We’ve all seen posters across our campus building: “Need a face mask.” “Keep the distance.” Mask and physical distance were two of the many learning barriers caused by the Kovid-19 epidemic. The rapid expansion of online and hybrid courses in response to the epidemic has brought other significant challenges.
In the face of such drastic changes, and with the end of this year’s classes, how should we think about moving our education forward? To answer this question, we as educators must consider the issues that contribute the most to a meaningful educational experience for our students. And the most important one is the feeling of kinship.
The significance of inclusion for college students is well documented, but it has become increasingly significant during the COVID-19 epidemic. After leaving college to study at home, many students eagerly awaited their return to campus. The most important aspect of campus life that they felt was missed since the beginning of the epidemic was not the pursuit of knowledge or the participation of eminent teachers in private lectures, but their friends and social life.
Even after the epidemic is behind us, it raises an essential issue for the restoration of college education in the future. Whatever the method, we must remember that learning is a social process. A student does not learn alone. Students need teachers. And students need other students.
For example, we write this section to promote a common feeling: Students learn better when they learn together. This means that as educators we must take on an inherent role as community builders and focus on socially connecting students in our classroom building community.
Contours of the community
In his classic book Courage to teach, Parker Palmer points out, “Good education is always and basically communal.” A communal approach to teaching involves rebuilding our classes from a collection of independent students into a community of interdependents.
Communities have a number of characteristics and we should keep them in mind when we think about our education, regardless of how the content is distributed.
- Feelings of belonging. Members of a community can recognize themselves as part of something bigger.
- Interdependence. Members of a community think they are important, and others in the community are important to them. They come to rely on each other.
- Mutual respect. Members of a community treat each other with care and courtesy, even if their opinions differ.
- Busy. From kinship, mutual dependence and mutual respect come the motivation to participate in the life of the community. We contribute to groups that are meaningful to us. These actions reflect and strengthen our commitment to the community.
When a class becomes a community, students change from passive students to active students. Community-created classes also change the experience from subjective to personal. Extensive educational research highlights the benefits of collaborative learning. For example, a national survey of more than 80,000 first-year and senior college students found that participating in a teaching community where a group of students took multiple classes together was associated with higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and learning outcomes. Higher education experts recognize shared first year experiences, learning communities and collaborative projects as high-impact practices.
Build community in class
In a trend accelerated by the epidemic, trainers now teach and communicate with students through a number of methods. The myriad forms of synchronous and asynchronous online instruction extend education beyond traditional classrooms. How do we effectively build communities in such courses — often marked by isolated students online as well as in the future?
All a coach can do during this time is recognize their role. Aside from being content experts, faculty members must step into their often-unanswered roles as community builders. We need to actively adapt and develop ways to help students learn together.
Based on our own experience, we recommend socially connecting students to build a class community. These tips generally apply regardless of subject or course format.
To be intentional. When you plan your course and daily lessons, you deliberately include ways to build a community just as much as you try to choose content. For example, Neil started a new biochemistry course by giving each student the chemical composition of an organic molecule. Each student then has to find classmates who were given the same molecule. The newly formed team collaborated to identify the molecule, learn more about it, and give a short group presentation in class. The activity enables learning and community building and it sets a collaborative tone for the rest of the course. Motivation about community building also applies to technology choices — you should work to learn about new technologies and prioritize the addition of tools that enhance students’ learning as a shared, social experience.
Take personal interest. Of course, you can greatly improve a student’s sense of kinship by simply taking an interest in them as an individual. An early starting point is to address students by name. Even in our class of 300 to 400 participants we try to learn the names of the students. You can express your personal interest in students in other simple ways, including a personal and timely reply to their emails, an offer to meet with them (online or in person), and congratulations to them (even your outsiders) for their efforts and accomplishments. Course), or reaching out to students when they need it. Care and support is an essential element of any community, and some magic happens when students feel that their instructor cares about them: they are more motivated to learn.
Provide ample opportunities for meaningful interaction. Classes to be community, student interaction is essential. That interaction can take many forms. Instead of a one-way flow of information from you to your students, focus on instructing through discussion, widely recognized as a powerful medium for students to learn, as they promote interdependence, engagement, and critical thinking. Discussions can involve members of all classes, whether in the classroom or on a digital discussion board or on a social networking site. Discussions can be in pairs or in small groups. Think-pair-share is a popular learning activity that takes place in a classroom or through online breakout rooms.
You should also explore some new tools that employ artificial intelligence to moderate and evaluate student participation in online discussions. Over the years, Kevin has used a Facebook group in his large introductory course. Discussions continue in the online class. Also, students shared relevant stories, photos and videos with the text content, comments and likes from classmates. That being said, all the students who volunteered to join the Facebook group learned more in the course because they learned together.
Include students’ experience and skills. Students come to our class with extensive knowledge and experience. They are not experts in our subject, but they have insights to share, and they should be encouraged to use their experience and skills to advance learning for all. For example, Kevin invites students to his sociology introductory course to discuss topics such as arranged family marriages or the challenge of attending a Christian university as a Muslim student. Neil regularly invites students, independently or in small groups, to solve organic chemistry problems in front of their peers and explain their solutions. Involving students as teachers increases interdependence, mutual respect and employment — all of which are valuable in community building.
Encourage group creation. Another functional aspect of community building in the classroom is to give students the opportunity to create something together. Creative group projects enable students to teach each other in a way that builds interdependence, mutual respect, and often a high level of engagement. An example is the University of California, Los Angeles, organic chemistry music video extra credit assignment, which Neil started more than a decade ago and which is widely imitated. Students create short music videos that apply the concept of the course in an entertaining way. Not only do they create their own videos, but they also contribute to community building by watching videos of their peers during class or online. Demonstrating worldwide reach on social media, the videos have now received millions of views worldwide.
Model joy. Our final advice may seem trivial, but it is especially worth repeating in the current situation: students need to be reminded of the joy of learning. College is a deadly virus and is stressed without its protracted forms. Beneath the black cloud of COVID-19, the rate of frustration among college students has increased. We all need the obsession of joy. Expressing excitement and excitement, as part of an intellectually fulfilling course, is a great way to build community. The real motivation can be contagious — and bonding.
Also, make no mistake: you have to laugh together in college class. Students will be quick to develop a shared vocabulary and internal humor, which provides a sense of togetherness. Not surprisingly, enjoyment positively affects learning. So we sincerely recommend that you smile (read the mask or not), smile and express joy while teaching. This will help students to do the same while learning.
COVID-19 has created epidemic challenges for instructors and students. Often, the challenge comes with opportunities. The epidemic allows us to embrace the basic aspects of learning that go beyond a particular subject or teaching method.
So the subjects or methods by which we teach may change এবং and will continue to change আমাদের we must consider human nature and the fact that most students want to feel their own way. As much as the course content focuses on community building, we have the opportunity to get our students to do the right thing when they need it most.