Newswise — CU Demonstration School’s teachers share their tried and tested methods for flexible and fun online teaching to promote learning for both teachers and students in the New Normal

“Will schools reopen or will they not?” is an important question to which teachers, students, and parents are waiting for an answer. Though many are now quite adjusted to the New Normal and the new way of online learning, they can’t help but miss the classroom setting. The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, however, is still not yet really stable, so school opening on a full scale is a concern for many parties.

“We have planned a blended learning approach with concurrent classroom learning and online learning,” said Dr. Pattaraporn Jensuttiwetchakul, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs, Curriculum and Instruction, Chulalongkorn University Demonstration School, Secondary, explained the preparation for school re-opening on November 1.

                                                  Dr. Pattaraporn Jensuttiwetchakul, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs, Curriculum and Instruction,  Chulalongkorn University Demonstration School, Secondary
                                                        Dr. Pattaraporn Jensuttiwetchakul


Dr. Pattaraporn said that online teaching has many challenges. Teachers work harder, both in preparing the lesson plans, and the teaching that comes with the use of technology to stimulate the interest of students. The students themselves endure the same stress as their teachers.


                                                  Asst. Prof. Nawarat Sukwattanasinit, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs, Curriculum and Instruction, Chulalongkorn University Demonstration Primary School

                                                      Asst. Prof. Nawarat Sukwattanasinit


Online teaching will also be part of a New Normal, Dr. Pattaraphon and Asst. Prof. Nawarat Sukwattanasinit, Deputy Director of Academic Affairs, Curriculum and Instruction, Chulalongkorn University Demonstration Primary School recommend seven principles that will help make online teaching management more fun, full of substance, and promotes social skills and relationships between teachers and students.


1. Different styles of online teaching for different age groups

Students of each age range are different. Online teaching for elementary, middle school, and university students needs to be mindful of this distinction.

“Elementary school children cooperate well in the classroom but have trouble concentrating.  Older students are less compliant, but they are mature enough to be more interested in the lessons,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat said.

“Young children may not be able to complete the entire class period (50 minutes), because they find it difficult to focus their attention on the screen for a long duration.  They are only able to concentrate for about 5-10 minutes at a time, based on their age.  So, in addition to the lesson materials, the teacher may arrange some time for discussion, exchange of ideas, while working on something, and let children alter their posture to make them feel relaxed.”

For high school students, Dr. Pattaraporn said that most high school students are more active than junior high school students because they are about to take the university entrance exams. For middle school class management, teachers should focus on activities and games to make the children more active. Understanding students of each age group will help teachers shape teaching methods that best match the learning style of the students.


2. “Turn on camera” to build a connection.

Whether learning onsite or online, cooperative learning is a must.  Particularly for online learning, one of the  key rules is “to turn on the camera.”

“For example, a Grade  2 teacher would come to an agreement with the students first that she would like them to turn on their cameras, so the teacher could observe if the students are still interested in the lesson.  If the students start to lose interest and pay attention to other things, the teacher could guide the students back to the lesson,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat gave an example.

Dr. Pattaraphon added that teachers may use roll call to create the “turn on the camera” rule as well.

“Usually, at the beginning of the class, roll call is used to see if each student is ready to study. If anyone hasn’t turned on their camera or has problems switching it on, they can report it individually, so teachers can be flexible on a case-by-case basis.”

On encouraging high school students to turn on their cameras in class, Dr. Pattaraporn suggested that “if students are involved in learning and are familiar with online learning, they will turn on the camera willingly. It is important to make learning fun for the students.”


3. Be flexible, understand each student’s “home classroom” context.

The atmosphere of online learning for both teachers and students is different, depending on student readiness home environment, equipment, internet signal, and what’s going on in the home environment. Online learning must be “flexible” and focus more on talking and understanding each other.

“In this case, if it’s not a life and death situation, some regulations may be relaxed.  For example, students are not required to wear school uniforms. They can eat during class. Eating while learning is still better than to make them feel bad about online learning,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat said.

In addition, the class schedule must be flexible as well. “Students’ schedule is also important during online learning. Teachers need to be more flexible with in-class attendance and assignments than during normal schooling,” added Dr. Pattaraporn.

Importantly, schools need to assess the students’ readiness and accessibility to online-learning technology.

