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A Letter from Our Director about Blended Learning

Dear Parents

We hope you are continuing to keep safe and well during this challenging time. As we have finished the first week of our online learning and have begun the second week, I would like to offer some insights, feedback, as well as the next steps in our online learning journey.

The first week was no doubt full of both challenges and opportunities for students and staff as they become familiar with a new learning environment. Everyone has had to adjust to new ways of teaching and learning and come to terms with not physically being in the same space as each other. Our initial feedback from students at the end of last week showed us that students were becoming increasingly satisfied their experience of online learning as the week progressed, with 2/3 of students who responded to our survey being generally happy with the online learning provision.  Obviously there are areas for improvement that we are addressing this week. Changes for this week include:

 1  A block scheduling of ’real-time’ class and group components, so that students can have contact with all their teachers without any clashes happening. 

 2  A requirement that all subjects have face to face contact time with their teachers each week – this may be whole group sessions or shorter small-group sessions.

 3  Clear instructions are given once per day, with large tasks broken down into smaller sections

 4  A clearer indication of learning objectives and outcomes for the week

In order for online learning to be successful, we want to reiterate the points we made last week. Please remember:

 1  Although learning is not happening in real-time, it is important for students to create a regular timetable for each day.

 2  Students need to commit the same amount of time to online learning as they would to a normal school week – so that equates to approximately 8-10 hours per day.

 3  Students need to engage fully in group discussions and forums to maximise their online learning experience.

 4  There needs to be a real commitment to independent learning and ensuring that work is completed and submitted for feedback.

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Why ‘blended learning’ and not video classes?

Some of the feedback we have received from parents has been in regard to online lessons taking place in real-time, with the whole class, as they normally would at school. Whilst this may seem a good way to proceed, research into online learning tells us this is not the most effective method for students to learn. For online learning to be effective, research tells us that a ‘blended’ approach is optimal, in line with the Dulwich International High School Suzhou Learning Principles:

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 1   There needs to be a clear understanding of the learning objectives and what is to be achieved for the medium-term, with clear small steps as to how the outcomes will be achieved. This could be outlined by the teacher in either real-time, a video of the teacher talking, or a written document.

 2  There needs to be a commitment and engagement on the part of the student, by showing they understand the learning outcomes and knowing what they need to do to be successful.

 3  There needs to be a presentation of the lesson with input, modelling, and examples given that may be in note form, PPTs, videos, or written materials.

 4  There needs to be a guided practice where students have the chance to deepen their understanding.

 5  There needs to be individual feedback from the teacher which provides remediation.

 6  There needs to be the opportunity for students to visit the learning in different ways, to practice, and to ‘talk’ their learning into place with their peers

What is clear from the research into online learning is that students will be successful when they can access materials that are shared in a variety of ways:

  • They are offered multiple opportunities to practise and share their learning.
  • They participate in their learning community and contribute.
  • They act on the personalised feedback provided by their teachers.
  • They engage with their peers to reinforce their learning.

It is very hard to achieve this with a teacher online talking to a class of 20 students for 40 minutes. None of these things needs to happen in a real-time context. Our teachers will continue to provide learning that allows all of the above objectives to be met to provide the best learning possible for our students.

What can parents do to support their child’s learning?

 1  About 5% of students are reporting technical difficulties, particularly resulting from a slow internet connection.  Good access to the internet is essential, as is a quiet and purposeful work environment.  helpdesk@dchigh-suzhou.cn can provide technical support.

 2  If your child is struggling to engage with the online learning or is spending significantly more or less time on the learning than they would in a ‘normal’ school day, please reach out to the Head of Year by contacting your PL.

 3  Encourage and support your child to engage with their peers both purposefully in online learning and also socially online.  Balance is important.

 4  Our PE and Life skills department continues to provide regular activities to support the physical and mental wellbeing of your child – please do encourage engagement with these, perhaps as a family.

 5   If you are returning to work, emphasise to your child the importance of keeping their focus when they are not being directly supervised.

 6  We will soon be carrying out a survey of parental opinions.  In the meantime, please continue to contact your PL with and comments and suggestions. 

We look forward to working with you and our students in the coming weeks to provide an optimal online learning environment. 

School Director
Campbell Douglas

 

Some examples of work happening with our students include:

An online small discussion group in Year 11 Chemistry:

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Direct responses to questions by the teacher in a chat forum in Year 11 Chemistry

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Speech preparation in Chinese with collaboration occurring in real-time online:

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