Teachers adopt new in-person class structures

October 8, 2021

Even though students are now back in person, many are experiencing breaks from tradition such as “flipped” classrooms, take-home tests and online gradebooks, all products of how teachers adjusted their classrooms to distance learning. Last year, not only did teachers have to figure out how to structure homework and lessons without meeting in person but had to adjust to having less synchronous time with students.

Distance learning pushed teachers to use new tools that they hadn’t before, such as live online gradebooks. 

“There had been lots of discussion in the high school in previous years about using online grade books,” math teacher Joseph Scroll said. “We used it last year because it just seemed like the best tool during the pandemic.”

Mr. Scroll and other teachers have continued using online grade books during in-person learning. 

Many teachers have increased their reliance on Schoology to organize homework, class materials and grades. History teacher Charles Disantis said he’s used Schoology’s gradebook to allow students to access their grades at any time.

English teacher Darlene McCampbell said she was the last one in her department to start using Turnitin, a platform that lets students submit assignments and allows teachers to check for plagiarism. 

During distance learning, classes met synchronously just twice a week, so teachers had to adapt and rethink how to use class meetings time effectively. Science teacher Matthew Martino did this by recording lectures that students would watch outside of class.

“I lecture outside of class, and then you come in and you do the problems there. There’s lots of evidence that this is a great way to do it,” Dr. Martino said. “When you have a problem with some physics problem, I’m there and I can lend some expertise on how you might go forth on it. So that part I’m definitely keeping.”

Many teachers also adapted the way they tested students during distance learning. Dr. Martino allowed students to resubmit quizzes and tests as many times as they wanted. Students also had partners to work with on every quiz.

“The multiple tries on tests I know helped stress levels a great deal,” Dr. Martino said.

Dr. Martino plans to continue allowing students to retake exams and work together on some quizzes.

Mr. Scroll said that Calculus AB teachers will be giving take-home portions for tests that would usually have to be given during 75-minute periods. 

“We’re taking what we think is the easiest part of the test and making it the take-home part. The mindset there is we don’t want kids to be cheating,” Mr. Scroll said. “But the hope is, even if they do, it’s not going to really change the grade on the take-home assessment, and it’ll save class time, it’ll give us more time to do more problems and to just cover the course in a better way.”

It’s nice to have the long period math not taken up by a test. In my opinion I like having that work time. I always appreciated classes where I could get work done before I left.”

— Natalie Hultquist

Senior Natalie Hultquist, a student in Mr. Scroll’s Calculus AB class, said she finds the extra class time allowed by take-home portions helpful.

“It’s nice to have the long period math not taken up by a test. In my opinion I like having that work time,” Natalie said. “I always appreciated classes where I could get work done before I left.”

Students in Mr. Scroll’s calculus class will also only turn in four questions from the set they are assigned for homework.

Natalie said that in the past she struggled with staying on top of homework as it took her a long time to complete problem sets, but with the new adjustment that students are only required to turn in four questions, it’s been more manageable.

“I can work on the problems I need to turn in, and maybe as many as I can get done, and then go back to the ones I haven’t gotten done or focus on the ones I didn’t understand another night when I have less of a load,” Natalie said.

Mr. Scroll said he feels he’s returning to teaching in person with a bigger breadth of tools at his disposal. 

“Everybody learned a lot last year and I think teachers, students, every day was brand new,” Mr. Scroll said. “We’ll have to see how the year goes and how it turns out, and what happens, but I already feel like in this first week and a half that life is way better than it was at any time when we were completely remote last year.”

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