Breaking Old Habits and Adopting New Ones: How to Change Teaching Practice When Change is Hard

Teaching Practice

Intro 

Online teaching and distance learning can present challenges that many teachers do not have the tools to overcome. They are, after all, brand new teaching categories that traditional training methods did not take into consideration. Fortunately, transitioning from the physical classroom to the virtual realm carries with it a lot of overlap. Some of the tools and methods that teachers learn when training to become teachers in the real world do crossover to virtual teaching. Things like establishing expectations, communication, and student feedback all come into play when teaching from a distance. There are even more ways for teachers to successfully change their methods to be effective online teachers. 

Set The Expectations

Teachers being upfront with their pupils from the outset about the demands of the class and expectations of them are standard practice among all educators. The beginning of the year or semester is the best time to establish what will come in the following months so students are prepared. It is also a good practice to introduce more mundane details like grade schematics, course content, assessment types, and communication channels. 

Online teachers especially need to make sure distance learning students understand that there are expectations of them that they need to fulfill, even if they are not physically in the classroom. Setting up things like daily attendance, mandatory check-ins or online participation are things that are unique to online teaching, but also have their inverse in real-world settings. 

Use the Best Tools 

Online learning is supported by various technologies. From hardware like laptops, cameras, and microphones to software like Zoom, Skype, and the myriad of remote teaching apps, teachers have become dependent on these technologies to successfully teach distance learning students. 

With so much riding on these virtual learning sessions, teachers and their institutions must invest in the most reliable and proven tools available to them. Service interruptions, glitches, and slow performance can seriously hamper students’ ability to learn. It can discourage them from participating or even showing up to virtual classes. 

That’s why selecting only the tools that have been proven to be useful, easy-to-use, and effective is important. Each school and institution needs to address its individual needs and cost considerations. For example, a program that lets users easily save, share and edit important PDF documents like Lumin PDF is ideal for both individual teachers and schools, as it comes with a wealth of PDF editors while costing much less than competing software. 

Let The Students Do The Work

This tenet may seem like a given, but in the virtual realm of online teaching, it is doubly important to keep students engaged not only with classwork but with each other. Teachers of online classes need to make sure that students are interested in the material and coursework in ways that may not apply in a real-world classroom.

This means encouraging further online study and investigation, whether from authorized sources to let students engage with the material in their way via social media outlets. When a teacher empowers students to go further with their education, it engenders a more fulfilling experience for students that keeps them motivated. 

Think Before You Write

This tip applies to both students and teachers. Online communication is nuanced and lacks the physical signifiers that are natural to face-to-face interactions. This kind of communication can often lead to misunderstandings among students and teachers. 

Both students and teachers can misinterpret a post or conversation, which is why both sides need to write with consideration when posting online. Teachers especially must measure their responses to students who are struggling to understand the course material. They need to come off as both supportive and patient, without making a student feel even more overwhelmed or confused. 

Teachers need to understand that their students are also adapting to online teaching. They need to make sure that pupils feel supported and listened to so that they can actively engage with their teachers, colleagues, and the classroom material. 

Ask For Feedback

It is not unheard of for teachers to ask students directly how the class is proceeding and if they feel like all their needs are being met. It is common practice, at least in higher levels of education, but it does not have to be limited to only university and college students. Teachers in elementary and secondary schools can also informally survey students to find out what they are liking about the class, the materials, and whether something needs to be improved.