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Q&A with course educators

Q&A with course educators
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MATT CORNOCK: Hello, and welcome to the question and answer session for teaching for home learning secondary science. My name’s Matt Cornock. I’m one of the co-authors of the course. My background is in supporting educators and their use of technology enhanced learning. And we’d just like to say thank you very much for your questions. We’ve got a few topics to look at today. And I’ll be referring some of the software recommendations, but please adhere to your school or college policy on the use of third party tools. There is no endorsement of the suitability of anything I mention today or their compliance standards in my responses. So with me today is Karen. And Karen’s another co-author of the course.
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KAREN HORNBY: Yeah. Good morning. I’m looking forward to answering a lot of your questions this morning. And I’ve really enjoyed reading the discussions throughout the course. So thank you for that. OK. So we’ve got questions from Rich and Anna and Sarah, which are all along the lines of how to deal with disengaged students with online learning, and how you reach them, and what are some top tips really to help those students progress with their learning.
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MATT CORNOCK: It’s not an easy answer, this one. There is no magic bullet to this question unfortunately. But there’s a very helpful section in the January 2021 Ofsted research report on remote education, which is actually dedicated to engagement and some of the survey responses to questions they asked engagement. From the survey results presented, student focus, lack of contact with classmates, motivation, and lack of content with the teachers are all the top reasons that are cited for lack of engagement. So bearing those in mind, what are some of the things you could do to address those top reasons for disengagement? Well, both the Ofsted insights and Department for Education for England guidance looks at how expectations are conveyed to parents.
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But more than just expectations, there’s a relationship building aspect too. So how is your school and you as a teacher actually communicating with parents and students about the approach to remote education that you’re adopting. So some schools have been very clear about the rationale behind their approach, particularly for example, ensuring that parents don’t support children just to chase the right answer. And Dylan and Chris mentioned this in the course. The Ofsted research report also gives further examples of practise including videos and newsletters which are sent out by schools and teachers to parents to convey the pedagogical approach the school is using for remote education.
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Part of this also involves getting feedback from parents also, including them in the process of finding out what’s going on at home. So some approaches have been used, such as parent surveys about what is and what isn’t working which may be different depending on the area you’re in and the resources that you have available to hand. With a bit more information about the barriers to engagement going on in your students’ home life, you may be able to adjust learning approach. Generally, when planning online learning, I’ve tried to ensure that there’s a direct link between activities that take place in the online and the offline environments.
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So students see the value in undertaking a particular task for example offline that they are then going to bring back in to the rest of the group online and then get your feedback on as a teacher. So you can revisit the engagement triangle that we had in week one of the course looking at the interactions between students, teachers, and the content and critically review your own activities as to how they foster engagement in one of those three areas. So are you fostering engagement between students and teachers, students and content, students and students? And if not, well, can you do something about that?
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Now, you can review that type of engagement, what it is, whether it is superficial, whether it is passive, and maybe tweak it to become more active and tying in more closely with learning outcomes and assessment. So can you offer activities that are directly responding to the interest of your students as well? For example, you could bring in a STEM ambassador into a virtual lesson to tap into career aspirations or enrichment activities such as online STEM clubs that really engage those students in their own interests. Now some learners might also find it particularly challenging to engage on screen for extended periods of time.
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Now you can use light touch interactions in live lessons, such as polls within live sessions and gamification approaches. And I’ve seen some really good examples of grouping students into teams. And at the end of the live lesson, using quiz tools to see which team gets the most points. And that runs throughout the whole term with a running tally between lessons. So there’s almost a collective group effort, a little bit of gamification in there, to engage the students. Now we’re focused on online live lessons.
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But what can you also say that is offline so that the online time makes more use of the personal interaction that you can have between yourself as a teacher and the students and also the students themselves. So consider also how you can do small group working online where individuals are not picked out in isolation to contribute. Breakout groups, for example, may be particularly useful to enable small group interaction to give your times - for students to collaborate and discuss with peers, something they’re going to be missing out on at the moment. They don’t have that opportunity to do that. Another suggestion which comes out from the guide is it’s along the lines of routines.
