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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pamela Davis

School Leaders: Equipping Teachers to Deliver Quality Instruction Virtually

Across the county school leaders scrambled to implement opening of school plans in the middle of a pandemic. The fall of 2020 forced school leaders to make some tough choices. Adherence to CDC guidelines; response to teacher resignations, new hires, fluctuating enrollment, scheduling barriers, 1:1 computer device shortages... School leaders juggled priorities attempting to keep teaching and learning at the forefront.

Through this transition, teacher training on virtual instructional delivery was rushed through, if provided at all. Some may think that, if you've got a teacher with a laptop, then that automatically creates quality virtual instruction. In many cases, school leaders were struggling with quality teacher performance prior to the pandemic. It is because of this, that providing training for teachers to help them deliver quality instruction is vital. We are now a year into the pandemic. Both virtual and in-person instruction is taking place in districts and school buildings across the nation. Some teachers are delivering virtual and live instruction simultaneously. As leaders, how have we prepared our teachers for this? How can we support their development in the days to come?

School-wide expectations.

If clear expectations are not set, people will make up their own expectations. When it comes to face-to-face, live instruction, or virtual instruction, what are the non-negotiables that your building requires? Pre-Covid, it looked like bell-to-bell instruction, no movement 15 minutes after class starts nor before class ends, a standard framework of how the lesson would be delivered, and evidence of the standard that's being covered. These elements are still important, but what does it look like in the virtual space? Set clear expectations that fosters teaching and learning in the virtual environment. Establish a common framework for delivery of live and virtual lessons. Give teachers options that allow time for direct instruction, an independent work period, and guided, small group instruction. Depending upon the length of the class period, you can incorporate opt to have the work period while students sit online with you or give them time during your class period to work offline and log back on at a designated time. Providing teachers with expectations such as a uniform framework, will assist with uniformity and consistency across your campus. It will also help new and experienced teachers with structure and organization of the instructional period.

Departmental Implementation.

Having school-wide expectations sets the tone across departments, however it is critical to discuss content specific needs that are unique to subject areas. Delivering lessons virtually in some subjects will be more seamless than others. Meet with subject area departments to determine what challenges the subject area poses for lesson delivery. Through collaboration, establish the common elements that will be adopted to ensure instruction is aligned to the standard and that students are learning. For example, in an Algebra 1 class, the standard may call for the student solve quadratic equations in one variable and to use the completing the square method. Departmental teams need to discuss ways for students to demonstrate this virtually. Whether they're just turning in their assignments or if an app is used so that they can write on a dry erase board to show their understanding. It is important to ensure students can actually demonstrate their understanding as oppose to just being asked to complete multiple choice responses. Thinking through the unique needs of the department within your building will assist you with providing the proper support for all teachers.

Virtual Inspection.

Once you have set expectations and implemented a framework, you now need to inspect what you expect. Virtual inspection is akin to a classroom walkthrough. What should you see when you pop into a virtual classroom? You should see what you mapped out in your school-wide and departmental expectations. While observing the virtual classroom, you should look for the quality of the instruction, level of student engagement, and alignment of the assignment. Depending upon the timeframe that you enter the classroom, you may or may not see direct instruction, however there should be evidence that instruction has taken place. Student engagement can still be impacted in the virtual setting. Having cameras on does not necessarily mean that students are engaged. This can be measured through students' oral or written response as well as through the work they've submitted. Engagement can also be measure through student self-assessment and participation. See "How Can Teachers Evaluate Virtual Student Engagement During the Covid-19 Pandemic?" for other examples. Finally, reviewing the standard to confirm that the lesson, assignments, and assessments all align at the appropriate level. Even though students are being given virtual assignments, they still must be able to complete the work at the level the standard demands. When teachers give assessments that do not allow students to demonstrate what the know at the level the standard requires, students are stifled. They end of believing they know more than they really do, creating a false positive.

When school leaders establish school-wide expectations, implement common practices within subject area departments, and conduct regular virtual classroom walkthroughs, teachers can receive the support and feedback they need to become better equipped to teach virtually.

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