When schools shut on 20th March, teachers across the world were thrown into a whole new way of working. Whilst some schools have long used elements of online learning it was, on the whole, limited to the use of platforms to share homework tasks. And so, the learning curve began!
What I want to focus on here are the positives- what can we learn from lockdown? What can we learn from online teaching? Are there any elements that we might like to keep when ‘normality’ returns?
Now of course, we’ve all had different experiences and work in different contexts and so you may not agree with everything I’ve written. Please feel free to comment below if you have different thoughts or different lessons that you’d like to take away from lockdown.
Lesson 1: We can be more ambitious with homework
If the switch to online learning has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I can be more ambitious with homework. Previously I’d been reluctant to set the learning of new content for homework- thinking that it was better to do this with me in the classroom and to do consolidation tasks at home. This has advantages but also constraints: at GCSE and A-Level in particular it meant that I often struggled to get through the course in time.
What lockdown has taught me is that students are more than able to tackle the learning of new content at home. If the instructions are clear, the resources well-structured and well scaffolded, then students can work independently and effectively. If I build more of this into my regular teaching then more time will be afforded in the classroom for the application of knowledge and working with students to build their higher-order thinking skills.
Lesson 2: The importance of a good explanation
At my school, we’re not doing live lessons and so one of our main tools has been recording audio narration alongside a PowerPoint presentation which is then shared with students. It turns out however that it’s not just the students benefiting from this… I’ve learnt too! As I’ve recorded my A-Level lessons, I’ve been forced to critically reflect on how I explain each individual concept- unable to rely on interaction with the students to confirm that they understand what I’m saying. This experience has forced me to think about my explanations in a way that, I must confess, I hadn’t previously when teaching.
Some of the questions that this process has forced me to consider are:
Am I explaining this in the clearest way possible?
Will the students understand the terminology I am using?
Does the way I am explaining the concept avoid misconceptions?
Lesson 3: Being a form tutor is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job
It sounds awful but sometimes I had forgotten this! In the middle of term when you feel snowed under, it can (dare I say it) sometimes feel like you could do without being a form tutor.
During lockdown we’ve been calling each of our form groups once a week and it has genuinely become a highlight of my week. I look forward to speaking to them; asking what they’ve learnt about, what they’ve been doing with their time and what they’ve been reading. As the weeks have gone on, I’ve come to realise how important this connection with them is and how much I enjoy this element of my job. When we return to school, I will see my role as form tutor in a new light- I can’t wait.
Kate Stockings is Head of Geography at The Hampstead School having completed her PGCE at the University of Cambridge 2014-2015. She is an author for OUP and has completed her Masters in Education.