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Monday, November 29, 2021

Classroom Corner: How Learning Techniques Have Evolved With Better Learner Outcomes

AS THE nature of work is changing in a digital economy, so too are approaches to learning to meet both the needs and demands of those requiring flexible, collaborative, and digital solutions. While teaching and learning techniques evolve constantly, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated innovation and adoption of learner-centred online approaches.

Organisations have discovered that through creative online approaches they can deliver highly effective and scalable training solutions to CXOs and entry level executives alike. These trends in education are far-reaching and here to stay.

The flipped classroom

One such solution gaining momentum is the ‘flipped classroom’. This flips a more traditional model, where the learner is a passive recipient of a teacher’s lecture and then applies that knowledge independently in their homework and assignments to consolidate their learning.

Engaging with a subject at a deeper level (evaluating, analysing and so on) is more difficult for the learner, yet this is the part that the traditional model expects learners to do alone, at home, without the teacher’s guidance.

In a flipped classroom approach, the learner activates their knowledge in their own time, typically using online materials such as activities, videos, and texts; and in the class works with the teacher and classmates to apply that newly acquired knowledge with practice using real-life examples, critical analysis and peer review, group work, and feedback.

Teacher training project using flipped classroom

In 2018, a teacher training project was run using a flipped classroom approach for government school teachers across India.

Over 570 primary and secondary teachers took a six-week online English course to develop their English language skills. In their pre-class activities, participants studied communication skills through online video, audio, and text with interactive practice exercises.

In the classroom, participants engaged in meaningful, practical real-life communication scenarios with the help of their trainer’s facilitation.

Participants rated the acquisition of new knowledge and skills at over 90 percent. In pre- and post-course self-ratings of English skills, there was a jump of over 20 per cent in just six weeks.

External reviewers of this project stated, “That such outcomes have been achieved in a BYOD technology model for a Global South user group with little or no familiarity with online learning is a genuine breakthrough. TOPDI potentially marks a major turning point in the models for raising teacher skills in emerging economies.”

Studies in the US, India, and beyond have shown that the flipped classroom can promote student engagement and a greater personal accountability for learning. Further studies have demonstrated improvement in performance and grades for students.

The parallels with the core skills sought after by employers to futureproof their businesses are clear an increase in self-direction, responsibility for one’s own development and the nurturing of critical thinking skills.

Peer-assisted learning

Another training approach that builds on these skills and adds more vital core employability skills, collaboration and cultural fluency, is peer to peer learning, or peer assisted learning. This approach encourages students to work through concepts and material together.

This provides them opportunities to learn from one another, expand their knowledge and communication styles and build meaningful connections, under the teacher’s facilitation.

The affordances of online learning such as breakout rooms foster safe spaces for students to negotiate and experiment with new concepts.

In a 2021 IELTS training programme for nurses, a facilitated peer-assisted learning programme (PALs) where participants were given tasks to work on together in peer-only weekly meetings was integrated into an online, flipped classroom intervention.

This course component was found to enhance learner engagement in live online classes and build greater engagement and motivation in the purely independent study tasks assigned.

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Interviews with participants highlighted the perceived value of building collaboration and self-management skills and the usefulness of scaffolding to motivate independent learning and achieve better test outcomes.

That these outcomes were achieved with learners who were medical professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic underscores the success of these online learning models.

For learning and development professionals, CXOs, and educators taking decisions about human resource development, these models are a genuine boon as they offer better learning outcomes with greater scalability and cost efficiency.

Research shows that certain online blended learning courses offer more than four times learning to trainer effort while delivering a 95 percent self-reported improvement in communication and soft skills.

Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the nature of work was evolving. The value of a new set of core skills for employability, from collaboration to self-direction to digital and cultural fluency, has been further highlighted by the new ways of working adopted by many in response to the pandemic.

It is time for educational approaches that develop such skills to take front and centre to build up the workforce of tomorrow, and clearly, the flipped classroom and peer learning approach have an important place in that structure.

Article by Beth Caldwell, Head of Blended Learning and Shivangi Gupta, Assistant Director English, British Council India.

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