Earlier in the week I posted the first half of my report from a parent survey I created that was focused on gaining insights into their remote schooling experiences. This post provides the analysis of the questions in the second half of the survey. Just to recap, 225 parents responded to the survey (with an additional 22 responding after I completed the part 1 analysis).
- 94% were Victorian, 3 % NSW, 2% QLD.
- 71% had children in government schools, 17% in catholic schools and 12% in independent schools.
- 63% had children in primary school, 35% in secondary school, 1% in special education school and 1% in TAFE/University.
What advice, suggestions or feedback do you have for teachers and schools about the remote learning experience?
Three major themes came out of the parent responses to this question:
- Explicit teaching
- Work expectations
Far and above, the most common suggestion was a request for daily video conferencing styled sessions being provided by classroom teachers. Several reasons were cited for this request:
- It would motivate their child more
- The parents can’t explain the work, it needs to come from the teacher
- They need to see and hear their teacher and classmates
- It is working for siblings in other classes
- It would allow their child (and their parent) to seek clarification and ask questions
- I can’t wait until our school start using video conferencing at least for a small portion of the day- the kids could really do with seeing their teachers and classmates again.
- It would enable the teacher to check in with the students
- “Have some length virtual class for each period, even if it’s only 5 or 10 mins, just to check in and explain expectations. It will somewhat remove the isolation.”
A couple of prep parents commented that 30 mins was too long for their class conference and a parent of a high school student said their son was disengaged in the class video conferencing sessions because all student videos and microphones were off.
Other video conferencing related advice included staggering the sessions across the day, coordinating with other teachers when these would be offered (high school) and having them at least once a day (primary school).
A final tip, for those schools who haven’t started remote schooling yet: “A video or voice connection on day 1 would have made a massive difference in the kids feeling connected and supported.”
There appeared to be three camps of thought for the most supportive way for teachers to teach during these times:
- Run a live video conference with students so they can explain the learning clearly,
- Provide work the children can do completely independently (allowing parents to do their own work) or,
- Provide supporting documents/info/advice to help parents to explain the work to their child.
Other teaching related suggestions included signaling whether a learning task was optional or compulsory and adding in optional extension tasks for those students and parents who want more work (while more work was requested by only 2 parents in the survey, parents were more likely to request work that was more relevant, appropriate or useful).
“Ease up on the work expectations” was the common thread here. Many comments were made about the fact that the circumstances were challenging for everyone involved and families were either close to (or already experiencing) overwhelm.
Several parents commented that students should not be expected to work for the whole day, or that fitting in all the set work was not possible in a single day. Homework was raised by several parents of high school students, namely because they didn’t think it was fair to expect students to complete homework after the school day had ended (considering they’d been ‘stuck learning from home’ all day already).
In terms of work expectations, there was a very clear request for much more clarity from teachers around how much work the students were expected to do, as well as clearer explanations for each of the tasks.
“Quality over quantity” was the request, with a number of parents suggesting that much less work be given but that the work given be more rigorous, with clearer explanations and supports for parents. One parent’s advice was: “Slow down, plan less, communicate personally more.”
Parents want communication to come early, be clear and all be housed in one place. They feel overwhelmed when they have to ‘trawl through’ different communication channels looking for information and have requested typed instructions to sit alongside any recorded video instructions (they find it easier to locate the instructions this way). There appeared to be a preference for all the weekly tasks to be sent to the parents at the start of the week, rather than being communicated each morning. (Having said this, I would encourage schools to do their own research to see if this applies to their clientele).
Parents listed numerous channels of communication coming from schools, with phone being the most common (60%).
Parents want consistency from schools and find it hard to navigate all the communications and expectations coming from different teachers within the same school. They would generally prefer one consistent form of communication (eg. email or Compass) with all the instructions, rather than a drip feed of information spread across communications and platforms (“Put daily tasks into an edited cumulative post on Compass – too many separate entries”).
The recurring suggestion was less work (“Please not too much work. Would prefer quality over quantity”) and lower expectations (“chill out and calm down”) with more support and information provided for the work. (eg. one parent suggested a parent cheat sheet be supplied for the work so they could correct it or know what to help with).
There were varying opinions on whether school supplied timetables were a help or a hindrance. Some parents appreciated these as they provided structure, whilst some found them to cause distress (especially for working parents who could not monitor their children all day). Very clear instructions on the expectations around the use of the timetable as well as permission to apply flexibility to the set tasks and timetables are needed. (“To remind parents and carers often that it’s okay to not get all the work done. That it’s okay to adapt tasks to your child’s interests if it means they will be more receptive/cooperative.”)
Finally, some parents asked for less teacher ‘jargon’ and more user-friendly timetables/ information. (“Leave the learning intentions for your planning documents.” “It has a whole new jargon, impenetrable to the average person.”)
Teachers should not be disheartened by the suggestions and feedback in this question as countless responses acknowledged the incredible challenge, workload, flexibility, time and support teachers have already invested into this new endeavour:
- Keep doing the amazing work but look after yourself, no need to set so much work. What you give for 1 day is enough for 2. You don’t want yourself or the students to burn out.
- I appreciate them immensely.
- How supportive they have been and how much effort they put in for our kids.
- I think they’re doing their best and we’re all still learning to adapt.
- I think they’re doing an excellent job so far.
- They are doing an amazing job in an unknown situation.
- We’re all in this together.
What support, resources or information could improve your remote schooling experience?
