Teaching through the lens of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted teaching and learning for many schools. However, what has become clear is that this disruption has been both negative and positive. Teachers have had to adapt how they teach, such as delivering online or in split classes, but they have also learnt how to use digital tools. Many have also become aware of how learning at a distance, or in smaller groups, can be beneficial for some students (see our webinar: ‘Transitioning back to school – a social-emotional perspective’ with Prof Amanda Kirby).

Many teachers have also experienced disruption – both negative and positive – with regard to what to teach. The pandemic can mean reduced class time and can cause anxiety about how to cover material for summative assessments; but it can also provide a new ‘hook’ to motivate students.

Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion defines a hook as “the short introductory moment that captures what is interesting and engaging about the material you are going to introduce.” It can intrigue or entice a learner to engage with a topic through which, in turn, new skills and understanding can be obtained.

A few months ago, we invited one of our trainers, Dr Karen Angus-Cole from the University of Bath, to present a webinar that we called ‘Teaching Science through the Lens of Covid-19.’ In her webinar, Karen discussed why it could be beneficial to use Covid-19 in lessons:

  • Firstly, it is relevant. Covid-19 directly relates to our students’ lives. It is something that is happening in the real world, it is current, and it makes learning immediately applicable.
  • Secondly, it can provoke an emotional response from students which is likely to motivate them to want to know more, become familiar with the appropriate vocabulary, and learn how to debate the related issues.
  • Thirdly, since all students will recognise and have experience of Covid-19, it is an inclusive topic. We all have some common understanding of what is happening and it impacts on all our lives.

Karen’s webinar has been very popular with schools, so we decided to join forces with the PTI – formerly known as the Prince’s Teaching Institute – to produce a series of six webinars. We have re-recorded Karen’s webinar and added discussion points and tips from a teacher-leader. And we have recorded webinars focusing on five other subjects: business and economics, English language, geography, mathematics and psychology. All approach the topic in a similar way, with expert input from a university-based academic or experienced teacher-trainer and comments, questions and classroom ideas from a practising teacher.

Teachers should, of course, be sensitive to two key things before planning to teach through the lens of Covid-19. Firstly, some students may struggle to talk about the pandemic and the impact it has had personally on them. And secondly, as with any topic, you need to think about why you want to bring the topic to your lessons and what you want students to learn through it.

Teaching through the lens of Covid-19 may provide an opportunity for students to learn skills such as literacy and communication in your subject and it may enable them to talk more eloquently about the pandemic in future interviews or assessments. You need to balance this, however, with the extent to which this ‘hook’ may or may not motivate students in the study of the core curriculum of the course you are teaching.

We hope that the webinar series will give you some useful ideas for how to turn a shared, disruptive experience into something engaging and thought-provoking. We invite you to tune into the one for your own subject and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

You can access all six webinars on the PTI website. A small fee of $12 USD each is being charged to cover the PTI’s costs. The webinars are available here: https://www.ptieducation.org/webinars.

You can also find a range of free resources on the Cambridge International website here: https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/support-and-training-for-schools/teaching-and-learning-when-school-is-closed/

And here: https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/support-and-training-for-schools/teaching-and-learning-when-school-returns/

Reference

Lemov, D. (2010). Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College. USA: Jossey-Bass.

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