Pedagogical Framework - PBL and Discourse

Project based learning and discourse has been very central to the Gnowledge lab’s approach. This is inspired by constructionist, and connectionist models of education. The pedagogical framework guiding the design of learning environment is elicited below:

Nature of projects

CUBE (for investigative projects)


CUBE: Collaboratively Understanding Biology Education, is currently, in the 8th year of operation, this project expanded in its scale and continued to encourage and inspire us. As a demonstration of the pedagogical principles designed as a part of the gnowledge lab, CUBE initiative stands out as one of our major integrated initiatives, that as multiple implications to STEM education in the country.

CUBE participants

The CUBE project started as a 5-week hands-on research experience based on ‘Simple Model Systems’ like daphnia, Drosophila, snails, in the summer of 2012. The first phase saw the participation of only 18 students from 4 different colleges in Mumbai. Working on these simple model systems, the participants engaged in some frontline questions regarding the molecular basis of learning and memory, epigenetics, regeneration, decision-making, biological rhythms, etc. What happened next is more unconventional as this model of undergraduate research proved to be beyond ‘apprenticeship model’ wherein students are trained in a one-time workshop. It showed cascade effect as more and more colleges continued to be roped in as participating colleges and required them to establish ‘simple model systems’ based research labs in their colleges and initiate neighborhood colleges into already expanding CUB research program. These student-centered frugal research labs showed open-ended, interactive, inquiry-driven, collaborative and context-bound biology research undertaken by these students. The model systems and the techniques introduced in these labs are incredibly inexpensive and yet raise sophisticated questions and initiated students into the broader scientific practice wherein they engaged in frontline questions through these simple model systems.

Read full details about CUBE

CUBE Project Details

MakerSpaces (for development projects)

HBCSE has launched a new initiative to support and improve the quality of engagements in the makerspaces and tinkering labs that are being setup in many schools across the country. This makerspace follows the CUBE (Collaborative Understanding of Biology Education) model of project based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, which focuses on conversations around making and investigative projects. The engagements emphasize documenting the process of making and investigations as a primary goal, with a lesser emphasis on finishing the project. This design creates sufficient opportunities for all the members to engage in conversations based on written and digital media, which are essential for authentic learning. We developed a sophisticated platform that awards badges based on the activity of each registered user. We regularly conduct workshops for teachers (along with students).

A space for design, making, fabrication, engineering projects. Here are the key activities of makerspace: Design, development of new project challenges in the form of projects and interactive exhibits Documentation, discussion and sharing on the online platform ( Research in the area of exploring the potentiality of makerspace as a learning environment. Empowering the schools/colleges/institutions to start community makerspace and support them in the endeavor to be self-reliant to do all the above.

Expanding the participatory base of science depends on the availability of accessible, functional labs and field programs in schools and colleges. Most Indian schools do not have science, mathematics and computer labs. In those schools where the labs exist, they are often not functional. In the colleges where labs exist, they were mostly used for clearing practical examinations and not for performing authentic scientific experiments. As a result, providing an authentic exposure to scientific practices is almost impossible given the current emphasis on the nature of laboratory practicals in the curriculum.

An Image of MakerSpace

This project proposes to remedy the situation by developing activity-based professional development of teachers (particularly science teachers) by exposing them to ways to create, manage and use the labs and field explorations (open citizen science projects). This exposure and training will be conducted by developing and delivering Activity Based Collaborative Distributed Massive Open Online Courses (in short ABCD MOOCs). Unlike traditional courses, these are ongoing courses that will be integrated with the teacher professional development programs (in-service teacher training) by involving students. The courses will focus on generic and transferable competencies such as fabrication, tinkering, data collection, measurement, calibration, analysis, data visualization, knowledge organization, asking questions, designing experiments, modeling, model-based reasoning, seeking evidence, publication and communication.

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MakerSpace Project Details

COOOL STEM Games Platform

STEMGames Logo

All the activities of the above physical spaces will be supported by an online platform called - COOOL STEM Games. (COOOL is Collaborative Open Online and Ongoing Learning to nurture research/STEM practices.) The platform was launched on 15th July 2019 and has now a user base of 1000+ participants. The effort is to make a vibrant community of practice for teachers, students, educators, researchers, parents, or any citizen who can collectively participate in the process of knowledge construction via discussions and attempting to solve project challenges. The team also publishes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) projects challenges periodically, which are specially designed to inculcate STEM habits among participants, keeping in mind 21st Century Learning Goals. The platform link is

Read full details of STEMGames

Visit and Learn more about the live platform

CLIx: Connected Learning Initiative

Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx) a multi-partner project funded by Tata Trusts and coordinated by Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Arguably one of the most extensive field-based research study on the ICT based Science, Mathematics, and Language teaching in Govt Schools in four different states in India (Telangana, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, and Mizoram). The project started in 2015, the first phase of the project will end in March 2019. The project so far is executed in about 600 schools across the country. The project started with an online course (delivered through LAN in the school’s computer lab) developed for school students, Invitation to Connected Learning Environment (i2c) was deployed in the field through a marathon of workshops conducted in three different states. The was developed in three languages, English, Hindi, and Telugu. We deployed, in collaboration with CLIx team, in about 600 schools, trained several hundred teachers trained about 35 technical field support personnel.

