The Challenges That Come with Virtual Classroom Management
Kirsch says that classroom management can be a difficult topic because the name implies teachers must take on an authoritative role as a manager. While this may seem effective, teachers should actually work to find a balance between setting up structures for the classroom while remaining flexible and acting as a facilitator, which supports the idea of increasing student independence and ownership of learning, she says. It’s crucial for teachers to create boundaries and schedules during remote or blended learning, but they’ll also need to set adjustable expectations centered on students’ academic and social-emotional needs.
Additionally, teachers have become increasingly dependent on the support of families as students learn from home, which means school districts will also need to prioritize fostering parent-teacher collaboration. “The phrase ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ really rings true today,” Kirsch says. “For example, teachers need parents to learn how to establish good workspaces for children at home, which a lot of parents may not know how to do if they’re not around when their children are doing homework.”
And then there’s the technical side of things, which many teachers are still trying to get a handle on. Moving instruction online is a massive undertaking and involves the use of many digital tools, such as videoconferencing platforms and learning management systems. Yet 67 percent of educators said their teacher preparation programs have not adequately equipped them to facilitate online learning, according to a recent survey of 600 teachers conducted by Educators for Excellence.
To create and foster productive classrooms virtually while also encouraging student ownership of learning, take note of these best practices.
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1. Establish Structure and Expectations Early On
The reality is that schools are planning for an unpredictable fall, which means education will be in constant flux for many students. One way to help them adjust to that new normal is by helping them build routines and setting clear goals. Doing so can give students a sense of safety and familiarity, Kirsch says.
Some teachers have used platforms such as Google Classroom to display daily agendas and class rules, check in with students to see how they are feeling and keep parents updated with any announcements. Teachers can also post information about how they are grading work or providing feedback on these platforms so that students are aware of what’s expected of them.
Kirsch also recommends incorporating visual cues into online materials to better communicate directions to students. For example, a notebook icon on a presentation slide can indicate that it’s time to work on an assignment, and takes the place of a teacher directing students to take out their notebooks in an in-person classroom.