Learning in the time of COVID-19 – reimagining normal

Carole Hansen, Quality Teaching Rounds (QTR) Project Advisor, reflects on what quality teaching looks like during challenging and changing times.

Fire, floods and a pandemic. Term 1 in our schools was unlike anything anyone could have predicted.

In a time of emergent learning, fast-paced changes and unforeseen challenges, teachers and school staff were tasked with the seemingly impossible – to adapt, deliver and stand on education’s frontline in a new and testing learning environment.

The pressure to get learning online or in mailed packages has seen a scramble for content and impossible deadlines, with many teachers challenged by a new way of teaching and learning.

So, what do quality teaching and learning look like at times like these? Is quality teaching a focus? I would argue that our focus never shifts – teachers are committed to maintaining high standards, and continually committed to learning that enhances the outcomes for our students and us as professionals. This has been a time for survival and adaptation (both of which we are very familiar with, as teachers). As such, I would like to offer some encouragement.

Examining learning from home through the lens of the quality teaching model

Rather than reinventing the wheel and adding to the recent noise, I would like to propose that we already have a tool to focus on quality. The quality teaching model (QT model) provides a comprehensive lens through which to analyse teaching. It also offers a shared language and understanding of what quality teaching and pedagogy might look like with our students.

By reimagining how we teach through this lens, we are not only re-shaping our thinking about face-to-face learning, but also our recent milieu – learning from home.

Here are 3 considerations:

Students are at the heart of what teachers do

This value is embedded in and across the QT model. I refer to social support, where we set the tone of the learning environment for our students. This has been demonstrated through the commitment of many across the state who have focused on embedding wellbeing lessons into their online learning platforms or hard copy packages. It’s also been seen in the daily check-ins with students, and via the physical delivery of lesson materials to students without access to technology or the internet. I have heard of principals dusting off the old school bus to make deliveries in local areas! You are teaching valuable skills – resilience, online etiquette, adaptive learning, different ways of thinking, problem-based learning and flexible learning. As we see in the QT model, celebrate success in appropriate ways – small successes and small steps each day.

High expectations

High expectations drive us to push through glass ceilings and engage in conceptual risk-taking. Teachers have continued to reward and encourage such behaviours in the learning from home environment. Recent learning conditions are a challenge. The QT model highlights how teachers can challenge their own assumptions and preconceptions about the capacities of their students and their ability to engage in challenging work. Teachers are also setting an example of rising to the occasion for their students, asking them to adjust, but not expecting less at this time.

The holistic nature of the quality teaching model

The holistic nature of the QT model reflects the resilience of the profession – teachers work together endlessly and despite all odds, all the time. The model’s elements inform each other. Consequently, whether you are focused on embedding clear and deep knowledge into your lessons, or bringing home the real life implications of connectedness, or facilitating skills for remote student direction via the screen, the teaching and learning of our teachers is consistently focused on elevating all the 18 elements over the course of our units of work.

These four key questions underpin the work of teachers:

  1. What do you want your students to learn?
  2. Why does the learning matter?
  3. How well do you expect them to do it?
  4. What are you going to get your students to do (or produce)?

And in regard to our current COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) context, I posit that it has been (adaptive) business per usual – teachers have a longstanding commitment to and focus on the delivery of quality teaching and learning. COVID-19 conditions have highlighted the invaluable nature of school staff, as well as the importance and significance of teachers’ day-to-day work: the broadening of young minds.

In light of students’ return to the physical classroom, I’m sure that many teachers are reflecting on the unique time of teaching that this year has engendered. What experiences are you proud of? What have you learned during the learning from home phase? And has it changed your practice now that students are back in school? Further reflection is available through the quality teaching rounds (QTR) which utilises the QT model as a lens for shaping discussion and analysis of our teaching practice. QTR professional learning workshops have moved to an online format and are available now.

Teachers, I salute you! I echo the same sentiments of many across corporate department teams – thank you to our teaching and school staff. Your resilience as emergent frontline workers is admirable and noteworthy.

References and further reading

Collins, L. (2017). Quality teaching in our schools. Scan, 36(4), 29-33.

NSW Department of Education & University of Newcastle. (n.d.). Quality teaching online (NSW DoE staff). This website includes links to the Classroom Practice Guide, videos, articles and other resources supporting the quality teaching model.

University of Newcastle. (2020). Quality teaching rounds.

If you would like further information about the quality teaching model, please contact Allan Booth.

How to cite this article – Hansen, C. (2020). Learning in the time of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) – reimagining normal. Scan, 39(5).

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