A new report from the Clayton Christensen Institute offers unique insights and recommendations for education as schools strive to move toward student-centered learning practices.
In the report, author Thomas Arnett highlights findings from survey data and discussed trends in instructional practices that could help redirect education and reshape its future.
Taking conventional classrooms online
This first survey reveals that many remote and hybrid instructional models are replicating the traditional classroom experience, only now, that classroom is online.
Almost half of teachers surveyed said they teach via live synchronous instruction for the equivalent of a regular school day. What’s more, the materials teachers use to teach online are typically intended for synchronous instruction–just 22 percent of teachers use commercial materials specifically designed for remote instruction.
The technologies teachers use follow this same pattern–the most-used technologies are those used to bring traditional classes to the cloud, such as LMSs and video streaming. Tools that support student-centered practices like mastery-based learning and individualized pathways are much less common.
Eighty-nine percent of teachers use tech to manage online assignments, 84 percent use it to provide live instruction over video, 72 percent use it for online polling or quizzes, and 56 percent use tech to create online lessons.
Insight: “Teachers’ tendency to replicate conventional practices online seems like a missed opportunity given the promising range of student-centered strategies that online learning can enable–such as mastery-based learning and individualized learning pathways,” according to the report.
But this move to stick with traditional instruction does make more sense considering the situation teachers face: they had mere days to move instructional practices online, which did not lend itself to implementing innovative practices.
“It’s going to take more than a massive shift to remote, online instruction for student-centered practices to become widespread. Online learning can
facilitate student-centered learning, but online learning is not inherently student-centered,” Arnett notes.
Recommendations: There are two main pathways to help teachers adopt more student-centered learning practices during COVID. One is to help them take “incremental steps” toward it, and another identifies and supports the teachers who have realized conventional practices aren’t working.
Low teacher confidence and lack of high-quality materials
Although teachers in hybrid classrooms are “back in the classroom” and teaching, at least in part, the way they’ve always taught, their confidence isn’t that much higher than teachers who are entirely online.
This lack of self-confidence is likely due to the myriad challenges accompanying a shift to online and hybrid instruction. While 83 percent of surveyed teachers say they teach in hybrid or remote situations that require “extensive use of online learning,” just 16 percent say they used online learning “a lot” before COVID.
Insight: Eighty-five percent of surveyed teachers say they spend more time preparing and planning now than they did last year–but this increased prep time means teachers have less time to connect with students, improve their own remote teaching practices, and focus on student-centered learning.
Recommendations: Teachers need materials that are designed for use in remote learning environments, and schools and districts should make it a priority to adopt new curriculum and platforms well-suited for online teaching.
Promising signs of student-centered learning
Many educators are replicating in-person classroom instruction online, but some districts are making a shift to more student-centered learning online. One-third of surveyed teachers say their schools use online learning platforms that offer adaptive practice activities, and one-fifth say their districts arrange opportunities for students to interact virtually with mentors.
One-third of teachers use technologies that support student-centered learning practices. These practices include creating individualized learning progressions, facilitating project-based learning, and enabling mastery-based learning.
Effective professional development is critical to this type of instructional approach.
Insight: It’s encouraging that some districts are using student-centered learning practices in the middle of a pandemic, no matter if those districts were already using such strategies or if the shift to online learning forced some districts to change the way they teach.
Recommendations: Educators and policymakers should look for ways to encourage student-centered practices now that schools are operating during the pandemic. Professional development will help ensure that educators can put this access to resources supporting these practices to good use.
New tools and virtual schools
Student-centered learning practices appear in only a few school systems, but the survey shows that’s about to change. Teachers say they’ve discovered new resources or practices they’d like to continue after the pandemic, and many of those resources and practices are well-suited for student-centered learning. More districts have increased their virtual learning options, too.
Insight: Most resources and practices teachers adopt right now for remote instruction are not inherently student-centered. But increased use of these resources and practices opens a pathway to more student-centered practices in the future.
Recommendations: Districts should consider setting up full-time virtual options for students–this can help meet the needs of families who want more flexibility or who aren’t quite comfortable returning in person. And in the long run, these schools can spur innovation within the district.
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