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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science. Join the course to learn more.

Realistic expectations about what can be achieved

When you are teaching in your classroom, you cover a huge amount of material in an hour. This is not just when you are explaining a new concept to the whole class, but also when you are walking around the classroom talking to individual students and groups, exploring misconceptions with probing questions and prompting deeper thinking as they work together on a task.

Although carried out in an adult setting, research shows that during a group task in a face to face setting, it takes approximately six minutes for people to exchange 600 words. Whereas it takes about an hour to cover the same ground using electronic communication, such as email or a collaborative online document such as Google Docs (not counting the delays between replying) (Kock, 2005). In a school setting, students are likely to take even longer, as they are still developing their communication skills.

We can’t expect to replicate the school day in a home learning environment, particularly as students will have a range of home contexts. In a blog about remote teaching, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) notes:

our instinct is to find ways of helping them achieve just as well as they would have done in normal circumstances. We have to accept that in this situation, we can’t do everything we’d like to do, and nor can our pupils

With this in mind, it is helpful to be realistic about what you can cover in a week, or by the end of term, and to re-think your priorities. Define the most essential outcomes for your students at a fundamental level, one or two big ideas you most want students to have mastered. This will involve a trade-off and there will be a lot of content from your scheme of learning that you will have to put aside for now (Horn, 2020).

Thinking about the Big Ideas in Science, for example, you may decide to focus on the concept of particles, and deepen students understanding of this idea through guided practice using new contexts, and building on prior learning.


Deciding on the most essential outcomes of your remaining scheme of learning for the year will need to be discussed in your department and agreed across the team. Plan some time to talk to colleagues about how you will address this. Some discussion points could include:

  • How could you use the Big Ideas in Science?
  • What have students covered already that can be explored in more depth and practiced?
  • Which parts of next term’s content could you set aside for now?

If you have already started your discussions, what have you decided to focus on over the next few months? Share in the comments below.

Your professional development

We encourage you to keep a reflection grid to capture your successes and problems (if you’ve tried something new out), eureka moments (something new to you), and unanswered questions. We’ve provided templates here for you to use if you wish.

If you decide to skip any part of this course, please do visit the last step which includes a self-audit task. This, along with your reflection grids, act as a record of your professional development.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre