There have been, and will continue to be, many teachers, educators, commentators, media “gurus” and others who have been spruiking the “learnings” that come from our remote learning experiences. However, very few have actually asked the students about their experiences.
A recent survey at our school garnered feedback from 829 of our students across all year levels 7-12. What struck me as we looked through the feedback was not only the varied experiences these students have had over the past six weeks, but also some of the insights and possibilities they have identified for school when we return face-to-face. There were certainly those students who did not enjoy this experience at all. In fact, 66% prefer the classroom environment to learning at home and 65% find it easier to learn at school. Some of the comments included things like: “It’s hard to stay motivated” or “I am glad that we no longer will have to Zoom or email for help”.
Yet, 33% of our students noted that they prefer working from home rather than school and 35% found it easier to learn at home compared to school. It is in exploring these responses that we might identify things that worked well at home that perhaps we could incorporate into life at school.
1. Our students loved the independence!
“I really liked the aspect of being able to just get into my work after the teacher has explained it and being able to just ask questions if I get stuck.”
“I really enjoyed being able to get the instructions and sent on my way to do my work. I really thrive working independently.”
“That my learning is in my hands a lot more and I get more of a choice in what I learn at school.”
What does this mean for us as teachers/leaders in a secondary setting? Surely we need to look at increasing opportunities for all students to work in increasingly independent conditions. The asynchronous approach to working on subjects when it suits them, not when we tell them that it’s time for English or Maths, is something else that schools need to get better at offering.
2. Some of our students just want to get on with the work!
“Less time listening and more time doing.”
“Streamlined explanations of topics and more flexibility as to what work for each subject is done when (that is working off a checklist at your own pace after a brief explanation of the key points from the teacher).”
“I really enjoyed the flexibility of working not just in my class periods but when it suited me and when I felt motivated to do the work.”
Teachers love to talk. Nothing ground-breaking here. When you give students the opportunity to work without all the talk, they get more done. But, what is interesting is that our students are willing to identify it and connect it to their completion of work – and how/when they choose to complete their work.
3. Our students loved having a space “set-up” from which to work.
“Because there was enough space on my desk as I was the only one on it I found a lot easier to take notes and concentrate in class.”
“I just liked having my books in front of my all on my desk, it’s not so fun to be riding to school (as I am) with all my text/work books each day and have to have transit to my locker before and after periods.”
“I’m going to miss the desk space that I have made from remote learning.”
This is interesting, and one that I’m going to guess, most schools don’t consider. One of the first things I did when I found out I’d be at home and not at school, is set up my work space. Students too, took pride in their workspace and spread themselves out over desks, kitchen benches and dining tables. Coming back into a classroom where they have to share a desk with a peer and pack it up after each lesson will be something they need to get used to again. What can schools do about this ‘personalised space’?
4. Breaks between classes were effective.
“The amount of breaks in between classes were great.
“15 min intervals between periods I liked.”
“I like how we have a 15 minute break in-between period two and three.”
Much has been written about the benefit of regular breaks on students and their learning. In readiness for remote learning, we adjusted our timetable and added breaks in order for students and staff to re-frame and prepare for their next lesson. This has been one of the more popular decisions we made for our remote learning timetable. Returning to school, we must consider how can we build these into our day (with appropriate supervision of course!).
5. Our students, and teachers, value the dialogue of education. The monologue is very tiring.
“This was a tiring experience.”
“I did not like being stuck in the house all day, and having all our work on the computer.”
“I didn’t like being alone at home.”
“I can’t wait to talk to my teacher in person.”
I was talking to one of our staff today about how I miss the dialogue and the interaction with students. Teaching is not designed to be a monologue. It requires a huge amount of energy to engage a group of teens with their learning in any subject face to face. But many teachers also gain energy from those interactions. Via Zoom or Google Meets or Microsoft Teams or WebX, the engagement is difficult to gauge and instead of being energy giving, it often saps it out of you much more quickly. Our students are tired and we’re tired too.
But we can’t wait to get them back onsite. We have so much to talk about and so much to learn from their experiences.
**If you’re a parent, school staff member or a student and have comments you’d like to make about your remote learning experience, please leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.