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More than 90% of the world’s schools have been affected by the pandemic this year. That’s hundreds of millions of students faced with school closures.
It has been a mammoth effort to ensure that these students’ learning didn’t just grind to halt. Schools have embraced technology like never before in order to make sure that their learners kept learning and their teachers kept teaching.
But isn’t remote learning a product of circumstance? Is it really the best substitute for being in the classroom together?
As the months have gone on, governments, teachers, parents - even students to some extent - have all been eager to get back into school. However, like much of 2020, it’s not been that simple.
Some countries are still facing high case numbers and restrictions, so some schools are still teaching and learning completely remotely.
In other areas, students are nominally back in school, but are doing so in ‘bubbles’ with additional health and safety precautions, which has limited time and movement around buildings. Not to mention the frequent disruptions when whole year groups have to isolate after a single positive COVID-19 test.
And in some places, schools are faced with a mixture of the two, where there are part-time solutions; some online and some classroom-based learning with all lessons being live-streamed.
Much of what teachers already know about ensuring learning takes place, from planning lessons, motivating disengaged students, and ensuring students have the right equipment is having to be re-thought.
So, when faced with so many challenges, how can teachers use the assessment data they have whether teaching and learning is face to face, blended or online?
Teachers are having to plan for every eventuality simultaneously. Online and offline teaching are very different skill sets, but lesson objectives remain the same. It’s highly likely that you’ll know where the learning gaps will be because you know your students and you know what was disrupted on your plans when the school closures hit.
Using your baseline data can be a reassurance that you’re on the right track when planning, that you’re addressing the learning gaps for the whole class as well as for individuals. It can also help you to map out interventions for when you are all back in the classroom.
Even in normal circumstances it can be difficult to keep the momentum and motivation for learning going, particularly at this time of year. Whether your students are back in the classroom or behind a screen, if they’re not interested it can be like talking to a brick wall.
Your relationship with individuals in your class is so important and being able to have a frank, open conversation about their learning is key. Sharing their baseline assessment data as part of your learning conversations with them can be proof of their own abilities, which can inspire or renew their confidence and motivation.
Given the situation with exams and qualifications in the last academic year, and the uncertainty over this year, the qualifying exams are not a guaranteed end goal to work towards. The COVID restrictions have also curbed many of the events and much of the excitement normally anticipated for the first year of university, which may impact school leavers’ decisions about carrying on to higher education.
Much like re-engaging disinterested students, sharing the baseline assessment and predictive data with individuals can support these decisions. Particularly, talking through the predictive data and seeing the possibilities of achieving certain grades students can see what they are capable of achieving.
As great as technology is, it is not an automatic given. There are so many students that do not have access to laptops, computers or devices that connect to the internet. And the likelihood is that you know who those children in your class are.
You can use this knowledge, along with their baseline data, to start a conversation with the student and their parents about what they can do offline to aid their learning. This can be highlighting their individual targets and potentially allocating resources to support them at home.
In the current situation, if you are going to give students their best chance you need to understand their knowledge, skills and attitudes, and you need to use the best possible data to set realistic and motivational targets and focus on progress.
When classroom observation is not always possible, objective assessment data, and specifically baseline data is a great tool to have in your toolkit to keep student learning going wherever your students are.