10 Guidelines for FIS Teachers

The transition to distance learning will not be simple or easy. Teachers will need to think differently about how to communicate, give instruction, and provide feedback; how to design lessons, assignments and assessments that are authentic and meaningful; and how to ensure students continue to collaborate and communicate with others. The ten guidelines provided below are intended to help teachers across all divisions reflect on challenges they will confront in shifting to distance learning. Many of the guidelines are based on advice from colleagues in international schools who are currently teaching in a fully online environment.

1. In the event of a crisis that leads to implementation of DLP, your students may be stressed or worried. Before diving into curriculum, take the time to assess your students’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being. How are they doing? How are their families?

2. Evaluate your students’ conditions for distance learning. While most students will have reliable online access at home and the necessary devices to shift to distance learning, others will not. Teachers should remember that each family’s circumstances will vary and they should avoid assumptions about limitations or restrictions students are facing.

3. Stick with the familiar, especially in the first weeks. After moving to this DLP, teachers should continue using existing communication channels and learning management systems. In other words, stick with what’s familiar to your students. Teachers should remember that while many students will thrive with distance learning, others will struggle. In the event that the school remains closed for a longer period of time, it may become necessary to explore new or different learning platforms that provide different experiences. In the beginning, stick with the familiar.

4. Less is more. Should FIS implement this DLP, one challenge confronting teachers will be how to best streamline content and elevate the most essential learning for students. In other words, teachers need to take a less-is-more perspective, including the pacing of lessons and assignments. It can also be hard to know exactly how long school closure might last, which makes longer-term planning difficult.

5. Seize the moment. Embrace new opportunities and possibilities for your students years or decades from now; how will your students remember the emergency that resulted in school closure? While distance learning should attempt to bring some normalcy and routine to students’ lives, teachers shouldn’t ignore the opportunities resulting from school closure either.

6. Provide space for personalized learning. Distance learning can provide opportunities for students to personalize what, how, and when they learn. Students can move more flexibly and freely through content when teachers create nonlinear curricula. Distance learning can also provide students with the opportunity to learn at different paces (e.g. Mathletics). School closure could also create opportunities for more authentic learning, particularly if students are spread around the world. What museums, galleries, concerts, or memorials might they experience where they’re located? How might they share these alternative experiences with their classmates? How might students be empowered to create their own learning pathways and experiences?

7. Designers of experience; facilitators of learning. In shifting to distance learning, it is especially important for teachers to think of themselves as designers of experiences and facilitators of learning (as opposed to distributors of knowledge). Distance learning places a premium on a teacher’s ability to think more deeply about how to introduce content, design experiences, and coach students with thoughtful, specific feedback. Teachers need to establish conditions where students have a clear sense of purpose, opportunities to express themselves, and experiences that allow them to work toward mastery. This will help students stay motivated and engaged in learning, even when they are not physically at school.

8. Design asynchronous learning experiences. When school is closed and students are spread across many time zones, teachers can still connect them asynchronously. For example, teachers can use discussion forums or tools like Flipgrid and Padlet to allow for student responses and dialogue during a set time period, knowing that students might not all be online at the same exact time.

9. Design synchronous learning experiences. When it comes to student engagement and learning, relationships matter as much online as they do in person. If FIS’ campus was closed, students in Grades 2 and up may be able to gather for synchronous learning times via Zoom. While the frequency will be dependent on the age level, making this possible will go a long way in supporting students in maintaining their relationship with you and each other.

10.Think differently about assessment. Assessment is one of the most challenging adjustments for teachers new to distance learning. Distance learning should be seen as an opportunity for students, individually or collaboratively, to complete writing assignments, design infographics, make video presentations, or complete oral assessments via video chat. Teachers are encouraged to think differently about the end goal to performance instead of forcing a traditional assessment method that doesn’t fit distance learning. Thinking differently about assessment will positively influence the experience for students, leverage the strengths of distance learning, and prevent frustration on the teacher’s part when traditional methods are not ideal. Expectations about academic honesty remain in place, but may require more trust and communication with parents to ensure that students are in the best position to be honest.