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And this taps into the managing behaviour approaches as well. A regular style and purpose to a live online lesson will set up the expectations to what that’s for. This could include starter lesson icebreaker activities, an opportunity to share work with the class that you’ve been working on offline, it may be worth looking at this at a school or faculty department level. So there’s a bit of consistency. And that’s not trying to limit room for creativity in your online lessons, but just have consistent expectation as to what the live session is actually for and what the students are going to get out of it.
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So sometimes with remote learning, each teacher doing their own way of setting up the asynchronous and synchronous activities means that students are lost. Learning how to actually engage with the particular lesson or teaching approach rather than learning the content. So are there some common approaches you can use and common scaffolding approaches you can use within your online spaces? There are some further examples from the Association of Colleges post COVID EdTech strategy report, which is quite a way back now in July 2020. But they don’t shy away from the need also to have about 1 to 1 interaction with the least engaged students. Education and learning is a social experience.
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So those students who are feeling isolated and finding it difficult to adjust to independent working and online working will value that outreach and opportunities to collaborate with other students and talk to you as their teacher. Some colleges have also gone as far as establishing dedicated online communities within their own platforms to ensure that students still feel like they’re part of the institution as well. Karen, anything further on those questions?
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KAREN HORNBY: No. I just wanted to pick up on the use of the offline time as well. And I’m thinking here of students who might struggle to read slides during an online session. So I have heard of people releasing the presentations beforehand that would give some people who might be slower readers for example, the time to actually digest some of the content of them and get to grips with some of the vocabulary rather than having to do so on the spot during a lesson. So yeah. Just thinking about how you can support the range of learners through pre live session tasks, really. Moving on now, we’ve got a question from Gabriella who wants some ideas about testing learning outcomes.
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So remote teaching and marking.
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MATT CORNOCK: Yeah. There’s so many different approaches, Gabriella that I’m just going to touch on a few. But the main thing to watch out for here is why you’re testing. Whatever approach it is, it’s going to depend on the learning platform, the tools you have available. So most platforms do, in fact, have quiz engines or grade book type dashboards that you can see the scores across all the quizzes for your class. So in Google Classroom for example, there is a marks tab that shows you that. But what does the mark alone tell you?
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If you’ve got a quiz that’s trying to address multiple learning outcomes, multiple bits of knowledge, then the mark alone is not going to give you a lot of information. You really want that question by question breakdown. Alternatively, if you want that high level picture, then make your quizzes shorter and focused on specific learning outcomes, for example, three to five questions so that a quiz only assesses one learning outcome. And then you can see in the dashboard at a glance, OK. There’s a quiz looking at that learning outcome. I can see the response from my students based on that outcome.
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You could use something like Google Forms or Microsoft Forms if you don’t have a learning platform where you can see the presentation of data. So when you ask participants to complete a Google Form, there’s a page that you can show with pie charts and graphs of how they’ve responded to different questions. That, again, might give you that type of dashboard approach to see where performance is occurring in your class. That dashboard view, particularly where you’ve got that question type breakdown, will show you misconceptions that are evident in your class if you’re using multiple choice quizzes where the distractor answers, the distractor responses, and actually relate to specific misconceptions.
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So rather than just putting the one right answer and three options that are obviously not going to be correct, make those three answers so that you can actually infer the misconception the student has from their choice of the answer. And that gives you a lot more information. Now that particular approach, we’ve got a course called Introducing Assessment for Learning that goes into a lot more detail about how you can form those types of quizzes. So have a look at that course if you’ve not used that approach before. But one of the traps of online learning is to only use quizzes for recall. And that’s the lower order learning outcomes.
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So you can use scenarios as well in questions and online quizzes with the answers that show possible application of knowledge in different ways. And there might not necessarily be one right answer to that. So those questions could show results Or interpretation of those results will allow you to draw conclusions about how your students have been thinking and how they’ve applied their knowledge to that scenario. There are other platforms out there with question pools such as the diagnostic questions website and platforms like Seneca Learning that adapt to students’ responses to retest areas that they found difficult.
