2020 will be remembered as a defining year in the evolution of school education in India. The past 7 months have been strenuous for everyone including the school management, administrators, staff, teachers, students, and parents. Luckily, the survival instinct that is culturally imbibed in all of us, motivated a quick adaptation to the disrupted learning environment.
The resolute courage of educators kept learning alive. Even educators who were technophobic began conducting online classes. As we approach the end of 2020, there is a feeling of having successfully avoided a catastrophe. But it may not be wise to celebrate yet because no one has the slightest clarity on what 2021 would look like.
Those who expect this ruckus to settle down with life returning to the old normal in 2021 should get ready for some bad news. It is not going to happen! A lot of changes that happened in education this year are irreversible. In fact, they are going to be compounded in 2021.
No matter what, educators who were forced to learn the basic survival tools will need to invest more time and effort to acquire essential skills to excel in the profession. And, I will give you 5 reasons to justify this claim.
#1 Teaching-Learning with Covid-19
'Common people will have to wait till 2022 to get shot of the coronavirus vaccine' - Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS
Every school must begin to plan the academic year 2021-22 with the consideration that pandemic may interrupt the functioning of the school at any given time. On 2nd November, Himachal Pradesh reopened the schools for students of classes 9 to 12. Within 8 days, the schools were shut down again till 25th November. The decision to open schools will now be taken after reviewing the situation after the 25th. Situations like this may happen frequently in 2021.
In 2021, schools may have to shift frequently between three modes:
Face-to-face classroom instruction
Completely online learning
Educators of all classes will need to not only master the skills of using technology tools but they will also need to learn new pedagogical skills so that they can use all the three modes equally effectively. If they do not master the required technology skills they will end up spending most of their effort using technology rather than ensuring the achievement of learning outcomes in students.
#2 Implementation of The National Education Policy
The policy envisions to change all aspects of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment.
Considering the financial and organisation support doled so far the government appears to be serious about implementing the NEP 2020. It is quite likely that initial level changes will be visible from the academic year 2021-22. Since teachers are the real implementors of any policy in the classrooms they will have to relearn the skills required for the proposed reforms.
Learner-centric education, moving away from the culture of rote-learning, formative assessments, integrated curriculum, and use of digital content would all require teachers to learn several new skills that are essential for their success.
#3 Teaching The Digital Natives
Digital immigrants will need to use pedagogies that empower digital natives to learn.
India has the 3rd largest population of "digital natives" - children born in a purely digital world. Most educators in schools are "digital immigrants", who have adapted to utility-driven technologies. There is a huge digital divide characterised by the fact that the way digital immigrants teach does not synch with the way digital natives learn.
With increased usage of technology, due to Covid-19 and NEP, majority of educators will be under a lot of pressure. They will not only have to learn how to use many new technologies but they will also need to learn to use these technology tools to enhance the students' learning experiences.
Teachers will need to understand and apply the Connectivism Learning Theory to make learning relevant, useful, interesting, valuable, and effective for students.
#4 Building Teacher-Student Relationships
Education is a journey that largely depends on human factors. The teacher-student bond is possibly the strongest of these factors.
Digital natives use digital tools to build virtual relationships. In their world, the meanings of "friends" and "followers" are embedded in the realm of digital interactions. Emojis, abbreviations, instant communication, likes, DP, and status are their communication tools and strategies. Most educators are yet to internalize these concepts in their lives.
Educators will need to learn new methods of building strong positive relationships with students. These will require frequent digital and physical interactions. Educators will also have to adjust to the fast-paced, non-linear, hypertextual thinking patterns of the digital natives. Earning the love and respect of students will require an effort and will not be guaranteed merely because of being a teacher.
#5 The New Assessment
Assessment has driven learning for a long time. In the futre, it will only navigate learning.
To navigate learning, every assessment has to provide immidiate constructive feedback to learners as well as to educators. Digital natives expect instant feedback, since they have grown in the era of instant rewards and recognitions. If they do not get this feedback, they lose interest in the task. Unfortunately, the traditional methods of assessment and grading are tuned for this requirement.
The NEP has directed that all assessments must be designed to check attainment of higher order thinking skills instead of merely determining if the learner has memorized certain information. This will require teachers to atuned themselves to creating questions based on different levels of thinking as defined by Norman Web's Depth of Knowledge (DoK) Levels.
In 2021, all educators will need to relearn the skills of assessing students learning outcomes more accurately and speedily than ever before.
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.
ICSL is a not-for-profit organization on a mission to inspire, empower, and enable school leaders and educators. You can support us by becoming a member, participating in our programs (Friday@5, ReSET), and spreading the word amongst all educators in your network. Your support is very critical for our mission.