Contributed by Arlianny Sayrol, a Mendaki Tuition Scheme tutor for SingTeach Virtual Staff Lounge
A Review on the Future of Home-Based Learning
As the physical world shrouds itself from this ceaseless pandemic, the majority of households in Singapore have begun to shift even further into the digital space, where the diseased COVID-19 is unable to penetrate. These fluid and imagined online spaces have provided much comfort and safety, where one could still freely communicate without being masked and distanced away from others. Essentially, humans are emotional beings who crave for socialization from other human beings, as well as recognition and validation from one another.
Home–based learning (HBL) have become the keywords for education in the year 2020. It has opened up new ways for flexible learning, with a myriad of offerings of resources and collaborative work, both locally and globally. While we look into the future of HBL for our students, we need to recognize that not every child has been born and brought up in equal standing; the struggles faced by one student may greatly differ from another. Hence, a standardized method of teaching may not hold as much relevance as before; the community needs to fully study, understand and support each student throughout his or her own unique learning journey.
Such idealist notions are achievable, where the first step involves each student, alongside the student’s family, being provided with adequate support, may it be in terms of equipment, skills, time or monetary. Once such a foundation has been established, it will reduce anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, where a form of “mental kindness” and awareness of each other’s condition can be developed. A world with less judgement, even virtually, always culminates in a better and more humane society.
This reminds us that teachers will always be needed physically and actual teaching can never be fully done through an online landscape. We can never transfer and reciprocate human gestures, body language, facial expressions and other gentle nuances through the screen. Hence, I propose a blended model based on empathy for the future of HBL to exist successfully in Singapore.
1. Parental Involvement
Lessons that introduce new theories and concepts are to be pre-recorded which will require the collaboration between similar subject teachers. Video editing could be sourced out to professional video and graphics editors, so that teachers can primarily focus on the teaching content. This will then be followed by the parents viewing the video first or together with the child for discussion. Subsequently, they may provide the Subject Head Teachers with feedback to make the necessary adjustments, additional explanations or requesting for extension activities suitable for each student. This takes back the domain of education back to the role of the parent who will be working hand-in-hand with the Subject Heads in evaluating the content being taught.
2. Teacher as Experts
Teachers are to be viewed as “Expert Consultants” who sieve through each student’s learning needs and decide on the most relevant resources and methods for that particular topic. Administrative work like attendance-taking and consolidating worksheets for distribution, collection and marking, could be done online and supported by teacher assistants.
3. Focus on Core Essentials
In this blended model, physical school is conducted for a few hours each day. Within this limited time period, lessons need to focus on the Core Essentials such as group work on student-led mini assignments, community work in serving the less fortunate, effective oral communication, apprenticeship skills (for example, in the performing arts, cooking, carpentry work) and sports education; alongside soft skills like public speaking, independent learning, self-management (which discusses deeper emotional traumas and mental issues, with topics such as bullying and anorexia), and the development of empathy and compassion in social interactions.
4. Alternative Space for Students
If both parents are working and there is no one to assist the child at home, the student should be allowed to stay longer in school or a student daycare facility, with the purpose of developing their own interests in particular subjects. They could do self-revision, be provided with small research projects and become independent learners, under the guidance of the teacher experts or teacher assistants on-duty. Furthermore, students with dysfunctional family backgrounds, like domestic abuse, should be mentored closely by professional counsellors and social workers on a weekly basis. This could be done by providing the students with mobile phones that have sufficient data connectivity, camera or video-call functions, in which the social worker could contact them at least once a day for checking-in and also to capture any evidence of abuse at home.
5. Peer Support System
The construction of a Peer Support System where each member within the student’s small support group could empathetically provide online help to spur learning, complete tasks together and remind one another about deadlines. Each member could provide feedback on their team’s struggles to the teacher assistants, and view failures and conflict resolutions as crucial parts of learning. On the other hand, a small support system for the parents could be built, for instance, taking turns to view the lesson videos with their children and sit in as an observer during video calls by teachers carrying out consultations with a group of students.
As online learning may dissolve much of human emotions, it becomes challenging, yet important, to make empathy the emphasis when training individuals within this triangulation of parent-teacher-student collaboration. The above–mentioned strategies could be realized if the class population is reduced to smaller student groups, where each member, rather than competing with each other, work together to become more empathetic, compassionate and independent learners.
Published 15 June 2020