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Develpoment Education Humanities

The social context of education: Are we doing enough?

Photo by Tim Marshallon Unsplash

There’s a marshmallow in front of you. 

No, this isn’t a promotion, and you aren’t getting samples (sorry!), but imagine I keep a marshmallow in front of you. Of course, I will give you the classic catch. If you wait till I come back, without eating the marshmallow, you get TWO of them. The choice seems obvious, right? Wait and get two marshmallows. Or maybe you’d rather carpe diem with that one marshmallow. Either way, what does it have to do with education?

Am I merely grabbing your attention by mentioning a fluffy, sugary treat? Maybe. BUT, did you know that the decision you would make in this actual marshmallow situation could tell quite a bit about your personality? Skeptical? Good. Allow me to elaborate. 

The Marshmallow Test and Education

‘The Marshmallow Test’ written by Walter Mischel elaborates on his famous experiment with marshmallows. Not to get into too much detail, but the author discusses how those who chose to wait for the second marshmallow had higher SAT scores and better social as well as cognitive functioning. They are then seen to have a better sense of self-worth. The comparison between those who could wait, and those who couldn’t, were characterized by different brain scans in areas relating to addictions and obesity. 

So a “no” to eating the marshmallow? Nope. That’s a personal choice. But notice how behavioral patterns in children sort of projects themselves onto adolescence and above? That’s what we’re focusing on in today’s blog. 

Social context of education 

The social context of education refers to external factors that affect a child’s educational opportunities. These factors include social background, family structure, socio-economic status, the learning environment, differences and diversity in school, resource equity, and so on.

For instance, parents’ education is seen to be associated with student achievement. Likewise, the poverty levels of the school also decide the quality of education. Public school teachers in high-poverty schools are also more likely to report student misbehavior as interfering with their teaching than teachers in low-poverty schools. Students in mathematics classes in low-poverty public secondary schools are more likely to be taught by teachers who majored or minored in mathematics than were students in high-poverty public secondary schools.  

As discussed, many factors can affect the learning process. The social context in which schools operate can influence their effectiveness. Changes in social context present challenges that schools must address to enhance their effectiveness and ensure that educational progress can occur. 

The impact of social context on education

The point to focus on is that the social environment that the child is subject to in education has a holding on their personality development. This social environment can consist of various levels such as family, institutional, community, and society. An environment in which children don’t feel safe or are victims to be bullying will have an impact that carries on into adulthood.

The mental health of the learners and their ability to deal with emotions does make a connection to this. A survey shows that 13% of students in America are stressed, 22% suffer anxiety, 20% have sleep difficulties, and 14% have depression. All of this has a direct influence on the performance of a learner. (Read more about the link between mental health and students here

Is this the social context we want in our education systems? What are we subjecting our children to?

Imagine 12-year-olds consuming content on social media where they think beauty filters are the new norm. Or teens on apps that scam them of money. Even the shady man trying to befriend an unknowing adolescent by “sliding into the DMs.” Families making learners believe that their value solely depends on education, or vice versa—that education has no value. All of this comes under the umbrella of social context. And if it is not safe, we are directly subjecting learners to the negative impact that it can have. 

Are we really okay with learning in this environment? 

social context of education
Photo by LUM3Non Unsplash

Conclusion 

While we can’t micromanage the system, we can influence it. Promoting a healthier social context in education, general check-ins, being empathetic of the learner, and not putting them in a tight box roped with expectations are some ways to give them room to grow. This environment is shaping them in numerous ways—how they interact with other elements of the community, survival systems, ideologies, and so on and so on. 

Should something so impactful get so little attention? Are we doing enough? 

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Develpoment Education

In-Person learning vs Online learning: Which is for you?

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Wondering what to expect from the move from In-person learning to online learning courses? E-learning has never been as important and used as it is today.

Since around 2010, smartphones have provided more options for learning anytime, anywhere — whether traveling, taking public transportation, in the waiting room, or at home.

In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic, with its lockdowns and restrictions, brought the range of available online education to the focus of our attention.

Does this online renaissance make in-person training obsolete? Can online learning replace In-person learning? What are the pros and cons? How to make this transition sustainable and successful? Read on to answer these questions and discover the next steps from In-person to online learning on your own. In this blog, we will take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the main learning methods.

