Maintaining the Integrity of Teaching and Learning Programs in these Covid Times

How do I ensure my online teaching has key elements of effective pedagogy?

After talking to several teachers in recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about how the integrity of existing or designed teaching and learning programs can be maintained and transferred to the online learning environment as we learn to live in lockdowns. Effective teaching will always be effective teaching, but I guess it’s about unpacking elements of effective teaching and then thinking about how adjustments to pedagogy can ensure effective teaching occurs regardless of the mode.

To reflect on what constitutes effective teaching, we have numerous sources that outline what this looks like. In the past 20 years teachers have been given a myriad of tools and frameworks for reflecting on and designing learning. This has included the Quality Teaching Framework in NSW (Department of Education, 2008) and Productive Pedagogies in Queensland (Education Queensland, 2002) in the early-mid 2000s. More recently we have had documents such as What works best in NSW (CESE, 2020) and Practice principles for excellence in teaching and learning in Victoria (Department of Education and Training, 2020). Recently, English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) effective school practices  (CESE, 2021) has outlined effective practices particularly in regards to EAL/D pedagogy.

Common threads across these documents include notions of student engagement through effective scaffolding with task design consisting of high support and high challenge. A key aspect of engagement and scaffolding involves the role of oral language and the consideration of spoken interactions between teachers and students as well as students with students. This also has implications for moving between whole class, small group and individual instruction. Obviously, some forms of online learning may restrict interaction, but many platforms will allow for opportunities for meaningful communication and collaboration through group work.

In terms of designing tasks for interaction, the use of talk about language or metalanguage is a critical element. Beside discussing features of texts, it ensures learning is focused not only on subject area content but also language and literacy features and demands, giving students explicit access to the curriculum. In an online environment, as with face to face teaching, careful design of tasks with explicit teacher modelling and ultimate handover to students can be developed with a range of tasks and a shift in interaction patterns over time.

In addition, inclusivity in learning environments as well as inclusivity in terms of both acknowledgement and use of the language and culture of students is also key for student engagement. Choice of texts, particularly those found online, should continue to be considered through the lens of inclusivity.

Explicit teaching and sharing of criteria also frequently features in descriptions of effective teaching. Clear learning criteria and feedback could be even more important in online environments particularly when a teacher may not be immediately available. Parents may also appreciate clear communication of what is valued in specific tasks or through a range of approaches aimed at achieving specific educational outcomes.

In the online environment, just as in the face to face teaching context, we have many tools, resources, strategies available to draw upon, however, the point should always be why we would use a certain strategy at a point in time. Some questions to ask in regards to maintaining the integrity of a designed teaching sequence might include:

  • How do I scaffold learning and make connections across days and weeks?
  • How can I best use opportunities for live sessions, recorded lessons and independent tasks online?
  • How can I use a range of tools to promote talk and move between modes of communication and develop collaboration?
  • How can I make links between reading and writing?
  • Which texts do I have available that would engage and include my students?
  • How can I work explicitly with texts to model reading strategies?
  • How can I deconstruct or unpack texts to discuss language choices?
  • How can I support writing so that students aren’t always writing independently?
  • How can I do a joint construction online?
  • For what purposes would I place students in breakout rooms?
  • How might I group students in breakout rooms?
  • Why would I have microphones turned on or off?
  • When would I decide to have cameras turned off?
  • How can I provide clear learning criteria and feedback?

Take a look at one of the teaching sequences, Interacting through Reading on the resources page. Think about how some of these questions might be answered in order to maintain the integrity of the designed teaching and learning. A new sequence is currently being sent to subscribers weekly. Subscribe here.

On 6 September a Maintaining the Integrity of Literacy Programs Online Zoom workshop will focus on key pedagogical principles for teaching literacy in conjunction with the demands of remote teaching. Register here.

In coming weeks I’ll look at ways to answer some of these questions by adapting existing  teaching and learning programs and adapting particular strategies.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2021), English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) effective school practices – school resource, NSW Department of Education,  

Centre for education Statistics and Evaluation (2020), What works best: 2020 update, NSW Department of Education,

Department of Education and Training Melbourne (2020) Practice principles for excellence in teaching and learning. State of Victoria: Melbourne  

Education Queensland (2002). A Guide to Productive Pedagogies Classroom Reflection Manual. Brisbane: Education Queensland.

NSW Department of Education (2008) Quality Teaching to support the NSW Professional Teaching Standards.




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