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A Letter from Our Director about Blended Learning

Dear Parents

We hope you are continuing to keep safe and well during this challenging time. As we have finished the first week of our online learning and have begun the second week, I would like to offer some insights, feedback, as well as the next steps in our online learning journey.

The first week was no doubt full of both challenges and opportunities for students and staff.  For many this was a familiar way of learning.  However, accessing learning solely through an online environment is new for all. Everyone has had to adjust to new ways of teaching and learning and come to terms with not physically being in the same space as each other. Our initial feedback from students at the end of last week showed us that students were becoming increasingly comfortable and satisfied with their experience of online learning as the week progressed. Obviously, there are areas for improvement that we are addressing this week. Plans for this week include:

1.  A clearer indication of learning objectives and outcomes for the week (including content topic focus and coverage)

2.  Scheduling of additional ’real-time’ class and group components, so that students can have more flexibility when they have contact with their teachers

3.  A requirement that all subjects have face to face contact time with their teachers each week – this may be whole group sessions or shorter small-group sessions
4.  Instructions are given once per day, with large tasks broken down into smaller sections

In order for the online learning to be successful, we want to reiterate the points we made last week. Please remember:

1. Although not all the learning is not happening in ‘real time’, it is important for students to create a regular timetable for each day.
2. Students need to commit the same amount of time to online learning as they would to a normal school week – so that equates to approximately 8-10 hours per day.
3. Students need to engage fully in group discussions and forums to maximise their online learning experience.
4. There needs to be a real commitment to independent learning and ensuring that work is completed and submitted for feedback.

Why ‘blended learning’ and not video classes?

Some of the feedback we have received from parents has been in regard to online lessons taking place in real-time, with the whole class, as they normally would at school. Whilst this may seem a good way to proceed, research into online learning tells us this is not the most effective method for students to learn.  For online learning to be effective, research tells us that a ‘blended’ approach is optimal, in line with the Dulwich International High School Zhuhai approaches to learning:

1. There needs to be a clear understanding of the learning objectives and what is to be achieved for the medium-term, with clear small steps as to how the outcomes will be achieved. This could be outlined by the teacher in either real-time, a video of the teacher talking, or a written document.
2. There needs to be a commitment and engagement on the part of the student, by showing they understand the learning outcomes and knowing what they need to do to be successful.
3. There needs to be a presentation of the lesson with input, modelling, and examples given that may be in note form, PPTs, videos, or written materials.
4. There needs to be guided practice where students have the chance to deepen their understanding, often through an ‘applied task’ related to the learning content.
5. There needs to be individual feedback from the teacher which provides remediation.
6. There needs to be the opportunity for students to visit the learning in different ways, to practice, and to ‘talk’ their learning into place with their peers

What is clear from the research into online learning is that students will be successful when they can access materials that are shared in a variety of ways:

·        They are offered multiple opportunities to practise and share their learning.
·        They participate in their learning community and contribute.
·        They act on the personalised feedback provided by their teachers.
·        They engage with their peers to reinforce their learning.

It is very hard to achieve this with a teacher online talking to a class of 20 students for 40 minutes. None of these things need to happen in a real-time context. Our teachers will continue to provide learning that allows all of the above objectives to be met to provide the best learning possible for our students.

 

In addition to this it is worth noting that we are starting online learning from a very good position.  Our teachers continue to provide learning online using the planned programme of study that would have been followed had we all been in school  For most of our examination classes much of the course content is already covered,  and we expect almost all courses to have completed their content coverage by early  to mid-March….. After this the focus is on consolidation and deepening understanding, and exam preparation.


What can parents do to support their child’s learning?

1. Very few of students are now reporting technical difficulties, although some note issues particularly resulting from a slow internet connection.  Good access to the internet is essential, as is a quiet and purposeful work environment.  IT Support Team can provide technical support.
2. If your child is struggling to engage with the online learning, or is spending significantly more or less time on the learning than they would in a ‘normal’ school day, please contact your Year Teams (Head of Year or Assistant Head of Year)
3. Encourage and support your child to engage with their peers both purposefully in online learning and also socially online.  Balance is important.
4. Our Pastoral, Wellbeing and PE teams continue to provide regular activities to support the physical and mental wellbeing of your child – please do encourage engagement with these, perhaps as a family.
5. If you are returning to work, emphasise to your child the importance of keeping their focus when they are not being directly supervised.
6. We will soon be carrying out a survey of parental opinions.  In the meantime, please continue to us with and comments and suggestions.

We look forward to working with you and our students in the coming weeks to provide an optimal online learning environment.

Director of Dulwich International High School Zhuhai
Andrew Macdonald-Brown

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