Distance Learning and Creating a Culture of High Expectations
Creating a culture of high expectations is challenging, especially in a remote classroom where you can feel more distant from students. However, some standard classroom practices can be adapted to remote learning that can help you ensure all students learn at rigorous levels.
First, incorporate student motivation in your lessons, which will help build a desire to attempt more challenging work. There are two aspects of intrinsic motivation: helping students see value in learning and helping them feel successful. Value can be addressed by including relevance in your lessons, and providing appropriate support and scaffolding will help students feel successful.
Next, in a culture of high expectations, you focus on whether students master outcomes, rather than filling specific blocks of time. Of course, you should meet all requirements from your school, district and state, but it’s more important to plan for and ensure your students can demonstrate their mastery of key objectives and standards than it is to match a particular schedule.
Third, it’s important to create and utilize clear routines. For example, if you want students to incorporate academic discourse in online conversations, you’ll need to teach students how to do that. This might include showing a quick video that incorporates discourse, discussing appropriate strategies, and posting a set of guidelines. Routines such as these will ensure your students can work at higher levels.
Next, for students to demonstrate problem-solving and critical thinking, you will need to create opportunities for them to participate in high-level assignments, task and assessments. For example, rather than writing a short paragraph describing their opinions, students can debate in a chat setting, through a series of blog entries or text messages, or on platforms such as DebateArt.
Fifth, use language that shares your rigorous expectations through all materials, videos and feedback. What does that look like? Scatter positive reinforcement, such as—“you are rising to every challenge I give you”—throughout all learning materials, whether that is a worksheet, a set of directions or posted reminders. You might also post a video of yourself encouraging your students.
You can also incorporate all aspects of remote learning that can enhance engagement. Depending on the platforms and tools that are available, you can use polls, chats, blogs and responses, and group sharing applications.
Seventh, build routines that help students stay on track, self-monitor, and provide information so you can assess progress. One of the biggest challenges with remote learning is that students don’t engage in learning, whether they are bored, overwhelmed or simply frustrated. Although there are a variety of strategies for each of these problems, building routines can help. For example, when my friend Abbigail’s children were struggling with online learning, they sat down together and listed tasks. She then built a weekly schedule and a daily schedule. This not only helped them understand what they were accomplishing each day, it also allowed them to see any unfinished work. When you do the same for your students, you can also provide any appropriate guidance.
With distance learning, feedback is even more important. When you provide the opportunities for self-tracking, it is easier for you to provide feedback. You’ll also want to use any features of the tools and platforms you use. Many allow you to incorporate feedback directly into student work, which provides a convenient way for both you and your students to access it. Also, it’s important to make sure your feedback is laser-focused on your objectives and provides information students can immediately use. You might also consider providing feedback to parents as to how they can best assist their children.
Ninth, consider traditional grading but adapt it to match remote learning practices. Once again, be sure to match any policies from your school, district or state. For a sample set of guidelines, check out this document from New York state.
Finally, create protocols for behavior management, such as anti-bullying guidelines. For example, create a list of specific types of statements that are and are not acceptable, and post it in a location that is easily available. You could also link to videos and other resourcesfor kids about bullying, such as the ones highlighting bullying in schools from Share My Lesson and Stop Bullying.
Fostering a Culture of HIgh Expectations: A Final Note
As we build distance learning environments, we’ll want to incorporate elements that lead to higher levels of learning. By using the platforms, tools and applications available to us, we can create a culture of high expectations.