No-one could have foreseen the significant impact that the global pandemic COVID-19 would have on the world. We went from having 20,000 home learners to having more than four million, with an immediate need to adapt an education system that relies heavily on face-to-face learning. Weeks later, as we return to school and classrooms, it is hard to ignore the fact that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on teachers, students, schools and families. But with change comes enormous opportunity. The question we have to ask now is: how do we address each child’s learning needs on the return to the classroom?
To answer this, we have to start with what we know. Here at Pivot Professional Learning, we partnered with Education Perfect to carry out a survey of 3,500 teachers across Australia and New Zealand to investigate the impact COVID-19 has had on teaching and learning. Their responses revealed a profession under extraordinary pressure. One of the key insights garnered from the survey was that learning, and wellbeing have been deeply impacted across schools, but context matters. A follow-up survey asked, “Who do you think was impacted the most?” the number one answer was all students. However, almost 10% of respondents believed that some students were learning more at home then in the classroom.
Educators know that every student learns differently. Some students are thriving in distance education, flourishing under the one-on-one guidance. Other students are getting lost and left behind without the stimulation of their peers around them. Even more have not been able to engage with learning at all due to a lack of necessary equipment and internet access.
With disruption comes an opportunity for large scale change. In this case we have the opportunity to explore what equity in the classroom really means, so we can ensure every child is presented with a learning experience tailored to their needs.
We can start by asking a few questions:
- What are the profiles of students and teachers that have thrived during this time and those that did not?
- How was technology used effectively to meet students learning and social emotional needs?
- How did schools succeed in supporting students through analog methods (when technology was not available or appropriate?
- What did students and teachers miss about the physical classroom and school? What are they happy to leave behind?
- How did parents and guardians get involved in ways that supported student learning and growth?
We have an unprecedented opportunity to come together as a community to start asking these questions in ways that build an evidence base to work from. The massive change to our education system is an opportunity to find a better, more equitable way forward. Building this evidence base will also help us prepare for any school closures that may be on the horizon.
From our studies, we know that COVID-19 has led to a massive upheaval of teaching and learning, but it has provided fertile ground for designing new approaches to distance education. There is a chance that things go back to “normal,” but with concerted efforts to identify what has worked and hasn’t (not just during COVID-19, but the past 100 years of schooling), we have a fantastic opportunity to start building the “new normal.” Where schools use technology to enhance teaching and learning, embrace students as partners in their learning and educators are able to focus on building 21st century skills.
Written by Amanda Bickerstaff
Amanda has spent 15 years in the education and education technology fields with a focus on professional learning, online learning, STEM, computer science education, and curriculum development. After stumbling into EdTech after graduate school, she has helped build and launch multiple organisations in the US with a focus on improving teacher practice and student outcomes.