CLOSING THE COVID-19 LEARNING GAPS
While the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and students flip-flopping between remote and in-classroom learning is a large-scale problem, it’s not one that can be resolved with generalized blanket solutions and additional funding alone. At some point schools will need a concrete plan of action and tools from governments to bridge the learning gaps that were created due to various factors, such as student demographics, access to technology, and varying levels of parental support. Below is an outline of some steps that could be proposed to empower schools as they navigate their way towards a plan to support the needs of learners when they re-enter the classroom on a more permanent basis.
1. Bridge the Gaps Between Subject-Area Curriculums:
First off, schools need to figure out what teachers at each grade level missed covering during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The reason I say this is because many schools chose to pare down what was being taught and selected a few core subject areas to focus on, such as Language Arts (LA) and math, thereby allowing other areas to take a backseat. By having the teachers go through their curriculums and come together as a staff to see where the gaps are, plans can be made to shift things around and strategies can be devised for bridging them beforehand. A pre-emptive strike, if you will, that will not only allow staff to begin the next school year prepared, but will also eliminate unnecessary student testing.
2. Determine Assessments:
Based on the gap-analysis of what has or hasn’t been taught, schools will then need to determine the type of assessments needed and for which subject areas, because there’s no sense in testing students on curriculum objectives that weren’t covered. It can be assumed that this year’s classroom teacher will need to cover those first before moving to next grade-level outcomes.
3. Develop an Educational Framework:
An educational framework can be developed with the knowledge of what has or hasn’t been covered curriculum-wise and the assumption that students will come in with varying abilities and needs based on how much time was spent on remote-learning. Below is a generalized example of what a differentiated educational framework could look like, as a framework’s design can take any shape depending on a school’s vision and core goals.
Setting up a differentiated framework like the one above allows staff to see that throughout every single subject area at the school the differentiation of curriculum objectives need to include specialist areas such as PE, music, art, etc. It must be a school-wide effort.
To learn more about educational frameworks see:
4. Develop Teacher Planning Tools
Based on the goals of the school’s differentiated educational framework, individualized planners need to be developed for staff so they have the proper planning tools in place to accommodate differing learner needs. For example, a grade 3 planner for math may look like the one below:
While the above is a very basic example, it gives you an idea of how planning tools can be set up to accommodate the differing needs of students within the class. To learn more about individualized planners see the following articles:
The Power of Planners
Individualized Teacher Planners: Do They Really Work?
How to Use Planners as a Tool for Mentoring Teachers
5. Include Support Staff
Although language/learning support staff may not have had direct input into how to bridge the curriculum gaps that may exist at a school due to some outcomes not having been taught, they do need to be informed on decisions made and provided with copies of the updated curriculums moving forward, otherwise they will be coming in blind in terms of being able to best support students. In addition to the updated curriculums, both collaborative planning time and planning tools will need to be provided to staff so that information can easily be shared and so that support staff have access to the curriculum. This can be done through the creation of planners that follow the jigsaw method of attaching so that support staff planners can feed off the information provided by the mainstream and specialist teachers. To learn more about this technique see Linking Teacher Planners: The Jigsaw Method.
6. Include Tutors
If providing tutors for students who require additional support outside of school is part of the plan, then they should be regarded the same way as any language or learning support staff and be provided with both the revised sets of curriculum objectives and the collaborative planning tools that will allow them to access the curriculums so they may best support their students, whether in-person or via online learning.
While it’s true that lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted student learning, if governments provide schools with clear steps for moving forward and the knowledge to create tools to empower their staff and students, learning gaps can be bridged and those learners who may have fallen behind can catch up to their peers. To learn more about any of our outlined steps or for assistance in creating an educational framework and/or planner, contact us!
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