For school leaders and administrators, a rapid transition to online distance learning can possibly lead to negative feelings or attitude towards the new mode of instruction delivery. Teachers can feel overwhelmed, lost, and exhausted even before the first week of online learning starts. Preparation time should be given to teachers so that they have enough time to design online learning modules, curate and create online instructional materials, design and strategically embed constructive formative assessment and feedback.
Schools and districts should exercise careful consideration for students who have problems or challenges with access to reliable and stable internet connection. These students should be prioritized for accommodation. For example, right when the pandemic started to force lockdowns on cities and countries, some schools decided to loan laptops, tablets, and portable Internet devices for students who lack access to tech tools needed for online learning. For schools and districts that lack enough funding, teachers were given enough time to design distance learning modules that make use of printed books, worksheets, and non- digital instructional materials. When summative assessments hurt student’s grade or performance due to inequitable access, school leaders and teachers can practice flexibility and focus on formative assessments or feedback as opportunities of learning by themselves.
Teachers should always remember to design assessments that are developmentally appropriate for their students. Hence, an authentic summative assessment for senior high school students should not look similar to that of a primary student. It is always recommended for teachers to expose students to the specific online tool that will be used for an assessment and give students the time to practice how to use it. Support should always be ready for students.
In the end, at this point of the pandemic, school leaders and teachers are called to practice and demonstrate empathy so that the planned online learning experiences and assessments become meaningful and relevant for the students who are trying their best to manage the anxiety that they feel about the pandemic and the excitement to continue learning from home. Parents and homes are sources of contextual and local knowledge that can be utilize when teachers are designing the learning experiences for each child. One of the many reasons why strong relationships and communication between teacher and parents is key in children learning. Parents have a wealth of knowledge and experiences that can bring to life any learning and are key part of the learning community.
Know more about assessments in online distance learning through listening to episode 4 of my empowerED Podcast on designing online assessments:
Note: This is an excerpt from the Independent Report to UNESCO on the status of education in this time of COVID-19 Pandemic, which I co-authored with Armand Doucet, Koen Timmers, and Dr. Deborah Netolicky. Access report here.