Matthew Ivulich, Head of Middle and Senior School, Shiv Nadar School, Noida
Revisiting Education in Post-COVID times…
Personalised Learning is the Way Forward!
The return to face to face learning in a physical setting at school still looks a long way off. But it has surely acted as a catalyst for reshaping education in future that would have taken many years in the existing system. We have now starting speaking of a ‘new normal’. What is this ‘new normal’ and what should it be?
The current situation has made the partnership between home and school very important for the right development of the children. But it is being realised that we cannot simply transfer a physical classroom of 30 students onto a screen education of 30 students. The ability to adequately develop the child is simply not possible in the online setting because of various issues that keep popping up such as internet connectivity, cameras working or not working, mute on or off, onscreen concentration, too much screen time etc. etc. All these issues demand the need for a different approach.
Our community at Shiv Nadar School has developed a connected learning programme which focuses on the continuity of our students’ education (including preparation for board exams, handwriting skills etc.) and their holistic well-being. This is what we are now calling the ‘new normal’.
The ‘new normal’ is not simply a school day that runs from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm. Children cannot be sitting in front of a screen for such long duration. It will not work and it is not healthy. So what do we do?
In the ‘new normal’, a more directed personalised learning model needs to be adopted. The day itself has to be redefined. In some cases, especially with younger children and both parents working, study hours may be concentrated outside these standard hours.
The students sit down in the classrooms with the curriculum and see what the outcomes and objectives are. A dialogue about how students learn takes place. Students are engaged with the order they are going to work on outcomes, how they are going to learn and reach those outcomes, and finally how they are going to show what they have learned. This enables our most important stakeholders, the students, to be co-creators of their learning.
Teachers facilitate this approach by not only holding regular classes in a selected time slot, but also acting as mentors in shaping a personalised plan by connecting in small group tutorials or individualised sessions convenient to all participants. Online forums play an excellent role in this process also. Students assist each other with the teacher involved in the conversation.
For example, a student wakes up each morning to complete a routine of breakfast, exercise (this could be a particular sport training session or yoga/mindfulness video, indoors or outdoors depending on the relevant circumstances), lunch, rest period, personalised study session, connecting with teachers (mentors), listening to recorded lessons and webinars, talking with fellow students and completing personal reflection journals before sitting down with the family for the evening meal.
This is possible by mapping out a personalised programme for each student guided by the school community involving teachers, counsellors, coaches, the career guidance cell, the parents and most importantly, the student himself. I believe that teachers can facilitate these personalised programmes with a combination of attendance at school and work from home. Different age groups will require a different mix of these engagements (or hybrid sessions). Here we can change the day and week to match the needs of their students and their own families.
I know this represents a very different type of school, but why should school just be a set of buildings locked into 6 hours? Personalised learning can be our new normal.
I have no doubt when we think of the 21st-century world of the future, the new requirements and methods that universities will expect of their new admissions, the important skills of creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking that future employers and start-ups will seek, personalised learning is the road ahead.