Enhancing STEM Engagement in a Hybrid Classroom

Most success stories that we read, universally, all have a single factor in common: the devotion and deep involvement of those successful individuals in their respective tasks.

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Every educator's dream is to have a class of students who are committed and are fully engaged in a class and learning activities. Unfortunately, it is one of the biggest challenges in front of educators. The importance of engagement can be attributed to the fact that the purpose of engagement is not just about learning in class and getting good grades. The real objective is to foster a habit in students to be fully committed to their tasks to achieve the goals they aspire to.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a scientist and former president of India, said about the importance of engagement, “To succeed in your respective mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goals. Without involvement, you can't succeed. With involvement, you can't fail."

It sounds simple yet highly challenging to implement. 

Most success stories that we read, universally, all have a single factor in common: the devotion and deep involvement of those successful individuals in their respective tasks. In his early childhood, Steve Job's interest in computers led him to be the world's best company in computers. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's dream to fly a fighter plane was his childhood dream that he eventually accomplished in  2006. Whether we are in a classroom or at work, the outcome we receive from our efforts is directly linked with how deeply we are truly engaged and involved in our mission.

Educators are constantly striving to find new and innovative ways to help their students engage in their classrooms. As our world becomes more contactless, innovation in education is helping educators in many ways. In this discussion, we focus and share some of the best practices that can help STEM educators at various levels make their classes immersive, engaging, and practical, no matter the location they’re teaching from: 

Tips for Improving STEM Engagement in Classrooms

Communicate Clearly to Manage Expectations 

Many students did not have the experience of remote learning before the pandemic. A new world of education requires a new set of guidelines. It’s crucial that educators set forth some guidelines so that every student receives information clearly and has constant communication, such as outlining clear online class policies and etiquette right from the beginning of the school year. As students return to the classroom, the expectations from the individual and regarding the group behaviour must be outlined in class policies and must be communicated clearly. A clear and decisive policy offering various "What If" scenarios are the foundation of a thriving hybrid learning environment. 

Offer Hands-On Experiences to Nurture Creativity

A remote or hybrid learning model does not have to mean the extinction of hands-on laboratory experiences. STEM educators can keep offering unique project opportunities, even if some students attend online classes and are offline. For example, STEM teachers can recreate online learning experiences that are project-based with the assistance of videoconferencing platforms and relevant project management tools. Then there are initiatives being taken that will enable students to make remote contributions to real-world research. In addition, hands-on labs are being created for distance learning so that students can design experiments. 

Employ Flipped Classroom Model

Even when the pandemic abates, schools must continue to embrace the flipped classroom model. Such flipped classrooms invert the traditional education model using recorded video and audio lectures as an educational tool. The concept in a flip classroom is students learn the basic concepts at home and come to the school for discussions and problem-solving. This model enables students to asynchronously participate in their education, allowing teachers more time to interact with other students.

Build a Cohort of Support & Collaboration

Teachers and students alike can benefit from creating small groups of students and giving them opportunities to connect online or in breakout rooms. This approach allows them to know each other better and build effective study groups, which will do them good in the era of remote learning. Students must also be allowed to work in collaboration to solve a specific problem. The main objective of this activity is for students to learn how they should compromise to achieve a common goal. Several schools and teachers use breakout rooms with Zoom video conferencing to have offline students collaborate with the online group.  

Take Steps to Eliminate Student Resistance 

Hybrid learning places more responsibility on students for their education rather than on the teachers to enforce it. Occasionally students may find themselves in an uncomfortable situation and might find themselves in lack of self-motivation. Lost motivation will negatively impact the learning objectives and instructor and student’s confidence about themselves. Teachers must periodically meet with students and deliver tips if they get stuck in any situation. When students find guidance and as they see they have support available when they need can do wonders. 

There is nothing radically different between research-based best teaching practices for in-person courses and those for online classes. Still, the need for adoption of the latter practices may be greater owing to the technical and interpersonal challenges associated with online environments. Online classes particularly benefit from explicit instructional objectives, detailed grading rubrics, frequent formative assessments that clarify what good performance is, and above all, clear expectations for active student engagement and strategies to achieve it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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