COVID-19 may have caused a lot of damage to the education sector. But, there has been one priceless benefit too. Almost all educators became learners in a span of a few weeks. Driven by enthusiasm and hard work, educators eagerly learned new techniques to ensure that the education of their students in not interrupted.
When ICSL launched ReSET on 5th October, I got a chance to experience the high motivation levels of our school leaders and educators. For three weeks, participants of the program spend 2 hours every day to attend online sessions. This is a huge commitment. I could not be more proud of the attentive participation of educators.
To design the ReSET program we had to first identify the core areas to be covered so that the participants are ready for education beyond 2021. Let me share in brief, why we identified Technology, Pedagogy, and Student Performance as the weekly themes of the program.
Less is more.
As soon as it was clear that the COVID-19 would shut down schools globally, technology and EdTech companies began launching, re-launching, and upgrading products to meet the huge demand for virtual learning. School leaders and educators were flooded with choices and began seeking recommendations from trusted colleagues to decide the tools they would learn to use.
Two questions still remain unanswered in the minds of most educators and school leaders:
Are we using the best available technology tools?
Are we making the best usage of the technology tools we have adopted?
The answers to these questions are not easy and require us to dive deep to:
understand the role, impact and limitations of different technologies
become familiar with the features of different technologies, and
establish a connect between our pedagogical choices and available technologies
The most effective deployment of technology in education revolves around two principles. First, we need to understand that when it comes to using new technologies, "Less is more". What does this mean? Simply put, educators will benefit more by using fewer technologies rather than using too many technology tools. Thus, it is not important for us to use 'every technology' available in the market. Secondly, it is important to keep in mind that technology is only an enabler. Thus, before choosing technology, it is important to define the pedagogy and assessment techniques that you desire to implement.
Traditional education delivered in classrooms is largely teacher-centric, assessment-driven, and based on lectures or demonstrations. Teachers focused on covering the syllabus and training students to do well in examinations.
In the coming decade, the focus of education will shift from 'completing syllabus' to 'achieving learning outcomes'.
Every educator knows that completing the syllabus is a lot easier than enabling every student to achieve the required and recommended learning outcomes. This shift will require teachers to understand four major transitions:
Shifting the ownership of learning to students
Replace lectures and demonstrations with individualized, integrated, holistic, and multidisciplinary learning experiences
Focus on monitoring and improving engagement of students rather than monitoring their attendance
Use assessment as a tool to improve pedagogy
Over the next decade, every educator will need to become a pedagogical leader.
The biggest joy for a teacher is to see students perform to the best of their abilities.
The purpose of using the most effective technology tools and pedagogical practices is to ensure that students achieve high standards of performance. However, using the best technology and pedagogy is not enough to ensure student performance. There are two other skills that teachers need to master.
Research shows that the quality of teacher-student relationship has a direct impact on the performance of students. Students who have a strong positive relationship with teachers are more engaged in learning activities and put in more effort to learn. This engagement and effort translates into better achievements.
Teacher-student relationships can be categorised as:
Positive: Both the teacher and student reciprocate to each other positively.
Indifferent: Either teacher or student is indifferent toward the other.
Negative: Either teacher of student reciprocates negatively to the other.
The digital natives are influenced very strongly with the quality of relationships they have with all their connections. This behaviour is partly supported by the nature of interactions children have on social media platforms. Thus, all teachers must develop the essential skills of:
diagnosing their relationships with students in an unbiased manner using facts and evidences (and not perceptions),
implementing concrete strategies to improve their relationships with students,
using their strong relationships to drive students to improve their performance.
To boost students' performance educators will need to build an "assessment strategy" that provides cognitive challenge and instant feedback. The cognitive challenge will motivate students to put in more effort and encourage them to engage proactively with learning activities. Instant feedback will guide them on the areas that need to strenghten to improve their performance.
To increase cognitive challenge educators will need to create questions (assessment items) that require higher order thinking skills. Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DoK) levels and Bloom's taxonomy have to be used simultaneously to create such questions.
Starting from 2021, within a decade, majority of assessment will be based on multiple choice questions that are proctored through various technology tools. For schools to develop their own unique assessment standards, it will be important for teachers to learn to create MCQs. One big advantage of MCQ based assessment is that students can get instant feedback on their work.
If educators want to excel, they must get ready to relearn essential skills related to technology, pedagogy, relationship development, and assessment. Without these skills, it will be difficult for even the best of the teachers to impact quality educational experience to their students.
About the Author
Dr. Atul Nischal is the Founder of the International Council for School Leadership (ICSL) and serves as the Program Director of ReSET, the 3-week online certificate program for educators.
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