One Schoolhouse's May 6, 2020, Academic Leaders Webinar on understanding the hybrid learning course standards and teacher competencies with Brad Rathgeber, Head of School, and Corinne Dedini, Assistant Head of School for Academics at One Schoolhouse.
Brad: Today, we are very grateful to be joined by Corinne Dedini, who is the Assistant Head of School for academics at One Schoolhouse. Corinne does amazing work creating high quality online courses for students around the country and around the world, and has done so for a number of years. Corinne is also the architect of the core standards of teaching competencies that we released last week for hybrid learning. So Corinne, we are very happy to have you join this webinar today and share your many insights with this group.
Corinne: Thanks, Brad, I'm really glad to be here.
Brad: I'm going to start with a question that may seem like even an elementary question to start with, but I think it's important given independent schools engagement with standards to begin with. And that is why are standards important among themselves for creating great hybrid learning courses?.
Corinne: We know that independent school teachers are high achievers by their very nature. They love school; they love learning; they are passionate about their subject area; and they care for students. So what standards do is they give everybody a lane to stay in.
By having a rubric, teachers can see exactly what's expected of them and they can have a really healthy structure to follow. I know sometimes standard seems like a dirty word in independent schools, but that's not true. For years, many different disciplines within our schools have relied on standards. There's great external metrics, for example with languages that help them know when students are on track and the different levels. And many of our schools offer AP classes or have the IB program. So we're not unfamiliar with how to use a tool like this in order to guide our development.
Brad: Corinne, one thing that I've heard you say as a follow up to that is that in the online world, we have to be significantly more intentional with our build, how does standards help us create that intentionality?
Corinne: This is where I think independent school teachers go off the rails the most Brad, because we love what we do and we're so steeped in the knowledge and the practices of our discipline. We have to take a deep breath when you're going to design for online or hybrid learning because you need to define backwards from what you value most.
When we designed these standards to release to you all, we took our decade plus of practice in separating how you design, from how you build, from how you teach. It's really important to pull those elements out because otherwise teachers wind up in the middle and they will end up with what our backwards design friends called the “car parts” curriculum -- where you have all of the car parts there, but if you're just teaching car parts, then you're training mechanics when you really want to be training safe drivers. So by designing backwards from the design elements, the build elements in the LMS, and then the teaching facilitation elements for how the year will go in this online/in person toggle, we force teachers into the structure that allows them to really honor their discipline, but still make sure that they're building towards the most important elements they want students to take away by the end. That they're safe drivers instead of mechanics.
Brad: So let's dive into those components a little bit, Corinne. Can you describe the types of things that we're expecting teachers to do as they're designing, building, and getting ready to teach or facilitate great courses this fall?
Corinne: The rubric is really designed to help teachers find efficiencies and effectiveness. We know that independent school teachers tend to always look to find the very best thing, and sometimes they can get mired in a myriad of decisions. And, you know, we know there's so many things available to them right now. We wanted to provide a tool that helped them narrow down what decisions do I need to make in order to build these hybrid courses? That's the design portion of the standards. It starts with the sufficient practices that help teachers hone in on what should be the ultimate outcomes. And independent school teachers aren't always used to thinking that way, but we know that in a hybrid environment, they need to start with who you are as a school. So those design decisions that are made early on in preparing for next year are really about how do we bring our school culture to life and infuse that into our courses.Then it drills down into what are the pedagogical elements that we want to present in all of our courses. So the design pieces, I think, is the right place to start.
We've all worked for years on designing backwards from what's most important, but we've never separated it from the actual activities and how we plan those out in the classes.That's what this rubric is designed to force teachers to do, so then the second piece is where they get to make their curricular decisions. What things are they going to build into their LMS? How are they going to when they have the hybrid toggle? What are they going to reserve for in person? How are they going to ensure that students have a meaningful connection? How are they going to make sure this is sustainable? We're in this situation for a year. We want to make sure that no one's worn out. We don't want anyone feeling next May the way they feel this May.
Then the third piece is really for the long haul and in the teaching standards, what you'll see there might be a little bit different from some of the expectations that you lay out.There will certainly be overlap, but you’ll also see some reminders about communication has to be different and it has to be more intentional because if something goes off the rails in terms of communication in a hybrid environment, you can't be right there to clean it up so it can get bigger before an administrator can step in. So some of those teaching standards, I think, will really help you and to your faculty know how we make sure we're doing this well so that everybody, families, students, teachers, administrators are all having a smooth experience. Try to get rid of some of the bumps, make sure that you're thinking about the safety elements and the pieces that need to happen quickly or they're not going to be done well.
