If there’s one thing that lockdown has highlighted, it has to be the power of online Teaching and Learning tools in a modern Blended Learning curriculum. In the CUC building both Studio and UTC have spent a great deal of time in recent years ensuring that students can access high quality learning resources, and never were we more glad of this work than when news of a nationwide lockdown broke!
Virtual learning suites such as the G Suite (which includes google classroom) are not a new concept, however the skill and frequency with which they are used in Teaching and Learning is key to their success. Student voice surveys have previously been utilised in the CUC to explore student perceptions of the platform, and this has been used to guide best practice and improve our usage of it. Across the CUC sharing resources via gClassroom is now accepted as standard practice, however a concerted effort across the two schools has resulted in us taking our use of the G Suite to a new level. The incorporation of other apps offered by the G Suite, and increasingly other external learning platforms such as Seneca and ExamPro, have been explored and offer powerful ways of providing feedback, monitoring engagement and progress, checking learning to inform teaching and analysing assessment performance to identify areas of strength and weakness at both the individual and class level.
In this blog I am going to share some of what I feel are the more powerful tools we have been developing the use of in recent years, and how they have helped prepare us for the ongoing challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to Teaching and Learning.
One of my favourite features is the google forms app, which can be neatly embedded into google classroom. This allows teachers to build and share online multiple choice quizzes that mark themselves, and instantly release the score to the student. It is also possible to build in automatic feedback, so in addition to a score the students get feedback on how the correct answer could be deduced. While this automatically marked homework seems like a dream already, the true beauty of it lies in the information that is subsequently available to the teacher to inform future learning.
For each question the teacher receives each individual’s score and answers, and a graph for each question for the whole class. I see the patterns of these graphs as fitting in to three general categories, as seen in figure 1:
- Category A – this knowledge is secure with the whole class
- Category B – There is a very common incorrect answer, which was built in to the question purposefully to see if this common misconception remained unaddressed with the class. As can be seen here for many of this class the misconception was an issue, and this allowed future planning to incorporate addressing this.
- Category C – a variety of incorrect answers often picked. This suggests a gap in knowledge, and again allows addressing this to be incorporated into future planning.
Once set up these quizzes can be reused with other classes and future cohorts. They therefore become an easily shared activity that not only provides instantaneous feedback to the individual, but also ensures misconceptions and knowledge gaps at the class level are addressed quickly and long before any formal assessment. During a lockdown scenario they can provide information firstly on engagement, and secondly on what aspects of a topic the teacher should focus on in online tutorials and future learning.
My second favourite feature is the use of gradebooks in google sheets. This can be used as a traditional tracker, entering scores for topic assessments as numbers for future reference. Taking it up a notch is conditional formatting, giving a colour coded view of the performance for each assessment. However the real in-depth information comes from the graphs feature, which provides an automatically generated bar chart for each student as shown in figure 2.
This graph is useful for both the teacher and the student. From the teacher’s perspective the blue class average bars can be used to identify weaknesses at a class level, allowing target topics to be identified. For the student, they can see where their individual strengths and weaknesses are and compare these to those of the class. This approach can be used for assessment scores over the course of the year, but can also be used to analyse mock papers. In the latter case the teacher can use the data to plan detailed revision sessions for the class weaknesses, and the individuals can then plan further personalised revision to address any topics that the teacher will not be planning to address in lesson. If this process is undertaken over a sequence of mocks or past papers, a cycle of identifying and addressing weaknesses will ultimately ensure that the students are thoroughly prepared for the final examinations. This approach will also highlight weaknesses in topics taught during lockdown, again allowing these to be addressed.
These two examples are just a small drop in the ocean of opportunities for improving Teaching and Learning in a Blended Learning approach. In the CUC building we are constantly striving to improve our use of ICT in the curriculum, and even recently developed our own Blended Learning Website to share ideas on how various platforms can be used effectively. This sharing of good practice and constant striving to improve undoubtedly had a positive impact on the experience of our students in lockdown, which has subsequently led to increased motivation to drive further improvements!
Teaching Leader – Science
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC