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Creative Solutions for Continuity of Learning: Navigating the Needs of Students, Parents/Guardians, and Teachers

By: Megan Campion on September 16th, 2020

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Creative Solutions for Continuity of Learning: Navigating the Needs of Students, Parents/Guardians, and Teachers

Virtual Learning

“It’s all happening!”

–Penny Lane, Almost Famous 

This month, those of us who love the movie Almost Famous got to feel really old as we were reminded that this lovely coming-of-age story came out 20 years ago. For the uninitiated, this movie is about an atypical learning experience, in which a high-school student joins a rock-band for a road trip as he attempts to learn how to be a journalist. His muse, Penny Lane, has a signature line, “It’s all happening!” to celebrate the wonder of the moment, and it has a whole new resonance as we embark on a school year like none we’ve seen before. After enduring Spring 2020, an end-to-the-school-year like none we’ve seen before, many students, parents, and teachers spent the summer in anxious anticipation of what the fall would bring. And now, it’s all happening!

Some schools are back in session with enhanced safety measures, some are totally remote, and some are a combination of the two. One thing that is consistent across all learning scenarios this fall is that everyone is in their first year of learning, teaching, or parenting like this. As we all work through the novelty together, it is important to remember that we all have the same goal–every student, teacher, and parent/guardian wants for learning to continue this year, and with some attention to key considerations, Connections, Content, and Clarity, it will.

Connection 

The nature of the changes we’ve had to make in educational settings has provided a set of real challenges to connections among members of a school community. Research has shown that the relationship between students and teachers can have a significant impact on student learning, and the shifting settings for school (hybrid or remote) means that the relationship between teachers and the grown-ups at home needs to be stronger than ever to support student learning. 

Teachers ←→ Parents/Guardians

  • Offer small-group topic talks via Zoom or Google Meet. Invite parents/guardians to respond to a Google form with options to discuss (grading, content, pacing) and invite a small group (no more than 7) to join a 30-minute conversation about the questions they have.
  • Offer office hours that people can sign up for to discuss how things are going in your class, or for their student.
  • Send a weekly update to all, letting them know what is top of mind for students in your class.

Teachers ←→ Students

  • Offer small group SEL time via video conference to play a game, talk about a book, or watch a short video and discuss.
  • Offer 1:1 time to check in or eat lunch together via video conference.
  • Use technology like Flipgrid or Videoask for an asynchronous sync with students

Parents/Guardians ←→ Students

  • Model resilience and gratitude. Your students will look to you for cues on how to react to their new routines.
  • Take time to step away. A ten-minute break outside or away from a screen will refresh you and your student, and enable engagement when they return to their learning routine.
  • Daily debrief, asking specific questions–one thing you learned, one thing you are wondering, one thing that frustrates you.

Clarity 

Because so much student learning will now take place outside of the school setting, it is more important than ever that students, teachers, and parents/guardians understand what the expectations and goals are for student learning.

Teachers ←→ Parents/Guardians

  • Cadence: establish a routine of communication that will alleviate anxiety on the part of parents/guardians, and enable teachers to be proactive rather than reactive in communicating about their classes.
  • Type: Consider the needs and habits of your families as you decide which medium to use to communicate. You may want to send a communication survey to get a better understanding of which methods they use more frequently–do they check email? Is text better? Maybe using an app like Remind?
  • Content: be consistent in the way you structure your communication, so everyone knows where to find the information they need.

Teachers ←→ Students

  • Let students see the road ahead–share the objectives for the week, with suggestions for time management. Keep the document in a place that students can return to.
  • Offer office hours at the mid-point, so students know when they can check in for guidance.
  • 3 x 3 - Share what they need to know three times, in three different ways.

Parents/Guardians ←→ Students

  • Clarify roles and accountabilities: be clear that students are to lead. Parents/guardians support with technological support and discussion to help students clarify their frustration or question, but students must own the learning.
  • Gradual release–reflect often with your student about what they can do, and never do for them what they can do for themselves.
  • Co-creation: work with your students to create their own routines and commitments.

 

Content 

The shift to hybrid or virtual learning has required a totally different skill set for sharing content with students. Teachers who are accustomed to the give-and-take of a vibrant discussion in the classroom have had to adjust to desks in rows, or to delays and muted participants in a video conference, which has shifted the learner experience to one that is often less engaging. Parents and guardians are more involved in supporting learning at home, so they may need access to the class content in a way they have not needed before.

Teachers ←→ Parents/Guardians

  • Share video resources (teacher recorded or resources from sources such as Khan Academy or Crash Course) so adults at home can review with their students.
  • Offer office hours that people can sign up for to get teacher tips on how to break complex materials into more digestible bites.
  • Give detailed feedback on graded items so parents and guardians can support review and revision when necessary.

Teachers ←→ Students

  • Level up your video skills–think of what you like to watch on YouTube or Instagram, and film mini-lessons for your students to let your personality shine through. 
  • Structure some of the learning to be asynchronous, and reserve synchronous video conferencing for small group discussions to enhance student engagement.
  • Encourage students to co-create or co-curate resources for learning.

Parents/Guardians ←→ Students

  • Ask your students to teach you what they are most excited about.
  • Encourage your students to explore which ways they prefer to learn content–do they prefer discussion, reading, watching videos, or hands-on activities?
  • Help students make connections to real life. Lessons learned in a literature class can be connected to favorite movies, math and science can become cooking or baking experiences.

With intentional structures for communication, clarity, and content, students can continue to make progress through this very atypical learning year. And as the adults supporting those students, we can lean in and collaborate to make the most of this experience. Or, as the mother/teacher in Almost Famous said, 

“I didn’t ask for this role, but I’ll play it. Now go do your best. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” 

–Elaine Miller, Almost Famous

 

Join our upcoming webinar to discuss how to promote learning continuity in our distance learning classrooms.

Join the free Education Elements Webinar, "Creative Continuous Learning Solutions: Navigating the Needs of Students, Parents, and Teachers" on September 22, 2020 at 11am PT/2pm ET

About Megan Campion

Megan Campion is an Associate Partner on the Design and Implementation Team. Megan came to Education Elements with extensive experience working in schools as a teacher and administrator, and with schools as a program manager and consultant. Megan began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher at an independent school in McLean, Virginia. She transitioned into teaching middle school history in her second year of teaching, and spent her time as a teacher creating student-centered, inquiry-based learning experiences for students. Megan’s career in education has been centered around the question of what is effective, scalable, and measurable in education, and supporting the development and engagement of all stakeholders in a school community.

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