COVID-19 Puts a Strain on an Already Scarce Resource – Time
Every instructional minute is precious. You have diverse learners needing to learn a lot of material in a short time. Hybrid and remote learning has amplified the challenge of optimizing instructional time. Routines such as taking attendance, cleaning, and checking for understanding take a bigger bite out of instructional time than usual.
To make the most of every instructional minute, try these three steps:
- Analyze contact minutes to identify time spent on administrative and custodial tasks.
- Increase the time you spend on actions that promote learning.
- Improve the effectiveness of instruction.
Analyze Contact Minutes to Identify Time Spent on Administrative and Custodial Tasks
Think about each minute you are with students. You want to streamline everything you do that is not tied to students learning. Use a simple accounting method to code your daily tasks by whether or not it advances student learning.
Use these notations for each routine task – PL for Promotes Learning, and AC for Administrative and Custodial. For example, taking attendance and approving bathroom visits are Administrative and Custodial, whereas Promote Learning would be for direct instruction and facilitating a class discussion.
Next, use the PL and AC codes to track how many minutes per hour you spend on tasks not tied to student learning. Simultaneously tracking and teaching would be challenging, if not impossible. Enlist the help of your colleagues. You and a colleague could use planning periods to help each other, or you could request an instructional coach to observe and track.
You may even ask students to observe and track. If you have young remote learners, their caregivers could help. Remote learners and their caregivers will have a different perspective on how much time is devoted to non-learning activities than you do. Asking for their observations will give you a more robust understanding of what you do not see.
Using eWalk would make gathering and analyzing the information manageable. eWalk is a flexible cloud-based app designed to help educators improve instruction by organizing observational data.
Increase the Time you Spend on Actions that Promote Learning
After getting a clear understanding of how you spend your contact minutes, try to streamline AC tasks. Every minute that you convert from an AC to a PL helps students stay engaged and learn more. Even modest improvements add up. Assuming 180 days of instruction, if you convert five minutes per day from AC to PC, your students receive 15 hours more hours of instruction in a year. Think of what your students could learn in 15 extra hours!
To take your spirit of improvement to the next level, involve the whole school. Ask school leaders to create an eWalk survey of the staff. This second survey will gather ideas about what other teachers do to reduce time spent on administrative and custodial tasks. These surveys act to solidify a culture of collaboration, valuing time, and data-driven instruction.
You probably won’t be able to convert all your administrative and custodial minutes. Set up ways for students to engage in independent learning during these times. When you must complete administrative and custodial duties, try one of these independent activities: reading, writing, completing emotional check-ins, doing warm-up exercises, and taking quick formative assessments. Castle Learning, eDoctrina, and edInsight offer easy cloud-based assessment tools that work equally well for remote and in-person learners.
Improve the Effectiveness of Instructional Time
After increasing instructional minutes, you will want to make the most of those minutes. The following ideas will help you improve the effectiveness of each instructional minute.
- Plan your lessons to address specific learning outcomes using the district curriculum and state standards. A curriculum that is hard to access and transfer into planning makes identifying the desired learning outcomes challenging. Administrators can help teachers by providing easy to use curriculum and planning tools. edInsight software makes the curriculum more accessible and user friendly to facilitate setting goals, lesson planning, and collaborating.
- Assess frequently to use data-driven instruction. Computer-based assessments make monitoring students’ progress easier. Not only are computer-based assessments easier to create and administer, but the data organization is also far superior to paper and pencil tests. You will have a better understanding of students’ level of mastery. You will then know how to differentiate instruction and choose lessons that address student needs. Targeted instruction advances your students toward meeting and exceeding the standards.
- Use a dashboard to create groups for remediation and acceleration. Students get more value from their class time when instruction targets their specific needs. Student dashboards, like those from edInsight and eDoctrina, make differentiating instruction easier because you see at a glance where each student needs support.
- Use individualized learning apps to take advantage of downtime. Students who work faster than their peers often get bored waiting for the next learning opportunity. Apps such as Castle Learning, edInsight’s Kandoolu, and others allow students to work on the specific skill they are ready to practice.
- Communicate with caregivers of remote students about how students are responding to remote lessons. Remote instruction adds several layers of complexity to getting feedback about student understanding. Many remote students fail to alert the teacher when they don’t understand. Teachers then lose the opportunity to address the problem at the moment.
Sometimes the caregiver attempts to help and has various levels of success. Other times, students wait for the teacher to notice that they are struggling. Asking caregivers for their feedback and suggestions will go a long way to solve this problem. Once again, eWalk would be a valuable tool for gathering and organizing information.
Putting it All Together
While making the most out of every contact moment takes some effort, the rewards are worth it. Consider a science teacher who has 180 student contact hours per student per year. First, streamlining her administrative and custodial tasks increases instructional minutes by five minutes per class. This change gives her students 15 more hours of instruction per year. Then, improving the effectiveness of every instructional minute by 10% is equivalent to adding six minutes to every hour of class. The students effectively get another 1080 minutes or 18 hours to the school year. 15 hours + 18 hours = 33 more hours of science.
That is an increase of almost 20% and enough time for students to learn a lot more science!