Published January 14, 2021 by Tom Porter

Helping Teachers Through the “Great Unplanned Experiment”

"2020 has been described as the ‘great unplanned experiment' in education,” said Wendy (Warford) Amato '91. “Educators met challenges with creativity, resourcefulness, persistence, and patience as they shifted to online distance learning.”

amato screenshot

Amato hosted two series of webinars during the closing months of 2020 


Amato '91 is chief academic officer at Learner’s Edge/Teaching Channel, which offers online continuing education courses to teachers. The organization recently sponsored two series of webinars hosted by Amato to support educators in distance learning. More than 11,000 people in forty countries registered for these webinars, she said, which were free and featured specific instructional strategies.

The students, she observed, have been no less amazing than the educators in rising to the challenges posed by this unplanned experiment. “The feedback from educators who attended these free webinars reinforced for me how important it has been to share ideas, strategies, and resources that make instruction meaningful, despite the extraordinary circumstances of 2020."

Much of the content from these webinars, she added, is relevant to teaching and learning regardless of the context. “Good teaching is good teaching,” said Amato (who majored in French at Bowdoin before pursuing a PhD in education at UVA). “Educators should focus on the priorities we have always ranked highly: engagement, interaction, differentiation, assessment for learning, clear objectives, and measurable outcomes. Those priorities transcend content areas and grade bands, and when they are our focus, we protect ourselves from being overwhelmed by learning new technologies. Having said that,” she added, “these free webinars have been a wonderful way to support the education community," she continued.

"Good teaching is good teaching... but these free webinars have been a wonderful way to support the education community."

One webinar series, launched in October 2020, was called the Distance Learning Playbook K-12 and is aimed at teachers and school leaders. The other series, which offers general support to teachers in online instruction, was launched the following month in collaboration with educators Doug Lemov and Hilary Lewis from the Teach Like A Champion team, who analyzed hundreds of hours of online teaching footage to identify best practices and provide clear guidance for educators.

Click here to access the webinars.