by the RÉCIT private education team

What lessons can we learn from the end of the 2019-2020 school year, this year which led us to adapt our practices and to do accelerated professional development? How can we take advantage of the experience of spring 2020 as a lever towards improving pedagogy in our schools? Consolidating and reflecting on what we have learned in order to draw lessons from it is already preparing for the next school year. The RÉCIT private education team offers you four main recommendations, drawn from its support during the COVID-19 crisis, which will allow you to improve your school's teaching practices.  

1- Develop a strong learning culture 

What is the learning culture?

The learning culture consists in making visible and highlighting the daily learning of students in a more meaningful way than what a numerical mark offers. It is in particular the culture on which we relied during the distance accompaniment because it was now impossible to measure the learning from a numerical note. COVID-19 has taken away the indicator most often understood by parents and students to measure learning: the numerical mark and knowledge exams. Learning in COVID-19 is learning to learn for yourself, because learning is important. Learning in times of COVID-19 is learning to be competent, to be autonomous through a work plan, to receive and take into account feedback in order to improve. It took a pandemic and the closure of our schools to highlight the relevance of the spirit of the reform.

Lessons learned in relation to the learning culture:   

The schools that have been developing a learning culture for years seem to be the ones that have done better. Why? Because students have developed, over time, this vision of learning for oneself and taking feedback into account with a view to long-term academic success. They therefore had a certain head start since the students had already learned to work without necessarily waiting for a grade to complete the tasks or to improve. Here we are talking about that phrase so often heard: “Does that count? ". Concretely, according to our observations during the accompaniments of the last months, the schools having had the highest rate of participation on the part of the pupils are those which knew: 

  • target the essential concepts articulated in a remote work plan; 
  • design and evaluate, with grids, skill tasks; 
  • review the perception of the role of evaluation: during learning in support of learning vs. DE learning;
  • give an important role and a place for error in learning;
  • give feedback and develop mechanisms for it to be taken into account by the student. 

Developing the learning culture seems simple, but may require several adjustments on the part of teachers, both in the design of teaching scenarios, in the animation in the classroom or in the assessment of skills. This change of paradigm in its environment requires strong pedagogical leadership that takes place over time. So, is my school in a performance culture or in a real learning culture?


How do I know where my environment is?

In order to quickly understand the state of the learning culture in a school, the RÉCIT team likes to look at the evaluation grids or explore the content of the learning portfolios used by teachers, because what is evaluated or what leaves traces is what is valued. 

If skills are not assessed on the basis of a grid, it is often that they are not really developed in teaching. Usually, therefore, this means that more knowledge is being taught. Evaluating knowledge does not necessarily require the use of an evaluation grid. There is therefore a need to support teachers in the design of tasks related to the development of skills and good evaluation grids that accompany them. 


For more details on this topic, we encourage you to listen to the STORY Live about pedagogical continuity or to consult this interactive infographic

2- Educational leadership and professional development for the benefit of the learning culture

COVID-19 and the context of distance education have made it possible to make visible educational practices that, in the past, were more confined to the classroom. In a context where teaching and learning are very visible, teaching practices are exposed and, as a leader, it is a unique opportunity to make visible the best within his team. 

Over the past few months, during its support in the field, the RÉCIT team has noticed that some educational responsibilities of leaders were in great demand:

  1. The first is to have, as a pedagogical leader, a very good understanding of the pillars of the learning culture and of good didactic practices in all subjects. This first responsibility requires devoting time to one's own professional pedagogical development in order to recognize and enhance the good teaching practices of its teachers
  2. The second is to guide the professional development of teachers. Developing a learning culture in one's school requires changes in the teaching practices of teachers. With all these changes required, guiding, directing and giving quality time for the development of your team is essential in order to counter burnout and professional dispersion, while the directives are often called upon to change. It is therefore important to target professional development objectives that may be fewer in number, but which will be the subject of rigorous educational monitoring to anchor the change in practices over time.
  3. The third is to propose and model effective and standardized work strategies, above all, in the current context, by relying on digital technology since back and forth between school and home will certainly occur. Changing certainly takes time, but having inefficient working methods or practices that have little educational impact requires even more time to be spent. Thus, we retain that accepting ineffective working methods, because we do not want to jostle teachers in the current context, is to show a certain “false benevolence”: being inefficient not only has a cost for teams and can therefore have an impact on the academic success of students, but requires more time in the long term than investing in a change of its practices quickly and then gaining it in the long term. 

