Classroom Dynamics: Then vs. Now
While classrooms will be in use for many years to come, their value will diminish quickly as the online options become more pervasive. Many of the physical classrooms will be converted to eLearning laboratories, some to research centres. The real classroom of the future will take place inside the mind of the student, wherever they happen to be.
Not long ago, I was on the other side of the table, a student. Learning was straightjacketed and ‘monolithic’. It followed the ‘chalk and board’ formula at the teacher’s end, and the rote approach to ‘show what you know’, at the student’s. Personally, my emphasis was on creating spectacular class notes, which I could replicate in the exam. Every page or chapter deleted from the syllabus gave me joy as it meant less to memorize. I never went beyond the ‘Bible’ – the textbook, and was focused on finding patterns in exams that I could crack! As a result, I didn’t retain much after the exam.
However, more and more educators are now beginning to realise the futility of the method. Students now enjoy a more engaging and organic experience, thanks to the focus on experiential and interdisciplinary approach. Concepts are now taught across subjects and with an eye on simulating the real-world experience with activities, storytelling, practical projects, teamwork, strategy building sessions, and case studies.
Knowledge is now freely and widely accessible. As a result, the classroom requires a facilitator, not so much a teacher. One can no longer enter a class assuming students have no prior knowledge of the topic.
For my subject, Business Studies, the synopsis of the topic is often based on prior knowledge. Case in point, while talking about characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, we conducted an exercise called ‘Anatomy of an Entrepreneur’ where, using the outline of a person, students detail skills, qualities and attributes that they feel are vital, say strong backbone to show leadership skills, heart for sensitivity, or brain for creativity.
A personal favourite, this aspect makes me want to be a student again!
The learning process is no longer linear, rather it is two-fold – after a concept is introduced, it is also used. Alternatively, the processes are carried out in conjunction – concept is taught via an activity.
Fun and Games
Classrooms these days rarely exhibit one-way communication. The monotony of information overload is broken via various techniques. Quiz, games, debates, role plays are often incorporated.
A challenging concept such as Cash Flow can be taught using Monopoly or Communication barriers are best understood via a quick game of Chinese Whispers. Integration with other Subjects
Not just obvious integration (say a demand supply concept in Economics integrated with marketing strategies in Business Studies), but innovative integration is key. Students use clay in the Art Room to understand Evolution, or write and compose songs in the Music class to summarize Marketing concepts. It breaks monotony, encourages creativity and well, makes for a ‘killer class’, as the children love to put it.
Technology is the present and the future. No wonder, it has entered the classroom in a big way. Differentiated learning is a possible through this revolution. Data is projected, relevant videos and movies to support the topic are shown. All this goes a long way in making learning relatable, interesting and fun. Teacher- student interaction outside the school walls takes place via emails and other online mediums. Class time lost because of unplanned smog breaks, etc. are made up through Skype sessions/Google hangout classes, etc.
Imagine asking a student to walk into class as a teacher and teach a lesson. It’s a high for them! Flip Model has truly worked wonders. Topics that do not require grave technical intervention are often transacted via a flip model. The child drives the plane, while the teacher is a co-pilot, supplementing the lesson!
While students (and parents) today too continue to be ‘marks monsters’, matters are changing, slowly but surely. Children do acknowledge the plethora of opportunities even without getting top scores. To tap into this sentiment, I introduced something called ‘Applause Awards’ in the classroom. Instead of each assignment being graded/marked, we decided on the award system. Every major topic was followed by a debrief, where head of the school came to the classroom, engaged with the students on their recent learning and handed out awards to the winners. A non-graded subject was treated with equal zeal and vigour.
To conclude, I believe that classroom dynamics generates laudable results, more so today, as it supports sustainable learning. Children find it easier to apply concepts seamlessly in their everyday life as well as the corporate world. The classroom is indeed a wonderful place to be.
Saday Mahajan teaches Business Studies under the IGCSE (CAIE) framework at The Shri Ram School, Moulsari, Gurgaon. She was all-India topper in Business Studies(CBSE). She pursued B.Com (H) from Delhi University, where she was a college rank holder. She was with Deloitte for over half a decade, during which she also pursued a degree in M.Com and B.Ed. Saday then transitioned to teaching, which she believes was always her calling. She uses her rich corporate exposure to empower the next generation of students to become college and eventually industry ready.