Louise Stubbs, ELE
Back in March 2020 when Boris Johnson announced that schools would be closing I never imagined that 15 months later I would be still delivering remote lessons to students who were having to isolate due to bubbles closing – come to think about it in March 2020 the only bubbles I thought about were in a well-deserved glass of prosecco on a Friday night!
Back then none of us really knew what we were doing and fortunately the EEF published their “Remote learning: Rapid Assessment” report in April 2020 (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Covid-19_Resources/Remote_learning_evidence_review/Remote_Learning_Rapid_Evidence_Assessment.pdf) MCA held a google meet as soon as it was published led by Susie Fraser to discuss the findings. Back then that was my first CPD through MCA and my first google meet!
That report was a breakthrough moment for me, firstly as a teacher battling against a lack of skills (my own and my students) the lack of devices and access to broadband for the children I was trying to teach and by my own issues with intermittent Wi-Fi the knowledge that “Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered” meant that children in my classes who were having to share a device and were unable to attend a live lesson would not be hindered; synchronous teaching was not the magic key!
I also lead our SCITT programme and as all delivery for our ITTs went online I switched to zoom for their training and found that point 3 in the report “Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes” also rang true and that breakout rooms increased engagement and motivation in our ITT cohort.
The pandemic has meant new challenges to overcome as an ELE and the practices I had embedded from attending that first CPD have become more refined. I co-delivered the “Making the Difference to Disadvantaged Learners” (MDDL) programme to Lancashire Schools, this was entirely facilitated through zoom and my co-host and I have never met in person, how could we recreate the feeling of a face to face course through zoom? All of us have spent much of the last year online and know how easy it is to be distracted. I wouldn’t dream of answering emails in a real conference but have been known to during some online cpd. Equally I have been a consumer of online cpd where a presenter has just shared a PowerPoint and talked at me when really asynchronous teaching would have been better as I could have watched the training when I had the time rather than a synchronous session in the middle of a hectic day. One of the most important aspects of teacher cpd for me is always the networking, that lightbulb moment when you chat to another colleague who has a similar issue to you so how could we create that opportunity online?
The MDDL programme did fully embrace the guidance for the EEF report about Remote Learning with live events and self -directed study. We made full use of all that zoom had to offer – break out rooms with small groups, sometimes randomly generated, sometimes by focus and sometimes we named them by intervention so participants could self-select. This maximised peer interaction and was an attempt to recreate the “coffee break” moments. We used the chat function and polls. Time is built into the programme for independent tasks to give delegates time for their planning and we were both on hand for any support. Finally, the fifth consideration from the EEF “Different approaches to remote learning suit different tasks and types of content” was achieved as the programme uses video, quizzes, group tasks, independent tasks and we used woo-clap to capture the results of group work, this allowed more interaction from delegates and was a good way to share each groups ideas. Planning for these sessions was again completed on zoom and we made sure we allocated plenty of time to plan it carefully to consider how we could create that face to face experience virtually.
I have come a long way from where I was in March 2020! My IT skills are much improved. My ITT trainees have mostly been online for their professional studies programme all year and next year we are planning a blended curriculum with some of the content still delivered online due to the flexibility this gives us. The EEF guidance has been updated with practical examples of how schools have implemented the 5 key considerations to support schools further and the pandemic has given us an army of early career teachers who have spent three months of their training teaching remotely applying this evidence based practice, we have never had a more resilient and skilled set of new entrants to the profession.