Updated: Jan 25, 2021
The past year has brought many new challenges to the teaching profession. With many schools switching to live lessons it is time for us to rise to the challenge. While this may be a relatively new concept to us, live online lessons have been done before and in this article I will look into some of the research around this topic. According to the Harvard Division of Science, students benefit from taking an active role in lessons. This supports the notion of 'live' lessons but only if done a certain way. Pre-recorded lectures may be useful, however they limit student interaction. While I'm sure that a combination of remote learning methods should be used, I would like to focus on developing my ability to deliver interactive and effective 'live lessons'. One of the current challenges is how to target those less-engaged students and get them working. It is much easier to do this face to face and strong pedagogical practices will be required to improve this. Demanding that students discuss topics, answer questions and interact with the teacher is essential for this. At this present time I have no doubts that face to face learning is the best approach. However, now we are pressured into this situation we should try to bridge the gap and become better at delivering live lessons. Aside from outcomes and exam performance, I feel that this unfortunate scenario does at least demand that students learn how to learn, become more independent and resilient in their learning. This could lead to a unique generation of DIY learners.
The benefits of independent learning
Research conducted by the EPPI-Centre, (2005) suggested that an intervention on 'thinking skills' or teaching students how to learn had a positive impact on student outcomes. Although it is difficult to conclude that this intervention was the only factor, it could be explained by some of the qualitative outcomes shown by other researchers. Williams (2003), found improvements in motivation and morale and claimed that these were a result of an independent learning approach. Similar ideas have influenced and informed teachers for a while now, but does our own pedagogy sometimes limit independence? Is our system built for optimal independent learning? The Covid-19 outbreak may force a shift that could lead to more independent students who are better prepared to contribute to society than previous generations.
Why might some of our students too dependent on teachers?
We are not grade factories, and we are all aware of the need to develop lifelong learners before sending them out into wider society. Mazenod (2018), suggests that our pedagogy, especially when dealing with low attaining students, may foster over-dependence on teaching staff. It is difficult to get the balance right in such situations, and we all know from experience that students do not suddenly become independent on their own. However, we are now going to be forced to distance ourselves. Blazor & Craft (2016), found that while a traditional teacher led approach to learning can generate the desired results, this does not necessarily mean behaviours and motivation are improved.
Creating an opportunity for independent learners
During such a difficult time in education, our duties have suddenly changed. We should aspire to turn this into a unique opportunity to develop a new generation of independent, self-motivated and highly confident young people that will enhance our society. Below are some tips:
- As suggested earlier, students do not suddenly become completely independent. Try to ensure that regular communication is taking place, perhaps via the internet. Students need to know that they are not alone despite the distancing. Google classroom is a great way to communicate with students and check on their progress. Schools will need to ensure that all students have these opportunities. If this is not possible, communication through parents may be key.
Allow students to organise their own study timetables, this is a difficult challenge but will prepare students for further education or the working world. Set work deadlines and let the students manage them.
Give students options on how to study, as the expert you will know the types of activities they should be doing. Giving them options will help them get started, but students will begin to figure out their own favoured methods.
Encourage students to learn about learning. Videos are available on YouTube. Click the link to find a BBC video 'Study Skills- How to think critically'.
Be positive, make it clear to students that we still expect them to do well. Trust them to make the right choices, communicate this to them in order to enhance motivation and morale.
Let students know about the importance of their active participation in lesson. Often students may prefer lessons to run like a lecture, but research has shown that students learn more when playing an active role in the lesson.
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