While George School is planning to return to in-person learning in the fall, the faculty are still taking measures to be prepared for the possibility of a return to online/remote learning as the COVID crisis continues. Director of Professional Development and Evaluation Meredith Alford ’01 put together a special professional development program for George School teachers to participate in this summer to help meet these needs.
All of George School faculty members will complete an online course entitled Modern Classroom Essentials that is geared toward creating high-quality “blended” instruction in the classroom. The goal is to help faculty to incorporate “asynchronous” instruction in their lesson plans. Blended learning refers to learning both in and outside of the classroom.
“Blended learning seemed like the best option for preparing teachers with a flexible pedagogy conducive to both in-person and remote learning structures,” said Meredith. She added that surveyed students showed a preference for recorded video instruction when it came to asynchronous remote learning, so they wanted to pick a program that would support teachers in making high-quality instructional videos.
Faculty are working in cohorts made up of six teachers, each from a different academic department, allowing for interdisciplinary discussions. Meredith pointed to a variety of advantages that this arrangement presents. She stressed how teachers within the same department are familiar with the same material and teaching strategies while having teachers from a variety of departments better mimics what the experience will be like for students. It also may highlight common interests among teachers that they did not know they shared previously.
“Now, more than ever, I think we need to feel connected to one another and close to our community members,” she said. “Working together in this capacity helps us understand what we are all working on so we know more about each other and our whole academic program.”
This structure also allows for teachers to watch videos together, complete an assignment relating to their own classes, and then share them with one another. Topics that will be covered include teaching and grading for mastery and using EdPuzzle to create self-paced assignments. After completing the course, department heads will hold virtual retreats to share their findings in their interdisciplinary cohorts with each other. All the cohorts will also post their reflections on different units within the course to share with the rest of the faculty.
This strategy of interdisciplinary learning is one that George School not only promotes for its faculty but for students as well. Meredith has said that the commitment of the faculty to this program “demonstrates how much our faculty want to serve their students to the best of their ability and want to learn new tools and tricks for teaching under the necessary circumstances.”