivation, and engagement. Else, we would stick with the Mother Teacher Approach.

What did we learn from the Action Research Project?

We exposed the same set of students to the Mother Teacher Approach and the Multiple Teacher Approach for a specific period. We used the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation Framework of the Central Board of Secondary Education to gather student learning data during the interventions. We graded the students according to their progress in April/May under the Multiple Teacher Concept and later in July/August under the Mother Teacher Concept. We sought feedback from the learners and their parents multiple times during the study. We also collected the feedback from the teachers both in the beginning and at the end of the study. We noticed the following changes:

Student Achievement

We found that the learners were more motivated and excited to learn when we employed the Multiple Teacher Approach. It showed in how they performed during assessments. Since multiple teachers meant that we could employ subject experts, they developed better and wholesome lesson plans to teach. We also found that interdisciplinary learning improved during the Multiple Teacher Approach. The students and teachers worked together to make several adjustments in their learning context, and as a result, we could see enhanced teamwork, interpersonal skills, and resilience.

Teacher Efficacy

The Multi Teacher Approach seemed to positively impact the efficacy of the teachers involved. The teachers felt confident and competent after teaching more students and achieving good academic results. They could work with 100-120 students in connection with their area of subject expertise rather than dealing with a set of 30-35 students in different subjects.

Parental Involvement

Usually, working parents are happy with the Mother Teacher Approach as they need to meet only one teacher for feedback during parent-teacher meetings. However, counterintuitively, the Multiple Teacher Approach helped us improve parental involvement. Parents could gather insights from a set of teachers about their child rather than a single teacher. Since the teachers were experts in specific subjects, parents were happy to receive high-quality feedback about what their child needed to work on.

Acknowledgement: The author would like to thank the management of Ahlcon International School, Delhi, Mr. Ashok Kumar Pandey, the then principal of the school and Mr. Arijit Ghosh from the British Council ( both accomplished academicians) for supporting and encouraging this Action Research Project.

About the Author

Anju Gupta

Anju Gupta is an educator, a leader mentor and a parent coach. Actively involving over two decades and a half in the schooling space in India, she headed Junior & Middle Section, Ahlcon International School, Delhi. As a leader mentor, she supports school leaders to learn the nuances of effectively managing a 21st century school. As a parent coach, she is working on creating a support network for parents in her community. You can connect to Anju on Twitter, @gupta_anju9


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