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Classroom Coaches – Not the man on the podium but the guide by your side

Classroom Coaches – Not the man on the podium but the guide by your side

Guru walks into the class and excited about the session. With a high energetic good morning and introduction, he projects his first slide, a questionnaire discussion that could propel the journey of learning into a deep reflection and even healthy debate.

In his view the question could lead the discussion on –

  • How can I add value?
  • How the topic is important?
  • Where are the real-time case studies?
  • How can this knowledge help?

As an educator this is how Guru sees his class.

The mind of Adarsh, the new generation learner however may be –

  • So…is this part of the test?
  • Should we submit an assignment?
  • WIIFM (What's in it for me)?
  • What does Google say?
  • Should I answer something?

While the picture might be a bit extreme on both spectrums, the reality lies between the two. Of course, the cynical picture I paint on the classroom is not absolute.

For all the coaches, somewhere the students are throwing up their hands in frustration, or are typing their distraction away on their mobiles, there is an ?elsewhere students are raising their hands to involve in an insightful and engaging discussions, where rapt attention is the rule and not the exception.

As the ‘man’ on the podium how can we build in the drive and engagement to learn in our classrooms?

As a young lecturer, I remember an incident that had happened when I am talking to my grandfather in the early days of my first academic job. Speaking about formal education, that too in a business school my grand father’s words was an eye opener. He spoke about the inability of a learner to understand the nuance of the market rather than sitting in the classroom. I remember arguing rather ardently, “ Learners are not like how they were in your times. As a lecturer we bring so many sources into the classroom other than textbooks”.

My grandpa smiled and replied, “ Wish things were like the old times. You would have learnt a lot more”. My grandpa, son of a school principal of pre-independent India, then spoke of the recency of the classroom and the long history of actual education.

India is a land of gurukuls and paatshalas, the seat of actual, timely education that students required. This actual education of the masses also happened in communities, where life, trade, occupational learning, song and dance were taught. There were no formal classrooms; students learnt many things practically. A concept that we are striving to achieve in our classrooms today.

And now, the educator’s role has evolved from not only being the content expert, but also a developer of life-long learning.

The ability of this generation also adds to the shift in teaching strategies. This generation is a collaborative and social generation that has a focus on understanding and building their knowledge through various mediums to discover the answers.

Educator needs to provide an arena for engagement and discovery as well as they must be a content expert and mentor. And today, we are on the brink of yet another dividing line - The digital age with its interconnected tentacles has made reaching out to the outside world easier. Therefore, I wonder,“How can the classroom transform to allow new generation learners to collaborate, debate, make mistakes, experience, learn, unlearn and relearn and become a better version of themselves?”

When a student learns, he becomes curious, moves from knowledge to experimentation that reflects on the process. He owns the lesson and a bit of his thinking, emotion and effort joins the knowledge pool. This is the charm of the collective human intellect.

In my session, on asking powerful questions, many times I ask in the class what is the best question we can ask in this classroom?’

The best question in any classroom will be one for which the class has not been able to arrive at an answer, one that the faculty does not know, a quick search on Google does not reveal and the room now has a few dozen eager minds thinking and reflecting as they leave the class. This unanswered question will one day be answered by one of the students and that will be evidence of the deepest form of learning.

Research says learning in deep will work on 4 best strategies namely, problem-based learning, internship opportunities, collaborative group work, and longer-term cumulative assessments. As a classroom coach, we can enhance this learning many times more.

  1. Problem based learning - Using collaborative teams, learning by working on a problem creates deeper learning. Case study method is a form of problem-based learning, where students understand concepts by solving real-time problems. Real life problems like trying to live in a cabin that is designed on solar energy can be used to teach scientific lessons, such things would bring an awareness of life as a whole and give a deeper meaning to the lesson and its place in life. As a classroom coach, powerful questioning skills and holding space to challenge thinking and reflection will enhance learning. The International Coach Federation – ICF advocates the GROW Model. A four-step process to uncovering and solving problems through coaching – Goal-Reality-Options-Will… it can be a powerful learning tool in the classroom as well.
  2. Internship opportunities - Learning by doing is the best way to deep learn. Ancient Indian learning advocates learning by doing. Life served as the laboratory for the educational experimentation from where many noble traditions were developed. Internships help in the experiential learning, a quick taste of the real life before completion of studies helps iterative learning. Students not only understand application of learning but also about themselves. Most professional and management courses have a period of internship for its students. As a classroom coach, working on how the new knowledge can be applied and what will be the problems and experiences are the areas, learners would benefit from. In case opportunities for formal internships are unavailable, creative projects can still help in learning.
  3. Collaborative group work - The two pillars of a collaborative group work are positive interdependence and individual accountability. Ideally speaking, new generation learners would love to work in groups. In an unstructured group activity, it is difficult to measure clarity of the outcomes, procedures to work and individual accountability. Whereas, in a structured approach to group work that specifies roles, outcomes, resources and assessment of individuals will create a more serious process to learn and grow. As a classroom coach, ensuring social skills, trust, collaboration and accountability to action is taken increases the team’s capacity to learn.
  4. Long-term cumulative learning - Collaboration in learning can happen in many ways. Application of a concept over the longer arc of a few semesters. Application of learning a subject to learn other subjects. Cumulative assessments of concepts across subjects. When students learn to apply the hiding borders of subjects, exams, teams and classes, learning happens for life. An example of such a learning can be – a capstone assignment for a few subjects together. I regularly pair with other subjects to test presentation skills, body language and report writing of my communication lesson. As a classroom coach, the role here is a larger one. Over the longer period of time, we can ensure a deep learning would help the students in the upcoming years.

Somewhere in a classroom right now, students are texting. Huddled over case studies in persuasive writing, they are texting. Amid the buzz and beep of incoming texts, lit by the glow of a Wiki page, they are texting and talking and gaming— and analyzing and thinking critically and composing. This classroom is my classroom. And it looks nothing like a traditional classroom. Instead, it is filled with new generation creatures— and their digital accessories— who are being guided by a coach, trying to implement ‘ Learning 2.0’

I hope you will join me in this madness… for learning has moved, we have to guide our students to the future.

About the Author

Dr Latha Vijaybaskar catalyzes positive transformations. As founder and Leadership Coach of V.I.T.A.L Conversations, she works with teams and individuals to enhance productive engagement and positive leadership. Her latest book Masterstrokes – Reinventing Leadership in Uncertain Times can be ordered on Amazon