Brad: That’s a great point, thank you Corinne. So another question I have for you is that you designed these standards so that schools could add to them. The idea being that these are kind of baseline set of expectations, but that we'd expect the school to think about adding one or two to each one of the design, build, and teach standards. Can you talk a little bit about that thinking and what what a school might be generating in there?
Corinne: I love that component of the spread. This is a living document. It's steeped in 10 years of research from both the research that's out there on best practices in teaching and learning and it's also steeped in the work of Peter Gow, and the Independent Curriculum Group, and how to create culture through your classes. It's also informed by a decade of One Schoolhouse running online classes and gathering, intentionally gathering heaps of data from our teachers and our students. So I consider this very much a living document. Those are the ways that we add to our own teaching and learning standards every year. And so this version is paired down. It's not everything that's important to us at One Schoolhouse and therefore, there's space for you to make it your own.
I would think that when you are thinking about the design standards, the most important element for you to pull in are what are the pieces of your mission that need to come to life in your classes this year? And how are you going to support your teachers in making sure that culturally your school climate is reflected in all of your classes? So the design standards I would focus in on the mission alignment.
In the build standards, I would think about structurally what the student experience going to be like when they're in the online portion of the hybrid environment. So, for example, here at One Schoolhouse, our teachers have a template and they have to build in that template. I would suggest that you think in terms of what will all of our students experience when they go into a class and if one teacher’s in one system and other teachers are in another system, that's going to be confusing for families. So you want to think about the design elements that you want across the board.
Then in the facilitation of the teaching standards, the elements, you might add, there could be something around your own policies. What is it important that everybody do? This is a practice we have at our school and everybody has to meet this expectation or it could be something that is a little bit broader and is maybe an initiative that you're working on in your school that you want to see play out. I've been having a couple of conversations with different schools, who I know are using this opportunity to move a few pedagogical initiatives forward that they've been working on building towards and now they're going to take the next step. So they're going to be adding some of their own pedagogical values where they fit in.So there's definitely space.
Brad: Corinne, to that point, I think because the Independent Curriculum Group's work has been a formative place that we've drawn from for these standards, they do align pretty well to initiatives that independent schools have been taking on over the last number of years.
Corinne: Absolutely. As schools have been thinking about putting the learner at the center and making sure that the course outcomes really align to the most important practices of the discipline or the school. Those ideas all come from the Independent Curriculum Group. And I know a lot of you have been working towards more competency based practices. I also know that there's been a lot of work in independent schools in recent years on social emotional learning and making sure that we're creating policies and practices that help our students be healthier and focus on self care. And as we came to the end of this year, everybody is pretty worn out. So those are places, independent curriculum values that I know you're going to really want to emphasize with your faculty as you think about design and development for next year.
Brad: Some of you I know have seen this, but Sarah Hanawald, our Assistant Head for professional development, wrote a great blog piece last week about this and the tenants of independent curriculum and how they got infused into the hybrid learning design. I encourage you to look at that blog post when you have a chance.
A couple of questions have come in and so I want to start to get to those questions. Corinne, can you talk about why the design standards are different from the build standards? Often we tend to blur that line
Corinne: The build standards are really all of the decisions that need to be made for how students, and teachers too, will spend their time. So if you're in an extended online experience and if you're toggling between online and in-person, we just don't know what next year is going to look like. So our recommendation to schools is that you build for the online environment and then prepare to be able to pull different elements into the in-person.
In my experience with independent school teachers, they aren't always good at seeing the activities that they choose and so how students will actually spend, let's say, eight hours a week for a course, how students will spend that time. Teachers are not often targeted at how many of those hours or those minutes are spent accessing new material versus doing things that are more active learning. I think if you don't separate out how you're going to build, it's very easy to fall back on more teacher driven practices, whether that's lecturing why or whether that's putting up screen cast lectures. And there's certainly a place for teachers to draw up what they are learning, but you’re going to students to be more active in their learning in the online environment.
I think that was a challenge for a lot of teachers this year and so these standards are designed to help teachers really think about those eight hours a week. We don't want them either in person or watching a video for five or six of those hours. That would be tough. And it's hard to replicate some of the exact in-person active learning scenarios, so the build standards are really separated out so teachers can say this is how I'm going to set up active learning in the online environment. This is how I'm going to make sure the pacing will work to keep students on track.
Another piece that I think is really intentional in the part of the build standards in edu jargon is it will help teachers separate teaching their course specific skills from executive functioning skills, because we have to also scaffold students to learn well in a more autonomous way when we're building for the hybrid environment. The teacher's not over their shoulder all the time and keeping everyone on track and so our build standards are set up to really help teachers scaffold those self-management skills that also have to be taught in an intentional way.
