As an India Fellow at Agastya international foundation, I have been working in various projects in the teacher training program (TTP). Though it has been an enriching experience but I always wanted to be a part of the project design and management rather than just being involved in execution. It was a dream come true when my mentor decided to include me in designing a project for teachers. Be it the online or offline mode of teaching, it has been challenging for teachers in general to engage the students effectively in a (virtual) classroom.
In the wake of pandemic, after several long months of remote learning- more than a year for some – school officials report that several students have become more passive, have a lesser sense of social belonging, and feel disengaged from their learning.
The importance of student engagement cannot be underestimated. It affects student achievement, their future, and it can potentially help close COVID-19 learning gaps . When students are engaged, they are more likely to excel. It can be defined as “the amount of attention, interest, curiosity, and positive emotional connection that students have when they are learning, whether in the classroom or on their own”.
What we do know is that student engagement remains important to learning and achievement, and it’s likely that the teachers will need to find new ways to motivate and engage their students. But have we ever pondered over how important is the wellbeing for teachers, and how has it been affected during the pandemic?
Remote teaching can become stressful for both teachers and learners, with children from less advantaged backgrounds more likely to fall behind in learning. Students with limited access to technology and lack of adequate study pace or parental support for homework can put an extra burden on teachers struggling to provide all children with equal and quality learning opportunities.
The rapid transition to virtual classes has had a negative impact on teachers’ stress levels, and underlined the need for advancement of their digital skills. Also teachers working in schools with a collaborative climate tend to report lower levels of stress. Meanwhile, higher stress is reported by teachers when working in classrooms that they consider disruptive or when they feel less confident in managing student behaviour and motivating students.
Considering this situation, the teacher training team of Agastya decided to design a project which addresses the above mentioned challenges. The intension was to come up with a few tools that can help engage both the students as well as the teachers for a healthy teaching learning environment with emphasis on reserving more time for collaborative active learning. Additionally, it would create structures for student to take ownership and teacher to be a facilitator.
Going in tandem with this, we tried designing a project which is not only student-teacher centric but also fits well with Agastya’s mission of sparking curiosity, nurturing creativity and building confidence. To create what we call a “ah aha haha” moment.
Before designing the project, we did a lot of interactive sessions with students and teachers throughout the country. it was basically a semi structured interview on classroom engagement with teachers and students who have the intension to immerse themselves in understanding the roadblocks and to avoid “Reductive seduction”.
That’s how C.R.E.A.T.E. (Creative Resources For Education And Teachers’ Engagement) came into existence. As per the discussion with the students and teachers, we thought of letting creativity take the centre stage while technology and peer-learning can be the two supporting pillars.
C.R.E.A.T.E. is about nurturing the creative potential of the teachers, by the teachers, for the teachers with the help of technology. It is based on three key parameters CREATE, SHARE and REVIEW. Here, the teacher develops a creative resource, shares it with the peer teachers who review his/her resource. To make more sense, below is the visual representation of the project.
The participating teachers go through a week long induction program where we work on their creative skills using tools like ACROSTICS, Concept cartoons and Storytelling. The teacher then develops a creative resource and shares it with the peers on a digital platform. Then the peers review each other’s work and give feedback. Finally a few quality resources are selected, recognised and rewarded. The main objectives are:
- To provide platform for government school teachers to explore unique and and creative ideas in teaching so that they are up-skilled in a digital teaching learning environment
- To establish peer to peer review mechanism for promoting a healthy learning exchange environment and an attitude shift to learning from each other
- To curate a repository of educational resources, to be exhibited on an open, non commercial platform for capacity building of Agastya instructors to carry out similar programs at regional level
One of the most significant aspects of C.R.E.A.T.E. is its alignment with the new National Education Policy (NEP) which also talks about pedagogical innovation, the interplay of technology in education and promotion of multilingual environment. It has been motivating to work on this for the last 8 months, having tried out the pilot with teachers from Maharashtra and Odisha.