The pandemic has forced online classes into omnipresence, kicking both teachers and students into full-gear to adapt to the new teaching practice. The forthcoming months do not show any signs of letting the old ways return, and we are faced with full or partial closures for the foreseeable future.  As with every crisis, a golden opportunity lurks in the post-COVID classroom to prioritize the development of 21st century skills for students and try different models of learning for a long-term benefit.

Classroom Time- A Precious Resource 

In-person interactions have started to feel like a thing of ancient times. In spaces and settings like a classroom where groups are not only common but essential, additional resources required for COVID-related precautions like adequate physical distance, temperature screenings, and frequent deep cleanings cannot be taken for granted anymore. Classroom time will have to be treated as a precious resource, and using it mindfully will take planning.

For example: Using classroom time to only deliver a lecture will not be optimum use of the classroom time anymore.

The Flipped Classroom Model 

The most optimum use of classroom time would be to use it for skill-building using interaction, which most definitely cannot bee achieved in isolation. This is based on a study for flipped classrooms, where classroom time used for problem-solving discussions and interactions and preparation work( watching videos or reading handouts)left to students’ time at home led to higher student engagement and performance.

Research shows that the most effective way to brainstorm is for individual team members to first work independently in coming up with ideas, and then follow up with group brainstorming.

Communication skills like effective interaction and negotiation with peers and teachers fall under the 21st-century skills umbrella requiring the development of skills like creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, so ‘flipping’ the model of learning is critical to keeping learning relevant to the future.

4 Ideas To Promote Critical 21st Century Skills For Students

Here are 4 ways to optimize face-to-face time with human interaction, where the teacher plays the role of a coach or facilitator in helping students develop critical skills.

Associative Thinking for Creativity and Collaboration

Associative thinking―the ability to combine different ideas into something meaningful is a key thinking pattern that underlies creativity  Facilitating students’ discussions and building on top of each other’s ideas to arrive at a common solution, would be a great step to incorporating associative thinking. It also promotes the idea of ‘collaboration’ over ‘competition’ among students. Teachers take on the role of coaches to encourage these skills by observing how students interact with their group members, and guiding them to include all voices and focus on joint problem-solving.

Research shows that the most effective way to brainstorm is for individual team members to first work independently in coming up with ideas, and then follow up with group brainstorming. This approach works better than the traditional method as it avoids groupthink and allows softer voices to be included.

To accommodate the shorter face-to-face times, consider splitting the activity into tasks that can be done solo and those that require the whole team. For instance, while presenting a group report about the environment, the team can make use of their presentation-planning skills and discuss it using nature-themed slides as visual assistance. This approach not only improves team collaboration and creativity but also enhances the overall quality of presentations. Making this distinction will provide students with the clarity required to quickly and effectively work on team projects during in-person times during partial school closures.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves skills like reasoning, evaluating, analyzing, judging, conferencing, and reflecting. By applying intellectual standards to their thinking process, students are also able to home their ability to think in a systematic manner and also articulate their ideas to their peers and instructors effectively,  by listening to arguments and formulating counterarguments.

Socratic questioning and classroom discussions are a good way to discuss open-ended issues and build critical thinking. Critical thinking can be done both online or face-to-face, but there are differences. In online discussions, students tend to use more evidence-based reasoning as they can research before making their argument, while in face-to-face mode students listen to other ideas more and expand on them due to the spontaneous nature of the discussion. Both of these are valuable skills to build so the suggested approach is to use a blended model where both online and face-to-face discussions are included.

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Project-Based Learning

If there’s one thing that will truly make education relevant for students, it is the opportunity to work on active, real-world problem-solving. Project-based learning provides avenues for students to engage in real-world scenarios, as against text-book studies. For students to gain the most from Project-based Learning, they have to encounter and struggle with key concepts and skills behind the project, to gain from experiential learning.

While some aspects of project-based learning, like research, can be done independently by students, students also learn from each other either by discussions or even simply observing other students tackle related problems. This social aspect of learning is best achieved during in-person class time.

Social-Emotional Learning

A significant part of schooling includes developing skills that allow students to grow into responsible and caring adults. Social-emotional learning (SEL) emphasizes emotional regulation, compassion, and building positive interpersonal relationships. Research shows that a large number of students report being victims of school bullying, cyberbullying, or discrimination. Such victimization has a strong impact on a student’s psychological well-being and leads to lower school performance.  SEL programs that use role-playing or discussions where students can share their experiences can really only be done in person and under the guidance of an experienced facilitator.

The pandemic is causing significant disruption to the learning process and will require the restructuring of lesson plans to address additional closures. Prioritizing 21st-century skills for in-person classroom time can help stimulate students to think, engage in discussions, stay connected with their peers, and learn from them.

Also Read:  Will Digital Spaces Replace The Need For Human Connection In The Future?

This is an adapted version of a post originally published on edCircuit.