CfEM blog: engaging students during lockdown at New College Stamford

Blog by Ross Coupland, CfEM Centre Lead at New College Stamford, for the Centres for Excellence in Maths (CfEM) programme.

The lockdown in March, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, resulted in swift action within a short amount of time. It has to be said that our senior management team were very effective in notifying students, parents and carers that the college would be moving to an online delivery model. By communicating this message two days before college closed to students, it allowed key preparation of resources, including hardware, to support students as much as possible in the transition from attending maths lessons in college to attending maths lessons online.

The maths team quickly adopted a format where lessons and activities were published on a weekly basis. The majority of tutor time was used marking work and providing detailed, individual feedback. Equally, team members hosted online workshops throughout the week so students could go online for live support from their tutor.

Initial engagement from students was positive. We had good buy-in from learners and we were supporting those who had encountered barriers to online learning, such as access to software and hardware. It became apparent that clear and regular communication to students minimised disengagement.

Once it was confirmed that maths results were to be calculated and that only work completed prior to lockdown would go towards a calculated grade, engagement dropped significantly. Students were discouraged in completing work feeling that ‘it wouldn’t count for anything’.

As a team we were quick to address this, emphasising that engagement would certainly be effective for students intending to return next academic year. As a result, the maths team changed their approach and have been working with vocational areas to support learners in specific aspects of maths that enable them to complete their vocational studies. This process has made maths meaningful again.

On reflection, the lockdown has made New College Stamford review how maths is delivered and promoted new ways of teaching and learning. Such research is critical now as we all adjust to working in the ‘new normal’ and prepare for the next academic year.

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