Is remote teaching a long-term school priority?
As a [teacher] in a physical classroom, I can pick up nuances, which I cannot in a virtual class (Webb, 2021).
Only last week, I met online with 50 trainee teachers and as I moved through the quizzing resources, up popped a trainee teacher on her screen, balancing her own young child on her knee as she took part in the training!
Another teacher apologised that she was unable to answer one of my questions as she was currently with a year 12 student about to confirm with them that their BTEC exam was not to go ahead.
There are countless other stories I could share… For all of us, screen fatigue and delivery are real challenges.
Jela Webb reflects on her physical classroom:
“I can see which students are struggling to understand, which students need some encouragement to participate and which ones need drawing out to ask questions. I can more easily gauge concentration levels so that I can adapt my teaching approach as necessary. Students enjoy bouncing ideas off each other, working together physically” (Webb 2021).
There is little remote teaching evidence…
There is little evidence, particularly during the 2020 pandemic in England. One will struggle to find much information that will help teachers. The Education Endowment Foundation offered a solid review in April 2020, but it still requires teachers to translate the recommendations into pragmatic ideas.
Almost one year on, what have we learned about good remote teaching approaches?
I’ve had a good look on Google Scholar and to date, can only find approximately 385 pieces of research. I’ve only skimmed the first two or three search pages to find some ideas.
15 Remote Teaching Approaches
I can only provide these ideas to you from a teacher training perspective, rather than as a teacher currently facing a multitude of challenges. Therefore, using some of the strategies I use online with teachers, drawing upon my 25 years in the classroom, plus the work from three key research papers:
- Covid-19 pandemic and online learning: the challenges and opportunities (Adedoyin and Soykan, 2020),
- the Great Teaching Toolkit and,
- the Immediate Impact of COVID-19 on Postsecondary Teaching and Learning (Day et al, 2020).
…here are 15 recommendations and strategies worth trying.
- Hopefully, digital competency is an embedded part of your curriculum delivery, rather than addressed as a knee-jerk reaction to COVID-19.
- Learning digital skills should be part of the teaching and learning process of all subject with “design courses and programs that support the mental health and wellbeing of students” (Day et al, 2020).
- I spoke with one teacher last week who said that she is working in a department were no schemes of work exist! Where schemes do exist, it should not be a matter of just publishing them online. Where the hard lies are for teachers to rethink how to structure a face-to-face curriculum to teaching it exclusively online. Less is more, in my opinion, thinking carefully about how the material can be received online without direct instruction and any technological issues.
- Give take up time: Even when teaching is precise and explicit, allow time to reteach the aspects of the curriculum that your students are struggling to master. This also includes helping to reduce a pupil’s cognitive load. Plan lessons which build-in plenty of pauses…
- To help embed curriculum knowledge, particularly in an online environment (and outside of higher education), and putting aside the complex issues about access and family support, teachers must design resources which help embed and reinforce learning. Throughout the entire pandemic I have always advocated that if we want to follow the research on retrieval practice, we should seek to reteach material rather than ask pupils to complete something which is new. This is applicable for all pupils, with our without access.
ICT Leadership and Training
- Online learning must be planned with instructional technology considered E.g. Google Classroom. Obvious though it may be, one must consider the internet connection on the pupil’s side and if one hour, or 3-5 per day’s work, is possible.
- Teachers must learn how to promote a positive online climate for learning. This includes knowing how to switch on and off video and microphones for pupils when behaviour management is required. There are many pieces of software that you can use. Here’s one!
- Teachers must manage time and resources efficiently in the online classroom to maximise productivity. We know too much screen time leads to cognitive load, so even if a teacher is teaching online for 5 hours a day, there are just as likely to suffer from cognitive load every 20 to 25 minutes, as well as in the fifth lesson at the end of a school day. I know there will be some schools out there that do not allow their teachers to share video-recorded feedback for safeguarding reasons, so at least voice notes could be the next best alternative.
- Consider the learning via “blended discussions and also elucidate on the integration of online discussion” (Adedoyin and Soykan, 2020). Pre-recorded messages (asynchronous) from teachers will support teaching and learning rather than assuming live video teaching (synchronous) is more beneficial. Plus, it will reduce teacher workload.
- Use analytics to gauge what works. For example, if you are sending out electronic newsletters to parents, it’s pretty straightforward to evaluate which parents are opening the newsletter. It’s the same thing for students. “Use the pandemic as a learning focus” (Day et al, 2020). If you send a video to students, how could you track which students open the video and how long they watch it for?
Teaching and Learning
- Pupils must be motivated to acquire digital competency devoid of ‘Google searches’ and ‘copy and paste’ plagiarism.
- “Identify new ways of building student engagement” (Day et al, 2020). One of my favourite pieces of software is Kaizena. It allows teachers to provide verbal feedback online attached to the pupil’s documents.
- We know that a teacher modelling and explaining concepts, rules and facts is critical in the classroom and that this underpins the development of a pupil’s knowledge. I’ve been a massive fan of using visualisers for 15 years, so if your school has not purchased one for you already, this is probably the best £30-100 you will ever spend!
- I’ve said this many times and I will keep on saying it. All teachers must build a strong repertoire of questioning strategies. It is not the number of questions you ask, is the type of question you pose. Doing this online is not without its challenges and there are survey tools which we can use to help sustain pupil engagement, low-stakes competition and improve retrieval. Pose questions regularly to elicit pupil thinking, and seek a high response rate before moving on with the lesson. Alternative assessment methods, how they are deployed and tested, must also be considered. “There is no clear consensus on approaches to student assessment in remote emergency teaching” (Day et al, 2020)
- We know feedback matters, and we also know there are many ways of providing feedback. For example, feed up, feedforward and feedback. Providing feedback online will be something that some teachers are already accustomed to, but doing it full-time, especially when face to face contact is eliminated, teachers will need to be inventive. Always focus on feedback which is manageable for the teacher, meaningful for the pupil and motivates them to take action. I’ve always promoted PPIPL as an effective 5-minute script for teachers to use.
Whatever circumstance you find yourself in during remote teaching, teachers must be trained on how to use a range of ICT tools. As Webb highlights, when [education] budgets [are] under pressure, the training budget [is] one of the first to be targeted.