Reimagine To Manage The Learning In The Year 2020
The outbreak of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown have thrown at schools challenges they have never faced before. Caught off guard and now closed for an indeterminate duration, the way ahead for schools is to redesign Academic Calendars avers me.
Among the many schedules and events that the year 2020 couldn’t keep its date with due to the Coronavirus and its lingering health concerns, academic calendars have been the first to stop in their tracks.
Amid a period of great uncertainty, when leading educators, teachers, and policymakers are contemplating the future of school education, many questions are yet to be answered for all stakeholders.
- Can in-person learning resume in the coming months or will students need to continue their coursework online?
- If in-person learning does resume, will it need to be suspended again?
- Is it the time to focus only on the logistics of a safe school or also the curriculum instructional materials and multiple modes of curriculum transaction?
With all these major decisions about the future, the school leaders and pedagogues are being pondered upon.
Smart & Dynamic Curriculum, Need of the Hour!
This article focusses on the decisive steps that we can take to inspire confidence and hope in what the academic curriculum will look like.
This compels schools and teachers to open their minds, bring in innovation, and think as a collective to open our minds as we navigate this pandemic.
At the precise time when schools were mulling over the redesigning of the academic calendar, came the alternative academic planners and guidelines for the deletion of 30% syllabus in academic subjects by CBSE. The Board stated that the objective behind the cut in the syllabus is to reduce the examination stress of the students due to the current situation of the Coronavirus pandemic leading to emergency circumstances, as well as, to “prevent learning gaps”.
Having realized the purpose of providing a learning continuum, school leaders must invest in a smart and dynamic curriculum and replace the traditional examination-dominated system.
We need to install a modern, technology-driven, learner-led system of learning which requires creativity, pragmatism and impeccable planning.
There is plenty of time before schools re-open. We need systematic thinking to plan a roadmap as to how or what should be done for the first few months when schools reopen and what the rest of the school year would look like.
Road Map for Schools and Teachers
As education is the fourth basic necessity of human beings, great care has to be given to our education system. Teachers are vital players in the education arena to facilitate learning. Even the best technology and the right curriculum will be in vain if teachers are not competent, committed, and performance-oriented.
In an attempt to rethink the effectiveness of teachers in this crucial hour, schools should develop an organizational culture to constantly redefine the role of a teacher to a facilitator and now a coach to articulate a vision for creating a flexible, learning environment by identifying new ways to improve the learning outcomes of students.
In bleak moments like these, teachers must be patient, open-minded, and passionate about constantly upgrade their skills. T S Eliot, a famous English poet had written, ‘Where is wisdom, we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge, we have lost in information’?
This prevailing scenario of our education system needs to change. Embracing technology for teaching-learning is the best way forward. As we face an unknown, unseen and unpredictable future that is going to require problem-solving and innovative thinking, schools have to alter the annual curriculum plan with the following set of requirements that are viewed as quality indicators and necessary dimensions for future success.
The purpose of every school leader should be to focus on the curriculum, not on the syllabus.
Grace before Grades & Love before Lessons
It is generally believed that if the school is closed then children are not learning anything. But as a result of the present situation, some time should now be devoted to finding out what children have actually learned, especially about coping with life when there is uncertainty around. These are the things which we don’t teach in schools; this is a period where teachers have to learn from students. It depends on reconnecting as human beings with each other. It is important because different children will have different experiences to share.
- Innovate new ideas and use best practices to make teaching-learning, a joyful experience based on quality education.
- Blended Learning is the key. To fulfill the requirement of physical distancing within a classroom, classes should be divided into groups of approximately 1/3rd of the original strength which should be called on rotation to the school. Each group will get on an average of two days of school visits and three days of online classes per week.
- Ensure teachers and students work for collaborative Project Based Learning ensuring ‘Student Choice to Student Voice’. Deviate from the traditional single disciplinary model of teaching to a more nuanced interdisciplinary approach.
- Plan low stake alternative assessment tools like Open Text Book Assessments, Art Integrated Assessments, Flexible assessments, Self and Peer assessments, E-Portfolios to name a few. Draft student-friendly grading rubrics for assessment. These innovative strategies will enable teachers to map the comprehensive detailing of each and every child in a flexible environment. Read my article on alternative assessments for remote learning for more details.
- Prioritize life skills and social skills training to students which would include personal hygiene, sanitization, handwashing, wearing protective gear, maintaining physical distance enabling them to sustain effectively, any lockdown period or unprecedented ‘Act of God’ – be it COVID-19, floods, Cyclone Amphan or a locust swarm.
- Inculcate self-learning strategies among students by introducing inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, experimental learning, or research-based learning to develop autonomy and self-directed learning among students.
- Do things differently and focus on student-centric pedagogy. Group discussions, panel discussions, brainstorming sessions, dramatization are a few examples here.
- Introduce book review presentation sessions to develop reading habits among students. Netizens of today need to develop reading habits along with technology.
- To make a special mention, the definition of extracurricular activities has to undergo a transformative change. Assisting parents in household chores, learning how to cook, multitasking between academics and domestic work has become the new norm.
This year the overall growth must be focused on Social and Emotional Learning and not just the academic aspect of the school. This is the time when a child’s foundational skills should be strong. Schools must redefine and readjust the school calendar and create a learning environment that is child-centered and flexible by putting Maslow before Bloom where we have to develop grace before grades and love before lessons in our children.
The Schools of the Future Will Be Hybrid Schools
In such a scenario, when students, teachers, and parents are struggling to reach a consensus on the when-what-how of reopening schools, we could not agree more that it is the ‘most-anticipated’ reopening of schools of all time, and we must take advantage of it. Whatever schools are doing right now, be it online classes or other activities, is possibly the best, but it is still not enough. Hence, everyone is looking forward to the re-opening of schools.
Being hopeful and taking up challenges will make history remember to “prepare not the road for children, but the children for the road.”
Making this lockdown period constructive by undertaking different activities with the best possible use of technology is a challenge. However, a digitally smart school leader with kindness and empathy can marshal the entire school community to make this transition smooth and purposeful.
The schools of the future will be Hybrid Schools. The brick and mortar buildings that we have loved as our alma maters are undergoing change and shrink as children will be interacting more and more with teachers across the computer screen which doesn’t necessitate coming to school every day. We can only hope that the transition will never be total and the school leaders have an unmissable opportunity to unleash the collective talent of teachers, students, parents to find a magic formula for helping each child post-pandemic. Going forward in the new post-pandemic environment, what will be required is a huge shift in mindset, both social and emotional, to rethink, reimagine and reboot the new norm of education in this altered online paradigm.
Message to Parents
Today, school leaders are taking great strides in partnering with parents. The conducive environment has been co-curated with the collaborative spirit of the parent community who have emerged as the greatest cheerleaders and coaches during these trying times of home-schooling. Parents need to develop good teamwork with teachers. Their collaborative efforts can focus on the complete personality development of the student which focusses upon elements IQ + EQ + PQ + SQ + AQ. (Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient. Physical Quotient, Spiritual Quotient, Adversity Quotient)
Thinking of a plan for returning to school or adjusting to the new normal?
Here’s a dedicated page to support all educators.
Check out the resources that we, along with Cambridge Assessment International Education, have made available at https://bit.ly/CambridgeReady