The Shadow of COVID
Kate Tomlinson, Head of Primary, Sri KDU International School
The monitoring and evaluating of teaching and learning remained a high priority for us when we first entered lockdown and the world of Virtual School in Malaysia in March 2020.
With a pending Inspection and a genuine desire to help teachers adapt their pedagogy, we spent a huge amount of time each day watching teachers deliver sessions (live or recorded) and looking intently at student outcomes.
As time progressed, we noted that we were learning so much more about our teachers and the learning taking place with our students than we had ever truly known before. Watching the teachers in short snippets and seeing children’s learning across all subjects in the learning platform was enlightening and revealing in ways that our previous monitoring (namely book scrutiny, scheduled drop-ins and lesson observations) never was.
The staff became very used to us being present in live sessions and we were always welcomed as being supportive rather than perceived as ‘watchful’ or ‘threatening’. Once we returned to school (albeit briefly!) in August 2020, we felt we had learnt so much about our teachers and our children by doing these informal drop ins and instant feedback sessions that we did not want to return to our normal cycle of monitoring with formal drop ins and lesson observations.As a result we introduced the ‘Student Shadow’.
Two students each half term are allocated to each SLT member by the Deputy Headteacher following her progress conversations with teachers. In our small Primary, this means that 6 students are ‘shadowed’ each half term. This would amount to 36 over the academic year. The 2 allocated students are ‘shadowed’ on two days chosen by the SLT member and their learning behaviours and outcomes observed in each of their lessons.
As a ‘high heeled shoe fan’, the Student Shadow days are always days for flat footwear as they involve moving from place to place and ‘hopping’ between classes / rooms in order to observe both of the allocated students simultaneously.
At the end of the two days, we feedback to staff via email in just a few sentences about what we saw and noticed about the student; offering recommendations for how their learning experience and outcomes might be improved. In some cases, we look at data on record and triangulate this with other things, for instance, wellbeing concerns / report. We also feedback to teachers anything we observed which we thought was outstanding or effective practice and publish this to all staff in our whole staff communications.
Benefits of the Student Shadow in comparison to more traditional monitoring strategies:
1. The monitoring focus firmly shifts to learning rather than teaching. It is non-threatening to staff since the feedback is always about how we can help student learn better.
2. Teachers are less anxious and nervous and welcome the Shadow as a form of support to ensure children are getting what they really need from our provision.
3. Whilst the Student Shadow days are intense, it affords us the opportunity to observe a large number of teachers over a short period of time. Formal / lengthy lesson observations have informed us less, taken more time and been less impactful.
4. The Shadows have given us a ‘child’s eye view’. Indeed, timetabling and the structure of the school day have been emerging discussions after we ourselves experienced what it was like for a Y2 child to have swimming, then Mandarin, then Music all in one afternoon or start their day with a specialist teacher rather than their class teacher.
5. The scheduled and informal nature of the Student Shadow allows Senior Leaders a window into true and authentic teaching. There are no ‘bells and whistles’ which we are all so used to seeing within prepared and scheduled formal lesson observations. As a result, feedback is more impactful.