Applying the evidence to our remote learning strategy.


Sheffield Assoc. Research School

Feb 02

Suzanne Woodward our Assistant Headteacher, writes about how we are using the evidence around remote learning to develop our practice around teaching and learning. In this post she shows how our response has evolved to meet the changing needs of our students whilst remaining true to the research evidence.


When implementing strategies to support pupils’ remote learning, the EEF’s rapid evidence assessment suggests that the key things to consider include:

  • Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered
  • Ensuring access to technology is key, particularly for disadvantaged pupils
  • Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes
  • Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes
  • Different approaches to remote learning suit different types of content and pupils

Keeping these considerations at the forefront of our minds has helped us to focus on what really matters in our provision to the students – I will talk about how we’ve used the first and last of these recommendations to help inform our decisions about remote learning and what we’ve learned in the process.

Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered:

Despite the obvious need for training around the technological demands of online teaching, this recommendation clarified what our starting point needed to be - what do we want the students to learn, and how will we teach them this? Our remote learning provision gained more clarity and purpose when it was linked back to these core things. In the summer term of lockdown, departments produced simplified curriculum plans to outline to the students;

  • How teachers will help you to recall previously learnt knowledge
  • How teachers will teach you new knowledge and ideas
  • The activities that will help you to practise what you have been taught
  • How teachers will give you feedback on your work.

Example curriculum plan

Retaining this approach in the autumn term helped ensure that our curriculum for those working remotely was aligned with those taught face-to-face in school. With more of the big thinking behind the plans done, department time was used to review their plans, and to respond to the knowledge we were building about where students were at in their learning, taking into account the period of lockdown they had been through. Appointing a team of curriculum champions to help disseminate and share good practice about what was working well, allowed Heads of Department to focus on leading the plans, as well as responding to the increasingly challenging day to day demands of managing staff absence. The Curriculum Champions also provided additional capacity to support with using technology more effectively, tapping into their knowledge of the pedagogical context of each department area, as well as providing us with a team who could help co-ordinate feedback from the students to inform any changes we needed to make to our provision. We wanted to keep the conversations and priorities centred around those attributes that make good teaching. For this reason the EEF planning framework was a useful tool to help teachers’ frame their thinking as they were setting work.

Different approaches
to remote learning suit different types of content and pupils

With the January lockdown came the need to review our approach to remote learning again. From the first lockdown we knew that many of our younger students struggled to manage large amounts of work being set across multiple subjects every day. Through our IT audits of families we also knew that there were barriers to some students being able to access live lessons during the day. Students told us that live lessons were useful, but that they also valued independent time to get on with tasks and activities. For these reasons we adopted new schedules based on an adapted school day, to provide a manageable framework within which staff would set work, and within which students could access live lesson delivery each week across the curriculum.

As we worked to re-issue remote learning guidance to staff, we used the DfE expectations as a checklist. Coupled with the evidence, and the feedback from students and parents, we established a set of principles to underpin our approach. We knew that departments were best placed to make decisions about how to apply these principles to their practice to meet the needs of their students within the context of their subjects, so avoided a mandatory ‘everyone must do….’ approach.

Three examples of our approach mapped against the DfE expectations are copied below.

We’ve learned an enormous amount through the process of constructing and refining our home learning curriculum and do not claim to have a ‘finished product’ yet. There are of course other active ingredients, but we have kept the quality of teaching at the heart of our approach.

Guidance from the EEF:
1. Summary of resources and links from EEF
2. Rapid Evidence Review Summary
3. Home Learning Framework

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