When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But after more than 18 months, it’s clear that the pandemic is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Engaging students in learning can be difficult, even in the best of times. Doing so when learning is online or hybrid is even more challenging. We recently spoke with a principal of a K-8 school who was concerned that some students weren’t logging onto the computer. Or if they were, they weren't paying attention during their online classes. In some cases, students logged on, but went off camera and weren’t actually in class at all.
To gain some insight into this problem, the principal sat in on some virtual classes to see what was going on. He found that while there were a number of teachers who were doing a tremendous job engaging their students. Unfortunately, there were others who were not as successful.
As we spoke with the principal, we could not help but think about the important role of teacher-student interactions. In particular, we thought about four of the CLASS® dimensions and the role they play in virtual learning.
Students need a warm, supportive environment that allows them to develop emotional connections and relationships with both the teacher and their peers. Given the fact that students have been away from in person learning—their teachers, and in many cases, their friends—for quite some time, these relationships need to be rebuilt. Teachers have to spend time getting to know students in a different environment. Taking time to reconnect with students by having social conversations and really listening to them will help the students feel more comfortable turning on a camera and sharing their home.
Now more than ever, teachers must be aware of their students’ emotional and academic needs. By doing so, teachers help students feel comfortable sharing personal struggles, academic difficulties, and things that may be happening at home. In addition, students who feel heard are more likely to turn on their camera and engage in school. Teachers should check in with students regarding family life, health, and other struggles. It’s important that teachers anticipate that things students (especially upper elementary students and young adolescents) tend not to share may become exposed in a virtual environment. Providing reassurance that even in the virtual setting, the classroom is a safe space, will help students be willing to participate, share, and take risks
Student focus, flexibility, connections to current life, and peer connections are now more important than ever. Before teachers can get students to focus on learning and critical thinking activities, it will be important for them to let students know that their thoughts, ideas, and opinions are valued. Many students feel very isolated and disconnected during this pandemic. By placing additional emphasis on what is important to the students and why certain concepts and ideas are of significance to them, educators help to re-engage students in the learning process.
Maximizing the engagement of students is the key to making virtual learning effective. It also allows teachers to move students back into learning and critical thinking. This can be extremely challenging in the world of Zoom or web conferencing. Teachers may be asking themselves, “How can I engage my students, or use a variety of materials and modalities when we are all only looking at each other in small boxes on a computer screen?” The key is to use each other and to use other technology. While not endorsing any website or product, there are many things out there to help make online learning more engaging to students. Below is a list of some programs with which we are familiar:
The savvy CLASS observer may have noted that we are not providing suggestions for enhancing interactions in the Concept Development (Pre-K), Analysis and Inquiry (Upper Elementary), Quality of Feedback (Pre-K and Upper Elementary), or Instructional Dialogue (Upper Elementary). This should not be interpreted to suggest that teachers cannot effectively interact with students around these dimensions in the virtual classroom. Rather, we have suggested the types of interactions that have to be in place prior to addressing the more difficult CLASS dimensions. In short, we have to engage students before we can teach them, and we have to gain their trust if we want them to take academic risks and difficult cognitive challenges.
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Teachstone recently hosted the What Is “Quality” Teaching Anyway? webinar with Laura Iannazzo, Professional Services Manager at Teachstone, and Gena Puckett, Education and Training Specialist from the University of Mississippi School of Education. Together, they talked about the significance of quality interactions between early childhood educators and infants or toddlers in their care.
In our recent webinar, Making the Move to CLASS® 2nd Edition, we shared how programs and individuals can begin to experience and use the enhanced Pre-K–3rd CLASS® tool. And, in this recent blog post we took a closer look at what these enhancements mean for certified observers.
To engage in continuous quality improvement, effective coaching is key. With effective coaching structures and programs in place, organizations can drive quality improvements that support children's development and learning. And, with CLASS® and CLASS coaching certifications, organizations can focus their improvements on research-proven educator-child interactions.
IIn our recent webinar, Making the Move to CLASS® 2nd Edition, we shared how programs and individuals can begin to experience and use the enhanced Pre-K–3rd CLASS tool. Certified CLASS observers play a critical role in helping every child reach their full potential.
Without reliable and valid data on the quality of educator-child interactions, programs and educators would not have the actionable insights they need to make continuous quality improvements in the areas that matter the most for children.
Last month we hosted a webinar, A Closer Look at CLASS 2nd Edition. And, we were blown away from the responses and excitement to the enhancements. As with any big news, there were also questions. We’re tackling your top asked questions below, and look forward to continuing sharing more updates and insights around CLASS 2nd Edition in the coming weeks.