CfEM blog: Remote student engagement – Lessons from lockdown

Lucy Hancock, Curriculum Projects Co-ordinator, Newcastle Stafford College Group (NSCG)

Too often, discussion about using technology in the classroom descends into stereotypes and hypothetical reasons for students behaving differently in a remote classroom.

Such discourse wouldn’t be worrisome if it didn’t impact genuine research into the differences between what works in terms of learning for one student compared to another, and the teacher’s understanding of how they can support them to learn maths in a remote learning environment.

As many FE Colleges will experience some form of hybrid instruction during this new academic year, any research on this topic couldn’t come at a better time.

Over lockdown last year NSCG and their 5 network partners looked at blended learning and their action research report to be published later this month provides a unique and often surprising insight into how students develop and change their understanding of what helps them learn maths.

For example, the results show that a key disadvantage of remote delivery can be the difficulty of students being able to ask for help, which for GCSE resit maths students is crucial. 50.6% of students who had a combination of face to face and online learning said they found it difficult to ask for help in online lessons. These findings were echoed by the teachers, who said they found ‘learner engagement loss’ was the biggest disadvantage to remote learning.

For students working asynchronously, 62.5% strongly liked being able to work at their own pace, but 46.7% of students said the negatives were that when they found themselves in need of support, they struggled, as there was no one physically present to ask for help. Some software e.g. Desmos, has been developed with interaction between the teacher and student in mind, and the survey reported 82% of students felt their confidence levels in maths had improved after using it in a flipped learning model.

The pandemic created a sudden, forced move to remote learning which could be said to have turbo-charged the opportunities to experience online delivery. However, as a result of this, in NSCG’s action research the majority of 16-18 year-olds said they preferred to have face to face lessons where there was a physical classroom dynamic.

The research results suggests there is an opportunity to better integrate technology into GCSE maths resit classes if we learn the lessons from what worked and what didn’t during the lockdowns.

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