FACED with the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers across the country have had to grapple in helping their students to navigate the world of online learning, often without proper instruction and preparation. If the current crisis teaches us something, it is the need to prepare for sustainable, quality and flexible learning opportunities across all educational levels.
The health crisis has highlighted that teachers need to understand and feel comfortable with the technology used to realise the full benefits of online learning.
Unfortunately, even in more stable contexts with adequate infrastructure and connectivity, many teachers lack basic ICT skills which means they will probably struggle with facilitating online learning with quality.
As such, teachers need access to relevant, professional development and support to continue teaching in crisis contexts. A large part of this professional development and support could be delivered in different forms through online learning. It will be crucial to find ways to maintain and cultivate the professional networks of teachers, as well as the relationships between teachers and learners for the duration of the crisis response and beyond, in order to ensure the effectiveness of online learning as a stop-gap measure until schools are ready to reopen for all students.
While remote learning cannot substitute face-to-face classroom instruction, this crisis has demonstrated the need for teachers to establish more learner-centered differentiation in instruction, thus enabling individualised learning. Remote learning has taught us that only when both teachers and learners are engaged and focused can effective learning happen.
During the crisis, teachers need to adjust the learning objectives and the method of learning. It is unreasonable to expect students to maintain their old normal. The lives of the students are completely different from how they were only three months ago, and what they can accomplish is also different. Determine goals for our students to achieve reasonable learning. Identify whether some areas of the curriculum are of a higher priority over others.
The crisis has exacerbated the digital divide due to the lack of access to good Internet connection or devices and leave gaps in many students’ learning. Teachers need to design learning activities for the environment of remote learning. Avoid the common and time consuming pitfall of attempting to replicate any in-person learning experience in the world of remote learning. Learning could be a mix of asynchronous activities and non-tech based resources and work. Teachers must ensure that learning occurs not only for test scores and performance.
The students wellbeing is also of utmost importance.
Prepare for the challenges ahead for students. They are likely to experience turmoil during the crisis. Maintaining the ritual of schooling with moments of social interaction is psychologically important. Anxiety, uncertainty and isolation have become increasingly common during remote learning. Teachers need to check on students regularly especially those who have limited access to online learning so as to keep them from falling behind.
In this time of crisis, teachers may need support too. Promoting the well-being, social emotional skills, and resilience of teachers before, during, and after crisis is important. Emerging studies for teachers in crisis contexts have underscored the value of developing social-emotional skills and resilience among teachers.
Teachers around the world have emphasised the importance of collaborating and working with colleagues in enhancing their classroom teaching. During the current crisis, teacher initiatives could involve the use of virtual platforms to support teachers, and give them greater responsibility for learning content.
Thus, it would be critical for all stakeholders, including teachers and administrators, to come together to assess, study and consistently examine what approaches have worked and why and where the gaps remain, and how they can be resolved, to promote more inclusive and sustainable education systems that are robust and sensitive to potential challenges and provide quality education.
ASSOC PROF DR JULIANA OTHMAN Department of Language and Literacy Education Faculty of Education University of Malaya