In March teachers and students were flung into a new world of distance learning. Neither side particularly wanted this, and neither side was prepared. But teachers have adapted quickly and developed a huge range of methods to deliver learning from afar. The Dfe recently announced best practice for this new world and the Education Endowment Foundation quickly released research they had done on what’s best in this field. None of it is surprising or that different to class room teaching. Recap on prior learning, be specific with instructions, keep work in small but regular chunks, vary the type of work set and feedback on pupils work. These are all good practice for the class room but can, and have been adapted by teachers for our new norm. But we can replicate the other vital side of school, the social element. It is this aspect young people will be missing most.
I send an email to my classes each Monday containing a podcast from me, the weeks work and a few more light hearted aspects like joke and fact of the week, well being tips and I even introduced Mrs Pearce’s quote of the week, linking something she has said in the week to Business/Economics (my subjects). This week I also included a survey for students to fill in about how they are getting on with school work and Lockdown in general. Not a vast survey but I think the wider sentiment among young people would be similar. In general students were going to bed a little later and getting up a little later, they are still spending most of their time on school work (with computer games and phone use distinct seconds), they think the amount of work set is about right and mostly prefer tasks where they make their own notes on topics (not online tasks). This will obviously vary from school to school and student to student.
But the most interesting aspects were what they miss, not being able to see friends/socialise was cited by about 2/3 of respondents, a similar number said missing playing sports. The biggest barriers to learning are lack of motivation and inability to focus, I’m sure in no small part down to both the peer aspect of learning (competing and sharing with class mates) and the focus a teacher brings, and many would like to see face to face online lessons, again, I’m sure to replicate the class room feel and to see their class mates. At least a third of my students also said lockdown has made their mental health at least a little worse. All of these are linked to the social rather than academic aspect schools bring.
When we do get back to the classroom, only when safe and only when practical, there may well be a rush to close gaps and fill in lost lessons of learning so we can prepare students for exams next Summer, which we all know will return. But we are going to have to first get students used to their surroundings again, remember how best to learn again, trust their teachers again, socialise with their friends, be welcomed back into a normal school society. They, like us would have just been through an extraordinary time in their lives, it will take time to get back to the norm, this shouldn’t be rushed and should be done right.