Every school and college should have an agreed policy with unions covering issues like volume, content and balance of online and other activity, workload and working time.
1. Establish routines
These are anxious times for all members of the school community – teachers, support staff, learners and families. Establishing routines helps create structure, certainty, predictability and safety, and in so doing can help to reduce anxiety and maintain a safe space for learning. Routines also have a role in reducing cognitive load, freeing up space for thinking and learning.
2. Stick to simple, sensible rules
Make your expectations around learning and behaviour clear. This is a new situation that requires new rules. Can learners use the chat function? If so, what for? When should cameras be on/off? Learners will take time to get used to new ways of working, so calmly reiterate your expectations when necessary. Further thoughts on rules and routines can be found in our article on behaviour.
3. Your whole lesson doesn’t need to be delivered live
Try shifting your lesson expositions before the lesson, via a short video. This allows learners to pause and rewind you as you explain the key information needed to access the learning, freeing up space to grapple with content more in depth. See our article on flipped teaching for more detail.
4. Focus on relationships
As the past few months have shown us, a Zoom call is just not the same as interacting with people in the real world. A lot of visual and physical communication is lost online, and for learners locked down at home, the sense of disconnect from their peers and from you as an important adult in their lives is very real. But we can still listen to and acknowledge learners, show interest, compassion, humour and our human side – all of which help to maintain relationships. See the ‘Relationships’ section of our article on behaviour.
5. Allow space for peer to peer interactions
The Education Endowment Foundation carried out a rapid evidence assessment of remote learning, which highlighted the importance of peer-to-peer interactions for supporting motivation and learning outcomes. There are some ideas for how to support this in our article on questioning.
6. Share your successes and learn from those of others
We are all learning on our feet at present. Trying, failing, tweaking, and sometimes succeeding. As you clamber up the remote learning mountain, share what works – and what doesn’t – on our new Guild forum, which is focused on drawing together members’ experiences into useful tips, advice and guidance.
7. Focus on thinking
Many of our go-to strategies for supporting thinking, such as paired and group talk and whole-class focussed discussion are much more difficult in a remote environment. But requiring a range of higher-order and lower-order thinking across any sequence of learning is still key to helping learners to grapple with, grasp and retain information. We have explored some useful strategies in our article on questioning.
8. If you are under unnecessary pressure, talk to your rep
This is a time of extreme pressure on schools, and a lot of that pressure is being transmitted to teachers. If you are being asked to work in ways that are unreasonable, that you have not been given training for, or that make you uncomfortable, talk to your rep. We have issued guidance about the current situation, about live streaming of lessons and on resolving problems to do with remote education. Don’t forget that you are standing shoulder to shoulder with 450,000 other people, many of whom are in the same boat.
9. Understand the diversity of your learners' experiences at home.
Some pupils may have their own laptop and colour printer, a gigabit internet connection, a quiet place to work, lots of paper, pens and equipment, and support when needed from a parent. Others may be accessing learning resources via a shared mobile device with pay-as-you-go data and no parental support. This pandemic has shed a light on inequalities as never before, but as a society we are a very long way from addressing them. In the meantime, we need to have a real focus on more vulnerable learners and how to include them in remote learning.
10. Be kind to yourself
You may well have found out you’d be teaching remotely this term with little more 12 hours’ notice. You may have been grappling with new technologies, disengaged learners, vastly changed workload expectations or an unexpected additional audience of family members in your classes - and many more stressors besides. Cut yourself some slack when things don’t go perfectly: good enough is good enough. Look after your mental and physical health and remember that as a member of this union you are not alone.
We think a remote learning policy is essential. Here are a few reasons why:
The impact it will have on teaching and learning
- Policies can help ensure consistency and clarify expectations for everyone –management, parents, staff and students.
- It can help dispel misconceptions about what works and what doesn’t. Ofsted have produced some guidance and dispelled some myths here
- It can facilitate collegiate working and the sharing of best practice, which is particularly important in these unprecedented times
The impact it will have on workload
- A clear policy with expectations on the number of learners, the model of delivery and guidance on marking and feedback, will help manage workload
- Agreed policies can set priorities, so that educators’ time is spent on the most educationally valuable tasks