Much has been said about transforming the teacher: From a conceptual point of view, teachers stop being the ones giving knowledge in a masterful lecture in the classroom, and they become the guides to their students in an active learning process.
Transforming The Teacher In The Modern Classroom Environment
Transforming the teacher seems easy to understand at first, but how can it be put into practice on a day to day basis? Let’s go and see:
2 Important Steps That Need Be Taken By Teachers
The first step for a teacher who wants to transform the dynamics and teaching methodology in the classroom is to ask the obvious: What are the learning objectives of the course? Although this seems evident when we focus on the digitization of content or the innovation of teaching methods, we run the risk of leaving the objectives in the background, so that they end up blurring between the artifices of technology.
When defining these learning objectives, you should not only focus on what knowledge or what content the student should know. Now, knowledge becomes a tool for the person to acquire and skills, and apply their talent to practice. For example, in a History class, knowledge of events is not the only goal to pursue; we must include critical thinking, situational analysis, future assessment, decision making, strategy development, or problem solving, using the situations of history as scenarios for the student to develop these skills.
Therefore, the question to be solved is: What skills, abilities, and talents can my student develop through the contents of the subject?
A second very important issue is to know your students. Seldom do the schools provide the teacher with prior information about the persons to be taught, given the fear of breaching the existing legislation regarding the protection of the rights of the child or the data protection law.
However, there is a lot of useful information for the teacher (such as the previous level of knowledge, learning styles, or multiple intelligence map of each student) that will undoubtedly greatly facilitate their work in developing a curriculum adapted to the needs of their students. It is the school that must provide these data, either through assessments to students made in previous years, or through tests completed with their consent or that of their elders. Here it is important not to acquire biases transmitted by teachers from previous years about students (both positive and negative).
Having resolved these issues (objectives, competencies, and student profile), we will define how we teach. At this point, new learning methodologies get involved: Flipped classroom, learning by doing, project-based learning, problem-based learning, gamification, design thinking, visual thinking, personalized learning, etc.
These techniques can be applied separately or combined. Although it is convenient to know all of them, your choice will depend on the above factors: What we need the student to learn, how our student is, and how we want them to become.
Tools To Be Used
Any of the above techniques requires a very different approach from the traditional class: The teacher ceases to be the spokesman, to become the person who guides the student’s active knowledge.
But what does this mean in practice? It implies that the theoretical content stops being imparted in the classroom to be transmitted to the students through content materials that they can study at home. These contents will not only be in the classic printed manual format. Now you can add videos, digital books, links to web pages of interest, online resources, blogs, infographics, MOOCs and courses, learning communities, tools and applications…
Not everything that is included in a digital learning itinerary must necessarily be created by the teacher. The internet is full of free quality content produced by other professionals in the industry. The teacher must carry out a research, selection, and ordering of all these materials, to elaborate a useful training itinerary affordable by the student, taking into account their initial knowledge and the time available for each subject.
This means being very selective, since the sources available on the internet are almost eternal and are not always adapted to the needs of our students. When developing our content itinerary, we must focus on the objectives designed at the beginning. To organize them in an itinerary that the student can follow from home, we can start from the general to the particular and let the student first build a general frame of reference to achieve further deepening.
We cannot lose the notion of the real time that it takes to consult the contents that we include in our itinerary. It would not make sense to ask our students the day before to consult at home contents of 50 hours of study. If we believe that everything is important and nothing can be left aside, we have two options: To indicate to the student which part or parts of the training resources should be consulted, so that they focus only on what it is important of the content shared, or else we distribute it in time and we go dosifying the contents throughout the week.
The way to ensure that the student is following the contents that we propose to consult at home is to have an online training management system or Learning Management System (LMS), which allows us to know who has accessed the content, who has read what and for how long. Typically, the schools offers a platform of digital training to teachers and students, but the good news is that if you do not work at an institution, there are free solutions available on the internet available to any teacher.
Although the face to face classroom that we had elaborated from previous courses can be very useful as a basis for this selection of digital content, we cannot be carried away by a passive thought of the type: “If this is already in the manual, why should I look for more information?”. Mental maps, graphics, interactive exercises, videos, and other formats can be searched or applied to our previous material and that will facilitate the task of understanding, assimilation and memory of our students.
The Role Of The Educator
But if the student obtains knowledge at home, what is the teacher for? Why should they go to class? For teamworking, for the implementation of projects, for problem solving, for the implementation of tasks of research and design of strategies… Our students, based on the content they have seen before, are ready to get down to work and generate something unique and tangible from these theoretical knowledge.