After the successful run of the online course Invitation to CLIx using the GStudio server during the first half of the year, it was decided to use GStudio for other courses developed by other partners of CLIx. As a result, it transformed into CLIx Course Platform for all courses. During this process, we started collaborating with Office of the Digital Learning at MIT Boston, which is a core partner of the CLIx project. We reached an agreement that MIT team will develop Open Assessment Tool for authoring questions as well as Open Assessment Player to administer them. We successfully integrated these components to run with GStudio environment using an open standard interface called DLKIT (Digital Learning Kit) which is a Python binding for OSID (Open Service Interface Definitions). MIT provided the DLKIT and test cases supporting the integration process. These developments gave GStudio the ability to embed assessments, generate analytics to track learners performance. During this period both the team members visited each other’s labs for face to face coordination and regular conference calls between the MIT team and the team at the gnowledge lab. The platform is continuously updated and is available online at, and the code is published at as DLKIT branch. The main contribution of the gnowledge lab has been to develop the software of the platform based on the flagship project of the lab (GStudio).

CLIx Platform Installed in over 540 schools across 4 states in India

The multi-partner CLIx project was awarded the UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa ICT in Education for the year 2017. Award received 2018.

CLIx also won Open Collaboration Award for Excellence 2019 from the Open Education Consortium (OEC). The award says: “A bold and innovative intervention with global relevance to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the public education systems in India. The overarching goal is to demonstrate quality at scale through meaningful use of new media and digital technologies in resource constrained contexts.”

Gnowledge lab at HBCSE contributes to the CLIx by advising and assisting CLIx technology team for the design, development, integration and deployment of CLIx platform – a next generation digital learning platform which is both a course maker (CMS) and a course player (LMS). The CLIx platform is powered by gstudio, which is a node based framework for learning technologies developed at the Gnowledge lab. The platform hosts all the CLIx students modules and works both online as well as offline. The lab also developed installation technology for distribution of the platform in the remote schools which fosters connected learning in disconnected spaces through the concept of internet in a box. The team at HBCSE collaborates with MIT technology team to integrate the Open Assessment Tool and Open Assessment Client with the platform. The Gnowledge lab is also involved in the CLIx OER release.

The HBCSE has contributed to CLIx in the design and development of i2C – a digital literacy course for high school students. The HBCSE staff actively contribute towards the technology transfer to CLIx implementation teams by conducting workshops, training teachers and providing technical support on an ongoing basis.

Read full details about CLIx

Biology Education Research

The project is situated in STEM Education with the broad objectives on students’ conceptual understanding, scientific skills in biology education. Currently, the following are ongoing projects:

Undergraduate Students’ Understanding of Experimental Design

This project is related to students understanding of experimentation, experimental design and its parameters involved in simple model systems. This study is situated in the CUBE program. (Meena Kharatmal, Mayur Gaikwad, Aashutosh Mule)

Undergraduate Student’s Understanding of Scientific Method Based on Research Reading

This project involves to study students understanding of scientific method. In this context, we introduce a classic paper to the undergraduate students. Based on their reading and understanding of the research paper, we explore students’ ideas about hypothesis, objective, experimental design, etc. in the context of the experimental study mentioned in the research paper. (Meena Kharatmal, Aashutosh Mule)

Undergraduate Students’ Conceptions about Natural Selection using Concept Inventory

(Elphinstone College, Mumbai, April 12, 2019)

This project uses concept inventory as one of the methods of STEM education. We explored the available concept inventory in the area of biology topics and more specifically in the area of evolution and natural selection. We adapted 20 concept inventories and administered to 30 undergraduate students to study their conceptions on natural selection. (Meena Kharatmal, Sudhir Verma, Nagarjuna G., M C Arunan)

To identify the role of online/offline discussions in collaborative learning environment

This project aims to study the role of lab discussions online / offline on undergraduate students’ conceptual understanding of evolution in an ongoing collaborative learning environment of CUBE. (Meena Kharatmal, Mayur Gaikwad, Nagarjuna G., M C Arunan)

Evidence Based Teaching Practices at Undergraduate Level

(Elphinstone College, Mumbai, 23 January to 16 March 2019)

Evidence-based teaching practices in STEM education at undergraduate level is gaining attention. It is a model showing learning gains in undergraduate classroom research. We implemented some of these practices viz., diagnostic questions, concept mapping, concept inventory, along with the classroom teaching of a course on Plant Physiology at undergraduate. Diagnostic questions were developed and used in the class prior to the topic to gain students’ prior understanding. This helped us to address problematic conceptions during teaching. Concept mapping helped students to organize and make connections with concepts through extensive blackboard work. Concept inventory, a method of assessing student understanding and learning gaps, was developed and used for assessment in the mid-term and after the course. ln this article, we introduce these practices, illustrate its feasibility, provide reflections on using these practices at college level. These practices are not only a deviation from the traditional lecture based methods, but also are student-centric focusing on using pedagogical strategies that are based on effective classroom research. These methods help teachers to provide feedback and assess student learning and difficulties in the core areas of biology education.

The entire unit on plant physiology at an undergraduate college was collaboratively taught along with a college teacher. The disciplinary based biology eduation research approach allows teachers to combine the evidence based teaching practices with their disciplinary knowledge for effective classroom teaching and research. (Meena Kharatmal & Mayur Gaikwad)