Profile of a Right Now Learner: Uncovering Learning Loss and Learning Gains

This blogpost is part of our new venture Learning Sets — compelling and manageable professional development courses — to provide curated tools, resources and strategies as we reset what schooling should be.

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Given the extraordinary demands on school communities throughout the pandemic, there is real concern about where students are in their foundational skills, conceptual understanding, and ability to apply their learning in novel situations. This concern, framed as “learning loss,” includes choices to cut out or cut back on unit topics, challenges of student engagement in school settings, and limited assessment data to demonstrate impact. There also needs to be an uncovering of what “learning gains” have happened, such as increased use in digital tools, self-directed use of time, or developing skills and cultivating interests. 

In order to generate responsive curriculum choices and structural formats moving forward, listening is key.  A commitment to formal listening should become the drumbeat of a school or system. Listening that informs decision-making  is empathy in action. If the pandemic has taught one thing, it is that we need connection and to be understood.  

The following prompts organized in role-alike groups are illustrative examples that you might use to identify patterns, generate fresh thinking, and help inform deliberate actions. The intention is to uncover learning loss and learning gains during the pandemic.  Whether using focus groups, a virtual listening tour, surveys, interviews, social media groups, personal correspondence, or a community meeting, now is the time to listen.  

CURRICULUM LEADERS 

(e.g,. teacher leads, department chairs, instructional coaches, building/district administrators)

What did the leadership of the curriculum look like throughout the year? (check all that apply)

  • I was left on my own to make appropriate choices based on what I believed was in the best interest of my students.
  • We worked in PLC’s  to decide what to cut out, cut back on, and keep based on our school realities.
  • Our principal/ head of school/ superintendent is requesting an increase in testing to determine loss and gain in students to guide our decisions. 
  • Our principal/ head of school/ superintendent is requesting a review of formative assessments  to determine loss and gain.  
  • Our principal / head of school / superintendent expected us to take into account student and family struggles in the design, frequency, and evaluation of assignments.
  • Our district leadership has organized vertical curriculum reviews to make adjustments to our curriculum moving forward. 
  • Our school leadership has organized vertical curriculum reviews to make adjustments to our curriculum moving forward.  
  • We will continue to structure our schedule and learning spaces on the same pre-covid model.
  • We will continue to structure the grouping of learners and faculty configurations on our pre-covid model. 
  • Our school/district leadership is considering responsive approaches to schedules, learning spaces (both physical and virtual) based learner needs. 
  • Our school/district leadership is considering responsive approaches to the grouping of students and personnel configurations based  on student needs.  

Here are actions and ideas that we are interested in pursuing:

TEACHING STAFF

What was your approach to navigating the established curriculum? (check all that apply)

  • I chose to cover the established curriculum as planned with minor adjustments. 
  • I chose not to cover 2 or more units.
  • I chose to cut back on what I deemed to be unnecessary content and skills.
  • I chose to cut back on what I deemed to be unnecessary assignments.
  • I chose to create new topics, assignments for my students to make sense of the pandemic.
  • I collaborated with other colleagues on a regular basis. 
  • I worked primarily on my own.  
  • I received ongoing support from curriculum leaders and/or instructional coaches. 

Here are actions and ideas that I recommend moving forward:  

What was your approach to teaching and learning throughout the pandemic? (check all that apply) 

  • I focused more on diversity, equity and inclusion to inform my instructional  practices and policies.
  • I revisited unit topics through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion to identify issues, texts, and tasks to make learning more relevant and challenging for my students.
  • I chose to group my learners in a range of patterns based on their academic needs. 
  • I kept my learners in consistent instructional grouping patterns to meet  academic needs. 
  • I chose to regularly touch base with each student to monitor programs and make adjustments in my teaching. 
  • I chose to work through the established curriculum using direct teaching approaches with minimal adjustments.  
  • I chose to expand my instructional approach using digital and media tools to engage my learners in an on-line environment.  
  • I chose to directly develop dispositions and habits of mind that support emotional well-being with my students.  

Here are the actions and ideas that I want to pay attention to going forward:

STUDENTS 

What was your teacher’s (or school’s) approach to support your social and  emotional well-being? 

  • I felt that my teacher understood what I was going through on a personal level.
  • I did not feel connected to the teacher and school. 
  • I felt connected to my friends and other students most of the time. 
  • I frequently felt disconnected from my friends and other students. 

What was your experience in monitoring and directing your own learning? (check all that apply)

  • I was clear on the actual work and tasks from my teachers. 
  • I was often confused by the actual work and tasks from my teachers. 
  • I  sometimes felt overwhelmed by the amount of work assigned to me.  
  • I had more control over my schedule and felt more focused with asynchronous tasks 
  • I needed teacher direction on most of my tasks 
  • I had growth in certain subjects or classes 
    • Identify what those are:  
  • I fell behind in certain subjects or classes
    • Identify what those are: 
  • I fell behind on tasks. 
  • I lost interest in the school tasks. 
  • I was motivated to pursue new areas of interest. 
    • Identify what those are: 

PARENTS 

What was your teacher’s (or school’s) approach to support your social and  emotional well-being of your child? (check all that apply)

  • I felt I could get a  reasonably prompt response from my child’s teachers when requested.
  • I felt that my child’s teacher(s) understood the challenges we faced through the pandemic as a family. 

What was your experience in monitoring your students’ work and communication with their teacher(s)? 

  • My child was usually clear on the actual work and tasks from teachers. 
  • My child was often confused by the actual work and tasks from  teachers. 
  • My child  sometimes felt overwhelmed by the amount of work assigned. 
  • My child thrived with  more control over the schedule and focused on asynchronous tasks 
  • My child needed constant adult  direction on most tasks 
  • I believe my child showed growth in certain subjects or classes 
    • Identify what those are:  
  • I believe my child feel  behind in certain subjects or classes
    • Identify what those are: 

Gathering input from a full gamut of sources is critical in determining how to make adjustments in program and services in order to move forward. A realistic and powerful profile of a right-now learner must be informed not only from surveys which have value but by their very nature have limits. This profile will serve decision-making in two critical arenas: 

  • Curriculum choices on what to cut, keep, and create
  • Program structures, the nest where learning occurs.  Specifically, schedules, learning spaces (both virtual and physical), grouping of learners, grouping of professionals. 

See our chart below. 

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