However, it is not easy to teach to different groups at the same time, he added. “One [challenge] which we are continuously looking to improve through our Continued Professional Development programme, is with engagement. Live streaming to two classrooms, as well as students learning remotely, is a challenge in itself, yet our teachers are regularly looking at ways to engage all learners in all lessons, so that full participation is taking place on a daily basis.” His school has over 600 students in the Early Years Foundation Stage and Primary School, with around 150 students opting for remote learning.
Learning curve for teachers
Tech issues can be limiting
Rania Hussein, Head of Senior School, GEMS World Academy, Dubai, said engagement is especially challenging for younger students who are distance learning. “However, good teachers are able to work in partnership with parents to ensure that students are getting the necessary support. Additionally, IT can be a limiting factor, as in the case of many schools, their IT infrastructures are not significantly developed enough to accommodate the move to blended learning. Fortunately, however, at GEMS Education we have heavily invested in IT infrastructures before the advent of distance learning, because we believe that digital and blended learning are the future of education,” she added.
Hybrid makes bonding hard
This hybrid or blended model makes it difficult for teachers and students to bond, said Shani Janisa, a home science teacher at Gulf Indian High School, Dubai, who teaches grade 11 and 12. “We miss seeing all our students. In a hybrid model, it is more challenging to build strong relationships between teachers and students, but with proper care and attention, a hybrid classroom can become a warm, caring community of learners. We need to approach this work with patience and a growth mindset. The hybrid classroom provides a wonderful opportunity for us, innovating to create a great environment for student learning,” she added.
Though adapting quickly to hybrid teaching has been difficult, it has also “helped us all become better teachers”, said Nicola Steele, head of English and senior teacher, GEMS Wellington Academy — Al Khail. “I try to find as many opportunities for the full class to work together and share ideas by using technology so that it doesn’t feel like there are two different groups of pupils. By having the pupils at home interacting regularly with the pupils in school, it helps to remind everyone that we are all one community, even when we are separated by distance,” she added.
“The biggest challenge is making sure the pupils at home get the same levels of support and time with me as the pupils in school. I make sure to plan for portions of each lesson in which I check in with the pupils at home and give them one-to-one support and feedback.”