Over the last year, the global pandemic has spurred changes in nearly every aspect of life, which in many cases, has resulted in losses. One of the most prevalent types of losses was, and still is, learning losses. 

Learning losses are the consequences of the pandemic in regard to education and students’ learning capabilities. Or, in this case, lack thereof. Covid-19 essentially halted life as we knew it. And for students, one of the biggest challenges was getting back into the swing of school. This was difficult for many, as most students transitioned from learning in a dynamic, engaging environment to staring at their teacher through a computer screen, trying not to get distracted by their beloved (closed) PS4 just a walk away. 

In adjusting to living in the face of a global pandemic, students had to transition to a completely new form of education. Through this virtual learning, many students faced challenges—they had difficulty focusing, studying, and absorbing information. 

Covid-19 Led to Learning Losses, and Increasing Mental Health Challenges

Plus, in general, the pandemic seemingly yielded higher rates of depression and anxiety— a Mckinsey report demonstrates this by illustrating that Covid-19 is directly related to levels of distress. 

In fact, learning loss isn’t only related to the pandemic itself, but also to the emotional and mental health consequences. A 2020 survey highlights a survey of 1,000 parents—71% of whom said the pandemic was a significant stressor to their child. 69% of parents claimed the pandemic to be the worst thing to happen to their child. 

So between adjusting to virtual life and dealing with potential anxiety and depression, it’s not surprising that students experienced substantial learning losses. If a student is dealing with intense anxiety or depression, how can they focus on a trigonomic function lesson? Let alone homework, exams, and projects?

UNESCO estimated that two-thirds of the academic year may have been lost through the change, with 800 million students continuing to face academic disturbances. 

This transition prompted many questions, doubts, and frustration. And this is understandable, since a major change–let alone a deathly virus–often causes some type of turbulence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated just that. Through their data, they illustrated that virtual learning “might present more risks than in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”

One paper found that when students were learning from home, progress was, to some extent, halted. Another report determined that students fell behind in math and reading by several months—and, for students of color, learning losses were worse (in the sense that they were anticipated to be more permanent). Pandemic learning losses

Learning Losses Disproportionately Affected Marginalized Groups

It’s important to note that pandemic learning losses were not the same for everyone. That is, these losses disproportionately affected more vulnerable students. Data from The World Bank demonstrates these disparities:

  • Students who are in low SES families, who have disabilities, and who identify as females were less likely to have access to remote learning than their peers. Two common factors contributing to this disparity were having less access to technological tools or electricity.
  • In addition, students of color experienced greater learning losses than other students.
  • In general, learning losses were more substantial in countries/groups of lower SES. Certain countries include Ghana, Mexico, and Pakistan.  

How do Pandemic Losses Affect Students?

Pandemic losses generally refer to the ways in which students feel unable or less able than their typical capability to keep up with their school work. Basically, pandemic losses for students are academic losses—the transition to remote learning, for many, spurred these losses. 

One major area of concern is math. According to Brookings data, math performance in 2020 was lower than that of 2019 across third to eighth-grade students. 

For younger students, remote learning was less accessible than for older students—younger students were also more affected by learning loss than older students, partially because they often had less access to remote tools/learning.

Pandemic losses may result in students finding themselves feeling incompetent, lost, and insecure about their academic performance. Plus, they may feel alone and isolated with their specific learning issues, which can make it more challenging to seek help.

What Can Teachers Do?

Since students are still navigating this challenging space, it’s important to recognize that they might continually face difficulties getting back to their typical academic regimen. 

Adding Summer/Extra Sessions

One thing teachers may consider is adding extra sessions–whether during the summer or weekends–to the school year for students who need extra support. If you have the financial means to do this, or can utilize funding from the ESSER government funds, students who feel behind may significantly benefit. 

Having extra school sessions allows students to go over some of the topics they may have fallen behind on and get back to speed in any other subject areas. 

Consider Teacher’s Assistants

Another potential (partial) solution may be bringing teacher’s assistants (or TAs) into the classroom. If this is an option, having another mentor in the classroom can help increase the individualized instruction and in turn reverse learning losses.  

Encourage Tutoring

Another form of increased support that won’t necessarily require additional work from your school is tutoring. In a report on how the pandemic has influenced education, McKinsey & Company recommends tutoring as a way that students can reverse the learning losses. 

Learning Losses

As a teacher, if you can implement tutoring in the classroom, great! But if you can’t, you can still motivate students to try tutoring that’s outside of the classroom. If students are continuing remote work, they can try online tutoring, eliminating potential worries regarding physical contact.  

My Private Professor is an online tutoring platform that is devoted to helping as many students in as many ways as possible. Our top-notch tutors offer their individual rates, so teachers can recommend tutors to families based on academic and financial needs. 

Additionally, we understand that not all students can afford our tutor rates, so we’re grateful that we can offer tutoring grants (which are awarded based on financial need) and maximize our student support. 

Tips for Students Facing Learning Losses

As a student, it may feel overwhelming to figure out how to get back on track in school during unprecedented times. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to try and diminish the learning losses you may have experienced. 

  • Reach out to your teachers and any academic mentors they may have and seek support. 
  • In addition, look to online resources to help them navigate remote learning—these may include study tools, homework-helpers, or forums. 
  • It may be helpful to enroll in extra classes (if financially possible) that can bring you up to speed in certain areas or subjects.  

From the pandemic, one extremely important takeaway has been that humans are incredibly resilient—and more than we realize. Any type of major change in life is going to have effects and consequences; but just as we’ve been doing for decades, we learn, and then we bounce back. 

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