Students' Voice in Remote Learning

Educators have not only faced the problem of transitioning to online learning but also continuing to promote and encourage students' voices.

Students breathe life into a classroom. A classroom that does not promote student choice and voice fails to provide its learners with a healthy and conducive space. With the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual and remote learning has become the new normal and we still do not know when we are getting back to school. Educators have, since then, not only faced the problem of transitioning to online learning but also continuing to promote and encourage students' voices.

Many have witnessed the disconnect and difficulty in facilitating a class through the computer screen, where teachers are required to go the extra mile to make virtual learning more interactive and engaging. In such a situation, it becomes imperative to ensure that each learner is involved in the process and feels comfortable to voice his/her thoughts, emotions and suggestions, which can be done in the following ways -

Developing Classroom Norms: By forming classroom norms with the students such as ‘we will keep our videos on during the class,’ ‘we will keep our audios on mute when a speaker is speaking,’ ‘we will raise our hand if we wish to say something,’ and so on, educators provide their learners with a voice. Furthermore, this facilitates mutual collaboration and respect amongst the students where they learn the importance of communicating effectively to reach a common consensus.

Assigning Roles and Responsibilities: Assigning roles and responsibilities to students not only empowers them by giving them a voice but also provides them with an agency to make and take decisions. Responsibilities such as “line leaders” and “classroom managers” in an offline classroom can be replaced by “virtual assistants,” who help the teachers with tech support or taking attendance, and “peer buddies,” who help their friends and provide feedback to one another.

Use of Forms and Surveys: Regular collection of forms and surveys help educators gain an insight into the thoughts and views of their students, enabling them to alter and improve their classroom learning and strategies. Students can express their concerns as well as share suggestions to improve the way they currently learn. Feedback from students then becomes an important marker to measure the success or failure of classroom learning.

Conducting Informal Sessions: Informal sessions with the students to know about their life outside the classroom is one way to give them a voice. Initiating conversations about the new things that they have been trying and asking them about how they are dealing with the pandemic makes students feel heard. These conversations can further lead to new topics that the learners and educators can explore together.

A student’s newfound love for gardening led to a discussion on the various kinds of plants. He later elaborated on the life cycle of a plant and shared his findings with his peers as well. Two students who had discovered their passion for cooking shared with us how different their dietary and cooking habits and styles are. This further led to a discussion on the different kinds of cultures and their different cooking and eating habits.

Discussions like these can further be used to promote the development of a space where students share their newly found skills and interests with their peers and teach those skills to each other.

Organizing Student Play Dates: Playdates provide students with space where they can freely interact with their peers and friends. It allows students to connect and meet their friends, even if it is virtually. Virtual play dates are a great way to encourage student

voices where everyone checks in on each other, share new stories and instances and interact with each other.

Provide Opportunities for Informal Interaction: We at Prometheus, have Wellness Wednesdays with Zoom breakfast. Students get to have to their snack with their friends and talk to them. This of course cannot replace their time with friends at the cafeteria but provide them with an opportunity to have informal conversations which the students are missing the most.

Involving Learners in Decision Making: With simple practices such as involving learners in decision making – from starting the morning check-ins and rituals such as choosing between practicing breathing exercises or listening to mindful music to deciding the flow of the day- is a great way to integrate students in the classroom and make them feel more comfortable.

With small steps like these, educators can make their learners feel welcomed and secure during such testing times. It is only when students feel like their voice and choice matter that they can fully participate in the learning process and enrich it with their insights and ideas. A classroom where students’ voices and choices are not valued often fails to nurture the holistic development of the child, leaving them hesitant and insecure.

The onus of this task to make children feel secure and confident is entirely up to the teacher, who must create and facilitate a more wholesome environment for the growth of the 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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Remote learning COVID-19 Pandemic online learning

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