Overwhelmingly, parents listed regular video conferencing as the support that could most improve the remote schooling experience for both them and their children. This was followed by a desire for more clarity and examples of what teachers are expecting for the tasks they are setting as well as more contact with teachers in general. In general, these requests spoke to a larger issue:
It was clear in their responses that parents genuinely want to do their best to support their children (and help the teachers). They have a strong desire to ‘do the right thing’ but need stronger direction provided on what the ‘right thing’ actually is.
Parents want more information about what their child is expected to do in a task, what it should look like, how long it should take and how they can help. “Instructions need to be very clear otherwise it takes a LONG time to orientate ourselves (both child and parent) to what is being asked and where to find the material.”
Many parents referred to the provision of worked examples as a helpful tool to give them more direction. They believe that worked examples and clearer explanations would be useful for both them and their children and would eliminate some of the stress of trying to work out where the goals posts were for specific tasks. “Parents need to be related to as your partners. Learning at home is not the same as teaching a class- it requires a different set of skills. The teacher’s job needs to shift to one of supporting the parent as much as the student.”
Besides a handful of parents who requested access to devices or lessons on how to use the technology, other requests included school library access, better NBN and a live-in teacher. Oh, and one parent requested an electric cattle prod! (This same parent had listed ‘getting her year 9 daughter out of bed before 1pm’ as her greatest challenge so far).
Keeping in mind the incredibly steep learning curve everyone is on at the moment, (teachers, principals, students and parents alike) I believe the majority of support requests from parents will iron themselves out as teachers become more familiar with the tools and shift their role from assigning to teaching. This will mean planning less work but with more supporting resources (for students and parents), providing more worked examples and holding a tighter focus on the test of ‘is it reasonable, purposeful and sustainable?’
“School is not about keeping students busy with mindless ‘busy work’ activities – it’s about meaningful, engaging tasks that will support my child to grow.”
Traditionally, many schools write and distribute student reports at the end of term 2. What are your thoughts about this happening this term?
As expected, the thoughts were many and varied for this one. (Thoughts on school reports always are, aren’t they?)
There were those who believed any expectation of reports this term were completely unreasonable:
- Absolutely unreasonable to do reports this term, they will be meaningless and a huge unnecessary task for teachers
- I think teacher focus should remain on assisting students remotely and reports would take up too much of their already busy schedules.
- The current events will have an unknown impact on every child – academically, socially and mentally.
- I DO NOT want to see a report at the end of this term – that will reflect on my inability to teach!! Maybe we should send reports to the teachers telling them how amazing they are!! They have gone above and beyond imagination just to coordinate work, so that we can have guidelines.
There were those who believed reports were a reasonable expectation:
- Reasonable. Definitely outline the circumstances, good for their continuity and novel for their history.
- I think it is reasonable, by the end of term 1 most teachers would have a fair idea of how the children of progressing.
- Considering the kids are still learning, just in different way, they should have a formal report. It’s a way of showing them how society copes with this new normal; we just don’t write off a term or their work is not properly recognised.
- Reasonable, my son is applying for a sports academy for high school and they assess his grade 5 reports. If there are reports for some schools and not others it will make the application very difficult.
There were those who believed it would be reasonable to expect them but with modifications:
- Delay reports until the end of term 3. Take pressure off students, parents and staff.
- I want some form of report to know she is meeting requirements/improving. However I imagine this would look quite different and be more relaxed than normal.
- I’d appreciate a much simpler format that focuses on my child’s strengths through this difficult learning time. A more personal report than an academic one.
- I’m looking forward to one of my children’s actual work being graded rather than a perception of their behaviour/personality being the main thing my child is judged on.
There were those who believe that, like every other semester, they would be a waste of time:
- I’m not concerned. I don’t always embrace reports. My children are far more than can be summarised in an academic report.
And finally, there were those who believed that it should be the parents, not the teachers, providing the reports:
- I should do 1!
- No need for it. Teachers are working twice as hard to deliver remote learning. If anything, the parents could write a report on how they think their children are going.
- Parents should give one to the teacher and teacher provide feedback to that.
Comments aside, the number crunching on this question is in. Do parents think reports should be written this term? Take a look for yourself:
*It depends- (on year level, how they would be assessed, how long they will be remotely schooling for etc) “Still necessary in high school kids who have set learning and assessments to submit online. Not so important for primary school. Happy to give teachers a grace on this one.”
As an Australian education system, there is no doubt that we are in uncharted territory.
Reading through all 247 parent responses I have to say that I am completely amazed at just how resilient, adaptable, understanding, tough, determined, flexible and hard working the parents, teachers and students in our schools are. Even for those families struggling with the toughest of circumstances, their sheer resilience shone through in their responses to this survey.
Again, I encourage all schools to send out their own parent survey to seek feedback from your own clientele and work to help them in their contexts. Feel free to use or modify my sample parent survey. (Let us know how you go when you do survey your parents- let’s share the knowledge!)
Thankyou to all of the parents who took the time to provide their insights into their remote schooling experiences in order to help schools continue to do the best by their kids. Thankyou also to the very kind educators and parents who reached out to show their appreciation for my report on the first half of the survey, your comments made the hours worth it (although I am admittedly a massive data nerd so I did enjoy pouring through the data).
I’ve had a number of requests for a teacher version of this survey. I will send one out soon to the people on my mailing list but I’ll have to cap the number of respondents to ensure the analysis isn’t too time intensive (also I’m thinking I had better start focusing on the work I actually get paid to do ?).