In the world of education, one of those words that no-one wants to hear anymore is, unprecedented. As a year, 2020 was completely unprecedented, and 2021 is easily following suit. But as we in education live between the times of calendar years and academic years, the influence, impacts, and perception of time from Pandemic Caused Remote Instruction, will likely be felt and measured for decades to come. Not wanting to take a bleak view of this, the College Bridge team has tried to take the most pragmatic stance we can by looking at what good things and bad things have come about from this change. But in doing that, we found it was hard to take the next steps necessary to shape recovery, being positive. So, we’ve decided to go a step past pragmatism and venture into the world of optimism and say, there were some good things, and we really need to celebrate and focus on those. So, let’s make good, the precedent we set from this time forward.
Supporting this, we’ve created a 5-part series of forum style webinars to bring together practitioners in the field of K-16 STEM education to share how things have gone and what we want to use to set precedent. We’ve dubbed it, the “We can’t go back to the old school, designing forward for tomorrow’s classrooms” series. The topics and nature of this series were framed by our large-scale research project on the impacts on STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, while we know this is not a wholly new or unique idea at the moment, our series is focused on the practitioner; that teacher, instructor, or professor still working within the classroom or its support, for sharing their stories and celebrating successes.
Paramount to findings we’ve had and the perspectives of our partners, we know it is essential to start changing the narrative around Pandemic Caused Remote Instruction. Yes, before all else, we want to acknowledge, affirm, understand, and completely empathize with the fact that this past year in education has been hard, draining, exhaustive, impossible, or – unprecedented. There’s a pandemic, systemic inequalities, and lingering political upheavals that are being felt and dealt with in all our lives. But, we can’t only dwell on that, nor can we make it the foundation on what we rebuild and strive to make better. There have been some important and good things which have shaken the core of education in the U.S. Even more than that, there’s an important frame which our founder and CEO has summed into an easy question.
Do you really want to go back to how it was?
The answer, of course not! We can’t go back to the old school. We need to go forward into tomorrow. But how; which ways do we go and which practices do we keep? To start, I thought I’d share a glimpse of some findings from our coming report “An analysis from Remotely Taught Math Students: Distance Learning Isn’t as Bad as People Think.”
“Students who described a positive experience nearly always talk about learning more or engaging more with their class, content, or teacher than they had previously. Negative responses on the other hand, emphasize disruptive environments or many so-called “non-cognitive” or affective barriers; stress, distraction, trouble focusing issues, family stressors, etc. While neutral comments, again, behave in this nearly transitory place shifting from being about affective barriers to what they are learning, broadly appearing in the chart below.
Student Comments about Distance Learning (N=1,710)
Selected student responses with minor edits for clarity:
Positive: “I prefer distance learning in terms of math because it seems more personalized, it feels like I’m being taught directly instead of a group because there’s no tangible peer or social pressure. Also, the teachers were forced to cater to the students’ needs because we are distanced. I feel like this was the most explicit care and attention I have had as a student, compared to in-person school.”
Negative: “It’s very hard to focus because I’m in one room most of the day so it feels like I’m trapped.”
Neutral: “My experience in distance learning is quite interesting since I am not getting the full experience when I’m actually at the school. I am used to be being in school, but distance learning gave me a new perspective of learning things. It might take forever to go to each topic, but understanding is the key part.”
Student responses to this question helped us understand that there are those benefitting from distance learning and a direction as to why. That why and comparative discussion is forthcoming. But the easiest takeaway, students were still learning and probably better than many folks thought.
For now, we wanted to end with a teaser of our coming forum and call to action, that this is the time for all practitioners to start thinking about the kind of 21st century education they want to see. The kind of educational system that can reduce inequity, grow our students, and meet the needs of every learner.
From our first coming session, Who is Benefitting from Distance Learning & Which Practices Need to Stay?, we asked our experts to share about a few key takeaways they’ve had and what they’ll keep using.
Nearly everyone has something positive to say about a learning management system or LMS. Be it a simple structure to online classes with Google Classroom to something more robust, like Canvas. LMSs provide a wonderful way to keep track of your class. They give assignments place and longevity, which allows students as well as instructors to more honestly see where they’ve been, where they’re going, and importantly, what I missed when I was absent.
Each instructor has a cool new tool they’ve used, but what kinds of activities have we gotten to do because of Desmos or heck, even Zoom?!
How much easier is it to test or even grade homework??
Come find out some of the incredible stories and experiences of our experts next month at our first session. The rest of the series is listed below and more information about panelists and sign-ups can be found on our website at the Conferences and Forums Page.
First May Session:
Who is Benefitting from Distance Learning & Which Practices Need to Stay?
Topics for discussion: success stories, must-have technology, surprises from students and ourselves
Second May Session:
Who is Struggling with Distance Learning & Which Practices Can Help?
Topics for discussion: the emotional impact of being online, continuing to engage students, fostering learning and inclusion
What Are We Learning from Mixed Modality Classrooms?
Topics for discussion: sorting the technology and type, the success we should keep, the future we can plan for
First July Session:
Instructional Time Means Time for Flipped Learning
Topics for discussion: maximizing instructional time, meaningful connections with students, time on content
Second July Session:
Learning Loss – Filling the Gaps, Changing the Narrative
Topics for discussion: what a measure for learning could look like, rapid intervention, UDL.
In the meantime, our next post comes from our counseling team and will focus on some of the dynamic and essential changes facing students, parents, and counselors in the ever-changing world of college admissions.
Until next time!