Proposals related to professional development:

Focusing on the consolidation of solid foundations to unite its team around the culture of learning and counter the phenomenon of "educational dispersal" has many virtues in the current context: 

  • to rely on teamwork, on collective efficiency (collective efforts must go in the same direction), in support of learning will be a guarantee of success in the face of the many changes anticipated in the next school year;
  • give importance to the two complementary fields of competence that are pedagogy and digital technology. Take the time to identify your leaders in each of these fields;
  • plan and lead time for sharing between teachers to bring out and make visible the efficient and convincing practices that have developed within your teams. It is also an opportunity for each teacher to make their own assessment, to take a step back and to learn lessons from these last weeks of intensive professional development. Do not hesitate to take inspiration from this activity presented by Ron Ritchhart called "Give one, take one»To facilitate group conversations;
  • allow time for teachers to communicate to the next level the learning achieved during the pedagogical continuity which will be reinvested in 2020-21. 


3- Digital efficiency: being efficient and making the learning culture visible 

In distance education, digital technology has become the main learning channel. The schools that were able to quickly deploy an effective learning solution are those that were skilled with a cloud-based suite. Therefore, from the accompaniments carried out in the field since March 13, the RÉCIT draws the following lesson: change takes time, but maintaining inefficient working methods takes up even more time.

Change takes time, but maintaining inefficient working methods takes up even more time.


Lessons learned in connection with digital efficiency:

  • Use, prioritize the use of a cloud computing suite to: 
    • sharing of plans and resources among colleagues;
      • promote a certain standardization of technopedagogical practices for better collective monitoring in the current context;
    • accessibility to resources developed by teachers over time by students;
    • the dissemination, realization, recovery of work on the sequel which makes it possible to gain in efficiency;
    • the feedback given and its consideration by the student to improve;
      • What do you think of the feedback given?
      • What do you understand from the feedback given?
      • What are you going to do? What strategies do you need to put in place? What changes do you need to make? 
  • Ensure professional IT development: 
    • technology must be at the service of innovative pedagogy. So, before investing in an attempt to remotely reproduce the exact daily life of a classroom in attendance, we encourage you to consult these for thought.
  • Deploy technopedagogues at their fair value:
    • in the field, the team noted that providing “techno-educational” support to a team that has made significant progress in recent weeks will be a challenge since digital skills have developed at different rates. To find your way around, we offer you these 3 questions:
      • What takes the most time?
      • When do you feel less effective (what is more difficult)? 
      • What would you like to change, develop? 

How do I know where my environment is?

  • Take an inventory of the platforms used in order to prioritize and propose options available in a cloud-based suite. It will be easier for parents and students to navigate.
  • Draw up a portrait of the skill level of your staff in relation to distance education and their use of digital tools. Following this portrait, do you think that all the members of your team have the skills required to be efficient and autonomous with their digital tools in class and remotely?
  • Analyze the technopedagogue's mandates:
    • Are their daily tasks more in line with technical troubleshooting (role of technical services)? 
    • Does it carry out technopedagogical development in order to make the team more efficient from a pedagogical perspective of developing good digital practices? 
  • Allow the technopedagogue to plan and organize digital training for students and teachers:
    • What terms will be used?
    • Who will teach which skill?
    • When?
    • Where will the resources be for consultation?


4- Share the learning culture with the community to motivate students

In normal times, parents are important actors in the learning process. In a crisis situation, their support is essential in the management and supervision of distance learning. When parents understand the learning culture of an environment and are equipped, they become powerful agents of motivation and, therefore, of academic success. However, we must take the time to explain this new learning paradigm to parents, because they have never experienced this vision of school. 

Since the start of the school year and the entire school year will certainly be punctuated by twists and turns, working together with the entire school community becomes essential from the first days. To this end, here are some avenues for reflection that could feed the precious days of work with your team before the next school year.  

