The Coronavirus has introduced some truly unexpected side effects to learning. Aside from missing those crucial final months of the academic year, it has forced teachers to reconsider teaching techniques and the impact of learning from home. This will be summarised in three categories: digital resources, exams and transitions, and learning environments.
Zoom and Joe Wicks. Two relatively unknown entities that have shone through in this bizarre scenario. Sure, they are not new brands, but in the last few weeks, they have become household names. Live video software (like Zoom) has enabled teachers and school staff to continue discussions, share information and support each other from the safety of their own homes. Google drive, iCloud and many more cloud-based platforms have dramatically reduced the amount of times you have had to visit the photocopier or waiting for the laminator to warm up. Social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have been flooded with additional resources. Celebrities, personal trainers, historians, scientists have started uploading free videos all over the internet to try to help children with their learning at home.
What’s the potential impact?
- Teachers are becoming a lot more aware of their colleagues’ teaching techniques, resources and styles.
- Parents/carers are becoming more empathatic towards teaching staff.
- Teachers are diversifying their presentation techniques and learning how to develop digital content.
- Celebrities and popular figures are seeing the value in educating a younger audience.
- Digital resources have become more popular and readily available.
- Teachers have become less dependent on traditional, tangible resources.
Exams and Transitions.
This aspect is less clear. Two weeks after A Level and GCSE exams were cancelled, OFQUAL has decided that teachers will make the final decision about their students’ grades. In recent years, teacher-graded coursework seems to have been phased out of most exam boards due to concerns of bias. Due to the exceptional circumstances, this decision has had to turn back on itself and go even further: grades will be decided entirely based on a teacher’s understanding of their pupils’ level of learning. Teachers will now have the unenviable job of making some very tricky decisions about whether to mark-up their students in the expectation that everyone else will be generous with their marking, or mark realistically and run the risk of a national down-marking by OFQUAL.
Transitions between primary and secondary, secondary and college/Sixth Form, College and University are much blurrier. As of today (9th April 2020) there has been no official statement on the procedure for this. Education facilities will have to create their own methods and
What’s the potential impact?
- A year of educational anomalies in which young people aren’t given the opportunity they were promised to accurately demonstrate their level of learning.
- Every exam board coming under scrutiny and re-evaluating their assessment criteria.
- A greater level of mistrust from young people towards exam season.
- Greater importance on year-long learning and grading throughout the term to better predict progress and areas of improvement.
- Young people with SEN struggling to adapt to a new environment with fewer preparations and transitional support.
- An opportunity to reconsider the issues and limitations of traditional exams.
Learning at Home.
Sociologist Karl Alexander of Johns Hopkins University conducted a study called ‘Schools, Achievement and Inequality’ in 2001 which evaluated the learning of six hundred and fifty American children in the first grade. It is a fascinating report, but in one instance it evaluates the levels of learning between upper-class, middle-class and lower-class children. As predicted, the upper-class children recorded much better results than the lower-class children. What was most surprising, was that as upper-class children gained knowledge over their Summer break, many lower-class children’s reading and numeracy scores actually dropped over the Summer. This was a huge breakthrough in the education world, because the children were all at the same level by the end of the academic year (lower-class children actually had a higher average than upper-class children). However, those weeks over the Summer had a positive affect on the upper-class children and a negative affect on the lower-class children. There are many factors to this: resources, support, culture, etc. which we, as teachers, cannot change. However, three additional months of home learning is inevitably going to create a much, much wider achievement gap. It’s great to have all of the aforementioned digital content, but if parents/guardians do not have the facility to access them or don’t encourage their children to engage with them, those children will not receive the benefit of it.
What’s the potential impact?
- Much wider ability ranges in the classroom.
- A loss of basic skills needing to be re-taught and a subsequent knock-on effect for next year.
- Teachers providing more diverse support for effective learning at home.
- New software to monitor learning at home.
- Laws to ensure parents are supporting education at home (similar to recent truancy laws).
- More homework to help prepare children for independent learning.
- A culture-change to make Britain more disciplined in home education.
- Children and young people returning to school with new practical and inter-personal skills.
Overall, I think this is an incredible opportunity to re-evaluate the education system and our views on learning. My article ‘Why Exams Should Be Replaced With Escape Rooms’ sums up my views of traditional exams. This situation was completely unexpected and has forced us all to approach education in a new way and learn some new skills in the process.