Constructivism and Covid

Pooja Birwatkar

Teaching-learning in corona times followed a rather interesting trajectory of evolutionary stages – The start-off stage was rather peculiar in terms of the confusion which fluctuated between hard to believe stance and unpreparedness to deal, coupled with positivity that corona is short-lived. Schools adopted the wait and watch policy and in general there prevailed a premature holiday mood before the much awaited summer break.

However, with the passage of time, the unpredictability of the future became a concern for schools. In the wake of this, they hastily responded by initiating digital teaching-learning overlooking the much needed gestation period. Chaos reigned as unpreparedness and unwillingness on part of both the learner and the facilitator was ungauged and non-uniform. What plagued the situation further was the stress of navigating the digital teaching successfully, overcoming the hiccups of space crunches, remodeling home life to emote classroom scenes, coping with unprecedented schedules, psychological, emotional and health pressures. The general Covid induced philosophical approach to life and anxiety laden mood further dampened the confidence to handle the modes of transaction and interaction for online teaching-learning.

With the third stage (post summer break as opted by many schools) the teaching-learning scenario became a more vigorous and steady one with the teachers becoming more prepared after rigorous online teaching and the atmosphere became more conducive for effecting pedagogical transactions.

However, schools had to now move ahead of the basic pedagogical transactions and proceed to conducting assessments of the students. This posed a real challenge. The underlying assumptions of the distrusting attitude towards the learner and the suspicion that learners are likely to adopt unfair means in assessments has been the singular way in which education systems have perceived learners.

However, Covid times led to limitation in assessment options and schools decided to adopt online assessments despite the threat of malpractices looming large. The other major concern was the changing mode of assessment which had to now necessarily be objective in nature.

Here is a real scenario of how a set of grade 7 students prepared for such online exams.

A group of friends in grade 7 were frequently chatting with each other on whatsapp, agreeably not much to the liking of their parents. However, with exams approaching this group decided to take the onus of adopting peer teaching-learning as their modus operandi to prepare. What followed was each one competing with the others to prepare quizzes in apps like Kahoot. Before each exam, the group arranged for multiple zoom meetings, together solved queries, did group learning, posed questions and challenges for each other. Since they also took to making these quizzes like a game, they wanted to showcase the best of most intellectually placed questions with difficult to guess and mind stimulating answers. For doing this they explored search engines, as deciding on four multiple choices for each question requires a lot of deliberation and research as all options must be carefully crafted to follow the same line of thought and have at times the potential to camouflage the real answer.

As these students made the questions and their options, they became familiar with many concepts that were not there in the textbooks. In order to design questions they automatically learnt the concepts as well as related concepts. Knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation – all the Blooms taxonomy learning outcomes that lace the lesson plans suddenly seemed to have found their right place as real learning outcomes since the learners were unintentionally achieving them.

This brings us to exploring the real essence of constructivism. Constructivism as a buzz word caught attention almost a decade ago and it shook the roots of the traditional learning system. Learners constructing their own learning experiences and teachers being facilitators. However, the translation of this constructivism was very superficial and volatile. What happened in the name of constructivism was the teacher devising a group activity and students following an inquiry approach within curtailed instructional and facilitative brackets and solving problems.

However, constructivism has moved beyond its simulated environment which was so far adopted in offline learning. Online learning has opened doors for constructivism and given it a facelift in terms of elaborately making the learner adopt most responsibility of self-learning by exploring multitude of options available. Classifying, sorting and converting data into relatable and useful information appears to be easier for the learner now as they dive into the world of information available online.

With the learner now becoming a real constructivist, it will be critical to see how they will react once they go back to the offline mode. Will there be a U turn to the same old conventional designs of constructive classrooms or will there be a new wave in terms of revolt from the learners to keep moving ahead with the journey they embarked upon in Covid times? Will the Covid faced learner accept the reverse gear back to offline mode of teaching-learning or will the learner favour his tryst with real constructivism? Educators, think about it.

The author is Assistant Professor at Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai, specializing in the field of teacher education. She is passionate about research and ardently pursues it. Her areas of interest are constructivism, dialogic teaching, socioscientific issues, diversity and inclusion in education and science pedagogy. She can be reached at [email protected].

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