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Learning structures must appeal to rationale than herd mentality

By Shilpika Dass,

While the value of hard work merits constant reinforcement, one must be prepared to learn from failures.

Children must be taught the merits of delayed gratification, introspection, perseverance and commitment, writes Shilpika Dass.

Teachers today face a unique challenge. Just when they were starting to fathom what the millennials were all about, they are required to teach Generation Alpha, the children of the millennials, also called the iGeneration, a generation born entirely within the 21st century.

Quantitatively, by 2025, which is the year when the youngest Alphas will be born, Generation Alpha will account for about 25% of the global population, according to a study conducted by the United Nations.

Qualitatively, Generation Alpha is considered to be the most techno-savvy demographic to date. In fact, they are better equipped to transact with artificial intelligence than real emotions! Consequently, a generation that prefers to empirically explore and incidentally “discover” learning needs structures that will appeal to its rationale rather than its herd mentality.

Studies reveal that students respond best to rules that are clear, consistent, and comprehensive. The establishment of clear expectations, then, can serve as a prodigious opportunity to create a harmonious classroom environment conducive to learning and the growth mindset.

At a juncture where teachers are expected to mentor and facilitate their students rather than merely teach them, this is also valuable latitude to intensify focus on value creation and empowerment rather than mere scholastic enrichment.

Thus, we identify a few dicta that would assist good learning and teaching practices, as well as the transaction of a value-based curriculum.

Come to class willing and prepared to learn
Meaningful learning is predicated upon the receptiveness of the students. Therefore, a student who walks into class with prior knowledge of the topic under discussion as well as the willingness to extend themselves to actively engage in learning will accomplish more significant acquisition of knowledge. Pedagogical initiatives such as Flipped Classroom and Embodied Learning facilitate this process.

Respect the people and property you work with
Global citizenship requires the students to align personal strengths with collective requirements of contemporary society. With increasing emphasis on issues such as equity, inclusivity and empathy, it is critical that the students since their formative years equip themselves to handle dialogic relationships, manage conflicts, resolve difference of opinions and accept heterogeneous demographics. The strategy most conducive to this development is encouraging them to respect diversity and divergence. Pedagogical initiatives such as Collaborative Learning, Differentiated Learning and Peer Tutoring can provide strategic help in this process.

Work hard and try your best, prepare to win but be prepared to lose
While the value of hard work merits constant reinforcement, of greater significance is the mandate to try one’s best, and be prepared to learn from failures. This is valuable training for the development of emotional intelligence among the children who inhabit an unforgiving VUCA world. Along with a plethora of opportunities that this transitional competitive world offers, comes the very real possibility of disappointment and unrealized aspirations. Children must be taught the merits of delayed gratification, introspection, perseverance and commitment. Classroom practices such as project-based learning, computational thinking and crossover learning are helpful in the inculcation of these much-needed life skills.

Learn to learn
Information is fluid, dynamic and omnipresent. In order to ensure that the 21st century learners, who are far more at home with digital technology than their tutors, are able to tap into the multiple sources of information available to them, educators must equip and empower them to discover knowledge rather than receive it. The environmental approach, also advocated by proponents of educational philosophies such as constructivism and cognitivism, which yields much self-cognition and allows the students to learn while they explore, is far more beneficial than traditional didactic teaching. To further this agenda, pedagogical initiatives such as Experiential Learning and Blended Learning are productive.

A wise man once said, “Children may not follow what you preach, but they will certainly follow what you practise. They may not remember what you said to them, but they will certainly remember how you made them feel.” To conclude, then, one cannot emphasize enough the need for the teacher/facilitator/mentor to set the right examples, in essence, to teach by demonstration rather than dissemination.

The 21st century classroom must have at its centre an active participant in the process of knowledge gathering and skill development rather than a passive recipient of mere academic information.

Shilpika Dass, special projects incharge, Lotus Valley International School, Noida. Views expressed are personal.