Published 30 July 2021
In the aftermath of a global pandemic, K-12 students are facing unprecedented setbacks in academic learning. Now that students are returning to the classroom, teachers and school administration face an even tougher battle to overcome pandemic-related learning losses and help students get back on track.
The concept of learning loss is not new to the world of education. The majority of US-based schools are in session for a little more than three-quarters of the year. Students enjoy a lengthy summer break viewed by many as a rite of passage into the next grade level. And along with it — they often seem to regress in their academic achievements.
The human mind is like a muscle, and its capacity to learn grows as it is exercised. And similarly, when the mind is left to idle activity, it loses knowledge and skills previously learned. The typical summer break learning loss is familiar to teachers and administration, and nearly all curriculums address necessary review periods structured at the beginning of each school year.
But the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and forced ill-planned remote learning formats on school districts around the world. In some districts, the students did not see a single day of in-person learning for a year and a half. For others, the students were constantly shuffled between in-person and virtual learning. And the result was widespread disengagement and prolonged learning loss.
One study intended to measure the extent of learning loss caused by the pandemic and remote learning mitigations. This study focused on a group of Netherland students as a sort of best-case scenario. The Netherlands has widespread equitable classrooms and few disadvantaged students. Here in the US, we can expect that poverty, broadband access, and inequities in the classroom only exacerbate the negative results.
The study found that students made little or no progress despite favorable conditions and short lockdowns while learning from home. What does that mean for US students who were kept remote for more than a year?
The biggest reason remote learning isn’t keeping up with the classroom is that students can’t engage in social-emotional learning (SEL). When students learn in person, they benefit from interactions that build social skills and boost confidence. The social aspect of the classroom is not something that can be easily transferred to a digital format, and the students of the pandemic are paying the price for that.
As a result of the barriers to social-emotional learning in virtual education, students lost engagement and intrinsic motivation to learn. And without the will to do the work, many simply just did not perform.
Related: Social Emotional Learning: Bridging the Gap with Technology
So, as students return to the world of in-person learning, we can expect faculty to embrace various methods to try and make up for the significant learning loss their students face. Classroom audio systems that ensure intelligible instruction, intensive tutoring sessions, trauma-based mental health awareness activities, and an extra dose of literacy exposure are some of the things we expect to see in the 2021-2022 school year.
Poor classroom acoustics, ambient noise levels, and occasional mild hearing loss make it difficult for students to pay attention in class. While some label these students as lazy or diagnose them with disorders and put them on pills, one easy to implement and less intrusive solution is often augmenting classroom audio technology.
Examples of classroom audio technology:
Proponents of intensive tutoring feel that the best way to make up for the lost time is by laser focusing concentrated studies in small groups where students learn more efficiently. A large-scale tutoring plan can certainly work but will likely face classroom equity struggles. Low-income students will have less access to tutoring compared to well-funded districts simply because of funding. However, part of the American Rescue Plan for K-12 education provides funding for tutoring programs to make classrooms more equitable. Capturing lessons for students to review after class or during a tutoring session, is one way educators can help ensure the success of this type of tactic.
Nearly one-third of students in a statewide California survey feel they may now need post-pandemic mental health services. That is a shocking number that illustrates the internalized trauma that lockdowns and school closures inflicted on young learners.
In what will possibly be the biggest orchestrated effort to shape the curriculum to meet emotional development, school districts across the country embrace trauma therapy activities as part of their return to the classroom. This type of social-emotional learning approach will help children process their feelings that might otherwise hinder learning. When left to process this type of trauma on their own; students can become distracted and disruptive to the point that their behavior pulls other students off track.
Related: International Literacy Day: What’s Sound Got to Do With It?
Exposure to literacy is fundamental for language development and reading comprehension skills. Those foundational skills trickle into performance in all other subjects as students must read and interact with materials in each subject. So, in addition to more targeted efforts, we can expect teachers to push more reading independently, in groups, and at home.
Audio technology in schools is for more than broadcasting the morning announcements or public safety messages. Each classroom can benefit from individualized audio solutions that facilitate student-teacher interactions and promote learning. Some of the key benefits of classroom audio include:
Related: Preparing Your School for the New Normal
Classroom audio solutions have many benefits that directly support student learning, and funding for this technology is available from many sources. For example, Title I funding programs designed to create more equitable classrooms can provide funding for schools with low-income or disadvantaged students. Another funding source includes pandemic-related programs like The American Rescue Plan that allocates additional funding to help schools reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of pandemic-related learning loss is very real, with the majority of students in the best situations showing little or no academic advancement. In the United States, most school districts face uphill battles with classroom equity. A high number of low-income students lack access to technology and support systems — only further hurting their academic achievement.
As schools reopen for this coming school year, teachers will work harder than ever before to bridge the gaps and make up for the lost time. There is no single solution to fix the problem at hand. Schools will have to embrace everything from new instructional techniques to new technology and psychology to serve the needs of the student population.
FrontRow is a leading provider of classroom audio technology with a range of solutions available for individual classrooms and entire schools. Learn more today!