We’ve learned a lot about education during the past year, with teachers and students both needing to adapt to remote platforms and distanced learning strategies. We may have discovered all these things eventually, but teaching in the time of a pandemic has pushed them front and center now. From socialization to learning loss, the lessons hit many key points.
- Address Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) first
No matter how motivated the student, if they aren’t able to focus on the work because of anxiety or stress, or they struggle with directing their attention to the work, their brain just doesn’t have the working memory to learn something new. This is something that will be central to addressing student engagement and learning loss when most students return to in-person classes in the fall.
Parents can help ease the problem with a few tips:
- Make sure kids have some quiet time in the morning before they leave for school. The less stress they have when getting ready for school means the more they’ll be able to focus when they get there.
- When the kids get home, give them a bit of free time to simply de-stress from their hours in class before jumping into homework.
- During homework sessions, build in regular breaks instead of insisting they push through the work no matter what the cost.
- Don’t overschedule your kids. They need enough time to process and review what they’ve learned in school so they retain the information moving forward.
- Provide socialization to improve student learning
Interacting with other students during class is a key strategy to ensure both engagement and deeper learning. Such socialization promotes active learning, intrinsic motivation, and peer teaching (helping instruct other students with material they’ve mastered themselves). Teachers can help promote socialization by building in time for class discussion and small group work both within the lessons and for much of the homework assignments. Parents can encourage students of all ages to form study groups, which allow for both social and academic benefits.
- Refrain from “over-socialization”
When a student is involved with in-person learning, it requires them to be social for more than eight hours without a break, which can be exhausting, especially for introverts. Students will have more energy and focus for learning if we provide them with “down time,” where they’re only responsible to themselves for the work. Schools can offer quiet spaces or independent study times, as well as teaching mindfulness, the practice of focusing on the moment rather than on the big picture. Parents should limit social media time as best they can, making sure devices are off at least an hour before bed to allow for adequate sleep.
- Reinforce that faster isn’t necessarily smarter
An unexpected result of online learning was the discovery of which students thrived in that environment. Overwhelmingly, they were students who worked more slowly, and that’s because the environment allowed them the luxury of taking the time they needed to show their best work. When in-person instruction returns, teachers can allow students to finish in-class assignments after class or do them for homework. And parents can help with time management; constructing a homework schedule that teaches students how to manage their time means they can turn in their best work without pulling all-nighters.
- Repeat and repeat to address learning loss
When standardized test scores come back in the fall, we’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where the greatest learning loss happened. Research from MindPrint Learning, though, has already shown that students with stronger memories outperformed their peers with weaker memories during online instruction. This is because each subject requires students to have core information at the ready, but online instruction doesn’t come with the natural repetition of content that comes with in-person learning, and some students flounder if their memories aren’t strong.
It will be relatively easy for students who just forgot information but understand the underlying concept to efficiently make up time with extra practice. But students who require reintroduction of the material will need more time and support, including small group sessions with other students at the same level to re-learn and reinforce concepts. Teachers should use reliable, norm-referenced tests to ensure they group students appropriately. Even before that, though, parents should ask which content is the most important to know with automaticity and provide practice for their kids over the summer before they return to school. Giving small rewards over the course of a couple of months will go much farther than rewarding students for trying to cram everything in within just one or two sessions.
Have we missed something? Are there other lessons students, parents, and educators have learned that we failed to mention here? Please chime in with your responses in the comments section below.
 MindPrint Learning. (May 28, 2021). “5 Lessons Learned During the Pandemic to Help Address Learning Loss.” www.mindprintlearning.com.