The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive shift in education to a mostly virtual environment. Virtual teaching is beset with many unique issues and teachers have been rushed to find ways to support learning in a new environment. Many teachers have found it difficult to acclimate to this new environment due to the radical difference from traditional in-person methods of instruction.
Accountability is an important part of gauging teacher performance and professional development. Given the changing landscape of teaching to a more digital environment, it is more important than ever for administrators to develop strategies to hold teachers accountable for virtual learning. Accountability used to be tied to high-stakes testing, as was the case for the recently scrapped No Child Left Behind policy. However, the failures of that program have led institutions to seek alternate avenues for holding teachers and administrators accountable for student learning and outcomes.
The virtual environment has caused a shift in teaching priorities and methods of instruction. So we put together this list of 5 tips for holding teachers accountable for online learning.
One thing that is held in common between holding teachers accountable for in-persona and online learning is the need for student assessments. Student assessments help administrators figure out if students are on track to meet learning goals and where they may be falling short.
Most online learning modules come pre-equipped with a number of student assessment tools. Since assessment standards can vary from state to state and even from district to district, teachers need to take an active role in modifying these assessments to make sure they are meeting district-mandated curricula and standards. Modifying assessments also gives teachers a more idiosyncratic and personally tailored method to keep track of student progress through the course. This focus on individualizing assessments allows teachers to identify specific problems with individual students and take steps to strengthen those weaknesses.
A teacher’s responsibility is not only modifying assessments to meet unique student needs but also making sure students are abiding by academic integrity policies.
Make Findings Readily Available
One difficulty in holding teachers accountable for traditional in-person instruction is the indeterminacy of the kind of data that administrators gather. Ideally, administrators can look at education outcomes and connect them to teachers. However, this simple strategy is made difficult by the fact that students often have multiple teachers throughout the year, thus making it difficult to attribute learning gains to a specific teacher.
Online learning has several tools that can make this process much easier. Learning management systems (LMS) have a bevy of tools and functions for tracking things like student log-in times, time spent on assignments, assessment results, and much more. These kinds of metrics that are difficult to gauge in an in-person setting can be kept track of much more clearly thanks to digital learning tools.
The benefit of these tools is that they can provide a much more fine-grained analysis of teacher performance and how it affects student learning outcomes. Recording these kinds of metrics can also make it easier for teachers to see which areas of instruction they should put more emphasis on and where they are doing well.
One of the challenges to traditional accountability schemes is that they often gauge student performance off of a standardized test or in-line with a specific kind of teaching modality. Online learning gives teachers the opportunity to integrate several kinds of teaching modalities into a single lesson, such as text, video, audio, presentations, and more.
The benefit of incorporating multiple media styles into online learning is twofold. First, it provides students with a more multifaceted environment to learn in which takes advantage of modern technologies. Second, multi-faceted learning gives teachers a way to experiment with different kinds of teaching modalities to see which combinations lead to the best student outcomes.
One of the novel aspects of the shift to online education is that it has given teachers a new impetus to experiment with alternative teaching methods. This allows teachers to hone in on particular modalities that may be most effective for a given online learning environment.
Internal Accountability Is Most Important
Accountability schemes in education can be split into external and internal forms. External accountability refers to the imposition of rewards for good student performance and penalties for poor student performance. The exact benefits of external accountability motivators are at best, unclear. It is not clear whether imposing penalties for poor student performance and rewards for good student performance actually improve student outcomes to a significant degree.
Internal accountability refers to the specific norms, standards, expectations, and processes by which teachers operate. Internal accountability involves the recognition by teachers and administrators for the collective responsibility they share for improving student outcomes.
Learning institutions with a high degree of internal accountability show a large amount of internal collaboration and consultation with colleagues. Incentivizing these kinds of internal mechanisms seem to be much more effective w.r.t accountability than imposing external rewards and punishments.
One change in online learning is the inability of teachers to pivot their lesson plans when students become disengaged. It is fairly obvious that many students will become bored after several hours staring at a screen and it is difficult to apply strategies for student involvement for in-person instruction to the online sphere.
Online teachers should thus prioritize longer, student-driven assignments that give students a high degree of autonomy and clearly defined checkpoints and deadlines. Students should also be given ample opportunity to discuss with their peers what they are learning and how they are applying that knowledge.
Online learning is more than just a passing fad and seems to be here to stay. As more schools shift to an online learning environment, new strategies are necessary to hold teachers accountable for student outcomes. Online learning provides a new set of tools and avenues for administrators to hold teachers accountable for student outcomes and raise expectations for teacher performance.