Research School Network: What I’ve Learned from remote teaching and how it will impact my teaching back in the classroom. Nick Shepherd, Geography Teacher at Thornden shares his reflections on remote teaching

What I’ve Learned from remote teaching and how it will impact my teaching back in the classroom.

Nick Shepherd, Geography Teacher at Thornden shares his reflections on remote teaching


An understatement to start with… Remote teaching has been a challenge for all involved. Students, parents, support and teaching staff, all having to work in a completely new way to educate our students, whilst also adapting to the extraordinary complications of living in lockdown during a global pandemic.

The challenges of remote teaching are not the focus of this piece; however, I believe it is essential to acknowledge them from the offset for two reasons:

  1. To appease the reader. It would be foolhardy to plough straight into learnings of recent experiences without a nod to the difficulties that we have all faced.
  2. As a precursor to a point later in this blog. The challenges are something that I will come back to.

From a teaching perspective I know that remote teaching has differed slightly for us all. For context, for me it has been online lessons using Microsoft Teams. I have been following existing schemes of work and been using adapted department resources, which I believe has made the teaching and remote learning much easier through the consistency and familiarity that it provides. This standard approach has also meant that departmental collaboration during this time has been seamless, and is something that I am incredibly grateful for. This is not necessarily one of my learnings from remote teaching, however a point worth making is that I have found the established and robust standard practices, as well as working with experienced and dedicated experts, invaluable.

So, with the scene set, the question posed is…

What I have learnt from remote teaching and how will it impact my teaching in the classroom?

What I have learnt is driven mainly from the challenge of how to teach effectively without the norms of having direct access to the students. The remoteness of the situation has upped the stakes regarding the staple questions going into every lesson. E.G. What do I want the students to learn today? How are they going to learn? How am I going to explain this? What are the requirements for differing needs of the pupils and how are they going to be met? How am I going to assess progress and how am I going to excite the students about learning today? The challenge of not having direct access to the pupils has made these questions significantly harder to answer and deliver on. Have I answered and delivered on these every lesson? Honestly… no. However, I have been forced to think a lot harder about how to teach. My first learning therefore is a general one. I have had to consider student experience in greater depth, for example how to explicitly explain concepts. Arguably this is something that I should have been doing more of anyway, but remote teaching has forced me to try to resolve the challenges of remoteness, and is something that I will take forward. A lot of the practical solutions that I have had to apply are directly transferable to the classroom. If they are suitable for remote learning then I believe they will only enhance the classroom learning experience.

The rest of the reflections in this blog are really focused on some specific changes that I have made to my teaching practices during these times, mainly with a look at the ones that have had the most positive impact on the students. They are not ground ‑breaking and are no doubt common practice. However, highlighting what I can take forward has been a positive personal reflection process.

In the very first instance my considerations were on the simple things like explicit instruction, this rapidly progressed into the significant opportunity of how to provide the students the chance to self-regulate through explicit teaching. The adaptations that I have made regarding these points have ranged from, simple but standardised changes of resources, to increased explanation and reasoning regarding the learning, predominantly through increased use of the visualiser. I have also used quizzes and mind mapping tasks that activate recall and reflection.

I have recently looked at these practices in relation to the Home Learning Approaches – Planning Framework suggested by the EEF. It is reassuring to me to know that what I am doing is also advised by tried and tested best practice and has given me the confidence to explore my teaching practices further. 


Explicit Teaching

I have found that the challenges that remote learning brings has strangely enabled me to incorporate explicit teaching far more regularly during the lessons. I have been supporting students in thinking about how to approach certain tasks, mainly through the use of modelling using the visualiser. It provided the white board that I didn’t have, but more than that has put me directly in the resources and the tasks of the students, so that the remoteness was almost eliminated. I have consciously been explaining how I am approaching the tasks and why this thought process is beneficial to the students. This has naturally differentiated and incorporated metacognition development. I have found that the response in terms of engagement in the lessons when I have taken this approach to be significant, as has the quality of work that has been produced from all abilities. I have only received positive feedback from the students about how this approach has supported their learning. The reflection on the notable benefits to the students, as well as the increased experience and confidence in this practice that I have gained, will without a doubt result in me continuing to incorporate this approach into my lessons when I am back in the classroom. This is probably my biggest take away learning.

Explicit Instruction

Explicit task instruction is not directly in the domain of explicit teaching, but is something that I have found to be useful and will take forward. The changes made are simple ones, but I have found them to be effective in easing the students’ access to the tasks set. I ensured that every task was written in a text box on screen and was standardised with a yellow fill. These stand out and leaves no doubt as to what is expected. Every lesson is formatted and structured the same, so pupils have become familiar with the structure of the resources. Pupils have commented on how they find the lessons easy to follow and so would have the same effect in the classroom. This approach has also enabled some pupils to work through at a faster pace if they felt comfortable with the content.

Activate and Reflection

Regarding activated recap and reflection activities, I have used mind mapping far more than previously. I have taught mind mapping techniques whereby students have to 5‑minute Mind Map from memory key content from a recent topic. Any aspects or specific details that has been missed from memory are then included in a different colour pen by looking at their notes. This highlights to the student what they have learnt and also what sections may need to be revisited. The initial process of mind mapping activates pupils to recap prior knowledge and the second step of back

filling gaps from their notes enables reflection and self-evaluation. I have also been really pleased with the student’s response to this. I have received feedback from students that this has helped their learning and recall of a topic. It is a simple task that I will definitely use more moving forward. Another indicator to me that this has been successful is when it came to a large mind mapping revision task at the end of a unit of work, the students were familiar with the skill, and the quality of work produced was high.

I have also found that teaching quick mind mapping techniques in conjunction with low stakes repeat quizzing has really engaged the pupils during remote teaching, and is also explicitly teaching reflection revision techniques. I have only done this a few times but is something that I will investigate more in the future.

Positivity and praising the process of resilience.

This is a short reflection and the associated benefits are less tangible, but I believe that the positive greetings, enthused teaching and praise of the process of the student’s resilience in remote learning has helped to maintain motivation and engagement of some students, not all though. I have found that there have been increasing challenges with engagement in remote learning as time goes on. Relentless positivity is a tool I have used to try to maintain this engagement. It is a blunt tool, but to a certain extent, I think, an effective one. It’s a natural style that works for me, so I will continue with it and use appropriately when back in the classroom.

Reflection Conclusion.

Remote teaching has been a challenge. I have had to reflect and attempt to adapt my normal teaching practices to try to engage and enable progress of the students in extraordinary circumstances, as we all have. Of course, this has not been completely successful for me, in fact there have been times when I have doubted if the work that I am doing is good enough. There are things that I could have and should have done differently. For example, monitoring of work and feedback is something that I could have been a lot smarter at. These are things that I will consider and work on. However, the challenges that remote teaching created has pushed me to be more reflective and adaptable than perhaps I otherwise would have been. This is a factor of remote teaching that I have found to be incredibly positive. I do reflect on my teaching in the classroom, and I do adapt because of these reflections. Remote teaching has given me the confidence to do it more when some sort of normality returns.

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