Snapshot of alternative learning models at secondary school
As the pandemic stretched into 2021, educators and students developed a new relationship with the term “pivot”. Never before had such unprecedented changes to education delivery happened so rapidly, frequently, and on such a large scale.
At the start of 2021, the cautious return to in-person learning had imposed a change for secondary students from typical 4-course semesters, to single-subject octomesters, where students went from four 75-minute classes to a full-day class of 300 minutes. This single subject cohort would limit the number of shared spaces and in-person exposures in the school, reducing the chance of COVID-19 transmission.
The full-day learning model of the octomester resulted in a co-teacher model for each class, with one main teacher and one support teacher. Teachers were able to observe each others’ approach, teaching, and classroom management styles, and learn from each other. This collaborative approach evolved into a new teaching support model based on schedule flexibility (e.g., the science support teacher was scheduled for specific times so the other teacher could work with targeted students). With online learning, the support teacher was able to support students in multiple classrooms and locations simultaneously.
An unexpected benefit from the full-day class was that, with one main teacher per cohort, teachers and students had the opportunity to get to know each other better and on a deeper level. Practical classes, like shop and science lab, benefitted from not losing time to transitions between classes with equipment set-up/break-down, cleaning, and changing rooms. As 300 minutes a day of some activities was excessive, instructors of classes like physical education had to revisit their approach and implement alternatives to traditional learning.
Lockdowns in the spring of 2021, prompted the transition for all students to virtual learning. Teachers and students alike quickly figured out how to effectively navigate their new online classrooms and stay connected while apart.
In the fall of 2021, secondary students again returned to in-person learning in a new model, a quadmester, with two 150-minute classes a day. The quadmester approach still limited the number of cohorts at school, while allowing for more variety of learning in a day.
When surveyed about their preference of quadmester or semester learning for the coming winter term in 2022, secondary students and their caregivers showed a decided preference for the quadmester approach. Multiple responses shared concerns over the current level of stress facing students, stating it was far better for students to focus on two subjects at a time, rather than be overwhelmed with four.
With each new learning model experienced in 2021, educators and students demonstrated their remarkable ability to adapt, collaborate and progress while learning together and staying positive through the pandemic.