Overview of Emerging Country-Level Response to Providing Educational Continuity Under COVID-19: Best Practice in Pedagogy for Remote Teaching

The general principles of effective pedagogy remain valid in the context of remote learning, but there are additional challenges facing the remote teacher. The highly effective remote teacher must be proficient in the same domains as the face-toface teacher: planning and teaching well-structured lessons (structure), adapting teaching when appropriate to meet individual needs (adaptation), and making accurate and productive use of assessment (assessment).

However, physical distance between the teacher and learner brings considerable challenges and requires changes to planning, teaching and assessment practices. Online teaching should not try to mimic the entirely synchronous teacher-student engagement of the conventional school. Ensuring equitable outcomes for disadvantaged students is more difficult for remote teachers and requires greater intentional effort. Pedagogical performance is circumscribed by the digital capacity of the teacher. The digital capacity of teachers in some high-income countries is poor and is poorer still in most lowincome countries. Many teachers need professional development support in the use of technologically enhanced pedagogy.

Research highlights the importance of developing and maintaining ‘teaching presence’, in order to ensure that learners thrive when studying remotely. The failure of many MOOCS demonstrates the importance of student persistence and motivation and this, in turn, depends upon substantial teacher-student engagement. There is a well-established theoretical framework for considering the work of teachers in a distance learning context which emphasises the need for proactive planning to ensure ‘teaching presence’. This was developed by the Canadian researchers, Anderson and Garrison.

The remote teacher starts at a disadvantage in terms of social interaction and must therefore deliberately strive to remedy this, making students aware of their teaching presence through many different forms of dialogue with remote students: instructing, guiding, questioning, listening, assessing, advising, admonishing and reassuring as appropriate. Student success depends upon having a strong sense of the teacher’s virtual presence. A well-designed sequence of remote learning will involve frequent, diverse opportunities for the teacher to demonstrate ‘presence’ to students, including assessment activities. Teaching presence can be promoted regardless of whether the main form of remote instruction is via centralised radio/ TV broadcasting or whether students are engaged in online learning with a local school.

It is a false dichotomy to propose that undesirable ‘teacher-centred’ rote learning or desirable ‘student-directed’ enquiry constitute the two main forms of remote pedagogy. The model proposed by Anderson and Garrison is neither ‘teacher-centred’ nor ‘studentdirected’. For them, the effective remote teacher is a subject matter expert skilled in different aspects of ‘direct instruction’, including exposition and explanation. At the same time, students are highly engaged in their own learning. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their work and to develop metacognitive strategies. Effective teaching presence involves the provision of a well-structured sequence of intellectually engaging learning activities and frequent diagnostic feedback.

The USA has substantial experience in educating school students via distance learning, but virtual charter schools achieve poor academic outcomes. There are currently about 300,000 students enrolled in the virtual K-12 school sector in the USA. Pedagogical quality expectations are set out in national standards, which were revised in 2019. There has been substantial research into the sector, particularly into learning outcomes and provision in virtual charter schools. Some major studies have been negative about the outcomes and provision offered by these schools. One important study highlights the excessive ‘personalisation’ of provision and the emphasis on ‘self-paced study’ as a factor contributing to student underachievement.

The Chinese government approach to pedagogy during the current school closures provides an interesting case study. The Chinese authorities reviewed the literature and identified key pedagogical risks in moving to remote learning: teachers can be overwhelmed by the curation challenge of organising online resources; teachers need training or support when moving to remote pedagogy; some learners lack mature skills in self-regulation and independent study. The Chinese authorities sought to mitigate these risks and advocated a blend of asynchronous and synchronous teaching and technologically enabled assessment practice. Governments can assist in the curation of learning resources. Creating entirely new learning resources can take up a disproportionate amount of a remote teacher’s time, thereby reducing available time for interaction with students.

Governments can help by providing centralised guidance on suitable learning resources. Open Education Resources (OER) are particularly useful because they allow teachers to modify materials to suit the particular needs of their students. Page 3 of 26 Remote teaching brings challenges, but technology can be used to enhance the impact of distance learning. Whether the medium is radio or TV broadcasting or online learning, remote teaching activities can be designed in ways that maximise cognitive engagement and minimise the risk of passivity on the part of the learner. Students should be frequently encouraged to evaluate their own work and to understand ‘what good looks like’ and how they can take responsibility for improvement.

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