I had numerous thoughts about what to write as my first blog, but the one topic I thought I could share that I feel that I have an original opinion and experience on, is what I observed while being a NQT and a supply teacher during the pandemic.
Before I graduated, I had already been working as a supply teacher with two agencies for about a year, meaning I had already witnessed and experienced numerous ways that schools run day to day, and how teachers used different skills to teach.
This of course changed during the pandemic.
I saw how teachers with years of experience were suddenly off work sick with stress, due to technology becoming a requirement in every classroom. With initially little to no training being made available for them to become used to this new way of teaching.
“It is also important to note, however, that the responsibility to develop and extend teaching skills is not simply a teacher’s responsibility. Rather, it is also the responsibility of those within the school and agencies outside the school to ensure that such development is facilitated as part of the teacher’s professional development, and as part of staff development at the school as a whole.” (Kyriacou, 2008)
It seems to me that the differentiation we use with our students could have been used here. Realising and understanding that not every teacher is tech-savvy or even likes to use computers, and that they may not have the initial skills to access the online learning platforms, might have helped stop some teachers decide to leave the profession all together. “One in three teachers plan to quit the classroom within five years because of increased workload and diminishing respect for the profession, according to a major union survey.” (Weale Thu 8 Apr 2021 10.16 BST)
I do believe that blended learning is a great thing, and if it wasn’t for the immediacy of the lockdowns and with a bit more time and training before implementation, many teachers who have now given up on teaching would have flourished and seen it as another tool to use in the classroom.
I saw how centre determined assessments seemed to boost most students’ confidence in their work where before exams had left them discouraged. The students knowing that there are multiple chances during the year to raise their grades helped them take a more active role in the classroom and their learning, “Assessment for learning is not just about helping teachers to teach and assess more effectively, but about encouraging and enabling students to take more responsibility for the process.” (Bates 2016) This of course wasn’t the case for all students, some additional learning needs (ALN) students found the fact that they had more assessments emotionally taxing initially, before they realised, they wouldn’t be completing multiple exam – like assessments during the year.
I believe the use of blended learning has helped us differentiate the way we assess our students, “Assessment is fundamental to differentiation, because unless we can figure out what a learner knows, understands or can do already, we will not be in a position to work out what they might need or want to learn next.” (Cowley 2018) Meaning that assessing our student’s knowledge using different formats has helped us understand more clearly how our students learn.
I found that teachers who may have previously been, stuck in a rut, with their teaching suddenly had to think outside the box about what they were teaching and how they were to express their knowledge through blended learning. Meaning, they had to rewrite lesson plans and be more creative in delivery to motivate and encourage students. Where before they were able to achieve this through being present in the classroom, teaching through a computer screen made this more difficult. “Creativity is not simply about making something beautiful. Rather, it is about answering important questions, imagining possibilities, and solving challenging problems. By shifting our understanding of creativity, we can reimagine its place within our classrooms.” (White, 2019). The creative and engaging we can become with e-learning the better, if a student enjoys attending our live or recorded lessons then the more likely they are to participate in the learning offered to them.
Blended learning has revitalised the way we teach and consider what tools to use while teaching more carefully. “Resources and materials are widely available online to which teachers can direct pupils, or which pupils can discover for themselves.” (Kyriacou, 2008). There are many websites and apps that you can now use in the classroom and online that can enhance a student’s experience in the lesson.
I believe teachers have been ‘chucked in at the deep end’ when it comes to blended learning due to the pandemic, but I have seen them achieve brilliant, productive lessons by being willing to investigate and experiment with what’s available.
Just imagine what we can do with more time and experience.
- Bates, B. (2016) Learning Theories Simplified: and how to apply them to teaching. Sage Publications Ltd, London
- Cowley, S. (2018) The Ultimate Guide To Differentiation: Achieving Excellence For All. Bloomsbury Education, London
- Kyriacou, C. (2018) Essential Teaching Skills: Fifth Edition. Oxford University Press, U.K.
- Weale, S. (08/04/2021) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/apr/08/one-in-three-uk-teachers-plan-to-quit-says-national-education-union-survey Accessed: 21/10/2021
- White, K. (2019) Unlocked: Assessment as the Key to Everyday Creativity in the Classroom. Solution Tress Press, U.S.A