The changing face of the classrooms today
Lakshmi Annapurna Chintaluri Independent Education Consultant
“Not all classrooms have four walls” – Anonymous A Changing World
Change is the order of life. It is the new constant in this changing world. Change is something that will be experienced in every sphere of life ranging from communication to the way we live. In the field of education, changes can be seen in every aspect ranging from teaching to learning and administration. The advent of technology, identifying the needs and requirements of the students to enable them to face the challenges of their tomorrow are providing opportunities for innovative methods in teaching and learning.
The 2078 Curriculum?
Beginning with curriculum, changes have been brought in to meet the needs and requirements of the 21st century learner. Ken Robinson points out that students who join school today will retire in 2078. Information about the kind of jobs, professions or fields they would handle is practically non-existent today, thereby posing a challenge to educators. The challenge is that of identifying the knowledge and skills to be taught to the present generation. To meet the requirements of this generation, the identification of the skills and values which can help them face the challenges of their tomorrow is the need of the hour, which needs to be incorporated into the curriculum.
The curriculum needs to enable the educators to create opportunities for the students to develop critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving skills, analytical reasoning skills, be able to apply the knowledge gained into real life situations in a happy learning environment. It is these skills along with the humane values and life skills which will form the backbone for the students to enable them to handle the challenges that they are going to face tomorrow even if these challenges are completely unknown today. In this context, it becomes imperative that in the curriculum, more than the “What” of the curriculum, it is “How” it is delivered that needs to change. Consequently, the learning environment – The Classroom – needs to mirror this change.
Environment for Futuristic Learners
The classroom is the place where students get the opportunity to identify their strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement, gain and apply knowledge, acquire
both academic and social skills and make connections with the real world. The classroom is a second home to the students and the place where they realize their potential. Hence it has to be a reflection of their needs. This can be understood by observing the outcomes achieved by the students.
Today’s students are very specific about the way they learn. They would like to learn by experiencing, acting, role play, playing, exploring and finding out. These learners also exhibit a tendency to be highly curious and to take risks. They are ready to take initiatives and take on challenges. These learners show a “can do” attitude, a willingness to explore the world around them and to engage in open-ended activities. They expect teachers to mould their teaching styles to suit the learning styles of the students. The futuristic classroom has to be learner focused. The classroom needs to provide an atmosphere to help the students to learn from each other and share the knowledge gained, help them to identify their abilities and be able to choose their study of interest, nurture their curiosity by creating opportunities for innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, analysing and synthesizing, challenging their minds to find innovative solutions, use technology to easily access expertise in the various fields, ability to reflect on what is being learned and compete with themselves to put them on the road to improvement by constant self-evaluation.
Aristotle said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. An ambience in the classroom that caters to Social and Emotional learning is another major factor that needs to be considered, keeping in mind the happiness quotient, fostering emotional intelligence and mental health of the students which enables students to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Environment for Futuristic Teachers
The seating arrangement of the classroom also needs a transformation. Robert Sommer says “The teacher’s educational philosophy will be reflected in the layout of the classroom.” Hence classrooms have to be intentionally designed to support different modes of learning to enable students to stay engaged – for example, individual study, group work, presentations, peer-to-peer discussion, and one-on-one instruction. Research shows that students take more ownership of their classroom when they can choose their seats, are given freedom to move around when needed
– for example, to see the board, to get away from a noisy neighbour, and perhaps sit
near the window where there’s natural light.
To facilitate this learning environment, the role of a teacher has to undergo a transformation from being a “Sage on the stage” to being a “Guide on the side”, by providing opportunities for the students in the classroom to take responsibility for
their own learning. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences and identification of the learning styles which includes auditory, visual and kinaesthetic learners has brought in technology, activity oriented teaching and project based learning to the classrooms, which gave impetus to the industry to bring about many teaching aids in the form of multimedia based software, activity kits etc., albeit with a price.
The teachers also need to equip themselves with skills to provide an environment where the students experience safety, security, respectful and a supporting atmosphere in the classroom, by fully embracing the diversity and equity in education, focussing on the Cognitive, Emotional and Social domains in equal measure. Strategies about social and instructional teaching practices will go a long way in facilitating short term and long term outcomes about positive behaviour, academic success and mental health of the students.
Role of Technology
The arrival of technology to the classrooms has brought in sea changes in the way lessons are delivered and the blueprint of the classrooms changed with the required equipment to aid technology. Although there are many options which are provided to the teachers with readymade lesson plans etc., personally, I believe that the teaching aids prepared by the teacher either in the form of slides or videos or activity oriented teaching where the students are encouraged to learn by doing are the best teaching aids that the teacher can have to facilitate teaching and learning. Use of technology without the interface of the teacher does not contribute to an active classroom.
In conclusion, it is only a matter of time before we see classrooms with nature and other elements embedded as its ambience to enable students to progress in a positive learning environment and grow into happy and proficient adults. So, the questions to be asked of the schools are, how much time do they need, to first realise the need for change and then adapt to it adeptly and secondly, do they have a choice?