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NewsDec 9, 2020

Lesley workshops prepare teachers for remote-learning challenges

Grant from Biogen Foundation supports training for educators in COVID era and beyond

Illustration of kid looking at a teacher on a laptop
Image by rawpixel.com.

Nearly a year after the emergence of the COVID-19 epidemic, many schools at all education levels continue to observe at least partial remote-learning protocols. On Oct. 21, the city of Boston announced it would immediately suspend all in-person learning for its public schools. Since that time, cities and school districts have made only tentative and halting steps to resume in-person learning.

To prepare teachers for education in the era of COVID-19, our Center for Advanced Professional Studies offered Massachusetts educators a series of summer workshops led by Graduate School of Education professors Susan Patterson, Brenda Matthis, Sue Cusack and adjunct faculty member Anthea Lavergne.

The program reached approximately 110 teachers, mainly in urban schools and relied on a grant from the Biogen Foundation’s STAR Initiative (Science, Teacher support, Access and Readiness) awarded to our STEAM Learning Lab. The Biogen Foundation is the charitable organization of the eponymous, Cambridge-based biotech firm. Its STAR Initiative involves $10 million in strategic investments over four years designed to “help catalyze the development of local STEM ecosystems in Cambridge and Somerville,” according to the company’s website.

We watched in awe as educators navigated the transition from brick-and-mortar classrooms to the virtual world, taking on the challenges of re-creating effective teaching through the monitors of their students’ Chromebooks,” the Lesley remote-learning faculty said in a joint statement.

The faculty designed to respond to the dramatic shift in expectations and help educators in translate their skills to new structures and instructional modes to facilitate and improve remote learning.

“A critical outcome of this effort was to support educators in gaining confidence and mastery of remote teaching in ways that foster safe, equitable, and engaging learning ecologies for their students” the faculty added.

Workshop participants came from a range of school districts, including Cambridge, Somerville, and New Bedford. The sessions prioritized best practices, meaningful student engagement, self-directed learning, and creating accessible and culturally responsive classrooms.

 “I've found the work and resources provided in this course so incredibly valuable,” said one fourth-grade teacher in an anonymous review. “I have found myself continually referring back to many of the ideas discussed and resources provided by the instructors and the course participants.”