PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG Week: Remote Learning: Far from Remotely Interesting by Leigh M. Tolley

Hello, everyone! My name is Leigh M. Tolley. I am a Member-at-Large for the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group (TIG), and have spent the past nine years as part of our TIG’s Program Chair and Chair teams. My interest in educational evaluation began when I was a high school English teacher and we had to learn and implement new interventions annually—constant changes that often seemed to be made without asking teachers what was working for their students. As Assistant Professor, Secondary Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette), I have a lot of great opportunities to work with educators across a range of experiences, from preparing preservice teachers, supporting those new to the classroom, and co-coordinating the UL Lafayette Mentor Teacher Training Program, which will have helped prepare over 100 teachers on their way to earning their state mentoring credentials as of this month!

Many things have changed in education over the years, but one thing has not: there is a lot that everyone, especially educational evaluators, can learn from teachers and what they do to improve student learning. This became even more apparent over the past two years as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted, and continues to affect, all aspects of our lives, including what takes place in schools and educational programs. As evaluators, we have had to revise and refine our approaches during this time, as traditional methods and data sources may have been stymied or blocked altogether. In my work with current and future teachers, there are a number of strategies and techniques that emerged out of necessity through remote learning in March 2020, have been adapted and used since that time, and have proven beneficial enough to continue using. We should consider these in our work as evaluators; some of these “lessons learned” are presented below.

Lesson Learned

Working with groups may be more beneficial when done remotely. So much of our lives have shifted to Zoom and other video communications platforms that we may overlook the benefits that they provide. COVID restrictions limited the number of individuals in a classroom; even now, visitors are much less frequent than they were in the past. Zoom, and the addition of technology like Swivl robots, has been a fantastic tool for us to conduct remote classroom observations, hold meetings with preservice teachers in their year-long teacher residency, and connect Mentor Teachers, University Supervisors, teacher residents, and faculty members. Those being observed tend to be less distracted when being watched through a computer or device, rather than a person in the room. As a result, what is observed tends to be a more authentic representation of what is actually taking place.

Lesson Learned

Accessibility is critical. For UL Lafayette Mentor Teacher Training, we now hold our sessions synchronously online, and can welcome teachers from across the state who do not have to make travel or childcare arrangements. The ability to record and replay sessions and use closed captioning in real time has been extremely beneficial for teacher and student learning at all levels. Even now in my face-to-face courses, I use Otter to live-caption my classes and provide transcripts and audio later.

Lesson Learned

Ask the experts! Teachers are the ones who have made a number of modifications to their practice in response to ever-shifting contexts, while always prioritizing their students. We should be asking them about what measures they are using now to evaluate their pupils’ learning and growth, and have larger discussions with all stakeholders about data selection, validity, and reliability.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our PreK-12 Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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