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Teachers have to reinvent themselves during the pandemic

Classroom of kids looking forward towards their teacher

By Genevieve Waldie

COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of life, including teachers who have been incredibly busy this year adapting to a new paradigm in education.

During the pandemic restrictions, the Melbourne Graduate School of Education held a national survey to explore teachers’ experiences.

They received almost 1000 responses from both primary and secondary teachers. The shift to remote teaching meant a rapid change to alternate modes of pedagogy and learning.

The research found 68% of primary and 75% of secondary teachers reported working more hours per week while they moved to remote teaching, but that experience also presented new opportunities.

Educators reported finding creative ways to teach traditional lessons, and for many, a boost in their digital literacy.

As one teacher noted: “There are opportunities to challenge rigid practices of teaching which haven’t changed for years …it is a great opportunity for us to look at education and ask ourselves, What do we value in education? What are we doing well? What can we do better?”

In Queensland, teachers like Steve Crapnell and Dr Tamara Fahy have already been asking these questions before COVID-19 and were already providing novel delivery of education.

Although no one could have predicted the events of this year, Steve Crapnell’s style of teaching called “flipped learning” seems specially designed for a pandemic situation.

The style involves class lessons being video recorded uploaded, so students watch them before school. They can learn in their own time – rewatching the footage on any tricky areas as much as they need to.

Valuable class time is then used for consolidating and problem-solving on the material already watched.

“I don’t want to do technology for the sake of it. I am looking for the best workflow, a workflow that is effective and efficient for both students and teachers,” says Mr Crapnell.

Teacher and academic researcher Dr Tamara Fahy agrees.

“No one could have anticipated COVID-19, and it has been amazing to see how adaptable children, parents, teachers and schools have been,” she says.

“It was not just an exercise in “transplanting” school to home. My colleagues and I made the most of the technology available and created new online material to enhance access to learning for students. I had exponential growth in the use of multiple platforms that I loved.”

Although technology played a critical role in new ways of learning, there are always lessons to be learned outside the classroom.

“I also feel that some of the most wonderful learning happened completely outside of structured practise. Learning to slow down, observe and document the day felt quite joyful. I sometimes feel that they [the children] might be best left with an interesting book after all,” Fahy says.

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