Two days after shifting to online mode of teaching when the pandemic hit last year, Kriti Mishra, a teacher at Delhi Public School in Ghaziabad, realised she could not replicate her offline practices in the new set-up. Instead of delivering notes and introducing students to something new, Mishra then created her own multimedia content and shared it with students beforehand. This, she said, converted the role of students from “passive receptors” to “active participants”. Ten-months down the line, she is now planning to continue using her ‘flipped classroom’ technique as the schools are reopening.
Like Mishra, teachers across the country made adjustments and devised new teaching strategies during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Among the most common changes adopted by teachers are the use of multimedia content, reduction of pen-and-paper usage during classes, change in what and how homework is assigned, and use of mind mapping tools for assessment in class.
Redefining role of a teacher
Ujjwal K Chowdhury, pro-VC, Admas University, Kolkata said that “the role of a teacher has evolved from someone who disseminates knowledge to mentors who aim to not only help students finish the restructured syllabus but also help each student to deep-dive into a sub-subject of their liking.”
The change, he said, is likely to stay and can be seen in the way academic content is being created, delivered. Teachers now have to create question papers in a ‘non-Google-able’ way which focuses not on keywords but the understanding of a student, he said.
Activity-based learning, digital homework to continue
Activity-based learning is also one of the most common ways of teaching adopted by teachers during the pandemic. For science teacher, Manisha Singh from Billabong High International School, Pune, explaining new scientific concepts without a lab was a task until she started finding alternative modes of explaining the same through easily available things at home. She explained physical and mechanical changes through boiling milk and put lemon to it and defined indicators by putting red cabbage in boiling water.
Singh has meanwhile also taken her assignments, worksheets, and extra reading online. She claimed that to explain students better, teachers need to speak in their language. “When I started talking about technology, I found that students feel connected. We need to give technology an upper hand, even as we move back to physical classes. This way students feel instantly connected. They have shown more interest in solving online gamified assignments than doing the same in pen and paper way,” she said.
While she said her use of paper for assignments might be lesser than usual now, pen-and-paper continues to be part of the drill to give students practice of writing in a time-bound manner. Thus, striking a balance, she said, is what she would find out as she moves back to school.
For MRG School, Rohini’s Pallavi Jain, activity-based learning started as a mode to grab students’ attention for a longer period of time. She has revamped her 45 minutes of chalk and talk classes to 20 minutes of theory and 25 minutes of other activities and interactions. She has also worked with parents and held workshops to give feedback and to train them on how to supplement their child’s learning. Jain, who teaches classes 10 and 5 and is an activity coordinator for classes 3 to 6, has found that the technique works across age groups.
“From a quiz to picking up a few things in their houses and using them as mode to explain concepts to non-fire cooking etc, started as a mode to retain students’ interest in an online class which many were finding difficult to cope with. But now, children are so engaged that they are not willing to go back to old ways of teaching,” said Jain.
Neha Kalra, ICT teacher at EuroSchool West Campus was well-versed with online forms of teachings but adjusting to online classes was unique to her as parents started to often sit for the classes. “While parents started by sharing regular feedback but eventually they have understood our methods. Now we also have a separate session with them. They have developed a respect for teachers and are becoming a support system as they provide the training from home that was earlier not as synchronised with our efforts,” she said adding, “teachers have also realised that the student is the center of the learning process and teachers must constantly rework to make it meaningful and interactive.”
Holistic approach towards assessment
For Delnaz Sinor, a senior faculty and teacher for English and Economics at The Aditya Birla Integrated School, online classes made teachers spend more time planning a lecture than delivering it. She said she missed explaining topics by using her whiteboard and colourful markers the most during online classes. She has replaced it with multimedia content and said she would use online worksheets and assignments as homework even during online classes.
One major change, she said is in the way she assesses her students. “The focus has been shifted towards testing kids’ understanding. Online education has helped us explore a more holistic approach towards assessment as compared to pen and paper-based. Several apps and online tools among others help us in assessing each student differently based on subject-based understanding which in turn will help in explaining better. Instead of just making students learn certain information, we can now focus more on how they are assessing it, and help them question it and reason with it. We can move beyond the curriculum.”
The way teachers are being trained has also seen a change in the pandemic. Dr Anuradha Sridhar, head of curriculum development and training, Aditya Birla Education Academy said, “”There has been a huge shift in the way the teachers are trained. We are being requested for more use of tech-tools for teaching, assessments, and research. We are also being asked for increasing and improving collaboration within students in an online classroom. School principals are concerned about the social and emotional aspects of learning in an online class and the workshops on these topics are being conducted by us exclusively. There is a need for schools and teachers to become reflective about their own practices in schools and improve upon their learning with the kind of training that we offer.”
Work from home flexibility for teachers
Avani Singh, a teacher, and headmistress at Pacific World School said that online learning has brought the flexibility of working from home for teachers at the time of “unscheduled school closures” including offs declared because of non-academic reasons like pollution.
“In online classes, children are at the helm of the affair because they are leading classes through quizzes and discussions etc. However, this still cannot replace physical classrooms. Having this option will open up many other alternatives when classes are shut due to uncertainty on climate and political climate, pollution, court verdicts, transport strike, etc. Now that teachers are well-versed with online classes, we can give them the flexibility to attend the same during unplanned holidays,” Singh said.
This cannot succeed, Singh asserted, without rules and boundaries. “Work from home should not mean that a teacher is attending queries at 10 pm. As an administrator, it becomes our responsibility to set time and space. The approach on work from home or online classes has given a more target-based and less time-based, more quality-based approach to teaching as a profession.”