Post-Covid: A time to fortify relationships and foster a feeling of community
How about developing a feeling of community in one of the classrooms where weteach? What can we, as aneducator, do to foster a sense of community?
I will start with a simple phrase that needs acknowledgement – “We cannot return to the pre-covid world!”
Nurturing relationships and cultivating a sense of community help create a more harmonious and effective society. Unfortunately, a glance at the news reveals that social relationships are under severe threat in several regions, as seen by gender discrimination, racial tensions, efforts to expel immigrants, and unequal access to decent education and health care. While crises can bring people together in some instances, such as during pandemics, they can also aggravate social divisions.
The meaning and inspiration of The Skipping Stone are embodied in the following quote from Mother Teresa, the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize laureate for humanitarian work: ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’
How about developing a feeling of community in one of the classrooms where we teach? What are some of the disparities between the pupils in our class? Do those differences aid or hinder student solidarity in and out of course? What can we, as an educator, do to foster a sense of community?
Physical vs virtual learning…
After a year of being forced into virtual learning, teachers and students agree that online learning and Zoom classes are viable options, but they are not the same as face-to-face instruction. While the benefits of online learning are well established in studies, what is frequently overlooked are the in-class collaborative opportunities that foster fresh ideas, student engagement, and a sense of community that also nurtures relationships. This is the energy that energises and sustains students’ and educators’ love for learning.
Meaningful cooperation whilst virtual learning…
The question then becomes how to foster meaningful cooperation opportunities while online. Even in a hybrid environment, where students rotate between synchronous online and in-person courses, the COVID-19 limits limited interactions. Students must maintain physical separation, and educators must decide how to enable material sharing. Certain children may have reservations about interacting with others or even being in the classroom. All of these constraints hinder joint learning potential. While educational best practices evolve, effective teachers adapt to changing learning environments. There are methods to stimulate more significant levels of learning and reintroduce joy and cooperation into the classroom.
Cooperative learning is a well-established method of instruction that has been found to increase learning and the development of relationships amongst students from diverse backgrounds. Cooperative learning is founded on two fundamental principles. Firstly, Positive interdependence is a principle that reflects a belief among group members that they must assist one another to succeed, i.e., that they must “sink or swim together.”
Furthermore secondly, while positive interdependence benefits group members, the second critical principle, individual accountability, places an obligation on each group member to contribute their fair contribution to the group.
Cooperative learning is described as grouping students to collaborate to maximise their own and each other’s learning. Cooperative Learning is an effective teaching strategy that reduces students’ anxiety and increases their self-awareness during the learning process. Cooperative learning provides a pleasant learning environment for all students, replaces competitiveness with friendship, reinforces the attitude of cooperation and involvement, and recognises that all children have the right to be intelligent and creative. Indeed, cooperative learning is structured and managed group work in which students collaborate in small groups to accomplish academic, affective, and social objectives.
What teachers can do?
Students can turn in their seats to converse with a neighbour or work concurrently on a shared document without leaving their seats. Educators can encourage students to utilise the chat feature to “converse” in real-time. If students must be in close proximity for a specific activity, educators can keep interactions to five minutes or fewer.
Depending on the duration of one’s class, one may have two or three of these encounters within the course of a single session. A little cooperative learning is preferable to none!
Teachers can make the assignment a PDF or Google doc/slides/sheets. Students can collaborate in the classroom but no longer need to share paper documents. It will also include distant students. Interaction between students and teachers will also be enhanced by real-time document editing and oral discussion. Virtual brainstorming applications such as Popplet and Padlet could be used too. Teachers can also use Nearpod to make in-person and online students more engaged.
Cooperative learning is described as grouping students to collaborate to maximise their own and each other’s learning. Cooperative Learning is an effective teaching strategy that reduces students’ anxiety and increases their self-awareness during the learning process. Cooperative learning provides a pleasant learning environment for all students, replaces competitiveness with friendship, reinforces the attitude of cooperation and involvement, and recognises that all children have the right to be intelligent and creative.
Teachers may provide assignments in the form of PDFs or Google docs/slides/sheets. While students can participate in the classroom, they are no longer required to exchange paperwork. It will also involve students from other countries. Real-time document editing and spoken conversation will help improve the interaction between students and teachers. Additionally, virtual brainstorming tools such as Popplet and Padlet could be employed. Additionally, teachers can use Nearpod to increase student engagement in-person and online.
Establishing a pleasant learning environment inside the course may be the most critical factor in facilitating the development of meaningful debates and learning experiences resulting from collaborative learning experiences. Providing opportunities for students to interact is crucial for student engagement. Students who feel engaged will participate more actively, and blank Zoom screens will revert to being active. Although personal relationships begin on the first day of the semester, they must be nurtured during the subsequent weeks. Frequent, more minor, and less time-consuming group activities should foster the most rapport among students and pique their interest and willingness to study.
Fareen Wahid, M.A. History, M.A. Economics, M.A. Education, PGDME, and Ph.D. candidate, is currently employed at Garodia International Centre for Learning in Mumbai as an IGCSE & IBDP Humanities Educator. She co-authored a history book and has contributed numerous articles to History and Education magazines. She has approximately five years of teaching experience.