Remote teaching: How to develop staff expertise

Written by: Jacob Senior | Published:
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From setting clear goals to providing short feedback loops, Jacob Senior offers some suggestions for how schools can develop their teachers' remote teaching and ed-tech skills


Lead remote teaching development from the top

If possible, delegate the oversight of your remote teaching development to a member of your senior leadership team. You will probably need to refocus your priorities to do this, but it will help you embed excellent remote teaching practices for as long as you need them. Ideally, protect time for this member of staff to get up to speed.

This staff member (we will refer to them as a “remote teaching lead” for ease) should:

  • Stay up-to-date on best practice in remote teaching, and feed suitable resources to your staff.
  • Organise sessions for discussions on best practice in remote teaching.
  • Guide department or phase leaders to further tailor this development to suit their teams.
  • Meet with these leaders regularly to gather insights from across the school.

Your remote teaching lead should gather suitable resources for your entire school, but it is up to department and phase leaders to decide and curate what works for their team – especially if remote teaching practices vary across departments or phases.

If your school is any smaller than a two-form entry, you can skip this step – the remote teaching lead can work directly with your entire staff team.


Check in with teaching staff to make sure they have got to grips with the basics

If this has not already been done, your remote teaching lead should give all teaching staff some reading on the core principles of good remote teaching, the basics of any digital education platform or other online tools you expect them to use, and how to complete any of the expectations you have set.

Once you have given staff the basics, phase and department leads can check in to answer any lingering questions. These can be quick, informal drop-ins and chats, or you can fold them into scheduled one-to-one meetings. Make sure staff are aware of this in advance, so they have time to prepare questions. Phase and department leads should bring tricky questions to the remote teaching lead, so they can add them to their FAQs (more on this below).

It is important to regularly reinforce the parts that staff find trickiest. Ideally, you should reinforce these areas once per week, over the course of at least a month. Present them in a few different ways, like group discussions, presentations or in FAQs. You can find out more about how to do these below. This repetition will help your staff to embed the principles of good remote teaching – especially those which are new to them.


Drop in to remote classes regularly to help staff set development goals

Treat this like a learning walk, but adapt it to suit your remote learning provision. For example, instead of dropping into lessons, a member of the senior leadership might briefly sit in on a “live” lesson, or watch a pre-recorded lesson. Senior leadership could then give staff a couple of lines of feedback after each session and agree one or two goals to aim for going forward. You should also use these drop-ins to:

  • Find examples of great practice, so you can share it in group sessions, or upload recordings of great lessons to a library of resources.
  • Check that the basics of good remote teaching (and the basics of using any digital education platforms or tools) have been embedded properly.

You could also consider “fast-tracking” your staff who have got to grips with remote teaching especially quickly. If you have designated a remote teaching lead, they should oversee this group. Feed these staff more resources that go beyond the basic expectations, so you can push the boundaries of what good practice looks like in your school. You can then trial new approaches with this group, before rolling them out to the rest of the school.


Reinforce the basics for all staff with weekly or fortnightly sessions

Create an environment of learning “little and often” to help staff embed these new skills. For example, senior leadership or heads of department could run a weekly one-hour (virtual) session after school to introduce and discuss remote pedagogy. Use this as an opportunity to review the core principles of good remote teaching, by sharing best practice within your school. If possible, record each session so staff can rewatch to refresh their memories (or catch up if they missed it).

As noted above, when members of the senior leadership team drop into lessons, they should look out for examples of great practice that could be used in this type of session. If it was a live lesson, staff can watch a recording before or during the session. Otherwise, they can look at the lesson plan and any videos and activities set. They can then discuss:

  • Why they think the lesson was so successful.
  • How they have approached the same topic or lesson, but in a different way.
  • Anything that teacher could do to make the next lesson even better

Ideally, department or phase leaders should run these once per month. These short feedback cycles mean that staff can constantly reflect on their own and their colleagues' practice. If you cannot find the time to do both the whole-staff sessions (covered earlier) and department/phase-specific sessions, prioritise the regular whole-staff sessions to help embed the core principles.


Build up a library of resources so your team can refresh their knowledge regularly

For great practices to embed, your staff will likely need to revisit them regularly. Have your remote teaching lead keep a folder of all the resources they have shared with staff, including any recordings of group sessions, or videos of excellent lessons.

If you are using a platform like Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams, you could create a “class” or a “team” for all of your staff, and regularly post resources to the main timeline. This also means that staff will be able to comment on these with any questions they have.

If you are not using an online platform, you could use a shared drive instead. Create an FAQs area or document for staff to refer to, and keep it updated. Your remote teaching lead should remain open to any questions staff may have about remote teaching, whether tech-focused or pedagogical.

  • Jacob Senior is a content producer at The Key, a provider of intelligence and resources for education leaders. The advice in this article is taken from our resource “Remote teaching: Tried and tested ways to develop staff expertise” - which we worked on with school leaders Paul Beeton, Anthony Lees and Phil Spoors. Visit https://thekeysupport.com/


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