Guidelines for Teachers
Distance learning requires a great amount of flexibility, planning, and patience from teachers.Many teachers have spent hours of professional development to garner best practices for online learning and hours spent on redesigning their courses. The following guidelines are based on research and best practices; they help provide a framework of expectations for teachers, students, and families alike.
- Teacher Availability
- Communication from Teachers
- Test, Quizzes, and other Major Assessments
- Compassionate Grading
- Synchronous & Asynchronous Teaching & Learning
Teachers will take attendance at the beginning of each class. Students who are not present will be marked absent. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if your child is ill or will be unable to attend class. We will continue to reach out to families if a student is not present for their class. If you plan for your student to miss a class or be away, please follow our usual procedures for a planned absence.
When distance learning is in session, teachers should be available from 9:00 am to 3:45 pm during school days. Email communications sent to teachers during this time should be answered within 24 hours. While some teachers may opt to send emails outside of those hours, families should not expect responses after 3:45 pm on any given weekday, and weekend emails may not receive a response until the next school day. Teachers will be present for students during the duration of each class meeting, meaning being online or—if the class has transitioned to off-line activities—being easily reachable through email by students in the class. Teachers have families and other responsibilities to which they must attend, so it is helpful to establish clear boundaries around communication.
Teachers will communicate with students via email and through the Remind service. Teachers should not share their personal phone numbers with students, and text messages between a teacher’s personal phone and a student is frowned upon. Parents and guardians, however, may receive phone calls from teachers on occasion, though these will usually be preceded by an email to find a suitable time.
We should not put parents in the untenable position of having to proctor or supervise tests, quizzes, and other assessments at home. Although honor code testing exists in many colleges, research shows that it is simply too much to ask high school students to navigate the moral and ethical challenges involved in completing high-stakes tests “on their honor.”
In order to strike a balance between authentic feedback and compassion for the challenges students face with distance learning, the faculty have agreed on the following:
- “Minor Assignments” should only be graded for completion.
- A “minor assignment” is often a formative assignment, or an assignment that helps prepare students for the more comprehensive summative assessments by recalling information or practicing skills.
- Examples of minor assignments may include homework, reading, problem sets, short paragraphs, etc.
- “Major Assessments” should be graded normally, though opportunities for redos will be provided.
- A “major assessment” is often a summative assessment, or an assessment that asks students to pull together and synthesize information and skills garnered from homework, class activities, and other minor assignments.
- Examples of major assessments include tests, labs, projects, portfolios, etc.
- Redos on major assessments should be allowed within reason.
- A redo of a major assessment should result in a higher grade and a demonstration of mastery; therefore, the higher grade will be entered into the gradebook.
- Students can only redo a major assessment if they have completed the necessary minor assignments, as instructed by their teacher.
- Any student can be given the opportunity to revise or retake a major assessment at least once, up to the grading cut off time, if the above condition is met.
Mid-Pen’s guiding principle is one of compassion for our students. "Compassionate grading" means flexible, differentiated grading practices that account for the individual needs and circumstances of each student. At Mid-Pen we take this approach to some degree ALL of the time, but distance learning calls us to practice this approach with greater intentionality. Compassionate grading is a compromise, and it requires being flexible and open. Ultimately, compassionate grading serves to acknowledge the effort and learning of each individual student as they face unique challenges during distance learning.
Ways for Teachers to Practice Compassionate Grading:
We encourage teachers to engage in these practices as appropriate for their discipline. Ultimately, we should all trust in the expertise and compassion of Mid-Pen teachers and know that they will engage in best practices for their students. These guidelines were distilled from research and the practices of peer institutions. The list is not meant to be exhaustive of the ways teachers can help support their students; rather, they are a jumping off point for the possibilities available.
1.Creating an equitable and open environment
a. Consider the many ways in which students are currently affected by distance learning. Not every student will have the same opportunities and challenges.
b. Understand that some students may find it difficult, uncomfortable, or embarrassing to talk about their situation.
c. Involve the Core teacher and counseling to better understand the student’s challenges.
2. Moderating standards and goals for learning in this quarantine context
Redefine what is truly important for ALL students to learn from your class. Understand that we might need to adjust timelines and teaching methods for equity; different students will need different paths to meeting learning goals. We must send the message that we believe they all can get there, and that we will support them along the way.
3. Focusing on giving meaningful feedback versus giving “real” grades
a. If possible and relevant, adjust rubrics to give more weight to process, and give real grades on content knowledge/skills.
b. Do frequent checks for understanding. Give informal oral or written feedback that gives students a realistic understanding of their skills and also encourages them to “stay in the game.”
c. Continue to offer extra one-on-one help. These sessions will also help you glean what students really understand, what they can do, and where they need support.
4. Offering opportunities for revision and redemption
a. Give students the ability to redo major assessments (e.g. retaking an assessment, doing test corrections, revising a piece of writing, etc.).
b. Extend windows of return on work.
c. Consider ways to honor student effort.
5. Offering students some voice in how they are graded
a. Assuming students have multiple assignment opportunities to practice skills and demonstrate learning, consider allowing students to choose assignments they’d like to be graded on (e.g. after students write 2-3 paragraphs, allow them to choose only 1 paragraph to be graded).
b. Invite students to reflect on the amount of effort—time, energy, creative use of resources—they put into an assessment, and how that should be weighed in the final grade. Have this reflection constitute a part of the major assessment portfolio, and include its completion into the grading process.
c. Give students an option at the end of the assessment to explain anything they know in the content area that didn’t show up on the assessment.
6. Differentiating late work policies for all students
a. Eliminate or differentiate late penalties, depending on student situation.
b. Make provisions for students who cannot get the work done.
c. Slow things down for individuals who need a longer timeline, even if that means they need to continue working/learning over the summer to finish an incomplete.
d. For late work that is no longer relevant to the unit, consider other ways to formatively assess the student’s progress.
“Synchronous learning” refers to any time a teacher is live on Zoom (or some other teleconferencing service) with students, or when students are in virtual breakout rooms assigned by their teachers to work together. “Asynchronous learning” refers to time when a student is expected to work independently, without the need for live interaction. Teachers will typically begin class with at least 10 minutes of synchronous learning, during which time they will take attendance and lay out the plan for the session. From there, teachers may continue synchronous instruction (giving a quick lecture, setting up breakout rooms, facilitating discussion, demonstrating material, etc.), or they may switch to an asynchronous activity (reading the next chapter of a novel, working on a problem set, completing a lab report, etc.). Regardless of whether the activities are synchronous or asynchronous, students are expected to complete their work on time as designated by their teacher.