Limiting Learning Loss During the Pandemic

Learning Loss and the Pandemic

For most families, the COVID-19 pandemic has created some level of disruption. For parents with children in school or college, it meant having to shift rapidly from classroom learning to online learning, beginning in March. As summer approaches, a new concern that many of these parents and educators now have concerns learning loss.

The term learning loss refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills, or a reversal in academic progress, usually due to extended gaps or discontinuities in a student’s education. The uneven response by school districts and institutions of higher learning to moving from physical classroom to online classrooms has created one such discontinuity. Now the transition to summer is likely to add to that. Researchers at NWEA, a nonprofit provider of student assessments, estimated that students would end this school year with only about 40 percent to 60 percent of the learning gains they would normally see in a typical year.

Schools have usually accounted for some level of learning loss due to the education gap during summer vacation.  Often, teachers will spend the first months of a new school year reviewing material from the prior year. With the educational disruption caused by the pandemic, teachers may have to spend more time than usual to close the unfinished learning gap in the coming school year.

Coping with learning loss could be especially difficult for students with learning challenges,some of whom are struggling with the transition to virtual learning.

Limiting Learning Loss

Here are some basic strategies parents can use to help their children avoid learning loss during the pandemic

  • Think about what learning looks like at home in the context of your child’s age. Younger children usually need guided direction. Older children might get more benefit from opportunities to achieve their independence, self-regulation, and goals. You can use this time at home to help your children develop executive function skills, by having them create their own schedules and manage their day and time.
  • Encourage your child to engage in Informal learning activities to make for a more satisfying and enriching day. Sandra Rief, M.A., has a number of suggestions for both building core skills and tapping into this more creative type of learning.
  • Use learning apps as appropriate to help your child continue their learning outside of the virtual classroom.
  • Think creatively about how you might replace non-academic, school-related things such as social interaction, sports, and extracurricular or after school activities.

Some learning loss during the summer months is always possible. But these strategies can help your child be better prepared for the coming school year whether it is in-classroom or virtual.

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