Virtual Learning Action Plan for School Leaders – Key Questions to Support Students, Parents, and Teachers
Maggie Hos-McGrane
9 min read

I recently came across a post on Twitter that said “School is important during this crisis, but not as important as the needs of our families who are experiencing anxiety and fear as we develop our new normal. Our kids and families need us more than ever to model social and emotional learning before content” (@jaydostal). This tweet got me thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how it connects with the work that school leaders do.

Maslow’s Hierarchy has become ever so important in this context of teaching and learning during a global pandemic. While most school leaders have been able to reach out and support their communities during school closures, we need to continue to think of ways to provide ongoing support throughout the new academic year. During these uncertain times, school leaders will have to lay equal emphasis on aspects of teaching and learning and ensuring well being of their stakeholders. Here are some strategies that school leaders can implement to support students, empower teachers and partner with parents during these uncertain times.

Supporting Students

Through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that students will only be able to deep dive into learning when other needs have been met.  It is important for students to feel prepared not only for synchronous online learning, but also for asynchronous learning at home.  The following guidelines can help school leaders support students and help them take ownership of their learning:

  • Focus on listening and building connections: With lockdown and social distancing measures being the new reality, social belonging has become a focus for many school communities.  In such times, students need to feel emotionally connected to their teachers and classmates before they can focus on learning. It is important to set time aside for teachers to build a sense of community and check-in on student wellbeing. 
    Ask yourself,
    1. How can we focus on creating a positive culture during virtual learning?
    2. How do we support students’ social emotional needs?
  • Provide clear and consistent structures: Students thrive when given a clear routine and structure. Co-creating essential agreements for online and offline learning will help build a shared classroom culture and language, and allow students to take ownership of their own learning.  To build student independence, it is also important to minimize the number of tools and platforms that students use.   Providing a one-stop-shop helps students know where to go to find that day’s or week’s tasks.  This could be on a class website, learning management system or through a platform such as Toddle Classroom, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 
    Ask yourself, 
    1. What behavioral and learning expectations do we have for online and in-person learning? How do we communicate these?
    2. How do we  help students take ownership of their learning? How do we provide students with all the resources they need to successfully complete an assigned task?
  • Celebrate student growth: Finally, students need to feel a sense of accomplishment and reflect on their progress on goals, rather than doing “busy work” or online worksheets.  Teachers can build student agency by co-creating learning goals with students and creating structures for ongoing feedback.  Peer assessments, self-evaluation and systems of immediate feedback like online quizzes, can be useful in getting students to reflect on their learning and build relationships.
    Ask yourself,
    1. What feedback systems should we create to monitor student progress? 
    2. How do we ensure that students receive ongoing feedback?
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