What is in-person learning?

For most of us, learning starts with lessons in a classroom with a teacher, where we are physically present (and supposedly attentive). Despite the current pandemic, this method is still the most widely used way to learn and absorb new knowledge.

One of the undeniable advantages of In-person teaching is the physical presence of the teacher, where their personality and the ability to interact with them are very important. Anecdotes, jokes, cultural references, etc.— every teacher has their own style and personality.

In a classroom, teachers are constantly adapting what they say and their daily activities based on the needs and reactions of students. By responding appropriately, a teacher can improve participants’ knowledge retention and motivate them.

Finally, there is the concept of interaction. If the group is not too large, it can promote discussion, healthy competition, and mutual help. Continuous communication with the teacher gives every student the opportunity to expand their knowledge and express their curiosity.

What is online learning?

Online learning is exactly what it sounds like—learning that takes place in an online format. In online learning, a teacher generally uploads personalized content to learning management software (LMS) and digitally shares it with their class. Access is via devices that are connected to the Internet.

Online learning offers flexibility in many ways not normally available in traditional in-person learning. Online training courses are a great option for people who work remotely or cannot attend seminars in person.

In many cases of online learning, students do not interact directly with the teacher or faculty. Many LMS offer students the ability to interact with teachers through chat rooms, forums, or email. Some even offer live online broadcasts where students can interact with the teacher while teaching the course in a live setting.

Which method is best for you: In-person or online learning?

Both in-person and online learning has advantages and disadvantages. It is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision that will affect your education and ultimately, your career. Educational institutions need to figure out what works best for their employees’ schedules, learning needs, and overall financial situation.

Key differences

Mobility and ease of learning

Online education is by far the most mobile. You can learn for free from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, traditional education requires a more rigorous investment of time.

Human touch and personal teaching approach

In-person teaching is more up, close and personal. Education is not one size fits all. It requires a lot of personalized teaching techniques. For example, when I want to learn to play guitar, most online courses were more geared towards learning a specific song while I wanted to learn how to create a song myself, and I learned it in a traditional educational system.

Communication with other students

Online learning offers many chat opportunities, discussion forums, etc., it is easy to get in touch with other students and discuss your concerns, and the chances are that most of your questions will be resolved by yourself. On the other hand, it is not so in face-to-face learning.

Conclusion

The online classes vs in-person learning debate have several aspects to look at; they both have benefits and disadvantages. However, the mixed method of coaching can be the best resolution for meeting all the students’ needs.

So to stay ahead of today’s competition, it is necessary that you combine both the education system and that will help you in lots of ways.

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Education Learning

Mixed Ability Classes: How Helpful Are They?

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A mixed-ability class, also called a heterogeneous class, means that you have students in the same class who have various levels of language proficiency.

Mixed-ability and heterogeneous are, to some extent, misleading terms, as no two learners have identical proficiencies, especially in a language learning class. This implies that every class is a mixed ability class in a sense.

These kinds of classes are mostly there for teaching Languages. However, it can go beyond language skills and also filter down to general skill sets. Variation can also be found in the age group and background of the students in a class.

After coming across this concept, the self-proclaimed detective that I am, I decided to dig deeper into Mixed Ability Classes and the challenges faced by students and teachers, while also looking at its benefits. So, let’s look at the results of my investigation.

Problems Faced in Mixed Ability Classes

Students:

It is crystal clear to see that a class like this will be a little problematic; both for the teacher and the students.

Students could find it hard to connect with their peers due to an age gap or a language barrier. They may feel alone and isolated and that the teacher is not paying attention to them.

On the contrary, some may feel that the teacher is giving them too much attention. It will also be hard to learn in a diverse environment like this.

Another major concern is bullying; which can get amplified in these situations, especially if diversity is not taught to be appreciated from a young age.

Teacher:

For teachers, these classes prove to be a bigger challenge.

How do you teach a class where everyone is so different from one another? Some students will feel left out while others may not feel challenged enough.

More importantly, how do you maintain discipline in a class like this?

Teachers can also have problems explaining things to students who are not good at language. The major part of teaching in such a class lies in the teacher’s determination and ability to adapt; since almost every student will require a unique approach to a concept.