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And the Ofsted report that I’ve mentioned before, there’s a section on assessment and discussion of low stakes assessment to support space needs to interleave practise to improve recall. And there are scope there for more creative approaches for application of understanding. So feedback in this situation could use rubrics but also audio feedback. For example, add-ons like Mote that applies in the Google Suite, which allow audio feedback. We have a separate course on feedback for learning. And some of those approaches in that course will equally transfer to the online and remote education environments as well.
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KAREN HORNBY: Thanks, Matt. And I think just to add in here as well with the aim of reducing workload and devising those multiple choice questions that focus on misconceptions, one collection of resources is the best evidence in science collection which has those hinge point questions we might call them or multiple choice questions covering a full range of topics. And they’re being added to all the time. So well worth a look. Now we’re going to have a look at making the most of the chat function in online learning. And Anna wants to know using Google Meets in the chat box, has schools got the policy of students keeping their microphones and cameras off?
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So how can we encourage all students to engage with the chat box? She’s got a set of students that tend to engage with the chat box while others remain silent. I think that’s probably a common issue.
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MATT CORNOCK: Yeah. And it’s probably very similar to what you experience in the classroom as well. And some of the techniques that are used in the classroom are the same sort of techniques that you’d have to use in this space where you don’t have people who are actively contributing. There’s something there also about the culture in that space as well, encouraging incorrect answers to be surfaced. So first of all, let’s start with small interaction. So using emojis for example to indicate agreement or disagreement, yes, no type of questions to break up the session. Very light touch interactions that are really easy for people to make a response to that’s very much nonjudgmental.
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Then you can drip in there perhaps multiple choice questions or opinion based responses. Again, no one right or wrong answer. You’re using this as a mechanism to understand where people are up to in their learning. So you could, for example, have a question on your slide that’s got A, B, C, D as the types of responses. And all the student has to do then is put in A, B, C, D onto the text chat. Very light touch interaction that’s low risk for that student as well. They’re not exposing themselves too much in terms of the level of understanding. If you’re looking for longer contributions, you have to allow time for those contributions. So stop for a good 30 seconds.
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Don’t talk. There’s a temptation in a live lesson to continually have some audio stream happening, whether it’s you or your students. Don’t talk. Allow your students time to stop, think, and type their responses. Some platforms, you can see when people are typing. Other platforms, you can’t. So it’s very difficult to judge who is and isn’t engaging. But it’s the same approach you would use in the classroom. When you’ve asked a question and you wait for a whole 10 seconds until someone caves in and finally puts their response into the mix. So do that and give that a go.
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Usual recognition of course of recognition of contributions, actively encouraging participants to respond during a live lesson, not just rewarding the correct answers. You could set the expectation of a contribution from a few selected individuals at the start of the lesson. So people adopt a rapporteur type of role where maybe you’ve broken your lesson down into 15 minute chunks. At the end of that 15 minutes, the rapporteur provides a summary of the key points. You’re asking them to become engaged in the lesson but you’re also asking to contribute back to the lesson. So the lesson becomes less of a one way activity and more of a shared creation of a learning space with that active contribution from an individual.
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And you can rotate that role during the lesson or between lessons as well. The class then has this chat discussion as a notebook essentially of their thoughts for that day. Now if you’re using something like Google Meet, you’ll have to copy and paste that out if you want to save it. But some other applications will allow you to actually export that text chat as well. And you can save that and pin that back up into the class online space.
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KAREN HORNBY: Thanks, Matt. Yes. And I’d just like to echo the time issue. So whereas in the classroom you might want to give a good 30 seconds for people to think and formulate the answer in their head, you’ve now got to have the extra time onto that, which is the typing time. And for those students who might struggle with writing, that might be quite a daunting prospect to get that done in time. So yeah. It’s about allowing enough time for them to be able to do it without feeling pressured. OK. So we’ve got a question here from Amelia who’s asking about, what you do when new student starts whilst you’re teaching remotely?
