Research review outlines five keys to effective remote learning

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Quality of teaching, facilitating peer interaction, and supporting pupils to work independently are three keys to effective remote learning.

A research summary from the Education Endowment Foundation has concluded that pupils can learn via remote teaching, but there are some “key steps” that teachers should take into account (EEF, 2020a).

The study has looked at evidence from 60 systemic reviews and meta-analyses in a bid to help teachers prioritise the most effective approaches.

It comes alongside a package of EEF resources, for both parents, schools and teachers, to support remote learning during the coronavirus lockdown (EEF, 2020b).

The report outlines five key findings for quality remote learning:

  • Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered.
  • Ensuring access to technology is key, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.
  • Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes.
  • Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes.
  • Different approaches to remote learning suit different types of content and pupils.

It urges teachers to focus on the elements of quality teaching rather than mode of delivery – such as clear explanations, scaffolding and feedback. Importantly, it finds that there is “no clear difference” between teaching in real-time and alternatives such as providing pre-recorded video explanations. It is the quality of the teaching that counts.

Elsewhere, peer interaction is identified as one way of increasing the impact of remote education. Approaches might include peer marking and feedback, sharing good work, or opportunities for live discussions.

The report adds: “The value of collaborative approaches was emphasised in many reviews, although notably many studies involved older learners. Different approaches to peer interaction are likely to be better suited to different age groups.”

Monitoring the progress pupils are making during remote learning is also key and the report suggests that it can be helpful for teachers to provide support and strategies to enable pupils to work independently.

The report states: “Pupils learning at home will often need to work independently. Multiple reviews identify the value of strategies that help pupils work independently with success. For example, prompting pupils to reflect on their work or to consider the strategies they will use if they get stuck have been highlighted as valuable.

“Wider evidence related to metacognition and self-regulation suggests that disadvantaged pupils are likely to particularly benefit from explicit support to help them work independently, for example, by providing checklists or daily plans.”

Schools are also urged to prioritise access to technology for disadvantaged learners. An estimated 700,000 11 to 18-year-olds have no internet access at home from a computer or tablet, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS, 2019).

Many schools have been working independently to provide these learners with equipment during the past few weeks. The Department for Education (DfE) has pledged to provide free laptops for disadvantaged learners, however its scheme unveiled last week currently only covers pupils with a social worker, care-leavers and disadvantaged year 10 students. Education unions have called for this to be expanded to cover all ages.

The EEF report states: “Many reviews identify lack of technology as a barrier to successful remote instruction. It is important that support is provided to ensure that disadvantaged pupils – who are more likely to face these barriers – have access to technology.”

The report also emphasises the importance of supporting the use of the various online resources and platforms: “Ensuring that teachers and pupils are provided with support and guidance to use specific platforms is essential, particularly if new forms of technology are being implemented.”

The EEF has also launched a package of evidence-based resources aimed at helping schools to support their pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It includes advice for schools on how to support parental engagement and tips for parents on promoting effective home learning.

Professor Becky Francis, EEF chief executive, said: “Schools closures could have a potentially devastating impact on learning for the poorest children and young people in our society. However, we can take steps to mitigate against this. Of importance is making sure that all pupils have access to learning online, by providing them with access to devices and a good internet connection.

“Our new resources are part of a huge collective effort across the sector, which we hope will go some way to alleviate the impact of school closures on the most disadvantaged pupils.

“But in the long-term, we need to focus on how best to help pupils bounce back when schools open again. Catch-up teaching targeted especially at those who have fallen furthest behind during this period will be essential.”

The EEF resources come after the launch this week of two major national initiatives aimed at supporting the home education of students – BBC Bitesize daily programming and online learning sessions and the DfE-backed Oak National Academy, which is offering free access to 180 lesson videos a week curated covering Reception to year 10.

The DfE has also launched its own guidance for parents on supporting home learning (DfE, 2020a) and its own compilation of education resources (DfE, 2020b).

And Headteacher Update has also published part one and part two of our compendium of resources, many of which are freely available, for teachers and students (Headteacher Update 2020a; 2020b). Meanwhile, a range of Headteacher Update best practice advice for home learning, with articles relevant to both teachers and parents, can be found here.

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