Member Spotlight

Love Blossomed: A Journey into Values Education and Project Based Learning

By Jyoti Kumta

March 3, 2024

Love was in the air from the very first day that I started reading about Character Education/Social Emotional Learning. That was more than two decades ago, but I was unaware of it. At first it was all in the realm of the mind and a very cerebral pursuit. The heart came into the picture must later.
My professional journey took me from the classroom to the role of a school counselor and even a brief stint as a corporate trainer. It was during my years as a school counselor that the captivating world of Values Education, Character Education, and Social Emotional Learning was revealed to me. The corporate world experience, that had followed, did not hold charm for very long and I happily returned to the world of education. This time totally convinced that I belonged, undeniably and firmly, in the world of Values Education. Since then, it’s been a roller coaster ride of joys and heartaches but also one of constant learning.

Conventional thought suggests that values cannot be taught, they are only caught, but I have a slightly different perspective on it. Yes, values are indeed caught but they also need to be ‘taught’ to counteract current societal pressures and the deluge of media influence. Here we first need to understand the meaning of ‘teaching’. What is the methodology that we are using to ‘teach’ values? Definitely not indoctrination or lecturing! It needs to be a more engaging form of democratic teaching which includes demonstration (aka role modelling), inquiry, discussions, opportunities to reflect, sharing of personal experiences, experiential learning and even lighthearted activities. All this in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space!

I studied and then experimented with this methodology for many years. First with students and then with teachers. This gave birth to the ‘Let’s Educate the Heart’ programme, that is currently being implemented in a school. The anguish that one goes through while seeing a child fall or fail and then helping him/her to get up and stand tall again was all there to experience to its fullest, during this period.

Then along came my second passion .. Project Based Learning (PBL)! PBL epitomized the fusion of my beliefs and provided me with an opportunity to foster strong values in students, while addressing real-world issues.
I had read about PBL but came in close contact when I decided to enter a pan India competition as mentor to a group of neighbourhood children. They had to choose a socially relevant, real-life problem and find a solution to address it. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life, as far as teaching goes. I continued using this methodology to engage children through the pandemic days and realized that it was a great tool to teach values.

PBL provided a beautiful structure and many opportunities to ‘teach’ values without being preachy. Group work, addressing social impact issues, the use of rubrics for reflection and self-assessment set the stage for authenticity, integrity, taking responsibility, being innovative, resilience, grit, empathy, building strong relationships, and many others.

Despite the prevalence of project work in curricula most teachers miss out on implementing some key principles like giving students voice and choice, time for reflection, authenticity, sustained inquiry etc. Mastery of Gold Standard PBL, both conceptually and practically, underpins its efficacy, and understanding it in letter and spirit is essential. This happens only when the process of discovery, learning, implementation and reflection is followed.

Everyone I have met agrees that Values Education is essential in today’s world and is as important, or more important than academics. In an era of AI and the ubiquitous social media, reimagining the role of the teacher as a facilitator who is open to lifelong learning and being a guide to students, has also become imperative. If merged with PBL, I think, we would have the perfect answer to our education woes.

Life’s most profound lessons often emerge from heartfelt experiences and simultaneously shape character. So, with love and perseverance as my guide, I continue to promote educating the heart, one step at a time.