Broadgreen Intermediate School
In this spotlight Broadgreen Intermediate School (BIS) describes their approach to hybrid learning which fosters ākonga and staff wellbeing first. It is also an approach that is sustainable and a long-term solution to address the inequities in learning when schools are not physically accessible for students (and staff).
Broadgreen Intermediate caters for approximately 560 Year 7 and 8 students, about 20% of whom identify as Māori. Students attend from five main contributing primary schools in the Stoke/Tahunanui area, and we have a diverse catchment. Our values for our learners are to be: Safe, Together, Achieving and Respectful (STAR) throughout their lives.
We reviewed our school curriculum in 2020 with the input from our students, staff and whānau. This resulted in designing our Broadgreen Curriculum Whāriki which captures who we are and what we offer on one page. The termly themes and the concepts we use for teaching and learning units also came from this review. Students are fully engaged in teaching and learning because our learning programmes are current and relevant to students’ lives, and the learning themes were co-constructed with whānau and students. In essence, the school wanted to ensure that the workload of staff was manageable and the learning of akōnga was not compromised during any future absences.
What we did
Google Classroom became a normal part of teaching practice
Most of our students and teachers were already using Google apps for their learning pre Covid and it was a natural transition using the Google Suite, particularly Google Classroom, when we went into the full lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. Teachers and students were therefore familiar with the approach and what online learning looked like. This was a reasonably easy transition and worked well while under complete school closure scenarios.
When students returned after the second lockdown in Sept 2021, teachers had to rethink their teaching approaches and as a result using Google Classroom became a normal teaching practice in their classrooms as they saw the benefits of continuing to use it. These include:
- Flexibility – differentiated learning
- Ownership – students having agency of their learning
- Context – class/home the same
- Authentic assessment continued
- Teachers communicating with students/whānau daily and enhanced relationships
- Parents have access to their child’s learning anytime, anywhere
Provided the same learning to all students (whether home or onsite) to ensure continuous learning
Towards the end of 2021 we identified the unique challenges we would face and assessed what we wanted learning to look like under the new Covid Protection Framework. We did not want any disruptions to our learning programmes and decided to continue the actual classroom learning into the virtual classroom rather than students doing ‘busy work’ while isolating. Teachers therefore offer the exact same teaching and learning opportunities to students in the class and at home so that students don’t feel they have missed out on any learning and assessments when returning to school.
Local Ministry offices offered workshops on hybrid learning and provided examples of current best practice and resources. This was used when formulating what we wanted hybrid learning to look like at Broadgreen. Our goal was to engage students in their classroom learning regardless of where they were learning from and make it as seamless as possible. We wanted students to still be learning the same concepts while at home.
It was important to support and identify whānau and households that did not have devices or online access. School devices were distributed to those students and learning packs for those who did not have access to online learning. Learning packs had the same content as online learning to support equitable opportunities.
Specialist Teachers – Technology, Art, Performing Arts, Food and STEM - provided challenging activities that relate to their subject area, e.g., cooking challenges, art competitions, building structures with household materials which were very engaging.
Support provided for hybrid learning
The school decided to release a teacher during Term 1 to support other teachers and facilitate hybrid learning to immune compromised and students learning from home prior to the surge of cases in the school. This allowed the remaining teaching staff to continue with business as usual. The teacher would start each week with an online face-to-face hui to setup the learning for the week, prepare them and address any issues. The teacher was also the go to person for whānau and students who were learning from home at that stage. Students shared learning regularly and included their classroom teachers, so that they were able to assess their learning and monitor progress. The teacher also acted as a backup when other teachers were away sick with Covid and could not facilitate their own classroom learning.
Collaboration, student voice and communication
Teams planned the term’s inquiry units collaboratively so teachers could share their teaching strengths and pedagogies. Student voice was also taken into consideration when teams planned their units. Our approach was communicated to parents / whānau so that they are aware of and able to monitor their child’s engagement in learning while at home (and at school).
Monitored student engagement
Teachers monitored student engagement through the learning and work that was posted online using the Google Classroom platform. Teachers kept a record and knew who was engaging and who the students were who needed additional support. Remote student engagement records were shared daily by the classroom teacher with the school’s attendance office changing the attendance codes in SMS to “Learning from Home”. Additional to this, SLT kept detailed records of students who were away either with Covid or as a household contact. This was used by the SLT to identify targeted support for vulnerable whānau and students.
