The following blog was contributed by Clare Kilbane, Ph.D., a faculty member, senior learning designer, and Catholic school liaison at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Follow her on Twitter @ClareRKilbane
2019-20, like all school years, was chock-full of learning experiences. But, what was learned and by whom was dramatically different! The conditions of remote learning presented many new challenges for Catholic school students, parents, teachers, and administrators. But the adjustment each made to new methods, tools and modes of learning generated many powerful “take-aways.” Catholic school leaders who take the time reflect on what they have learned and invite others to do the same, will enable the recognition of some of the gifts of the COVID-19 crisis. Although the methods (e.g., interview, survey, reflection) and modes (i.e., private or shared) by which these reflections will be best generated will vary across group (e.g., student, parent, teacher, administrator) and context (e.g., type of community, level of school, etc.), the new insights identified are certain to be a blessing that will enrich an uncertain future.
Here are some of the questions that would stimulate reflection and growth for each group:
Students: What did you miss about school while you were learning remotely? Are there things you took for granted that you will value more when you return? What are they? What did you like/dislike about your remote learning experience? What was most memorable about the experience of learning from home? What experience(s) did you have while learning from home that made you feel a part of the school community? How did learning in a more individualized, self-paced environment work for you? Are there aspects of it that could be incorporated into a face-to-face learning environment that would benefit you? What made it difficult? What did you learn about how you learn? What works for you? What difficulties do you have learning? How did you grow in your ability to get what you need to be successful? What did you learn about yourself, your character and the unique person God made you to be? What role did your faith have in this experience? In what ways did you benefit from prayer or quiet reflection during this time? What other activities/experiences were beneficial to you? How might you incorporate all of these new understandings in the months and years to come?
Parents/Guardians: What did you miss about school while your child(ren) were learning remotely? Are there things you took for granted that you will value more when you return? What are they? What did you not miss about school or perhaps enjoy about remote learning? What would have helped you gain more reward and benefit from the time of remote learning? What knowledge, skills and others supports would you like to acquire to better support learning at home? What did you learn about your child while he/she learned from home? Specifically, what did you learn about his/her character, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses as a person? What did you learn about your child as a learner? What seemed to be helpful/challenging for him/her? What would you tell a teacher that could assist him/her in the future? What role did your faith have in this experience? In what ways did you benefit from prayer or quiet reflection during this time? What other activities/experiences were beneficial to you? How might you incorporate all of these new understandings in the months and years to come?
Teachers: What did you miss about school while remote learning was in place? Are there things you took for granted that you will value more when you return? What did you miss about face-to-face, classroom learning? What did you not miss? What did you like about remote teaching? What did you not like? How might you have been better prepared for this experience? What more would you have needed with regard to professional knowledge, skills, tools, etc.? What professional development would help you do better addressing social and emotional learning? What was difficult about planning, implementing, and assessing learning in this setting? What were the contributions of technology to remote teaching? What technology or skills were you surprised to be good at? Which do you need help building? How did technology affect relationships communication and community during remote teaching? What did you learn? How could this influence and improve future teaching? What will you do differently as you prepare for next school year? What did you discover about yourself, your abilities, and the unique person God made you to be? What role did your faith and prayer play in your perseverance through the crisis? What will you celebrate as you recover and move forward?
Administrators: What did you learn about the different members of the school community (students, parents, teachers, others) during this experience? What individual and collective strengths come to mind? What differences are there? What might be done to connect the community members in ways that strengthen and allow them to work together in positive ways? What were some of the surprises in this experience? What were some of the comforts or graces to be thankful for? What are some of the problems that surfaced to address moving forward? What will you do differently as you prepare for next school year? What will you incorporate into your direction and leadership for the future and what old practice will you discard or adapt for the new challenge of online schooling? What did you discover about yourself, your abilities, and the unique person God made you to be? What role did you faith and prayer play in your perseverance and success? What would you change if you were to do this again? What will you celebrate as you recover and move forward?
To be sure, the 2019-20 school year will be one long remembered. But in the future, maybe it won’t just be remembered as the year schools “pivoted” to remote emergency teaching due to a global pandemic. Perhaps, by engaging in thoughtful year-end reflection and incorporating the lessons of this analysis in planning for the future, we will remember this year as the one that transformed Catholic schools, students, families, and educators, for the better.