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Research School Network: Remote teaching that really counts Kathryn Morgan and Steve Farndon discuss what works when teaching remotely


Remote teaching that really counts

Kathryn Morgan and Steve Farndon discuss what works when teaching remotely

by St. Matthew's Research School
on the

As remote teaching becomes a new normal, many of us are now reviewing, refining and adapting our practice to make it as effective as possible. So our Research Associate, Kathryn Morgan, asked Ambition Institute Fellow, Steve Farndon, to share his summary of key considerations, based on research-based evidence and first-hand experience.

What do you believe the active ingredients of remote teaching are?


Remote teaching has many similarities with normal teaching and our biggest job is to work out how what we normally do in the classroom translates into remote teaching.

We need to particularly prioritise: communicating new ideas clearly and concisely to avoid pupil misunderstandings; planning how to check for understanding with students; and avoiding early failure when students move on to working independently. This last point involves lowering the initial level of challenge and offering carefully sequenced exercises to build pupils up gradually.


What are some of the barriers to remote teaching and how can we mitigate against them?

The biggest barrier to remote teaching is to manage pupils’ attention – how do we get them to think about the right things at the right times when we can’t interact with them?

If we’re delivering lessons ourselves either via live, or pre-recorded video, then we need to:

- Make sure that they’re physically accessible by using mobile first’ design (so all resources on easily visible on a small screen)

- Manage pupils’ attention by including regular pause points’ where we get them to complete an activity which focuses their thinking on the meaning of the material we’re covering

- Build in opportunities to check for understanding before they move on to complete work independently (this might be self-marking quizzes or exercises checked by the teacher via an online platform)

If we’re using third-party platforms or sources then we need to:

- Pick out the aspects of the resource that we want students to focus on (this will be driven by our curriculum priorities)

- Write some questions and guidance to ensure that they focus on this
How can we ensure that disadvantaged learners are adequately supported with remote teaching?


What advice can you give to schools as they operate a hybrid model of some teaching in school and some remotely?


With all remote teaching it’s important to think about the purpose that each phase of learning is fulfilling. Schools will want to prioritise their face to face time on the phases of learning where interaction is most powerful. This is likely to mean using time in school either to introduce new material and check initial student understanding, or to develop conceptual understanding through challenging application and discussion between peers. Learning at home may then want to focus on completing independent exercises. 

How can we ensure that disadvantaged learners are adequately supported with remote teaching?

Disadvantaged pupils don’t learn in different ways from other pupils, but they’re likely to face greater barriers to engaging with learning in the first place. These can include access to technology or pastoral barriers. Technological barriers can be partially addressed using the ideas mentioned above, however, the biggest barriers are likely to be pastoral. This is where school contact with families, and the relationships between pupils and teachers will be particularly important in encouraging these vulnerable pupils to engage with learning in the first place.

Steve had one important final point:

Overall, remote teaching – just like any kind of teaching – is not something you can get right’ once and for all. Teachers and school leaders are under huge amounts of pressure at the moment and so, in trying to do a good job in providing remote teaching for their pupils, they shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Even where you have to use third party or existing resources that you know aren’t the best fit for remote teaching, the decision to do this should be balanced against how else you can use the time you would spend rewriting them. This time may be much better spent on pastoral support, planning for September and looking after your own wellbeing.


For further information on making your remote teaching count see the webinar and further blog posts that can be found here: https://www.ambition.org.uk/coronavirus-response/how-teach-effectively-online/

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