Parents and teachers, what do you remember most about school?
I’m sure most of us remember the experiences that we had instead of the details gained from books. Was it about your favourite teacher, having to Jalan Itik when we forgot to do our homework or about gotong-royong at the beach?
If we reflect on these experiences, it’s a culmination of life skills gained and lessons learnt that makes it memorable: problem solving, planning, communication, leadership and collaboration. As such, it’s important for us to realise that students should continue to learn these skill sets during the global pandemic to help shape them into productive members of society.
We encourage teachers to be flexible in adjusting their lesson plans to accomplish learning objectives while students learn from home and think that can be accomplished through project-based learning.
Skill #1 - Problem Solving
Problem solving requires a person to use their knowledge creatively to accomplish a task. We suggest teachers engage their students in project-based learning because it’s a way for students to think critically and keep them occupied for a while!
To help students start their projects, provide a range of topics that are real-world problems and teach problem solving appropriate to a student’s age group.
For example, older students can reflect on ideas to create a sustainable home during a global pandemic whereas younger students can reflect on the steps and benefits to grow a home garden. Teachers can refer to this chart for more details.
Skill #2 - Planning
Now that you’ve suggested a range of topics, involve your classroom in the planning process by giving them the opportunity to decide which they are most interested in. By doing this, teachers can help make the project less daunting for students and is a great way to build up student confidence in accountability for a project.
Don’t stop there! Keep them involved and coach them through how to plan out their projects by allocating daily or weekly milestones and schedules. This will allow teachers to monitor classroom progress and the ability to help students when needed. For example, if the topic is about good hygiene practices, you can share online resources for your students to refer to.
Skill #3 - Communication
Encourage your students to voice out their questions for their projects to allow the communication process to take place. Older students can practice their communication skills by having an 'expert’ to interview which will strengthen their listening skills and focus to react appropriately when asking their questions.
Going back to the topic of building a sustainable home for example, you can involve a parent association group (PIBG) that loves gardening to share their thoughts and to answer questions students may have.
If video call is challenging for certain students, the interview is still possible through whatsapp voice message. This would require a bit more coordination, so prepare your students to look out for verbal cues to give structure to the interview process.
Skill #4 - Collaborating
Remote learning can be challenging and at times frustrating for a student who is used to the traditional methods of asking questions in person. Whether this be an individual or group project, teachers can use forums or group chats to conduct brainstorming sessions online.
Alternatively, teachers can also opt-in to have shy students reach out personally to encourage that you are providing a safe space to learn and to show your support when needed.
Skill #5 - Leadership
Being able to take charge and manage projects is a skill that is often underestimated and many potential employers find lacking in the job market today. To encourage the development of this skill, teachers can divide the roles and responsibilities for team projects so that each team member has a role to play and contributes fairly to the project.
However, we urge teachers to remember that leadership skills can also be built for students undertaking individual projects! For example, a student responsible to plan, manage and be accountable for milestones shows an act of leadership. To continuously encourage this responsibility, teachers can host a weekly shoutout to showcase students that demonstrates initiative to achieve a certain milestone or overcome a particular challenge.
Common project issues and how teachers can step in
1. Group dynamics between team members
Solution: Have certain parts of the project assessed as a group and others based on individual contributions. While we need to be comfortable reassuring students that even though we may not be able to get along with everyone, we need to learn how to work together where possible.
2. Lackluster student engagement
Solution: Ensure that when a student is working on a project, their roles and responsibilities are accountable to another peer. You’ll be surprised how much peer encouragement can help students like these learn how to involve themselves more in team projects.
To ensure that students are able to stand on their own two feet and to be resourceful and resilient at all times, encouraging them to take part in project-based learning during this time is beneficial. There’s so much that they can learn from at home and we are certain that the experiences gained by taking part in projects during this time will teach them life skills to remember for the future.
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