Brad: Thanks Corinne. Another questions asks, Can we present these standards to teachers as a self reflection inventory so that they can hone in on areas of professional growth? Perhaps even broaden that out a little bit Corinne to talk about how we use standards and teaching competencies as a way to hone in professional growth with One Schoolhouse. That might give a good example for folks.
Corinne: OK, sure, I can do that. We built standards originally because we wanted teachers to grow. We wanted the teachers who came to work for One Schoolhouse to say this is the best professional development I've ever had. When a teacher says that to me, then that's a marker of success for me, because it means that I created the kind of structures they needed in order to set goals, recognize deficiencies, decide what they can and can't work on because you can't get better at everything all at once, and figure out how we scaffold growth for kids really well, let scaffold growth for teachers. So these standards really were designed originally in the One Schoolhouse version to promote teacher growth.
I would say the answer to your particular question is something that is an important practice here at One Schoolhouse. It may or may not be implementable at every school, but here at One Schoolhouse we separate teacher growth and coaching from teacher evaluation. And the reason that we do that is that we want to promote an environment where teachers can measure their growth, they can acknowledge and ask for support when they need help, and that they can feel like they're also being celebrated. They have metrics to warrant a moment in the sun at the end of every school year. And so when we think about teacher growth, we do separate growth from accountability. While we use this, we use our standards, and these standards could certainly be used as a binary checklist, our practice is that our teachers complete our standards break. They fill it out. They put in all the evidence. I don't review teachers by filling this out for them, nor does our instructional designer.
We help them identify where they're doing really well and where they want to grow. So I would say if you're going to use this as an evaluative tool, make sure that the reflective component for the teachers is really robust so that they don't see it as an external metric that is being imposed upon them, but so they see it as a useful tool to help them expose their strengths and deficiencies.
Brad: Our next questioner notes that teachers have not been trained to think/plan like designers. What are some of the most important curriculum or online hybrid design principles that they should know as they embark upon building hybrid courses?
Corinne: That's a really important question. And we know that teachers have found widely varying degrees of success and coming off of this school year. Some teachers are going to feel like, wow, I did good things out and maintain that quality learning environment, my kids had fun, they learned what I needed them to do. And other teachers are having a really tough experience.
I actually think that the question you asked, I would actually back it up and say this is a culture question for your school and how do you promote growth amongst your faculty? And that is probably something that's really important for your administrative team to tackle this summer. It's not that there's some secret sauce about how to build well online or how to build a hybrid. We've given you some structures here that will definitely get you moving in the right direction, but the heart of any independent school is who you are and what you value and how you support your faculty growth.
So I heard you asking kind of what are they? And I don't think it's the what, I think it's more the how. I'm backing up and make sure that your teachers feel supported? Do they know what to do in order to get started? Do they know where to go when they get stuck? Do they know how to not let it all become about the technology and have that be overwhelming? Do they know how to build solid relationships with students in person so that they can also do that online? And so I would take your question and I would back up to asking about real school values and how you promote and support teachers. Then you can dive into the standards and really see that I think the bones are there for you.
Brad: Another person asked a question that we also might want to kind of back up a step on. And that is he's wondering what some of the rules of thumb are for deciding what's best taught live and what's best taught online in a hybrid environment?
Corinne: Yeah, the standards are designed to be school wide and so if you're asking that question for French that's going to be a different answer than if you're asking that question for chemistry. I bring up those two examples because I think those are the teachers who have asked the most questions about what do I do about that precipitation lab that involves those hazardous chemicals? So there are some things where there's an easy and obvious way to do it online.
One of the things that we realized really early on at One Schoolhouse, is that introverts don't always participate in on-campus discussion based classes very well. It may be they struggle around the Harkness table, for example. Well, they can be class leaders online because everybody's pausing between every discussion board post and they have time to think and prepare what they want to say. So there are certain things that once you get your toolbox up and running for how to build online, you're going to find go really well and really draw out some of your kids and create community maybe in a way you haven't seen before.
Then there are other things that are admittedly always going to be harder. It's just not as fun to have the Cinco de Mayo Party on Zoom as it is to go to a little taqueria down the street with your class. When we think about the hybrid environment, we are recommending a full build, so prepare for just about everything online. And so how do you simulate all of your practices, but then be prepared that when, and hopefully the when is often, you get to be in person next year you're prepared to do those types of increase driven activities. Those types of things that the shoulder to shoulder collaboration in real time really is what makes the activity. So some of it's the tradeoff. Since some of it is just building up your tech toolbox so that you can replicate some of the best practices online. My question is, I guess, my answer is it depends.
Download the One Schoolhouse Hybrid Learning Course Standards & Teacher Competencies, here.
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)