As schools across the UK return for the Summer term, some will continue as they began before Easter, attempting to mirror their normal school day with the usual timings, lessons and expectations. In some ways, this makes sense: an approach that retains an element of continuity and familiarity. However, given the experimental nature of any whole school approach to distance learning, at Scarborough College we have chosen to base our approach on the most relevant evidence and research.
We have drawn on the experience of schools in South East Asia, many of whom are Round Square schools like ourselves, and are months ahead of us in the shift to remote teaching. It has been instructive to learn that their pupils and teachers are emerging from lockdown keen to return to school, but remote learning has rendered them exhausted and demoralised. Schools are having to consider re-starting terms as they are unsure how much of the material has actually been learnt. They have discovered that whilst it is reasonably straightforward to move existing teaching structures online, learning does not necessarily follow. Everything we know to be effective regarding learning – the power of feedback, teacher-pupil relationships and dialogue – is suddenly destabilized.
On 27 March 2020, a group of researchers published a helpful article in Educause Review. They made an important distinction between what is termed ‘Emergency Remote Teaching’ and ‘Online Learning.’ In the article, ‘emergency remote teaching’ is defined as the simple substitution of teaching methods that exist in the physical school buildings with an online, distance-based equivalent. They were damning in their indictment of such an approach. Emergency remote teaching should only be used if a school or learning institution is closed for a number of days. If the period of distance learning is likely to be longer in its duration, then a coherent, sustainable and intentional approach must be adopted.
From both evidence and research, it is clear that approaches to online learning must be considered within the context of each school and its pupil body. The Scarborough College ‘We Are Connected’ distance learning programme has been designed to fit a unique set of circumstances, meet the needs of our pupils and embody the values we hold dear.