International Schools Reframe Learning In The Age Of COVID-19

Schools are facing myriad choices about how to rethink how classes will be offered once students are able to return to campuses.

Some time in Mid-March, most schools in India were forced into an emergency remote learning environment where teachers, students, parents and school leaders were forced to provide learning opportunities online. Some schools chose purely asynchronous options (assignments given, completed, and submitted electronically with no real contact), some chose synchronous learning- with students and teachers meeting all day on platforms like Zoom and Skype, while many chose a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous options.

However, in the new school year- schools cannot simply operate in “emergency mode” and continue to provide classes online with no contact. We will need to return to our brick and mortar classrooms and, while not a return to normalcy, a return to be physically present in the same space. This will be most welcomed from a teaching and learning point of view but it creates a real rethinking of how we conduct classes and learning face-to-face while ensuring the health and safety of students and adults on campus.

Schools are facing myriad choices about how to rethink how classes will be offered once students are able to return to campuses. Clearly, going back to the way things were is not an acceptable solution given what we know about social distancing needs, never mind what we know about the need for smaller class sizes and the effect of student learning. The reality is that because of COVID-19, schools have to make choices about health and safety of adults and students on campus, but we have a unique opportunity to really rethink how we approach teaching and learning. 

Do we continue on the same path of teacher lectures to large class sizes or do we group students into smaller groups led by several educators? Do we continue to base learning on rote memorization and spitting information back to high stakes exams where students mug up and forget information they could have just Googled in the first place? Or do we look at the research that shows students learn by doing, through authentic experiences including research into areas of interest?  We really have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rethink what teaching and learning means!

This, of course, will be determined by school leaders and teachers, and budgetary restrictions-and there are real practical concerns we all need to consider when reopening schools.  First-clear hygiene protocols need to be written and learned by all community members. This includes personal hygiene and also the cleaning of campuses.  Community members will also have to step up and not send students into school sick because they do not want them to miss time in class. 100% of attendance records should not be seen as the bar to reach for school qualifications. This is everyone’s responsibility.

Schools will also have to create more space for students and adults on campus.  For those schools without the luxury of having space on campus- they may need to consider shifts of schooling, with younger students coming in earlier in the day and older students later in the day after classrooms have been disinfected.  At least this would solve issues with young brains functioning better in the morning and teen brains functioning better in the afternoon!  It would also address making class sizes smaller, especially for younger students.  Clear research shows that young children ages 3-8, greatly benefit from class sizes maxing out at 16-18 students, while those 8 and older do much better with class sizes limited to 25 students. This is significantly different than most class sizes across India and priorities will need to be set based on health and safety and what is best for students.

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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