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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds DYLAN WILIAM: Well, I think the first thing to say is that we don’t have much research in this area. There’s very little of really good quality research, and therefore the teacher’s judgement is probably as good a guide as any. But I think there are some principles. So for a start, I think we’re learning that breaking things up into small chunks– what is sometimes called distributed practise– rather than doing things in big blocks is very powerful, and then the thing that we know from face-to-face teaching, which is frequent checks for understanding. Make good use of what researchers call asynchronous learning, so the students don’t have to be in front of you to do some learning.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds So one of things you can do is to set them to read a chapter of a textbook for older students or to work towards a activity for younger students, and then use what I call a range finding question. When they’re with you online, you ask a question at the beginning of the session to check whether the students have actually mastered what was in the chapter. That has two benefits. One is it gives the teacher some indication of whether the students have made any progress. Second, when the students know that the very first thing in the online session is going to be them being quizzed on what they read, they are far more likely to do the reading.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Well, I certainly think some flipped learning, as suggested by Dylan there, is a really good idea. So they come to the session– if you’re going to do a live session with them or if you’re going to do a session that’s recorded and they look at, they come to that session with some pre-work done. And the session is really geared to sorting out their ideas and finding out where they’re at and then realising what they need to do in order to move forward. So it’s much more picking up those ideas like you would do in the classroom, but clearly it’s different on an online platform.

Flipped learning: working independently first

In moving to remote teaching, the temptation is to try to recreate what you would do when you are face to face in the classroom by delivering a lesson online. We are very grateful to Professor Dylan Wiliam and Professor Chris Harrison, who have provided their expertise as part of our Planning for Learning course Q&A session, extracts of which are included in this course. In the video above, Dylan and Chris discuss they types of learning that can take place remotely.

Synchronous and asynchronous learning

Studies have generally shown “no clear difference between explaining a new idea in real time (‘synchronous teaching’) or explaining a new idea in a pre-recorded video (‘asynchronous teaching’)” (EEF, 2020), and so pre-recorded video can free up valuable real-time communication opportunities for activities which would really benefit from it. We’ll talk more about the best use of real time (synchronous) activities in week 2.

It is also worth bearing in mind that learners may ‘switch off’ when watching video, or lose concentration. Having looked at the viewing metrics of 6.9 million videos in edX online courses, Guo et al (2014) found that the median amount of time learners spent watching a video was six minutes, regardless of the length of the video, and often less than half of a nine minute video was viewed. This can mean that any information after this point may be missed by many students.

Use of teacher videos

It is best to keep any video instruction to no longer than six minutes, and chunk longer video into a series of smaller videos. There is also very little evidence that the teacher being in the video increases learning. Van Wermeskerken and Gog (2017) suggest that in some cases the teachers face could detract attention from the task, hampering learning. They found that seeing the teachers face had no effect on learning, in line with a number of other studies, meaning that a recording of your screen with a voice-over is just as effective.

Think carefully about why you are choosing to deliver something in real time, and whether there would be advantages to delivering it asynchronously (without real-time interaction) instead. Deciding on whether tasks should be synchronous or asynchronous can help you to plan a sequence of activities which maximise the benefits of both methods, with one feeding into the other.

We’ll start to look at how to plan a sequence of remote teaching in the next step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre