From Distance Teaching to Recovery Teaching

The teachers at Durrington have done a fantastic job of adapting their pedagogy to distance teaching during the Covid pandemic.  As we look towards the future and the prospect of students returning to school, the Durrington Research School team have been thinking about the subtle changes teachers will have to make to their teaching when students return fully to school.  If all goes to plan and students return to relative normality, they will not have experienced this normality for six months.  They will need our support with this.

Here are our thoughts around recovery teaching.  We have broken it down into specific areas, outlined the issues that we think teachers will be facing and then offered some possible classroom strategies for teachers to consider.


We can’t assume what the gaps in learning might be when students return.  We will need to assess this accurately and find out exactly where the gaps are.

At the same time though, we can’t allow assessment to dominate the curriculum so the bulk of this will need to be periodic formative assessment.

We are missing assessment data that we would normally have for Y10 going into Y11.  How can we identify target students without this?

Strategies for teachers:

  • Ensure that robust and standardised assessments are in place early on in September to identify the learning gaps, relating to work covered in the closure period.  These may well need to be narrowed in focus, testing just the core parts of the curriculum needed to unlock the next parts of the curriculum.  Attempts to uncover all learning in all areas is impossible as would be the reteaching of it.  Therefore, choices will need to be made of what is most important to know and therefore to test.
  • Plan for rich formative assessment exercises in lessons to assess where the gaps are for individual students, especially disadvantaged students e.g. checklists, questioning, quizzes.
  • Class student surveys via Google Forms work very well to assess and compare student levels of confidence on topic/tasks – they often ‘catch’ things that quizzes etc miss.


Good explanations are built upon prior knowledge, which can usually be relied on from well sequenced previous lessons, that most students will have been exposed to.  This won’t have been possible during the closure period.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Take more time than usual with explanations and don’t assume prior knowledge – there will be huge variability in the room, due to the varying degrees of engagement with distance teaching.
  • Start explanations of new material by carefully eliciting and building up the required prior knowledge through questioning and re-teaching etc.


During the closure period, there is a very high possibility that significant misconceptions will have developed, as you won’t have been there at the point of instruction to pick up any errors in understanding.

Strategies for teachers;

  • A judgement will need to be made here.  In some cases, if it becomes apparent that there are significant misconceptions in an area covered by distance teaching, it might be better to simply re-teach it.
  • Even if it is not re-taught, when you are reviewing material covered during distance teaching, or they are using it in new ways, you will need to unpick misconceptions and give very specific feedback (class and/or individual) to correct them.


Homework offers an avenue to revisit material covered during the partial closure and address gaps, however we must consider the following:

  • What will be the focus of the homework – what topics will they cover?
  • What does the homework hope to achieve – knowledge recall or practice etc
  • Students may lack the knowledge that they would normally have to complete the homework. At best there is going to be large variation between students dependent on their engagement during the partial closure.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Use formative assessment strategies to identify common gaps in knowledge for your classes and develop homeworks that are tailored to these. Consider how you can provide support and scaffolding with the homework (potentially through the use of loom videos or worked examples) to support students completing homework.
  • Ensure that homework is not set that assumes knowledge that students may not have.
  • Be careful in trying to fill online learning gaps through homework tasks – non-engagers with online learning are likely to be those who will miss homework.
  • Further Reading – here.


The opportunity for retrieval practice will have been reduced during partial closure. As a result, students would have forgotten lots.

This is also true of spaced practice which will have also contributed to forgetting of curriculum content.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Regular retrieval quizzing in lessons to support and encourage recall, which will in turn help to build memory. 
  • Opportunities for teasing out prior knowledge need to be carefully planned and given time, as many of these ‘memory connections’ will have been lost.  New knowledge then needs to be carefully built upon this.
  • Using pause lessons to revisit prior content rather than relying on starters or homework.


The metacognitive development of young adults is stimulated when metacognitive processes are modelled by peers, parents and most importantly teachers. Despite best efforts with online modelling it is likely that students will not have practiced their metacognitive  thinking as much as they would have in the normal classroom.

The need for self-regulation has increased as a result of the lockdown as students need to recognise their own areas of weakness.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Ensure that when planning lessons, opportunities to explicitly model metacognitive thinking (through processes such as “think aloud”) are incorporated into lessons and that students are then given the opportunity to practice these skills themselves.
  • When preparing lessons consider if  students are being explicitly taught how to plan, monitor and evaluate how they are going to approach a task and use this language explicitly.
  • Consider the rate at which support for students to do this is removed – likely to need more support at the start than would be usual such as checklists that encourage them to self regulate.
  • This is also an opportunity to build on some of the self-regulation skills students have built during lockdown.  Some students will have may improvements in this area and this best practice needs to drawn out and shared.


Online teaching materials are likely to have been different to what would have been taught in school. Units may have been altered or missed entirely – subsequently skills and knowledge from one unit that may have been built upon in future teaching may not be there.

Decisions will need to be made in terms of priority.  The whole of the lockdown curriculum cannot be retaught without something else going.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Based on work as part of your curriculum team  consider where gaps in learning due to the partial closure may directly  impact on teaching of new content/skills etc and ensure that lessons are adapted to develop the required base knowledge first.
  • Review curriculum map, with a particular focus on what would have been taught normally post March. Consider where this material would link to later teaching in the curriculum and identify where these links may have subsequently not developed.
  • Once this is done actions may involve just re-planning of individual lessons or altering order of curriculum where possible.
  • Build more pause time into your curriculum.

Classroom Routines

Routines may be forgotten and some habitual behaviours may have been lost during the partial closure period.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Make routines and expectations crystal clear at the start of the year and keep referring back to these.
  • Opening lessons can be used to model and practice basics – e.g. basic expectations, questioning routines, book presentation, literacy expectations, etc.


Students might be more reticent about answering questions in lessons, due to their perceived lack of understanding as a result of school closures.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Be more patient than usual when questioning students in lessons and be prepared to scaffold more.


Students may have gone several months without physically writing anything down.

Some students will not have engaged with the academic discourses of the classroom for some time. This may exacerbate vocabulary gaps and students may be inclined towards non-academic and informal language.

Strategies for teachers:

  • Provide multiple opportunities for writing in early lessons
  • Give clear SPag expectations and guidelines.
  • Use assessment to identify SPaG, writing issues and liaise with SEN-department where necessary.
  • Use sentence starters, writing frames and planning structures to support extended writing in the early weeks of term.
  • Revist vocabulary from last year to identify gaps.
  • Support and encourage students to speak in full sentences and scaffold their use of academic vocabulary through questioning and feedback.

Useful Resources:

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