Lessons learned in connection with communication with the community :

During pedagogical days before the start of the school year:

  • collate and structure information in, for example, a reference website to avoid duplication of communications;
  • inform parents of the pedagogical link with the end of the previous year;
  • inform and train its community with the technopedagogical tools that will be used so that it is responsive during early trips;
  • support parents in their role according to the modalities of school organization (remotely or in person):
    • in taking into account the feedback received to motivate students to continue their learning, even at a distance;
    • in understanding the pedagogical strategies employed in working with students;
    • in the reinforcement and support, at home, of good work and distance study strategies taught, modeled and encouraged by the school.


Educational recommendations for the start of the 2020-2021 school year 

Pedagogical stowage 

August 2020. Students will return to the classroom having had completely different learning experiences since March. Some were able to continue learning from the first week of confinement, while for others, the continuity of learning took place differently. In elementary school, for example, some have returned to the classroom while others have not been physically at school for 6 months. If the diversity of learners was indeed present in our classes, COVID-19 will have had the effect of further exacerbating the differences. It will therefore be important to establish a pedagogical link in order to ensure that the students are able to master the content and be competent during the 2020-21 school year. 

For the stowage, it might be tempting to do a big block of revision at the start of the year, targeting only the essential notions of the year 2019-2020. However, experience teaches us to be cautious in this regard ...

Revise en bloc at the beginning of the year, that's what some schools in New Orleans did when they reopened following Hurricane Katrina. The results were unequivocal:

  • there was a decline in student motivation;
  • We observed, throughout the school year, a weak transfer when the pupils had to mobilize the pedagogical contents of the previous year (and revised en bloc at the beginning of the year) when understanding and mobilizing the new taught content. 

In contrast, other schools in New Orleans made a watermark linkage, that is to say that the prerequisite content (those that had to be seen in the previous school year) were addressed as they went along. as they were needed during the year. These initiatives were more profitable and had a positive impact on academic success according to the actors concerned. 

So, in order to promote motivation and transfer, we advise you to make a watermark pedagogical connection during the year 2020-21. This way of linking content is also in line with research in neuroeducation which suggests integrating the principles of memory retrieval (Masson, 2020) and interlacing (interleaving) (Cooney Horvarth, 2019) at the appropriate time in our practice. 

To achieve this, we will have to identify the prerequisite content for the content of the year 2020-21 and plan a time to teach these prerequisites again, throughout the year, at the appropriate time. This work requires collaboration between teachers of joint levels in order to identify the prerequisites necessary for the success and the state of mastery of the students to fully understand the new learning. As a pedagogical leader, it is an opportunity to center students' learning around essential knowledge and the links that unite them! In elementary school, for example, to fully understand the links between fractional writing and decimal writing, the sense of number and the sense of fraction must be well developed. One is a prerequisite for the other and ensuring that the first is understood correctly will save precious time in learning the second in addition to countering the development of persistent errors, always present in secondary school, linked to a poor comprehension. 

It may be interesting to come and examine these prerequisites 10-14 days before they are discussed in the classroom in order to be able to adjust your planning according to the students' responses. For example, if the teacher realizes that the majority of students do not have a good sense of number or fraction, she will have to spend more time in her planning in order to review this notion before tackling decimal writing. . 

A second wave?

We must prepare for another phenomenon: the closing of our schools or certain classes during a second wave. In fact, this spring, elementary schools in Quebec had to close certain classes when cases of COVID-19 were declared, sending students home. On June 16, 2020, schools in Beijing closed due to a second wave of the pandemic. In this sense, we must be agile and keep the structure, which we have developed over the last three months, resulting from the culture of learning and digital efficiency, because we may have to continue to offer services. distance learning, or even in a hybrid modality. We therefore recommend that you continue your efforts to develop professionally the elements resulting from the learning culture: 

  • target the essential concepts articulated in a work plan; 
  • design and evaluate, with grids, skill tasks; 
  • review the perception of the role of evaluation: during learning in support of learning vs. DE learning;
  • give an important role and a place for error in learning;
  • give feedback and develop mechanisms for it to be taken into account by the student.

By carrying out these pedagogical actions on a daily basis, your school will be able to offer a quality pedagogical service, regardless of the teaching methods. 

Editor's note: In addition, we invite you to read or reread the École branchée articles about distance education here.