Learning From Home
In 2020, Fettes College and Fettes Prep’s Summer Term looked a little different because due to lockdown in the UK, all pupils and staff embraced a fully virtual term. Learning From Home was both positive and challenging for pupils and staff alike. New skills were learnt at an exponential rate and technical abilities increased dramatically. Here we reflect on some of the lessons learnt and the serendipitous outcomes.
Regular surveys with parents, pupils and teachers gave insightful feedback resulting in responsive adaptation and up-skilling to meet the unique circumstances with which we were faced with.
There is of course no ‘right’ way of teaching remotely but general principles of good practice have emerged as staff balance synchronous and asynchronous approaches and there is no doubt that our teachers became more proficient in the preparation and production of effective multi-media resources. This in turn allowed for differentiation so pupils could work at their own pace within the timetable provided.
Effective feedback is of course challenging, as this was given daily, but strategies of re-submission, re-test and review were effective and overall, teachers recognize that the skills and strategies acquired during this period were useful when we returned at the start of the 2020/2021 Academic year.
Teachers have made use of a range of methods to deliver material and successfully adapted their approach to meet the needs of their pupils. This means that each class and each subject has received a tailored lesson plan that meets the needs of the students and the staff delivering the session.
“Different methods at different times and for different reasons…videos have been helpful as the pupils can replay and watch skills performed a few times and I like to start a lesson with a class gathering so I can get live feedback on the last lesson and field any questions about the next task”
Consistent and timely feedback is vital and our teachers have experimented with a variety of methods. Enterprising use of video and audio to present worked answers and delivering whole class feedback has been particularly successful.
The dialogue between teacher and pupil is being achieved through a combination of written feedback and follow-up video calls/Teams chat (as well as simply insisting upon resubmission with corrections). It is of course time consuming but effective in keeping communication individual.
“Audio recorded or live, I think tone is really important for reinforcing support and encouragement”
“Where pupils have needed to go through something a short phone call has been a really positive way to ensure that a correction is fully understood”
Daily contact with our students is incredibly important from an academic but also pastoral sense and live lessons have played a part in giving teachers the opportunity to engage and interact. The maximum length of live lessons was over 1 hour but for the vast majority it was around 15-20 minutes. Most teachers used short drop-ins to introduce pre-prepared material and then follow it up and check for understanding (which fits with most of the research on remote teaching). As with everything else here, there’s no ‘right’ way of doing it and those delivering longer live lessons were adapting and breaking things up to make sure there was a range of learning tasks.
“In the classes where I have delivered a greater percentage of live lessons I have found the pupils to be more forthcoming with questions both during the lesson and at other points in the week”
“Some students who are perhaps quieter in the classroom have been hugely engaged Learning From Home, asking questions and further explanations during the lessons”
There’s a definite sense that teachers are becoming adventurous and experimental as well as more confident and proficient with the technology. As well as Teams, Zoom, Streams, Firefly, OneNote and Sway, the introduction of software like flipgrid and whiteboard.fi have certainly facilitated more effective and immediate feedback and brought more of a ‘classroom feel’ to remote lessons.
“Teams is great to keep everything together. Some of my classes are using the posts page to ask general questions they would ask in class, and are helping each other out in a collaborative way”
We asked our teachers what aspect of remote teaching they might make use of when they return physically to Fettes and there was an overwhelming sense that new, relevant skills had definitely been learnt and could easily be used going forwards. Teachers acknowledged that whilst the past weeks had been hard, they had up-skilled quickly and would utilise this expertise with regards to setting work for absent pupils, cover lessons, academic priority and revision.
“I like the annotation of PowerPoints which provide a permanent reference for students who want to revisit topics or for students who miss lessons”
“I have found that my overview for the week/unit which I would normally write for myself and verbally share with pupils has been a really useful launch each week. A number of resources are already linked to this plan as well as additional explanations and now I am into this good routine I hope to continue it when we return"
Each Fettes student is given a set, daily timetable depending on their year group and subject choices to ensure that they are continuing to learn at the pace they would have when physically at Fettes.
All work is set by subject teachers the night prior and there is a mix of live lessons, pre-recorded lessons and self-directed project work. Teachers mark work in a timely fashion and are available throughout the day for questions that arise.
As well as their academic timetable, students will also partake in morning exercise, weekly tutor meetings, virtual house socials and a range of extra-curricular activities such as music lessons.
Current Parents on Learning From Home
"I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to the whole Fettes family for all of the hard work that you are undertaking to ensure students continue to receive a first class educational experience. We have been very impressed with the arrangements that have been made. Our daughter is being kept busy and seems to be enjoying her lessons - she's certainly being as conscientious as ever. However, she is missing matron's baking so if you could arrange to DHL a scone to her then all will be perfect!"
"The Fettes teachers and tutors are doing a fantastic job…Lessons and tasks are very well prepared, marked timely and I feel the children have prompt support when needed. Our daughter has been very independent and I'm not allowed to work with her. Our son however enjoys me participating and I check his daily results. I have been thoroughly enjoying learning so much from all the varied topics! I was very anxious about homeschooling but it has been a pleasure and a breeze so far. I have also been reading about experiences from other schools and in comparison Fettes is miles above and ahead."
Current Pupils on Learning From Home
“The most interesting part of Learning from Home for me has definitely been the pre-university courses, as we have been given more time to independently research areas of the subjects we want to study for university, guided by staff who are knowledgeable in the areas. Online music lessons have also surprisingly been working very well, as at first as I thought it would be complicated to have online practical music lessons, but it has been easy to adapt and I have even performed in an online Coffee Concert.”
“I think the most surprising thing for me was how self-sufficient I could become… for the most-part I have worked efficiently. Of course, for the first few days it was tricky, but then I quickly taught myself when to work and how to work without a teacher over my shoulder and with loads of distractions in my room. I learnt that I work so much more productively after exercising meaning everyday at around midday I have been exercising.”
"Learning from home has been a bit of a challenge because of the lack of motivation but the teachers have been making it fun and interesting to keep us involved. The most interesting part is how it helps us plan out and organize our own days. In the future I want to be able to keep this level of organization up."
“I’ve had to foster a greater sense of independent learning from the home learning experience, as well as being self-driven and motivated as there is less direct contact and thus guidance from teachers, which will set me up in good stead for higher education. The challenging aspects of having to differentiate between leisure and work occurring in the same space have prepared me more for university, where the conflation between these two spheres is greater.”