Collaborative lesson plansWhen parents participated in virtual class with their children, learning became more fun.
Ganesh Bahadur Singh & Yogendra Man Bijukchhen
It is evident that Covid-19 robbed the daily life of the human world in many respects for more than two years; and its impact, as predicted, will remain for several years to come. No sector of human life remained unaffected due to the pandemic. One primary sector that was hit unimaginably hard was education.
Tribhuvan University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India and the University of Bristol, the United Kingdom have been conducting a study called Organisation Perspectives on Accountability and Learning. As part of the study, it looked at how schools responded to this unexpected strain and attempted to mitigate learning loss. To address the learning loss and make online classes effective, the Teacher Parent Collaborative Lesson Plan was devised. As an in-depth study school, the study focused on Genuine Secondary School, Bhaktapur.
After nearly two months of a standstill situation in school activities, parents started to show concern about virtual classes. Genuine Secondary School quickly responded by arranging the necessary preparations for virtual teaching-learning at the start of the first wave of the pandemic. After the commencement of online classes, it was felt that their effectiveness was less compared to physical classes. When students had a laptop or desktop to themselves for a greater part of the day, some of them surfed the internet for different things like games and entertainment. It was found that they paid less attention to virtual classes by turning off the visual and audio despite being prohibited from doing so.
In addition to the distraction of online classes, some students were found to be exhausted and mentally tense after spending a long time in front of the screen. Likewise, students would be overcome by dullness after 2-3 hours of passive listening. They spent 7-8 hours in front of the screen, which caused different health problems like pain in the eyes and backbone.
Frequent communication between the teachers and the school and in-person meetings with most parents were disconnected. Teacher-parent communication and collaboration, which is considered a vital thread to guide students, was becoming weaker.
Monitoring, mentoring and feedback, which are essential aspects of learning support to students, were weak and difficult with online classes, but Genuine Secondary School has taken steps to overcome such shortcomings. Virtual classes were a fad for some parents, and they expected physical classes to commence soon. On the contrary, online classes were going to be part of school life as new variants of Covid-19 kept appearing and the pandemic surged time and again.
Mitigating learning loss
It is said that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Amid the harsh situation of the pandemic and lockdown, a few good students turned difficult times into exploration and self-learning. One of the parents said her child had an opportunity to learn many things that were not possible within the four walls of the classroom. She said her child had gained multiple learning experiences like what is happening in the world and the importance of family relationships and bonding. For some parents, it was an opportunity for their children to learn about family values, values regarding life, family relationships, learning to survive and helping one another at times of difficulty.
During a discussion to minimise learning loss, one of the pre-primary teachers said that most parents also used to attend the virtual classes and support their children to carry out the activities demonstrated by the teacher. This support was crucial to making the class interactive and participatory. The idea was further discussed for possible implementation in other grades as Teacher Parent Collaborative Lesson.
Once accessibility to online classes was ensured and they were functioning smoothly, the quality of teaching-learning and other issues started to be seen. Some of the questions and topics were how to ensure regular attendance of students, evaluate their learning online, make the class effective for students who learn in different ways, and how the class can be made more interactive. There were discussions on ways to reduce the screen engagement time of students without compromising curriculum learning and engage children in physical and other learning activities as opposed to making them idle screen watchers and passive listeners. In trying to address these issues and concerns, discussion sessions were held with the parents supporting teachers to carry out activities during virtual class.
Subsequently, teachers, parents and researchers worked together to design a teacher and parent collaborative lesson plan to be jointly executed to make virtual learning interactive, engaging and activity-oriented. Teachers would develop lesson plans that explicitly mentioned the parents’ expected roles. There would be notes to the parents in the lesson plan as required. If and when needed, teachers briefed the parents beforehand and supported them in preparing for the lesson. During virtual class, teachers suggest specific activities for the parent to help the child. These activities were asking for and monitoring specific tasks, guiding the child and carrying out physical activities or experiments. Such activities can be compatible with what the teacher would do in the physical class with the parent’s support.
Participatory and interactive
The lesson plan also clearly specified activities before and after virtual class. Some of the examples of support from parents included making a cardboard model of a clock, preparing matching cards such as job title and job description, collecting different types of seeds or leaves, participating in concept learning by explaining and researching the activities to be done in virtual class.
After completing the implementation of 10 collaborative lesson experiences, a sharing session was organised. Teachers and parents found the collective lessons helpful as there were explicit instructions to the parents and students about what to do in the lesson, and it supported making virtual class more participatory and interactive. As parents know about the class beforehand, they could prepare their children accordingly, such as preparing materials, collecting samples, or telling them what would be in the lesson. The participation of parents in the class helped children pay attention and discuss their confusion if any. It was also a good opportunity for the parents to know their children’s learning progress and render support in time of need. Teachers and parents emphasised that collaborative lessons could be helpful in everyday school life as well, and could support enhancing the students’ learning through home and school collaboration.