One Year Wiser

Progress in the Face of Adversity for Teachers

It’s officially one year from the day that most school buildings closed nationwide in response to COVID-19. As the myriad challenges of the pandemic continue, this unique anniversary inspired our team at SchoolWorks to reflect on the lessons we have all learned in this past year. SchoolWorks’ Managing Director of Instructional Supports, Jake Schmitz, shares a few of this year’s key learnings in the area of teaching and instruction.
Lessons Learned in Maintaining High-Quality Instruction
  • Prioritize Equity. As we develop and introduce new learning models, it’s even more important to ensure equitable, inclusive environments for ALL students – not only in the classroom, but throughout the entire school.
  • Always Communicate Expectations. It is always, always essential to create clear expectations for what high-quality instruction looks like for all teachers. This practice was more important than ever this year, as classroom teachers became virtual teachers overnight. Taking the time to establish a common understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like – virtual or otherwise – is a key step in elevating overall performance.
  • Commit to Observation and Feedback. Even in the face of change, and perhaps especially then, leaders must prioritize supporting teachers by observing instruction, coaching teachers, reviewing lesson plans, and developing additional structures to support teachers, such as collaborative planning and professional development. A structured cycle of communication around performance promotes progress.
  • Use Data. Leaders and teachers should always analyze student achievement data (both summative and formative) to ensure all students receive the instruction they need.
  • Embrace Technology. Technology, when used well, can be a game-changer to engage students, differentiate instruction, and assess student progress. Schools may not have had the bandwidth to fully understand and extensively incorporate technology into classrooms prior to 2020, but this year has inspired us to re-think the importance of investing resources into investigating tools and training teaching staff.
In consideration of technology, long-term Project Manager, Erin Burchill, noted many of the benefits her partner schools experienced in utilizing virtual assessment tools.
"One of the benefits of remote learning has been that teachers have the ability to formatively assess students in really organic ways during lessons using technology. I’ve seen teachers assess students across subject areas and grade levels using different online platforms in ways that give teachers informative data on student understanding in real time. Students are also receiving more personalized feedback on assignments during remote learning. Teachers are able to comment back and forth with students on assignments, can check in with all students during lessons with more frequently, and are readily available for student questions and individual conferences when classes are working independently."
- Erin Burchill, SchoolWorks Project Manager
Over the past year, SchoolWorks has reviewed dozens upon dozens of schools operating in virtual settings. Our key takeaway has been consistent: in general, good instruction is good instruction. Practices that promote high-quality instruction, such as defined expectations, cycles of inquiry, and data-informed decision making, are drivers of effective instruction regardless of the teaching model. If there is a lesson from 2020-2021, perhaps it is this: Make discovery of methods part of your process, but ensure quality with a framework of defined expectations, support, and accountability. For more information about SchoolWorks instructional supports and educational consulting, click here.
Stay healthy, and let’s keep talking!

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