What makes Edulution’s facilitated elearning maths classes effective? Afterall, no single component of our solution is unique: we use robust, generic tablets and routers; open-source content (thank you Khan Academy); and a commercially available analytics platform (albeit substantially customized). And our coaches are neither professional educators nor gifted mathematicians.
However: put these disparate ingredients together in the right way and you get magic: sessions that are intense but fun; challenging but empathically supportive; and where our young coaches are confident and effective, producing accelerated learning in classrooms around sub-Saharan Africa every day.
The key is our session management process – our unique methodology focused on learner user experience – what we call the “Container”.
If we had to make an equation of this – and since we’re focused on Maths this seems appropriate – we can express the Container as:
Made up of a series of sequential steps, and guided by a particular approach, the Container allows for each session to deliver its maximum potential.
It starts with the greeting: each learner is met at the door with eye contact and a preferred gesture – the signal to every individual is that they are welcome, valued and “seen”. Our goal is to trigger active participation from each learner rather that anonymous classroom attendance.
The coaches then run an energy management process to either raise or lower the levels of energy, then set goals and affirmations to prepare learner mindsets for the session.
With tablets distributed to each learner we run a maths workout to wake up the mind and gamify the basic operations of mathematics. Then, each learner logs in to activate their unique learning pathway and begins solving problems, pitched just beyond their level of comfortable understanding, in their learning zone. (Vygotsky called this the Zone of Proximal Development*)
Throughout the session (typically 90-120 minutes), the pair of coaches attends to the needs of the learner – zooming in to support an individual; zooming out to assess the energy in the room. They troubleshoot tech issues (mercifully rare), address behavioural dynamics, coach positive attitude, persistence, and growth mindsets, and help explain tricky concepts.
Coaches form caring and authentic relationships with their learners. This ensures the Container is safe and supportive, which creates the neurological conditions for effective learning to occur. This matters because many of our learners come from stressful or deprived circumstances, which research shows has the effect of flooding the brain with cortisol, which in turn strongly effects memory performance and the ability to form new neural pathways. By making learning fun and safe, we have receptive brains, hungry for new growth.#
Near the end of our sessions the coaches hold a recognition ceremony where they honour and celebrate learners who have made progress, achieved a goal, or supported other learners. By using peer recognition in this way we create heroes of learners that may never have been “seen” before. The result is increased engagement, and greater commitment to the learning process.
The session then wraps-up – and the Container closes – with personalized exit contact as the learners leave, and then a debriefing session between the coaches where they reflect and learn from the past session and plan for the next. Just in time for the new class of eager children to queue up outdoors, ready to be part of the learning revolution!
Edulution Namibia, October 2022, photo taken by Matheus Shivute, Social Media Coordinator, Namibia
*Vygotsky suggested that the lower limit to intelligence was the student’s independent performance on a task, and the upper limit was their potential performance with support and collaboration with someone more capable at the task. The gap between these two poles is called the Zone of Proximal Development. Experiences given to students should be within this bracket, or zone, to achieve optimal performance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development