Tag Archives: distance learning

How Can Educators Evaluate Virtual Student Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, educators commonly assessed student engagement using student self-report measures, teacher reports, and observational measures. These measures work for in-person learning environments where student participation and connectivity can be easily visible.

Now most teaching and learning occurs in virtual spaces, where instruction is delivered through learning management systems (e.g., Google Classroom) either synchronously or asynchronously. Teachers and school leaders have to engage students — and evaluate their engagement — in a remote environment with little formal or comprehensive training and often a limited ability to even see their students

There has been a great deal of writing recently about improving student engagement, but few resources provide guidance around measuring student engagement during remote learning. 

Based on a close read of the existing research and resources, and our own in-house expertise, Bellwether’s evaluation team is currently helping three clients to design and implement tools to evaluate virtual student engagement. While the measures themselves have not changed much since the pandemic, the uses and evaluation of these measures must adapt to our current realities, like many other approaches in education, to better serve and engage students and families. 

Here are two key considerations for educators and school leaders to keep in mind when evaluating virtual student engagement:

There is no one-size-fits-all model for measurement  Continue reading

“Making Sure Every Student is Seen and Heard:” A Q&A with Executive Director/Principal Ayanna Gore

Ayanna Gore is the Executive Director/Principal of Summit Sierra High School in Seattle, Washington. We interviewed her as part of our Promise in the Time of Quarantine: Exploring Schools Responses to COVID-19 case studies, released today. Unlike many schools that hoped to open their doors for hybrid schooling this year, Summit Sierra made the early decision to open fully virtually. I spoke with Ayanna about what they learned from virtual school last year and how they’re improving upon it now.

When did you know you would be fully virtual and how did that shape planning for this school year?

By the third week of June, we shared with our families that we were planning for a fully virtual online experience. If things changed (due to a vaccine or the governor’s recommendation to reopen), we would set up workstations where families could come in and get in-person support, while learning still occurred virtually. But we committed to a 100% virtual model for consistency.

This meant reshaping our entire new-student and all-student orientation. And for onboarding new faculty, we connected with them a little earlier than we normally do. We had conversations about things like computer/Zoom fatigue, so we built in natural breaks for a schedule that still meets our academic goals. 

It’s about community and making sure every student is seen and heard. That’s how we started our new student orientation. We flipped it from the traditional “here is your schedule, these are your teachers.” We started with every student hearing from our leadership team on our mission and our individual journeys and stories. New and returning students all got interviewed and had time to share their journey and their story. 

Can you share more details of that orientation? Continue reading

How Students and Adults Experienced COVID-19 Disruptions

Alieyyah Lewis is an intern with Bellwether’s Policy & Evaluation team.

Like many current students, I experienced disruption due to COVID-19. I’m a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, where I study Public Policy & Management. I was enjoying my spring break in March when my program informed us four days before classes were scheduled to resume that they would be switching to an entirely virtual model for the remainder of spring semester.

This was stressful and shocking. I was concerned with how my professors would switch to a virtual format, how assessments would be administered, whether my professors would provide my accommodations with fidelity, and whether professors would still hold office hours.

But unlike many students across the country, I did not have to worry about lacking access to technology to complete my coursework. I am fortunate to have reliable Wi-Fi at home, and even if I didn’t, my school’s academic buildings remained open for students to use Wi-Fi or printing services.

It is no surprise that students in K-12 schools experienced disruptions much more severe than mine, ranging from lack of adequate school supplies to homelessness. The findings of a recent national survey conducted by Bellwether, which I helped analyze, brought the challenges faced by adults who serve youth into sharper focus.

Our new brief looks at how leaders across systems of care — including schools, nonprofit organizations, social service agencies, juvenile justice systems, and foundations — supported special populations of students before and during COVID-19. Special populations of students include those within foster care, juvenile justice, or special education systems. The analysis sought to understand how time was spent on five priorities before and during COVID-19:

  1. Communication and coordination
  2. Education technology and school supplies
  3. Academic support
  4. Well-being
  5. Collaboration with other entities

Continue reading