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Report finds Meriden’s online teaching exemplary

Audrey Zou, Shiva Kadarla and Maisie Buckle

When remote learning commenced in 2021, Meriden staff and students eased back into a well-practised routine they had perfected a year earlier. While the Meriden community has celebrated how successfully the School educates and cares for girls during periods of remote learning, the School’s online teaching methods have been recognised as exemplary in a report by researchers at The Evidence Institute and the University of Technology Sydney.

The Digital Learning Practices Case Study identifies the effective and innovative practices of Meriden’s 2020 online learning strategy. The paper aims to provide other schools with evidence-based practices to improve online educational outcomes for all Australian students.

Dr Julie Greenhalgh said she was pleased the School could share the hard work of its Leadership Team, Heads of Department and teaching staff.

“Developing best-practice approaches to educational delivery is collaborative and ever-evolving in a regular teaching year; in a pandemic year, the process of trialling, tweaking, reviewing and sharing methods that worked best online took on an unprecedented pace!” Dr Greenhalgh said.

“Our staff went above and beyond to adapt their teaching methods and strategies for online learning and our School’s collaborative culture ensured these methods, tools and resources were shared for the benefit of our students. Our teaching staff have demonstrated their absolute commitment to the continuation of the girls’ learning and to the maintenance of their general wellbeing and I hope some of the strategies that our experience and this report have shown to be effective can be of use to other educators.”

As part of their study, the researchers interviewed four key members of Meriden’s Leadership Team, conducted focus groups of teachers and students, conducted a survey of 150 Year 8 students and collected artefacts from the 2020 online learning period, including samples of student work and School policies.

In their findings, the authors identified that effective technology support and infrastructure assisted the seamless transition to online learning whilst a number of effective digital practices maintained the girls’ academic development and engagement. These included providing students with choice, ownership and autonomy in learning; using new media for explicit teaching; designing projects to enhance authentic learning; providing timely and purposeful multimodal feedback; and promoting interactions and collaboration through deliberate learning design.

The report points out that the School’s support of student wellbeing was an integral aspect of its online learning success. The authors identified a number of purposeful strategies utilised by staff that positively impacted student health. Some of these strategies included clear expectations regarding start and finish times and student feedback; the implementation of policies to ensure the privacy of both students and educators; formal and informal check-ins by teachers; and the encouragement of physical activity and seeking connections with other students.

Dr Greenhalgh said the magic ingredient in all of these practices was the fabric of Meriden’s community.

“Our pastoral care network ensures that every student is known, and adjustments could be made to meet the needs of each girl.”

She said the online learning experience has revolutionised the ways in which education is delivered in Australia and around the world. Meriden has embraced these changes, even in “normal” school settings.

“When staff and students returned to face-to-face learning last year, Meriden undertook its own audit of the online learning period and found that satisfaction levels about student wellbeing and academic performance were high amongst staff, students and parents,” Dr Greenhalgh said.

“After extensive community consultation, many of the adjustments made for online learning were retained in the regular, face-to-face learning environment because they were so effective at enhancing the student experience. We are proud to be at the forefront of educational design and delivery and we relish the opportunity to continue to reflect on our practices. The Evidence Institute/UTS report is a welcome addition to our reflective process and I am sure there will be many more lessons from the 2021 remote learning period that we will examine in the future.”

Read the Digital Learning Practices Case Study on the Association of Independent Schools’ website.

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