by Cathy Duncan
As school buildings begin to open their doors to transitioning year groups across the UK, practitioners are bracing themselves for their next stage on this Covid journey. The ‘recovery’ phase. A more blended learning model, incorporating both remote and classroom learning.
Now more than ever Maslow must come before Blooms. Ensuring good mental health is fundamental so young people can engage effectively in their learning. Yes, the early focus has to be on reconnection and nuture, however leadership teams and teachers must of course look at the impact this new model will have on teaching and learning.
Practitioners will now be able to reflect and build on the remote learning experiences of the past few months. They will have gained a better understanding of the ways in which online classrooms can facilitate or potentially restrict aspects of children’s learning. Some of the challenges of remote learning were caused by the abrupt transition.
The blended learning model will allow teachers to refocus and apply the principles of equity to provide additional and appropriate support where it is most needed to maximise engagement in learning. There is also a real opportunity for schools to build on and foster the meaningful and productive parental engagement in children’s learning that virtual learning brought in many cases.
The classroom, meanwhile, will be a very different setting and schools will be forced to look at new ways of teaching and learning, new ways of thinking and of educating this cohort of learners under physical distancing guidelines. Circumstances which would have seemed unimaginable a few months ago.
This way of thinking, however, is nothing new in education. Issues of how children learn, of how to teach and questions of pedagogical approach is always topical and on the agenda.
At first glance, the new classroom setting is evidently more conducive to a behaviourist teaching approach. Teacher at the front of the class and learners spaced out, sitting at desks. There is no room for movement and this will bring with it many new challenges for pedagogy.
When we consider the importance we place on relationships and on the emphasis of how children learn, we are reminded of how the work of Froebel, Piaget, Vygotsky and many others has advanced our thinking and helped shape our practice. Before lockdown, classrooms were set up for enquiry-based learning, investigation, exploration as well as play. This active learning model has strengthened pupil voice, created more personalised learning pathways and helped practitioners provide educational challenge for their learners.
These active pedagogical practices are so relevant in these uncertain times, young people are being encouraged to lead their own learning, experiment, collaborate, take risks, engage their imagination and have their voice heard. It will be up to teachers, once again to be creative at every stage of the ‘recovery’ phase so that children do not revert back into more passive styles of learning in schools.
Leadership teams must continue to empower teaching staff to be creative and innovative, so that they can provide a classroom environment along with a curriculum that can adapt and respond to the individual needs of their learners and reflect local circumstances for this blended approach to work. This is an ideal time for education to provide a culture where it’s okay to try out and share new ideas.
Learning happens when we are really forced to think. There is no doubt that this pandemic has been a huge learning curve for both young people and practitioners. Teachers have been forced to think long and hard to solve the numerous problems and challenges presented to them. Each time they have risen to the challenge, gone over and beyond for their young people and learned a raft of new skills along the way. And they will continue to be creative, to think deeply about the kinds of learning experiences that not only adhere to physical distancing guidelines but allow young people to become confident and responsible learners.