When we graduated into an online teaching model amidst the COVID outbreak, educators all around the globe upscaled themselves and were the pioneers of a contemporary era of education. Facilitators began to innovate and find state-of-the-art techniques to capture the attention of their students in the virtual classroom. As the dust began to settle and we took stock of how the circumstances had altered, I began to ponder about how far we were following the IB approaches to teaching. Perhaps less traversed than the approaches to learning, I began to reflect deeply on our methods to evaluate whether we were remaining true to the standards and practices prescribed to us.
Based on inquiry
Teaching through the lens of inquiry had certainly not left us even when we moved online. Our classrooms were still rife with musings and personal inquiry journeys as our young students now found themselves seated in front of data storehouses. With answers at their fingertips, students delved further into massive investigations which were integrated seamlessly into their units. As facilitators, we recognized the need for a virtual location for pupils to share their learning and so created channels on MS Teams for learners to upload their work. They demonstrated their research and communication skills as they masterfully shared their projects and inspired their peers.
Focused on conceptual understanding
We ensured that we were working through concepts, digging intensely into ‘big questions’. Students made connections with the knowledge they gained through their schooling and their lives outside of the four walls of a classroom. Conceptual knowledge is key to turning out successful global citizens of tomorrow who are thinkers and problem solvers. The pandemic has taught the next generation to use these skills and come forth victorious. While discovering migration throughout history, pupils learned about cultural contexts and forayed into the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of how they affected future generations profusely. They reflected on the dispositions one should aspire to so that the world may become a global community. Building on what learners already know, we move towards the abstract and hone higher-order thinking skills. Each student’s creativity and expression are honoured on the path to discovering answers through individualized plans and methods.
Developed in local and global contexts
As students traverse the units and concepts set before them, they begin with an awareness of what is familiar to them. When the pandemic hit, we had begun our unit on migration and launched an extensive study on migrant labour in India due to COVID 19. They built upon the learner profile of ‘caring’ as they empathized with the plight of the labourers who were enduring multiple hardships to reach their families in a time of crisis. They then repositioned their lens on a global context and inspected how the pandemic had affected migrants globally, especially students who were unable to return home. They became more open-minded towards migrants and communicated their own stories of migration in their classes.
Focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
The pandemic has provided a great platform for PYP students to hone their research skills. Having a personal laptop or iPad during their interactions ensured that they would be able to research topics thoroughly. To this end, we originally worried about how to infuse the key element of collaboration in an online form. We experimented with ‘ Breakout Rooms’ on MS teams. To the delight of our students, they were once again able to collaborate in small groups, peer tutor and review each other and develop the communication skills that had been neglected during the lockdown. As a facilitator, I found myself cherishing being a silent spectator as the students navigated substantial social obstacles such as technical glitches and shy companions to ensure that everyone had a turn and was actively involved in the group’s task.
Designed to remove barriers to learning
As we ventured on the path of discovering teaching and learning online simultaneously, we grasped that we needed to keep all learners involved in their lessons. We commenced adding games and quizzes to our planners along with experiments and virtual tours that would draw the children’s interest. Differentiation was evident as we could provide students with a plethora of resources ranging from books to videos, articles to novels and in turn, they would reflect and share their understanding through the Class Notebook on Teams, speak through Flipgrid or even create a quiz to display their learning. The sky was the limit as each child could opt for how they wanted to learn and express themselves.
Informed by assessment
Facilitators emphasize backwards planning even though we had shifted online so that we could ensure assessment-ready learners. I was hesitant of assessments at the outset as I was sceptical of how to gauge the level of comprehension in each student since we were not face-to-face. However, I came to recognize the value of formative assessments as I could get a tangible sense of how my students were faring at a specific concept. The exercise of tweaking and modifying my teaching calendar and methodology according to the learner’s needs has now become second nature, and as I have gotten to know my students better over time, I am better able to prepare for my online lessons. I can recognize potential problem areas and anticipate hurdles well in time and accommodate those issues in advance.
The approaches to teaching have always been stalwart guides on how to facilitate effectively and ensure that students become lifelong learners. Maria Montessori once said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist”. I find that when the approaches to teaching come together, this saying certainly rings true. I have always believed that the IB methodology has been constructed with the view that it can be implemented anywhere, even in the comfort of one’s own home! Learning was never meant to be caged within the confines of a school, and the ease with which we can apply the approaches to teaching online not only shows us how valuable the inquiry pedagogy is, but how it will tide the next generation through any challenges they may face in the future.