The first thing we will do in class will be to explain to the students the methodology or methodologies chosen, the duration of the process and the system of continuous monitoring and evaluation applied by the teacher, then to clarify doubts and to create the working teams. Each team will then define a problem, a project or an investigation to be carried out.
What does this imply? That it is necessary to guide the student in the definition of that project, investigation, or problem to solve. Letting the student participate in this decision will guarantee their interest and motivation. It does not matter that the time in the definition of the objective to be pursued dilates, since in its definition, they will be profiling many of the subjects to treat during the process.
When guiding the student in defining the problem on which we want to focus, we must take into account that it must be acceptable during the period of an academic course, trackable into steps and acceptable to the students and offering a realistic and affordable solution for the community to which it is directed, if it were the case (for instance, not always the problems raised have to be actual, it can be imagined or referred to another historical period or another place).
On the other hand, we must not forget that the given problem must allow the students to acquire the knowledge and skills previously defined, and that is also within the scope of learning abilities of the student (here is as harmful as excess and defect: If it is too difficult to be frustrated, and if it is too easy, they will get bored and discouraged).
Once we have defined the subject to be solved by each team, we will start: We will guide the students on the steps to follow and in what order, where to get the necessary tools, how to use them and with whom to talk or meet to achieve the goal. You can differentiate the tasks to be carried out by the different members of the team, so that they understand that collaborating does not mean that everyone have to do always the same things.
Here comes the time to personalize learning: To do this, we will build precisely the student’s preferences and their map of multiple intelligences, so we will be able to focus on each student and to get to know what do they do better (this is to enhance the student in that for what he is predisposed, not to force him to do things that neither interest him nor will he get well along).
The classroom thus becomes a project laboratory, and the teacher must direct them to prevent them from reaching a stalemate or an absurd or unfeasible solution. It is not about leaving the student to their own criteria, to see how far he is able to reach by himself and then to evaluate the result. It is about ensuring that they get to solve the problem, project or research that was raised in the beginning. What is evaluated is learning on the road, not the end of it.
For the teacher, this takes:
- Knowing each team member well, to guide them in their skills and allow them to have their space within the group.
- Having a global vision of each team, to avoid imbalances in workload, opportunities for participation and decision making, selection of tasks to develop…
- Knowing where in the process is situated each team, to have the tools or solutions they will need prepared if they do not know how to continue in the process.
- Not losing sight on the objectives set, to ensure that the project works for the students and not only the students for the project.
- Explaining to the students well how they will be evaluated in each phase of the project and following up with them so that they know in real time when they are diverting from the learning objective and they have the opportunity, tools and time to rectify, trying to generate learning opportunities with each mistake, not to punish them for mistakes.
- Creating spaces for collaboration between teams, so that what they have learned can be reused by others if they are interested.
- Creating spaces for communication and exchange of ideas, so that all students can know what are they doing on other teams and where they are going.
- Creating spaces for self-evaluation, so that students develop self-criticism skills.
- Taking advantage of classroom time for communication, participation, teamworking, and the creation of proposals and solutions. The students speak, the teacher asks permission to participate.
Once the project has been developed by the different teams, students should be guided to generate a model, prototype, or “beta” proposal that can be submitted to acceptance tests, either by teams or by a group of people chosen from the target audience to which the proposal is addressed, if this is possible. In this way, the students will know to what extent they have adapted to the needs or have solved the problem that they intended to cover. In addition, modifications may be included to achieve greater adaptation of the project to its purposes.
This step will allow students to get in touch with the real world and test what is learned and executed in front of their environment. While so far the whole process has taken place in a “safe” environment, where the teacher has advised them about difficulties or errors, now the student must learn to accept the feedback received by an “anonymous” audience and turning it into changes in approach, solution or characteristics of its proposal.
Once the changes are completed, it is time to present the result. The public communication of the whole process will help them to analyze what has been learned and to reflect on their own learning. It will also allow them to differentiate what is important to convey and draw conclusions for future projects.
4 Advantages Of Transforming The Teacher
While in general it may seem that with these new methods the teacher will have a much greater work load than in previous years, where they repeated year after year the same content material against a passive student, the change will also bring great advantages:
- It will allow you to develop your own competencies (not just those of your students), in matters such as team management, planning, problem solving, strategy implementation, leadership, research, personalization of learning, etc.
- It will generate live environments where learning from your students will be much more dynamic and immediate (you will receive daily feedback from your students with which to adjust your way of guiding them).
- At the end of the course, your students will not only have a successful test of their learning, but a project that can be developed immediately by others or that later they can execute themselves during their future professional career.
- You will get a group of capable students, not just a few wiser ones.