Actions to support the wellbeing of all
- Ensuring staff/student wellbeing was placed at the fore by having a seamless transition between classroom and home learning, no additional workload for staff and in most cases business as usual even with the absences of staff and students. Using Google Classroom to do this was the most logical option.
- Parent/student anxiety during various alert levels was kept at bay. Students were aware of what they were learning, and learning from home became just a continuation of their classroom programme.Parents didn’t have to learn how to teach something they didn’t understand themselves. This helped to maintain strong relationships between home and school.
- New teachers and staff, that started in 2022, who did not know our Broadgreen Curriculum and the way we teach, were inducted at the beginning of the year, and placed in a team where experienced staff could support the newcomers.
- PLD was provided that specifically targeted what hybrid learning is and how to use Google Classroom to facilitate this.
- Intermittent attendance by staff and students, who had to self-isolate due to home contacts and also those who then contracted Covid, was not an issue as they knew that the teaching and learning programme could continue as usual.
- Workforce impact – the challenge of finding relievers to come in was mitigated as we were able to split classes and they could continue with their Google Classroom learning in any class.
- Teachers who are parents too did not have the added burden of having to run a separate programme when at home as online learning was just an extension of what was happening in their actual classroom.
- Targeting truant students / chronic absenteeism – we provided the offer of support from Whanake Youth (contractor) who went to the homes and supported families with their specific needs and broke down barriers to not attending or engaging in learning.
- Keeping routines and learning as normal as possible allowed us to tailor support for vulnerable students. Learning assistants checked in regularly with these students.
- The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) was able to continue with their usual daily business during the surge of cases with a focus on supporting student (including whānau) and staff wellbeing.
Reflections, observations, and learnings
- Schoolwide change in teaching and learning approach – a pedagogical shift towards a hybrid approach regardless of students isolating or away from school has become normal classroom practice.
- Classroom teacher-led learning programmes that were tailored to the needs of the students rather than having a whole school approach – teachers knew their students best and made decisions accordingly (learning and well-being).
- Student agency – students bought into this approach as they have control and ownership of their own learning, including when and how it is done.
- With the Covid disruption, teachers were still able to assess students’ work and monitor their progress. Students submitted work to teachers via Google Classroom to be assessed and teachers were able to give live feedback and feed forward.
- To start with, there was pushback from some staff as they thought that they will be doing “double work”. Some teachers thought that they had to “film” themselves the whole day so that students working online could attend live Google Classroom sessions. This prompted further PLD for staff re a Hybrid Learning environment and philosophies facilitated by “expert” Google Classroom teachers within the school.
- Sustainability of the teacher that was released to lead hybrid learning had a financial impact.
- Those students who are not engaging in the learning, continue to be a challenge. We have tried various approaches. Next step is to “delve” deeper to identify barriers by involving whānau and seeking further student voice.
“I post all our in-class learning on my Google Classroom for the kids learning while isolating and each of the pictures and items in the room are links to learning activities.”
“I put the maths learning up each week on Google Classroom. Pretty much any maths we are doing each day went up and most of the literacy too.”
“I could online check in my work tracker each student submission, and mark in real time, but having students needing me in the classroom meant they got more of my time. The class structure followed slightly different formats but had identical LI/SC and resources as the Google Classroom. SO Students could be in class one day and not the next and all learning was the same.”
“Easy to get to and was organised. I put finished work on the work tracker and could find anything I needed.”
“I quite liked it because it was easy to find and felt like I was still in the classroom at school.”
“It wasn’t that hard to find stuff. I prefer the teacher to be there than online work. I find it hard by myself at times.”
Where to next?
Staff are seeing the benefit in what they are doing and using Google Classroom is now embedded into daily teaching practice. As a school, we found this approach extremely sustainable and it did not add anything extra for staff. SLT focused on students and families who needed extra support in their wellbeing, provided pastoral care for students who were anxious, and supported teachers with disengaged/disruptive/unsettled students who were at school to ensure that they are successful as well.