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As this school year winds down, district leaders and administrators are beginning to plan for the upcoming year. They are having to plan with the twin unknowns of coronavirus and the opening of the economy. What could it look like? What should it look like? How will we keep our students safe? How can we ensure the learning continues at the same level as before COVID-19?
We may not know with certainty what will occur in the coming year, but we do know with certainty how to ensure learning will occur. Research tells us that the more students own their learning the more they learn. And this pandemic has created a necessity for all students to be the owners of their learning. Because the logistics of where and how learning can take place are uncertain, developing students’ self-motivation to learn and their skills to keep learning is critical.
We have been talking with several of our partner districts about how they will be structuring their school year and school days. While each district is considering their model through the lens of their specific needs, there are three broad, but common approaches that are emerging: 100% distance learning, a blended learning model that incorporates in-school and distance learning, and 100% in-school with social distance guidelines in place.
Inevitably, as the districts’ educational partners, we get asked the question, “Which is the best approach?” With any big decision, there is always angst around the unknown and this is a big unknown. The idea of not being in classrooms, in schools, and in-person with our students in our traditional five-days-a-week model is unsettling. Fortunately, there is expert evidence, based on similar situations, that can guide our decision making.
What Happens to Learning When Schools are Closed?
Professor, author, and award-winning researcher John Hattie recently published an article describing what influences have the most effect on student learning when schools are closed. Using data on the effect of prolonged school closures, such as teacher strikes and natural disasters like the Christchurch earthquakes and Hurricane Katrina, he found that the effects were minimal.
“Distance learning shows a very low effect size, but that means that it does not matter whether you are distant or not and should not be interpreted as ‘distance is disastrous.’ What is more important is the methods of teaching not the media.”
Hattie also looked at the effects of the home learning environment and determined that while the effects of the home learning environment were powerful, they were most effective when students were asked to practice, connect, and extend skills they had already learned from the teacher, rather than engaging in new learning by themselves or with parents/caregivers help. He states that parental/caregiver involvement is key, but as support, not as teacher.
What was Hattie’s conclusion from the data? He states that these instances of distance learning were effective because teachers made their decisions about what to teach based on what students could NOT do versus what they needed to practice at home. Therefore, parents/caregivers could provide support for their children to reinforce what they had learned from the teacher and reflect on how well they had learned it.
“So, the climate of the home learning matters: high expectations and high levels of communication (talk, talk, talk, listen, listen, listen, listen). It needs to allow for errors and mistakes as opportunities to learn, not opportunities to do it again with the hope that the second time it will magically become right. Any learning should include opportunities for students to give feedback about their learning and to receive feedback about where to go to next.”
This shift in decision making made all the difference.
What Can Schools Do?
Equipped with this expert information, we come back to our original question: What is the best approach for ensuring learning in the time of COVID-19? John Hattie says, “What we do matters, not the medium of doing it.”
So, what can schools do? They can choose the logistical model that best fits their students, teachers, and families. Then they can offer the following support to each of these groups.
Teachers — Support your teachers in the decision-making process. Help them develop a skills-based scope and sequence that takes into account when and how students will receive initial instruction and when and how students will practice, connect, and extend their new learning. This means supporting teachers to answer for their students these questions for each and every assignment:
- What am I learning and why?
- How will I know I have learned it?
- What strategy did I use to learn it?
- What can I do if I struggle?
- How will I use this learning in the future?
Then support teachers in communicating these decisions to their students and their parents/caregivers for each and every assignment and encourage them to create routines that allow them to reflect regularly with students on these questions.
Students — Support your teachers by developing tools and communications so students all receive consistent messages. These tools can be used for planning and communicating their decisions to their students and their parents/caregivers for each and every assignment. Develop consistent routines that allow teachers to reflect regularly with students on their learning and simplify the process.
Parents/Caregivers — Support your parents/caregivers in their role as they support their child’s learning at home. Reassure them that their role is to help their child own their learning by talking and listening as their child clarifies and reflects on their learning each day. This means supporting parents/caregivers to ask these questions before and after assignments and listen to their child’s answers.
Before they begin working:
- What are you learning and why?
- How will you know you have learned it?
- What strategy will you use to learn it?
- What can you do if you struggle?
- How will you use this learning in the future?
After they have finished:
- What did you learn?
- How did you know learned it?
- What strategy did you use to learn it?
- Did you struggle? What did you do?
- How will you use this learning in the future?
Why Do Students Need This Approach?
As educators, we know that learning is much more than a teacher’s delivery method or a student’s completion of an assignment. It also involves each student’s understanding of what they have learned, how they have learned it, and what they have learned about their own learning.
This is the metacognitive side of learning that will build students’ motivation, push them to higher academic growth, and develop their ownership of their own learning. This is the approach that elevates learning to learner ownership, or learnership.
Someone who has true learnership is one who self-directs, self-evaluates, self-reflects, and self-controls their own learning.
Isn’t that what students need in this time of COVID-19?
As we work together to meet the challenges of remote learning, Elevated Achievement Group is dedicated to providing educators, students, and families with resources to help ensure that learning is not disrupted. You can find those resources here.
The Learning Brief
In this article you learned…
- The COVID-19 pandemic has created a necessity for all students to be the owners of their learning and because the logistics of where and how learning can take place are uncertain, developing students’ self-motivation to learn and their skills to keep learning is critical
- Research tells us that the decisions teachers make regarding what to teach and when to teach it matter more than the medium in which they teach it.
- No matter what logistical model schools choose for the 2020–2021 school year, they should also provide support to teachers, students, and families that help them develop their learnership.
Can you imagine building an environment full of motivated, engaged, and eager students who own their learning?