• Kathleen Donohoe

Moving from Urgency to Opportunity for Learning


“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, the other represents opportunity” John F Kennedy

In the last few weeks our schools, educational bodies and organisations worldwide have focused on continuing the valuable learning experiences for our students (and all learners), during a time of unprecedented interruption. Many of these organisations have been preparing for this for years and are at different stages of this journey.

There are numerous frameworks and theories behind crisis management. Two favourites of mine include Five Stages of Crisis Management from Jack Welch (as described by Tom Morrison) and the crisis management model from Gonzalez-Herrero and Pratt (1995) The approach builds on these and goes beyond the crisis, shaping this as an opportunity that will occur across three stages:

1.      Urgency:

This is the phase where we are currently focussed on in the majority of organisations, ensuring access to resources and learning experiences for our students, with consideration of equity, access and developing teachers to deliver content and learning experiences to large numbers of students.

This is not to say that student experience is being forgotten and there isn’t a lot of exemplar practice out there, but in general, most people are focused on retaining learning through access to resources.

The opportunity here is to source the many valuable resources already being utilised and sharing these within schools, between schools, across jurisdictions and further afield. Professional Learning already available or currently developed will support teachers and learners to gain the most from their learning experiences as they undertake them at home and / or online.

2.      Improvement:

Many schools and organisations are already and will continue to move into the realm of opportunity, building on the existing resources and their existing skills. This phase will require support and professional development, both to reimaging the valuable skills teachers have, but to align them to the online learning context and the opportunities it brings, whilst understanding the considerations specific to an online context and the skills in evaluating learning experiences and digital resources available.

This phase will kick in as the urgency settles and online / learning at home becomes the norm for students and teachers, all parties will start investigating opportunities to improve learning experiences. This will also allow us to reimagine the opportunities for, and the meaning of learning that doesn’t take place in traditional environments and contexts, embracing those in our communities, both physically and virtually. Across this stage there will be further considerations for:

  • Building eLearning communities, encouraging interaction. Cooperation and feedback, and identifying and utilising the affordances of virtual communication.

  • Aligning learning theories with learning online

  • The changing role of the teacher: virtual tutor, facilitator, mentor

  • Accessibility, copyright, safety and compliance considerations, and

  • Assessment and evaluation


3.      Opportunity:

This will see the continuing trend towards innovative thinking as the norm, balancing physical, virtual and social informed by and informing learning. At this time, we will be in a position to reimaging learning, not just in the traditional, but also as an ever changing and ever improving aspect across all of our lifespan.

The learnings from stage 2 and the continual desire to improve learning and engagement will drive this, twinned with the learnings and change that took place through Phase 2.


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