Teaching Tuesday: Preparing to Transition Education to a New Normal

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick and Tracy Vasquez

a student doing online schoolwork at home

This past spring, many educators found themselves teaching their students remotely. In some cases, they prepared packets that they distributed to students and families on a weekly basis. If technology and access were not an issue, some utilized video conferencing to work together with students and their families. If our current situation remains unchanged for the fall semester, educators have the opportunity to refine and enhance their own teaching practice so that they can deliver the content to their students in a manner that is engaging and rigorous.

Reflect and Refine

To begin, it is beneficial to reflect on the pros and cons of one’s remote teaching experiences: What worked really well? What did not? Consider not only becoming familiar with various technology platforms and apps, i.e. Google Suites, Zoom or WebEx, but also learning how to use the different features, such as polling, breakout rooms and other tools to engage the students in what you are sharing.

As you reflect on how to increase your students’ participation and engagement on an online platform, consider how you can manage your virtual environment to maximize student learning. For example, if utilizing video conferencing, you can post a warm-up problem or a question in the “waiting room” in order to activate your students’ prior knowledge on the day’s objective. After teaching the lesson, conducting formative assessments and providing feedback to students, you could divide the students into multiple virtual breakout rooms. In each room, you could challenge the groups to solve a different problem or apply their learning to address an issue. After five to 10 minutes, you can have everyone rejoin the main class and ask representatives from each group to share their findings and discuss their thought processes. You could then implement the poll feature to seek everyone’s thoughts on whether they agree or disagree with the outcomes and the reasons for their viewpoints.

Seek New Methods

Some teachers have found that Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is an excellent strategy to challenge and engage their students while they are teaching remotely. This method, which involves solving open-ended problems in groups, is especially well-suited for a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning. PBL also propels the students to apply their knowledge in real-world situations.

To get started, you could share a list of relevant topics that students could research. As they research their topic, they can create a bank of questions to address in their investigation. For example, for the topic of air pollution, students could investigate the causes of air pollution, some ways to mitigate its effects and even create a prototype of an app or a tool that can eliminate or reduce air pollution. As a culminating piece, students can demonstrate their findings in a virtual family literacy event.

No matter how the “new normal” looks for you and your students, we know that teaching and learning will continue. In some cases, the new normal may be a hybrid one, where students and teachers could attend their normal classes one to three days a week and spend the other one to two days engaging with one another remotely. Consider your students’ learning styles as well as the content you will be teaching in order to arrive at the most appropriate delivery and assessment of instruction.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. To learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, visit our website and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.

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