Recently in several schools where I am working, staff have raised the issue of appraisal. As they integrate e-learning into their programmes, they are finding that they and their students are publishing more and more work to the virtual 5th wall in their classrooms. The publishing of this work online is having an obvious effect on the amount of work being ‘displayed’ on the physical walls of the classroom.
Students like to know that there is a genuine audience for their work and prefer the virtual wall space to share their work, to the physical. The 5th wall also creates a virtual window for parents into the class of their child which allows them to be part of the learning process of their child and their child’s class. This clearly assists in the strengthening of the pupil, school, parent triangle.
There is however a dichotomy in all of this. When it comes to appraisal time many teachers are complaining that they are getting feedback from their SMT that their physical environment is not as ’stimulating’ as it once was, that there is less student work on the wall. To combat this they have taken to printing off the online 5th wall content and have started to display this on the walls of their classroom. This is clearly a time consuming exercise for the teachers and a gross waste of paper and printing resources. It is interesting to note that in these same schools the SMT are complaining at the increased printing costs that e-learning seems to bring, without recognising their role in this increased cost.
It is clear that whilst teachers in individual classrooms are making the pedagogical shift to e-learning and embracing the change enthusiastically and also reporting that student motivation and attainment is increasing. However what is also clear is that over the same period the SMT of those same schools have not made the same pedagogical shift. If e-learning is to be a sustainable initiative in schools it is time for school leadership to shift their thinking and pedagogies too. Work published on the internet by students has to be acknowledged with equal importance to the work in their exercise books and of that on the wall of their classrooms. The focus of the stimulating learning environment, like so much else has moved from the physical to the virtual world and appraisal procedures need to keep up and give equal credence to the online world that teachers and students are adding content too.