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Lessons learned

Imagine trying to get ethics committee agreement to abandon in-class teaching for 10 weeks, and make every teacher to teach remotely into 20-30 homes, teach the parents/carers how to be involved and how and when not to be involved, doing all this with a few days or weeks’ notice, and then bringing them all back in some cases teaching in-and remotely, in others having them all return to in-class. Would never be approved! But it happened.

We cannot let this experiment move into the distant memory banks, be part of reminiscing – remember when, wasn’t it wonderful when, etc.

Some students were less distracted by peers via remote, some parents learnt that there are skills in pedagogy, some students were turned onto learning more via remote, some students were more prepared to discuss errors and what they did not know, and many teachers discovered new ways of working such that students did not have to be in front of them all day listening to teachers talking. We need to capture these learnings and incorporate them into the new normal.

There is a large corpus of research on the effects of school outage and most is based on no schooling at all, unlike COVID. The effects, on average, are very small indicating that for most it does not matter too much if students are remote or physically present. Most students will not fail, go backwards, or turn off schooling – indeed many will take the change in their stride, the reboost on return will quickly make up for lost weeks, and we will again discover that students are much more resilient that many consider them to be. Of course, there will be some who do not refocus, do not make the needed gains and in the first weeks back we need to be vigilant to identify these students. Do not presume they fall into the more well understood categories of disadvantage. We need to be more attentive to those with lower self-regulation, the lonely with few or no friends, and those who are more reluctant to get back on task. Excellent diagnoses for all.

There is much media about the losses, the increased negative effects on the disadvantaged, the widening equity gap – but I have yet to see this evidence. Most is conjecture usually based on faulty models making unfounded linear extrapolations, ignoring the reality that many were still taught when not in-school, and such gross generalizations should be ignored. Not because there will not be negatives, but such categorizing of students and absurd assumptions may mean we miss those who are truly disadvantaged by the in-class shut down. It is also ignoring that we need to learn from what went well, which students went well and which thrived, and what did we learn as educators that went well.

Here are some questions that intrigue me

  • How do we continue to engage parents in the language of learning and move them beyond homework police and fund raisers?
  • Should we consider teacher-parent reporting through online learning opportunities?
  • Can we emphasise teaching self-regulation skills, and creating opportunities in-school for more remote learning?
  • Do students all have to be sitting in front of us all the time to be successfully learning?
  • How critical is the notion of “gradual release of responsibility” in the new-normal?
  • During remote teaching, were you more involved in triage, providing feedback, hearing feedback from students, and listening to students think aloud? How did your concept of being a teacher change?
  • Where and how in your school are you capturing teachers’ learning about what worked better and ensuring it is built-in to the new normal?