As compared to developed countries, school students in India were never well equipped for online classes via mobiles and computers. We are still in the process of training teachers and students to handle computers and smart phones and get familiar with the meaning and concept of virtual school and virtual learning. Yet, this seems likely to continue for more time to come, especially for primary and middle school grades. Under the circumstances, teacher training also needs careful deliberation.
The pandemic forced ill-prepared students and teachers to lock themselves up in a room and start learning and teaching by gazing at an electronic screen. Not surprisingly, the initial experience was most frustrating for students and equally irritating for teachers. But as the pandemic has forced schools to remain shut for nearly 18 months now, schools have been forced to provide basic training for online classes to teachers. Parents also started adding their knowledge to the extent of annoying interference in the teaching process.
All this has hit us particularly hard primarily because the old system of educating teachers has become obsolete and does not prepare today’s teachers to adapt to the demands of the 21st century .
Keeping in mind the current situation and fast paced developments in technology, there has to be a paradigm shift in the way we train teachers. The urgent need is to make appropriate changes in the curriculum dealing with Teaching Methodology and Pedagogy.
In my view, any changes we make in teacher training curriculum of teacher should address the following points:
There has to be compulsory computer education for all teachers. This includes teachers teaching regional languages, sports, arts, music, theatre and dance. They should have no difficulties with live online classes, usage of appropriate icons, relevant software and communication-related apps and websites. They should be able to browse the study material and create the lessons and submit/record their work independently.
Time Management has to be tackled carefully because one cannot go slow as in a traditional class, where you can take extra time from the following period or postpone the lesson. Ample practice has to be provided for this and old style of lesson plans needs to be replaced accordingly.
Teaching Methodologies have to emphasise competency in economy of words. More matter has to be compressed in fewer words. This needs to be taught and learnt with practice. Efficiency in language used as the medium of instruction is very important. Use of vernacular/bilingual approach is also helpful in developing better cognitive skills. The concepts get clearer in simple language and the teacher does not have to waste time, explaining the meaning of difficult words. This is far more applicable when teaching science and social science subjects. The tone and use of simple encouraging sentences like ‘you can do it’, ‘you are almost there’, ‘I shall make it clear for you’, help in involving students who may not be in the upper efficiency bar.
Teacher training must include familiarising them with child psychology that deals with motivation, learning and memory. This must also include body language, which is often ignored as an important aid for effective teaching, more so when teaching online. Teachers used the entire body while delivering lessons in physical classes by walking through the rows of desks, pointing at the black board etc. Now ,there is more emphasis on facial expressions and hand gestures. To engage students, an eye connection, a simple nod and a reassuring smile while adding humour to a lesson can make all the difference. The teachers should avoid touching her face as it will not only hide her face but also distract students. While seated, she shouldn’t slouch. Environment, appearance and territoriality are types of nonverbal communication. Boredom, anger, nervousness and impatience should not be reflected in the teacher’s facial expressions.
Use of different teaching aids, ie visual, audio and audio-visual can be of immense help. No doubt, knowledge of computers and software can and do add a lot of information. Flash cards, small models/displayable projects, a globe, plants, flowers (for Botany lessons) that can be kept on the table next to the teacher should be easily accessible without wasted movement. Similarly, music or audio recordings can keep the students alert and interested. The teacher has to plan all this in advance and keep the aids handy.
Behavioural Preparation as part of personality development should be an integral part of teacher training courses. Now that parents have become active/passive participants in these classes, the teacher should be able to handle the stress of interference and deal with it confidently, without losing patience.
Different techniques of testing the students need to be taught for online assessments and report generation. The technical requirements for the same should be provided in the teaching courses with matching software and accessibility.
The course content for all subjects should be curtailed conveniently to fit into the online course. A very conscious effort has to be made to avoid unnecessary repetition that happens in a normal class.
The major change required is to equip the teachers to deal with computer related issues as this has replaced the black board and even books to an extent.