Teachers will often find it hard to interact with students of different ages and backgrounds along with facing the challenge of getting students to participate.

 Advantages of Mixed Ability Classes

Studies showed that pupils in mixed-ability classes had an average gain in test scores of up to 7% over those taught in set classes, and suggests that “policies of setting were adopted primarily to make the teachers’ tasks more manageable”.’

Refer to this for more information in this report.

Apart from seeing an increase in grades; these kinds of classes also help students learn differently. Since everyone is of different age, mixed-ability classes allow everyone to share their experiences.

Stronger students can help weaker ones; older students can teach younger ones, and so on. It also helps teachers gain special experience which helps in their long-term careers.

Both teachers and students have opportunities to teach one another and learn from one another. Teachers also become stronger; since the task at hand is so great that it molds them into better educators.

In a way, we can say that despite all of its flaws Mixed Ability Classes are effective in helping both teachers and students.

It should be understood though that these classes need a teacher who can undertake the task. A less experienced or inadequate teacher would hurt himself and the students.

 Here is another study about the benefits of Mixed Ability Classes.

Conclusion

Well, nothing much to say here folks, the verdict from your friendly neighborhood investigator states that:

These classes are helpful, given that the teachers are ready for such a task. research has shown that mixed-ability classes help students grow. So yeah, I personally feel that these kinds of classes should exist more.

Currently, this is a popular method of teaching language but I would surely love to see it grow beyond that field and include subjects such as Math and Science.

Drop a comment if you agree and tell me how you feel. I’ll see you guys next time.

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Learning

The World of Cramming: Should You Enter It?

Reader, it’s the rapid-fire time! How many glasses of water can you have in 1 hour? How many days can you go without junk food? What’s your maximum time to binge on Netflix? (Uh, wrong question)

As humans, we’ve our respective capabilities and limitations. In this lifetime, we try to push those limitations to get our potential to its best use. But when we exert ourselves or even get tired of trying, we immediately go towards the shortcut lane. And most of the time, ‘shortcuts don’t help in the long run’ just like Cramming.

‘Cram‘ what?

Cramming also known as maintenance rehearsal in the psychological world is swallowing large amounts of information in a short period. The thing which shouldn’t be, done but we’ve made it doable. Cramming is generally performed by students for an upcoming semester exam or maybe even for a class test. That’s the initial acquisition stage of this virus. And with time, it infects the learning technique of a student’s mind.   

Have you ever eaten something even though you were full? Consider cramming like that; pleasant in the beginning but sufferable towards the end.

Let me create a scenario for you. You have 10 days until your exams begin. But your mind, polluted with laziness, has convinced you that it’s not ‘just 10 days’ but ‘I HAVE 10 DAYS.’ Each day passes because, well, time waits for no one, and now it’s the 9th day. You haven’t studied anything but you still have 24 hours. And finally, you set up your books at night time and plan to chew a bunch of information like Nobita did (by imprinting notes on a piece of bread; you need to watch that episode). Now ask yourself, is it a logical picture? 

Cramming (trust me) is not the need of any hour; failing might be more logical than cramming. It is nothing but a byproduct of our laziness.

But cramming works for me *-*?

Sometimes we perceive things as not what they actually are (example- a rope for a snake). This is what’s happening if you think cramming is working for you. You’re being driven by nothing other than illusions. Let’s understand the how.

There are two types of rehearsals we engage into:

  • Maintenance rehearsal is repeating the exact same thing until our working memory or short-term memory (STM) registers it.                                 and,
  • Elaborative rehearsal, meaning, understanding the material from its core, which automatically opens the gate leading towards long-term memory (LTM).            

Now, take your time and decide which one of the two is better. It’s absolutely upon you; either to go with 2-3 weeks of the warranty card (sounds like a tagline for cramming) or a warranty card that lasts for a lifetime.

Why not do it?

Cramming is not an advisable option because of the following:

  • The brain is like a train; just as a train changes engines, different parts of it work shift-wise. If you won’t let the parts work as per their cycle, it will disturb your cycle naturally.
  • As per Miller’s theory, our short-term memory can only hold 5-9 (seven plus minus two) chunks of information, where a chunk means any meaningful information. While cramming, the doer is just memorizing information so some of it doesn’t get registered even for a short period because the ‘meaningful’ part is absent.
  • As I mentioned earlier, as well, pulling an all-nighter is not healthy plus not so helpful.
  • Why choose a platter full of extra worries and stress when you can opt to not have unnecessary stress?

