The topic of learning loss stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is one that has been discussed at length over the past year, though the lasting impact of the real-life implications will be difficult to measure. While some degree of learning loss during distance learning is inevitable when facing such a unique year (both in and out of the classroom), it is important to make adjustments to keep students on track and ensure that our most vulnerable students aren’t falling behind their peers.
While there is no set guidebook for addressing learning loss during distance learning, there are some telltale signs to look for and impactful ways to keep students on track. In this article, we’ll discuss how to identify which students are most impacted by learning loss, and how both teachers and administrators can work to prevent it during distance or hybrid learning.
What Causes Learning Loss?
While learning loss is inarguably a very real (and very serious) concept, there is no one way to quickly measure or identify it.
Prior to the pandemic, learning loss appeared most severely as a result of a few common issues:
- Summer vacation (i.e., “summer slide”)
- Dropping out and returning to school
- Ineffective teaching or resources
- Interrupted education due to personal or economic strain
- Senior year
Because of COVID-19, students have had to adjust to some type of hybrid, distance, or virtual learning. This adjustment period inevitably led to an interruption in learning, though the exact amount of learning loss is not yet defined.
Who is Impacted by Learning Loss?
Most educators and students have been impacted by learning loss, though the pandemic and its impact have widened the disparities between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Many studies show that school shutdowns and the shift to distance learning have affected lower-income students more significantly than students from higher-income households.
Studies also show that learning loss will affect black and Hispanic students more dramatically than white students, further widening the achievement gap between these groups. This is an issue that must be addressed in the classroom in order to prevent long-term disparities between students.
Ways to Prevent Learning Loss During Distance Learning
If you’re looking for ways to address learning loss, reach out to your students, and ensure that they stay on track during hybrid or distance learning, these tips may help.
- Communicate regularly with other teachers. Planning regular discussions enables teachers to update one another about students who are struggling and keep each other informed about lessons and curriculum.
- Communicate with students’ families. Keeping an open line of communication with your students’ families and caregivers is an essential tool, especially during distance learning. Provide parents with your email address, phone number, or another way to get in contact with you, and be sure to check in at home when students seem to be struggling.
- Utilize supplementary or digital learning tools. Incorporating different teaching methods and frameworks is a great way to reach all students and keep them engaged. If you have the resources, supplementary programs and tools that allow for asynchronous learning can fill in the gaps for students who are struggling.
- Don’t rely too heavily on testing. While state tests and assessments have their benefits, they are far too general to measure learning loss (or even to help teachers plan for remedial education). Instead, it is far better for teachers to rely on their first-hand knowledge of individual students’ strengths and weaknesses.
In addition, having access to helpful, clear data can show you exactly where students are struggling, which can help in getting them caught up and back on track. Making significant efforts to address learning loss now can prevent it from growing to a point where students are entire grade levels behind.