“Chulalongkorn Demonstration School has surveyed the readiness of its students and their parents on the necessary equipment and technology. We supply SIM cards for students to use the Internet to learn, as well as learning devices such as iPads or notebook computers for students and teachers so that they can manage teaching and learning at full efficiency,” Dr. Pattaraporn added.


4. Create a friendly atmosphere

Though students and teachers meet on screen, a friendly atmosphere can still be created for online learning. Asst. Prof. Nawarat suggested that before class starts, teachers should create a relaxed atmosphere on screen.

“Teachers should start the classroom ahead of time for the students to come in and engage in some small talk first to get  familiar with the students and learn more about their characters and curiosity that can be linked to the lessons to stoke their interest in the lessons.”

Dr. Pattaraporn added that “students become familiar with teachers when they do not concentrate only on teaching the content of the lessons according to the textbooks, but add stories related everyday life into the conversations as well. When students get to know and become better acquainted with their teachers, it is not difficult for teachers to capture students’ hearts and make them interested in following the lessons.”


5. Fun and Engaging with Active Learning

Online teaching should not focus on the lecture format, because students cannot concentrate on the lesson on the screen for a long time. What will help bring students back to the lesson is “participation.”

“Teachers should observe whether students understand the content they are presenting or not, by constantly asking students questions. If they are in front of the screen, and glance the other way, teachers need to use stimulating methods, such as having them read the problem to their peers, so that they feel involved all the time. Keep them guessing, when they’ll be called next,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat shared her experience of teaching elementary school students.

Dr. Pattaraporn added that teachers should always check students’ understanding, and create resources for students to research, such as class materials, recording the classes so that students can go back and review and research on their own.

“Sometimes in a 50-minute live online class, students might not get much, even when they give their full concentration. But if we give them exercises to do later, they will gradually remember what they learned that day. If they still don’t understand, they can search for more information or watch the clips. Good teaching should focus on hands-on learning.”

Dr. Pattaraporn also suggested that there are many methods of teaching and learning. Teachers should choose according to their aptitude and the appropriateness for each topic or subject. Most importantly, it is a method that is suitable for the students in that classroom.


6. Reduce homework, reduce exams, evaluate right to the point.

The things that put the most pressure on students with online learning are inevitably “homework” and “exams”.

“In a situation such as this, teachers and schools need to discuss online assessments, to not put too much pressure or burden on students than necessary,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat said.

Assessment and evaluation don’t only mean exams. It can be done in a variety of ways with the right measurement tools, for example, worksheets, or class activities. Exams can still be carried out but should be based on grade levels. If older students are accustomed to logging in by themselves, some exams can be given, but not as intensely as normal times to reduce the pressure on the students.

“Assessment and evaluation should focus more on the promotion of learning than grades and should be done during the time they are studying rather than at end of the semester,” said Dr. Pattaraporn.


7. Teachers must always adapt and learn.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has put everybody on a steep learning curve, especially teachers who have had to adapt quickly and always keep learning for their students.

Dr. Pattaraporn said that the Chulalongkorn Demonstration School holds regular professional development meetings for teachers and school administrators, trained by experts on topics such as the use of technology, video editing, and other useful applications.

“These training sessions offer teachers the knowledge they need. It is also an opportunity to exchange tips between younger teachers who are proficient in technology, and senior teachers who are well-versed in teaching techniques.  Sometimes students are more attuned to technology than their teachers, and they can also help teach teachers. Both students and teachers can learn well together,” Asst. Prof. Nawarat shared her observation.  

There are still many challenges in managing online teaching and learning, but if all parties involved help each other, students learning and skills development will never be interrupted.

“When teachers have to work harder to learn and prepare to teach online, the schools also support them by giving them more time.  For example, the schools may make adjustments to reduce the teachers’ workload somewhat, reduce certain activities or only have them attend only some particular meetings,” Dr. Pattaraporn elaborated on the ideas that would allow teachers to devote more time to teaching.


After all, the best online learning indicators are the students.

“Chulalongkorn Demonstration School tries to be open to students’ feedback and to always assess students’  stress level, to improve the teaching and learning efficiency as much as possible under many constraints,” concluded Asst. Prof. Nawarat.