This post is adapted from the first webinar in our series on distance education for teachers affected by COVID-19. Join our lead educators each week to discuss strategies for delivering quality teaching during this challenging time.
This week’s webinar responded to your questions on remote assessment, wellbeing and remote learning for the younger years. Here’s what we discussed.
How do I assess student learning remotely?
Find sustainable modes of formative assessment
You don’t need to mark an endless series of worksheets each week in order to make a professional judgement of student progress. Task your students with building a fort out of household items, patterning objects or creating a model out of Lego. Learning will evidence itself in what they produce, without you creating extra work for yourself.
Contributions to online discussion also provide insight into student learning. Coordinate an activity on an LMS discussion board or forum and take note of your students’ responses. Are they misinformed, hesitant or piggybacking on others’ comments? If so, it might be time for a follow up.
Encourage self-assessment and reflection
Create a simple survey or questionnaire encouraging students to reflect on their own learning after a task. Google Forms is a useful tool for this. Ask your students to:
- Identify three things they learned over the course of a task
- Identify three challenges that they experienced
- Describe the strategies they used to overcome challenges
- Identify areas that they are still unsure of
- Write down questions that remain
- Write three specific initiatives that they will use to tackle any areas of difficulty.
Model productive answers to these questions first. Show students what it looks like to think critically about their own learning and identify gaps in understanding.
Reflection of this type provides a much richer means of assessing student learning than simply looking at a finished product. It also builds metacognitive awareness which can be extended to high-order activities – such as having students explain their approach to mathematics problem.
Engage with parents
Involve parents in the assessment process. It might be as simple as taking photos or videos of their child’s work which they can then share with you. They could even mark their child’s work if you provide an answer key.
This won’t necessarily translate to skewed results. Given the situation, most parents are earnestly trying to support their child however they can. Trust they will let their child learn independently until you see evidence to the contrary.
Now is also a good time to communicate to parents the importance of fair and honest assessment. This understanding will serve them equally well when their child returns to school.
How do I teach my younger students remotely?
Learning in the younger years revolves around play, exploration and hands-on activities where students learn through doing.
The home environment offers the perfect place for this experiential learning – perhaps even better than the classroom. Task your students with counting objects around the house, cooking or creating a game with siblings.
They’ll also pick up valuable soft skills in the process, such as independent problem solving, collaboration and a willingness to embrace responsibility.
Parents play a vital role in home learning for the younger years, so give them the tools they need to help. Send home a list of suggested activities, such as those listed here and here.
Parents can also leverage on their children’s interests to keep them engaged. However, keep your expectations reasonable. Most parents will not have the time or formal teaching experience necessary to coordinate sophisticated activities.
Scale back sophisticated technologies for a younger audience too. Use video and voice recordings students can access on smartphones, audiobooks that play with the click of a button, or a student-friendly portfolio platform such as Seesaw. The gamified worlds of Mathseeds and Reading Eggs also offer engaging learning explicitly designed for the younger years.
How do I plan for the next phase of remote learning?
Start by identifying the learning outcome you want your students to achieve and then plan back through the activities to get you there. However, be realistic about what it is you are hoping to achieve. If you are on term break, now is a good opportunity to revise and potentially scale back the plans you had at the start of the year.
Take note of any directives coming from school or government leadership too. Expectations are continuing to change as the situation evolves.
Most importantly, keep your planning flexible. Devote time each week to assessing the week’s learning and adjusting your plans accordingly. Plan for back-up activities to use in the event of technical difficulties or sudden changes too. Take things week by week.
How can I look after myself during remote teaching?
Focus on the positives
Remote teaching makes it much harder to see the lightbulb moments and successes that brighten our day. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. Find at least one thing a day that worked and celebrate it before you take stock of the challenges.
Draw clear boundaries around work time
It’s easy to find yourself working more at home than you would at school. Schedule regular breaks and work-free times in your day to attend to your own wellbeing. Take time out to do the things you enjoy without thinking about school. You’ll be much better placed to support student learning in the long term.
Stay connected with colleagues
Set up a digital staffroom on social media, Skype, Zoom or Teams. Schedule regular coffee breaks to chat and share the successes, surprises and challenges of your remote teaching experience. You’ll learn new strategies you can put into practice, whilst also maintaining the relationships that make school such a connected place.
Remember that you’ve got this!
Remote teaching requires resilience and flexibility and classroom teachers have both in spades. The fire drills, problem students and technological failures that confront us daily in the classroom make us uniquely qualified to handle such an unpredictable situation. So have confidence in yourself. You’ll take this in stride, just like you always do.
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