01 SES 14 A, Lessons from Professional Learning in a Time of Pandemic
During the pandemic schools in many countries had to move to remote teaching. This paper explores the views of pupils, parents and teachers of ‘home-school’ in eight schools in one Norwegian municipality, gathered through parallel online surveys in April 2020 during the first COVID-19 school lockdown period. It finds that adaptation happened very quickly and that home-school was well received by pupils and parents. There was more creative learning, better progress, more useful feedback and greater pupil independence. School leaders in a further survey conducted once schools had reopened reported that they wanted to implement changes based on the experience of remote learning enforced by the lockdown, so that the crisis has become an opportunity for grassroots innovation.
The aim of the research was to find how parents, teachers and pupils (1st–10th Grade, ages 6–16) in a Norwegian municipality experienced home-school and the impact on professional deevlopment and school improvement. Our research questions were therefore:
• How did pupils, parents/carers and teachers experience home-schooling?
• What did teachers and school leaders change as a result of the remote teaching experience?
Democracy and participation are among the core principles in the 2020 Norwegian national curriculum, which states that ‘children should experience that they are listened to in the daily life of school, that they have real influence and that they can affect that which concerns them’ (UDIR, 2019). Research on student participation (Jones & Bubb, 2020) found that teachers found it hard to involve pupils fully, particularly in issues impacting on school improvement. Research for the OECD found that ‘an increase in the autonomy of pupils to manage their own learning’ was an unexpected benefit of home-school (Reimers & Schleicher, 2020, p. 18).
Research in Norway, as in many places, found positives in the crisis. Gudmundsdottir and
Hathaway (2020, p. 244) reported teachers being positive and ‘willing to go the extra mile’. A
national survey (Federici & Vika, 2020) found that the majority of teachers reported that they had
been able to continue providing teaching and learning, that they had good contact with pupils and
parents, and that 85% of municipalities reported that they had been able to continue to provide a
good and safe learning environment. A survey of primary school teachers (Larsen, 2020) showed
that 73% had more time to plan lessons. To our knowledge, there has not been other research in
Norway which has involved all the different stakeholders at the same time during the home-school
period and has sought the views of pupils of all ages, including the youngest.
There is a potential for good things to be achieved in response to the pandemic. As Schleicher
suggests, ‘it is about looking seriously and dispassionately at good practice in our own countries
and elsewhere to become knowledgeable about what works’ (Reimers & Schleicher, 2020, p. 5). It
is in this spirit that we share research about home-school that was conducted in Norway and contributes something particularly interesting: rather than seeing home-school as a deficit model, our research considers what can be learned and taken forward.
The views of students, parents, teachers and school leaders were collected using anonymous online surveys. The surveys were completed over 9 days from 22 April to 1 May 2020, while schools were closed to all but the children of keyworkers: that is, after a little over 1 month of home-school. After data cleaning there were 1,995 responses. The only demographic data asked for from pupils and parents/carers were the name of their school and year group; teachers were asked to identify the school they worked in and which of three broad age bands (Grades 1–4, 5–7 and 8–10) they taught. Key areas that related to ongoing work in the municipality were probed by asking participants to respond to statements with agreement ratings using a four-point Likert scale from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’; each had space for optional comments. The areas were digital learning; creative learning; pupil participation; progress; achievement; feedback; groupwork; parent-teacher relationships; and parents’ ability to help children. The approach was to involve as many individuals as possible, rather than to select any sample. It was important to gather views of all the key stakeholders within the schools to see the how their views compared and related to each other so we designed four surveys: one for parents, one for teachers and two for pupils. We considered it important to give all year groups the opportunity to participate. Younger children might be considered too immature to answer a digital survey, but we were keen to include their views, particularly as one might imagine that they would be worst affected by the move to remote learning. To limit the demands on the younger ones, we designed a shorter survey for pupils in Grades 1 to 4, with eight questions. There were 14 questions for pupils in Grades 5 to 10, teachers and parents. After the schools re-opened, we sought the views of school leaders about what changes they might make arising from the home-schooling experience. In November 2020 we surveyed the students to find out what changes had been sustained.
The considerable response rate, together with the detail provided in many of the comments, has provided rich insights into the experience of remote learning by different groups. Two-fifths of teachers and pupils agreed that they had become better at using digital tools during the home-school period. Those who did not agree commented that this was because they already had strong skills. 70% of pupils agreed that more creative tasks had taken place at home-school than normal. Two-thirds of pupils agreed or strongly agreed that they received feedback in each subject that helped more than usual. Several said they felt teachers had more time for feedback. Digital communication seemed to provide new opportunities for all pupils to be seen and heard. Just over half of the teachers also agreed that they gave more useful feedback than usual. The majority of pupils agreed or strongly agreed that they had made progress. 63% of pupils said that they experienced more influence over their learning in home-school. Parental involvement increased during home-school. They gained more knowledge about their children’s learning, and they had opportunities to play a more important role than before. Two thirds of parents/carers reported gaining more insight into their children’s learning. Leaders said they were planning for pupils to experience more creative and practical tasks within and across subjects; exploratory teaching methods and assignments; use of nature and outdoor areas; and more pupil involvement in ways of working. They particularly wanted to build on the experiences with digital tools. There is much to be taken from this research. How schools can build on improved digital skills, how learning activities can be organised, and how homework can be changed are all relevant considerations.
Andrew, A., Cattan, S., Costa-Dias, M., Farquharson, C., Kraftman, L., Krutikova, S., Phimister, A. and Sevilla, A. (2020). Learning During the Lockdown: Real-Time Data on Children’s Experiences During Home Learning (IFS Briefing Note BN288). The Institute for Fiscal Studies. Bubb, S., & Jones, M.-A. (2020). Learning from the COVID-19 home-schooling experience: Listening to pupils, parents/carers and teachers. Improving Schools, 23(3), 209-222. doi:10.1177/1365480220958797 Gudmundsdottir, G.B. and Hathaway, D.M. (2020). “We Always Make It Work”: Teachers’ Agency in the Time of Crisis. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 28(2), 239-250. Hall, V. J. (2020). Reclaiming student voice(s): constituted through process or embedded in practice? Cambridge Journal of Education, 50(1), 125-144. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2019.1652247 Harris, A., & Jones, M. (2020). COVID 19 – school leadership in disruptive times. School Leadership & Management, 40(4), 243-247. doi:10.1080/13632434.2020.1811479 Jones, M. and Bubb, S. (2020) Student voice to improve schools: Perspectives from students, teachers and leaders in ‘perfect’ conditions. Improving Schools. Mayes, E., Black, R., & Finneran, R. (2020). The possibilities and problematics of student voice for teacher professional learning: lessons from an evaluation study. Cambridge Journal of Education, 1-18. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2020.1806988
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