Maintaining Special Character in a Hybrid Learning Environment
A special character school should be consciously deliberate about the learning materials they offer through their hybrid learning mechanisms and the ways in which these are offered.
Many schools with special character comment on the continual journey of getting the balance right between special character development and academic achievement when building the school culture. This is just as important when hybrid learning is being considered or planned.
This all speaks to the school really understanding its vision and purpose for learning and how the school’s special character is woven into this, as well as for staff working within these schools. They need to be able to break that down to what it means day-to-day in the classroom in order to transfer this to hybrid learning.
Deliberate Decision Making
Schools that have successfully developed hybrid learning programmes that maintained special character talk about being very deliberate in their choice of both learning materials and the ways these are delivered.
There is very conscious thought of the special character within this deliberation.
Special Character Knowledge of Released Staff
If a school is releasing staff to create hybrid learning ‘packages’ for other staff to tap into, it is vital that those staff have a strong knowledge of the special character curriculum at every level so that they can supplement this with the themes evident in the special character curriculum.
Prudent Consideration of Commercial Packages
In times of ‘crisis’ when people are having to plan and organise in different ways, there might be the temptation to just use other resources provided or sourced.
These need to be audited not just for teacher knowledge of the suitability for the needs of the class and individuals, but for teacher knowledge of the appropriateness within the special character which is meant to be developed through the teaching and learning programme.
For those that weave their special character throughout their curriculum and into every learning area, when planning hybrid learning there needs to be prudent consideration given to the use of any commercial or prepackaged programmes with careful selection of appropriate resources that match the particular aspects of the special character curriculum. Resources from
commercial sites or pre-planned resources from external sources are used sparingly, if at all.
Maintaining Special Character Rhythms and Components
If the special character of the school requires a certain rhythm to each day, then trying to maintain this rhythm is important both for students learning at school and students accessing learning remotely.
The special character is carefully woven into any hybrid learning planning and learning packs. If the rhythm of the day calls for nature activities, or creative expression opportunities, or Christian elements, then it is just as important these elements are woven into the hybrid learning materials as the academic learning.
A Catholic school talks of ensuring that there is a relevant Christian story in each week’s learning pack that is videoed when the teacher reads it at the start of each week, so it is available for both in person and remote students and that this forms the basis of a range of choice activities in their literacy programme for the week.
There may need to be some adaptations to the usual requirements to allow for hybrid learning.
One Steiner school, which traditionally does not use technology in the primary years, talks about using technology in the classroom to allow students at home to join in the ‘story telling’ session of each ‘main lesson’— a vital part of the special character curriculum for that school.
Another creates home learning packs that are handwritten in colour to respect and adhere to their special character that includes a commitment not to use printed worksheets.
Where might you start?
Questions to ask:
- What is our special character?
- How do we live this in a day-to-day way in our classrooms?
- How can we transfer that into our hybrid learning approaches?
- What adaptations and allowances might we need to make to our special character to maintain it in a hybrid environment?
- Do we have a way to assess commercial packages and other pre-planned learning to ensure it has a recognition of our pedagogical practices and special character content? Does it fit with our other learning packages? Are we consciously selecting materials that enhance our special character?
Whitehead 2019, Sabbatical Report: How we engage our senior College students in our Christian Special Character. Different types of primary and intermediate schools: https://parents.education.govt.nz/primary-school/schooling-innz/different-types-of-primary-and-intermediate-schools/