Dr Coughlan says there's an important difference between focusing on essential skills during this time, as opposed to trying to keep the curriculum going in full. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Dr Coughlan says there's an important difference between focusing on essential skills during this time, as opposed to trying to keep the curriculum going in full. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Teaching from home? An expert says less is more

By Lifestyle reporter Time of article published Apr 23, 2020

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We find ourselves in uncertain times. Suddenly, teachers find themselves teaching their class while looking into a laptop screen.

The same could apply to parents who have taken up the extra task of homeschooling.

As educators adapt to teaching remotely and online, there may be an attempt to mimic what a school day would normally look like, by filling learners’ days according to pre-lockdown timetables, says Dr Felicity Coughlan, academic director at ADvTECH.

But according to Coughlan, this approach is counter-productive, and "can lead to further frustration, anxiety and tension under what is already challenging circumstances".

Dr Coughlan says there's an important difference between focusing on essential skills during this time, as opposed to trying to keep the curriculum going in full.

“Much of the stress people are experiencing arises from this well-intentioned attempt to ‘keep up’. It is far more conducive to learning and well-being to make deliberate choices and to pare back and focus on those skills around which we can then build content knowledge again later,” she says.

She believes that the unexpected ways the lockdown and the unique and unprecedented circumstances in which we now find ourselves, provide a perfect opportunity to develop and entrench those global competencies which otherwise might not receive the requisite focus during normal school time.

“We have known for some time that the world is changing, that the skills required in the workplace are evolving and that the workplace of the future is going to look much different from what used to be the status quo only four weeks ago. Now, all of a sudden, we find ourselves thrown into a completely new paradigm and it is quite clear that the world will not be the same," adds Coughlan.

“So what better time to develop those global competencies and master 21st Century Skills than during the biggest global disaster in recent history?”

Dr Coughlan says SA teachers have risen to the challenges of remote and digital teaching with remarkable resilience and zeal, with very little warning or lead-time. They have been wonderfully innovative whether or not they have had access to extensive educational technology or been required to use WhatsApp or other day-to-day communication tools to keep in touch with the children they were teaching. The mindset of making do and re-inventing is a precious one we should not lose.

“So, for teachers developing lessons and content, and schools still grappling with how to approach learning at this time, consider that less really is more. If there is therefore a little bit of a silver lining to this disaster, it is that we now have the ideal opportunity to develop these skills, and that even those schools and educators who are not as well-positioned as others can include them,” she says.

Now is the time to focus on the basics, and to aim for consolidation, concluded Coughlan.

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