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So how do you get to know them via online learning? So this is particularly important for somebody who’s perhaps started work at a new school and doesn’t know any of the students. And so you’re trying to build those relationships without having actually met them in person.
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MATT CORNOCK: Yeah. It’s a tricky one. And I think a lot of schools, colleges, and universities have had this problem, particularly at the start of the academic year, when they’re trying to build their classes, their learning communities together completely remotely. Obviously one of the first things you could do, do make a short video of yourself and sort of say hello to your class that way. Having your presence in that space, that online space for your class, post a little welcome video, little introduction video, to that space, what your interests are and what you’re anticipating you’ll be doing with the students over the next term. One of the advantages of online learning is you can easily share resources as well.
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So the resources that you’ve got but also links and content that come from the students. And as part of a learning activity, you could invite them to share their interests as part of a task. Building as part of a task is going to be more valuable than just having it as a random question you introduce. So you could, for example, ask about their career aspirations, about hobbies that you can relate to the subjects and the topic you’re teaching at the moment. Can you incorporate those interests then as part of your lessons? And therefore you’re building the relationship between the curriculum and their interests, and maybe what they’re going to be doing later on in their lives.
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It’s also I think about the live lesson time that you have. And can you allocate a bit of that time for icebreaker activities, small group breakouts, or perhaps opportunities for students to present their work back. All of those will give you an insight into your students’ backgrounds. And you can also think of that in an asynchronous way as well. You can have, and this is probably more for older students, when they’re more confident in articulating themselves online, is having some space where they can post a little introduction about themselves or what they find exciting about the topics in a space at the top of your online area dedicated to those sort of introductions.
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That does tend to work better where you’ve got a cohort that’ll be working more closely together throughout a longer period of time and might be more suited to older students. Also about what creative activities you can devise to enable your students to personalise the outputs of a learning task. So rather than just asking them to respond with 300 words, can you get them to create a poster that’s drawing upon film or TV characters that are most interested them? You can mix things up a little bit, get them to create creative output.
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That’s one of the beauty of using online technology is that you can mash things up from all over the place and add a bit of personality to your response. So that will give you opportunity for further discussion about their interests as well and allows you that opportunity to build a bit of a relationship. Now one of the challenges, as you know, of remote learning is that unlike moving around the classroom, you can’t easily look over the shoulder of a student to see their work in progress, and strike up a discussion based on that. Anything you view tends to be the final product of their work.
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So unless you’re using something like Google Docs or Office 365 where you can see things being built up, there are still limited opportunity for live discussion about things in progress. So you might want to allocate a bit to the live lesson time to talking about things in progress, talking about issues that they face as they’re doing the work. But more importantly, using a little bit of allocated face-to-face time for that relationship building. Don’t feel that you have to just use that face-to-face time for conveying information. Absolutely not. So I think that’s a couple of suggestions there. Karen, have you got any more thoughts on that?
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KAREN HORNBY: Yeah. I suppose picking up on what you’ve just mentioned about not being able to see a work in progress and actually speak to students while they’re working on something. And it might be worth linking this with some formative practise, formative assessment techniques. So you could make the focus of doing the activity, set them a task of perhaps noting down three decisions that they made while they were completing the piece of work. And it’s those decisions that you could then pick up on during the live time. So just really feeding in, getting them to talk about how they completed a piece of work, and how they might do it differently next time might be a way forward.
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MATT CORNOCK: It’s just any opportunity you can find to actually have that dialogue with the students really, isn’t it?
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KAREN HORNBY: Yeah.
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MATT CORNOCK: Yeah. That’s what you really want to be trying to achieve at the moment.
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KAREN HORNBY: Finally, I’d probably like to encourage people to join the STEM community, that’s communities.stem.org.uk because there are quite a few discussions going on at the moment about remote learning and some similar issues that teachers have tackled. So it’s good to see what other teachers have done.
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MATT CORNOCK: So thanks, everyone, for your contributions to the course. I hope it’s been useful to you. And do engage with us on the STEM community to keep those discussions going, those ideas being shared.

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Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

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