It is pretty safe to say that the in all they ways you anticipated teaching your classes in 2020, no one predicted that they would be hosting online live lessons or marking and feeding back to students exclusively online.
In the past 14 weeks, myself and my friends have been extraordinarily busy feeling like PGCE students once more with every single teacher forced to take a second (or sixth) look at a resource in order to assess it’s usefulness in our new digital classrooms.
It would be a great shame if we went away in the closing days of our last term and closed the chapter of online learning, in the wild hope that this year would “miraculously” completely disappear. From the class teacher, to the whole school machinery, every single person has adapted to developed new skills for this new environment.
As we rest and reflect over the summer holidays, can we find a permanent place for our new skills when we turn back towards our bricks and mortar schools? Are there now skills that we could use to enhance what we have always done in the classroom?
The question everyone seems (or should) be asking is: “Can we even reliably diagnose how much our students have mastered in our subjects in this time of distance learning?”
Personally, I have found that some of my students have excelled in the skills required for online learning. Their own reflection on how they learn and what they need to do to further their skills has been honed. This is in part to do with the decision of the school to create “low stakes assessments”, the students have acknowledged, with far richer vocabulary, what needs to be done to improve and how they will go about doing that task.
For my other students, I find them continuing to acknowledge their percentage over their areas of improvement, simply stating that they must “study biology harder” or “read more”.
September 2020 may the perfect time to introduce a more focused approach to empowering students to become the master of their own learning. For the past week I have explored the use of our existing digital tools to boost our Formative Assessment game to welcome back our students in a structured and calm manner. Barraging our students with stressful Summative Assessments to diagnose learning that they have not yet had the opportunity to master would end up creating the opposite of an inclusive and calm learning environment.
But first, a lot of reading was required in order to clarify exactly what Formative Assessment is, it’s place in empowering students to master their own learning and the role our digital environment has in supporting timely and substantial feedback.