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The educational implications of closing the school – professional development of teachers is key.

Dr. Irit Sasson, head of the Faculty of Education in Tel Hai College and Head of Research and Development in the Shamir Research Institute

The corona pandemic has resulted in considerable disruption to educational systems worldwide due to school closure and transition to learning from afar which raises complex challenges for both teachers and students. Remote learning requires students to adopt higher levels of self-regulation compared to frontal learning environments. Students with high self-regulation are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and can effectively manage their time, resources and mental effort in order to promote academic goals. Absent such capabilities, it is extremely difficult to manage learning from afar and to meet the required academic tasks. An additional difficulty has to do with the emotional aspect of learning. Study from afar creates less of a sense of connectiveness and classroom belongingness than the frontal mode. In corona days in particular, learning from afar can also increase gaps in education and widen inequality in educational opportunities as the availability of computers for learning and the quality of internet infrastructure has a very significant effect on the quality of learning from afar.

The final paper published by the OECD refers to the impact of school closure due to the Corona outbreak. The impact described by the organization relates to three central aspects – harm to the throughput of the studied material, a rise in dropout rate and a negative learning experience which may lead to a decline in perceptions of capability and injury to the positive public image of the alumni. There is an urgent rising need in gathering comprehensive information about the academic function of students during the pandemic in various countries around the world and developing relevant responses that will narrow the implications, such as monitoring student involvement in the learning process from up close, adding in the provision of resources (such as computers and tablets) to students, and personal support. These recommendations are important for adaptation by every state, but the key to dealing with the worldwide education crisis is a rapid process of professional development of teachers.

Teachers have been required, at an instant, to move to a new and unfamiliar work environment. This change forces teachers to reconfigure all types of presences associated with their instruction: instructional presence (including the planning, orientation and explicitly making the instruction accessible), cognitive presence (which includes the cognitive activities required from the students) and social presence (which includes the social interactions which take place in the learning process). Some of the practices which teachers are accustomed in effectively implementing in frontal encounters have ceased to be relevant and must be replaced with new practices. The Zoom environment provides only a limited response to effective learning practices, and the teachers must adopt new and diverse technological tools in order to provide an optimal pedagogical response. In order to deal with the academic, social and emotional challenges that the corona pandemic has created for us, efforts need to be focused on the rapid development of a professional development process for teachers that will help reshape their pedagogical world.

The task is far from simple for the teachers, many of whom are parents to children currently homebound, must incorporate intensive learning processes in parallel to dealing with remote learning challenges. Teacher community practices groups may offer an effective solution in this case. Such communities will enable teachers to receive the support of experts and share colleagues in their experiences. It is important to encourage as many collaborations as possible with staff members expert in forming online learning environments from education courses in academic institutions. In addition, this is a special opportunity to examine the parent-children-teacher triangle, redefine responsibilities and encourage joint efforts to promote academic-educational purposes.


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