UCLA psychologist Robert Bjork has conducted a thorough study on learning, which includes cramming or maintenance rehearsal. A quick perusal can help you further understand why cramming is not a lifesaver.

What to do?

Let’s go down the nostalgia lane. We used to get up early; go to school; come back and have lunch; a little afternoon sleep; hitting the grounds and then the books in the evening; and finally by 10 or 11, entering the dreamland. 

I’m not painting a picture for you; this is the answer to the question ‘what to do instead’. It is time to adopt the old fashion way. Things in one’s life are not that complicated as we make them just by thinking. Designing and adapting the old-fashioned way in this crazy and busy time is something that only you can do.

Conclusion

Learning in the last minute
Image by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Isn’t it a little sad that all of us have this one thing in common? We all used this shortcut of cramming at some point in our lives. But for what, really—Good grades, good reputation, the title of intelligence, acquiring badges? Do you think, professionally, this is worth even 1% of the effort we put in it? 

The other name for cramming is maintenance rehearsal. Its name is literal, not metaphorical, please get the hint. It’s decision time!

Categories
Education Learning

Relay Learning – The Future of Learning

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Relay learning is a concept that is similar to the activity, relay, itself. Confused?

Okay, first. How does a relay race work?

We have a bunch of participants who run to pass the baton to the next player on their team. This process also repeats with all the players on the team. It is essentially like a task broken down into smaller tasks to efficiently get a team to complete said task.

Now, imagine trying to implement this method with learning. Say, there are 10 people in a study group, each individual would teach someone something that they know best. A chain of lessons, of sorts. And that is what the concept of relay learning entails 

Current problems faced in learning outcomes

Do you ever wonder if our current methods of learning are maybe getting a little redundant? Classroom learning can be efficient to a certain point. However, in due course, the personalization needed to benefit these different learning capacities gets misplaced. Do you get the gist?

There’s only so much that a teacher can get a crowded classroom to learn, regardless of their educational skills. Even if we take the average of benefits received by the classroom, which indicates the mid-range, the outcomes remain unchanged. What about the extremes of this spectrum? Are they still getting the most they can out of the course? 

Yet another problem faced in traditional learning styles is the costs involved and subsequent lack of accessibility. Educational costs have gone up in recent years, making education inaccessible to underprivileged strata of society. While several scholarships and grants aim to bridge this widening economic gap in education, learning is still a privilege for many.

The final nail to the traditional learning system is the quality and quantity of teachers. Teachers are underpaid in the world, regardless of the country. As such, very few educated individuals have the motivation to become teachers. And those who take up this profession or related roles are either stuck in the box of age-old practices or underqualified. Yet another challenge is the required qualifications and experience to become a teacher. But should teaching be so complicated?

In comes Relay Learning.

Benefits of relay learning

Benefits of this style of learning include a more individually designed learner-teacher understanding. Considering that the learning takes place in a social setting, it could help with learning the concepts better.

While improving communication skills and interpersonal relationships, it could also boost the confidence and self-esteem of individuals involved.

However, the signature benefit could be that it enables learning without paying an exorbitant amount. This means treating education as a service, rather than as a commodity. It also means that the teacher can adapt to the learner’s capacity.

Furthermore, restraints on teaching professions are no longer applicable. With relay learning, anyone willing to spread knowledge can teach someone something without needing a specific degree.

Finally, relay learning makes education a communal and social activity as opposed to the isolated and independent construct we follow. Moreover, education becomes free with this learning style and no longer follows an authoritarian approach prevalent now. Meaning, you can learn and teach any subject of your choosing, as long as you have the right level of knowledge and a passion to teach and learn.

Conclusion

Relay learning focuses on a more community style of learning with the teachers and learners being interdependent. This ideology of learning helps since the approach targets and is an effective way to achieve impact at scale. There are many learning styles that are diverse and that’s important since learners are also pretty diverse. It is important to ensure that we approach learning with more personalization. This means that more learners can truly benefit from education, rather than just a few.