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Innovative pedagogies needed for post-covid classrooms

By G. Balasubramanian

The recent acknowledgement of Harvard institutions about the learning gaps even among the senior students seeking admissions to various courses and offering alternate models for admission shows changes in thought architecture in educational leadership. The closure of institutions of learning over an extended period and the induction of different models of learning on technology platforms has indeed created not only a wide learning gap, but also impacted the psyche towards learning pursuits among the learners. A few factors that appear to be causing concern among educators are:

1. Demotivation for learning

2. Ineffective engagement with learning resources

3. Decreasing accountability in productive learning

4. Visible exhibition of learned helplessness

5. Poor sustainability of learning quality

6. Liquidation of the quality of assessment patterns

7. Degradation in the quality of Teacher-learner relationship

8. Crisis in quality of the pedagogical delivery in learning management

The challenges arising out of the above with no immediate solutions available appears to be putting teachers in a fix. Further, the change in basic assumptions in the modus operandi of the teaching methods over the last one year and half, and its repatriation to the old model appears to have further deepened the crisis with a ‘no-where’ situation rather than ‘know-where’ understanding. While no single-window toolkit is available to solve all the problems in one go, it appears that ‘windows of opportunities’ do exist for those who want to innovate and experiment.

1. Moving Beyond Textual content

Any model of teaching in the current scenario, which will focus exclusively on the printed text, or an e-content would not be rewarding. The claim that they will provide much wanted to focus to learning would only be partly true. To provide the much-needed curiosity for learning and to encourage self-learning, teachers need to expand the universe of the content space. This would call for positioning the content in a wider universe of knowledge and information scaffolded by historical, experiential, cultural and contextual inputs. Dealing with the phenomenon of knowledge would be needed rather than mere data analytics of the huge statistics related to knowledge.

2. Encouraging inclusive and non-routine thinking

With huge time available for self-learning and research for learners, teachers would do well to provide information that would trigger inclusive and non-routine thinking. “Conditioned learning” in the changed circumstances is likely to cause learning stress with increasing feeling of irrelevance of knowledge to the learner. Issue-based discussion, case studies and problem-solving exercise which encourage open discussions, privilege for perceptions to considerations and concepts and the ability to perceive the unperceived would encourage thinking habits among the learners, simultaneously empowering learning as a resultant of a thought dynamics.

3. Carrying mixed bag of pedagogieso

In a formal classroom, teachers have lived with a structured lesson plan articulated to meet a pre-conceived set of objectives, whether they were achieved or not. Very often such objectives were hierarchical, top-down and were handed over as a display of authority who have walked through the same roads earlier. They do not acknowledge that the learning traffic has become intense on the same roads and hence the model has become irrelevant. In the current scenario, teachers might have to explore new pedagogies which are synthetic and embrace all the formulated and established pedagogies of the yester decades. The use of pedagogies appropriately, either individually or collectively, and through formal and informal modes will be required. Wherever necessaries the pedagogies need to be ‘woven’ in the fabric of technology and not celebrated independently out of context. Leaders should refrain from adopting microscopic examination of the implementation of pedagogies by the teachers on the spot and just mentor and guide them for selecting their methods in context.

4. Celebrating ‘diversity in learning’

It is time to acknowledge the fact that learning need not happen in the most established or prescribed model. Learning is never linear and scientifically, it is so. Opportunities for individualized learning, opportunities to seek diversity of resources for celebrating learning, positioning of learning based on the individual’s aptitudes, attitudes, and interests, and synchronizing learning to the personalized learning curves liberating it from the constraints of time and space, may be the ways that would shape the future learning universe. The desire and ability of learners to ‘switch’ their learning from one domain to another driven by changed preferences of motivation need to be acknowledged and encouraged. Underlying the above lies ‘the human will’ to perform rather than rules and regulations that deny the freedom to exist in each universe of knowledge.

5. Redefining the ‘Quality of learning’

‘Quality’ is oftentimes a pre-conceived and pre-determined yardstick. It gets redefined over spaces and times, depending on perceptions, needs, markets, geographies, and climates. Rarely, it is self-prescriptive or self-directed. It goes more as a compliance need than a competency need. In fact, continuous improvement of quality is the way that synergizes with the progressive state of a human mind and its desire for growth When it comes to the quality of learning, it is often evaluated, validated, and justified based on some common yardsticks or norms prescribed for a cohort, whether they are homogenous or heterogeneous. It is power-driven than preference driven. Competitive statements on quality are usually done as restraining exercise rather than as a promotional exercise. However, some positive statements on quality definitions help in ‘branding’ exercises. When it comes to learning, quality definitions on popular and common yardsticks have worked negatively as a collective exercise. On one side, they have tried to liquidate the higher performance levels of competent individuals or compromised with inefficiency of the non-performers. The conflict between ‘minimum levels of learning’ and the ‘maximum levels of learning’ has more been a debate, both sides seeking to justify their points of view. It appears in the days to come quality will find its own way into markets by their choice rather than by any external prescriptions.

6. Bridging the divide

With a huge leap in the use of technology in all living and learning spaces, the learning gaps that exist between the rural-urban divide needs to be attended with the urgency it deserves. Provision of Wi-Fi in all schools, provision of technological hardware to all the learners in schools, empowerment of teachers on the use of technology and its educational software, training of teachers for re-engineering their pedagogies, leadership training for the school leaders for repositioning their leadership and critical thinking skills will all become the need of the hour. The existing gap between educational administrators to understand the grassroot problems and seek contextual solutions, provision of e-libraries, virtual laboratories, enhanced use of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality tools in schools will demand quick attention before years roll out. This would necessitate increased allocation of investments in education budgets.

7. Working with paradigm changes

There is a clear indication that the social and cultural dynamics of learning is changing resulting in a shift of ‘learning cultures. We appear to be shifting from authoritative and prescriptive models of learning to ‘self-learning’ scaffolded by overwhelming digital innovations that make some of the erstwhile processes irrelevant, unnecessary, and out of context. This seems to be impacting the very idea of ‘schooling’ as well as ‘institutionalized learning.’ The need to absorb some of these changes fast into the architecture of learning institutions and the way they deliver their processes seems inevitable. ‘Customized learning’ and ‘individualized learning’ could make some serious challenges to our classical models, though the classical models have a huge shelf-life as compared to some ‘fast-track’ models that are exciting and entertaining, rather than educative.

Innovative pedagogies for the future may not be just an option, but a huge necessity!