They’re Doing Fine!
Should we be worried about how much our students have actually learned online?
One thing I’ve heard often since the return to school and now, face-to-face learning, is the fear that students will return somehow worse off for the experience.
There seems to be a common belief amongst some teaching circles that our time online has burdened students for the most part and rendered their learning at home unsatisfactory, when compared with traditional classroom learning. It is my belief that if anything, we will see a rise in most students results when they return to school. This is due to increased one-on-one support, ability to communicate openly and greater parent involvement (for the most part).
Granted, some students struggled greatly, whether this be with time-management and the allure of devices, workload, anxiety or simply lack of coaching from parents. The thing is though, for the majority, students experienced learning that was targeted, simplified and came with access to one-on-one tutoring, whether it be from the teacher or a parent/guardian. These students were able to have their questions answered within an extremely timely manner, and in detail, something that despite our best intentions as educators, we are not always able to provide in a class of 25+, or in my case as a co-educator, 40+!
Imagine your most labor intensive student, the one that requires more of your help then any other, and in many cases receives it. That student potentially had constant access to someone else who was able to give them that attention, which freed you to work with your students who may be less inclined to voice concerns and subsequently, fly under the radar. As an added bonus, that student can also ask you for help as well! Bonus!
And then there’s the students who usually do fly under the radar, who suddenly, you’re building rapport with. They feel safe and confident behind the screen and you’re just glad you now know their cat’s name!
This is because, behind a screen children do naturally feel safe. In their home environment, they don’t need to worry about who they’re going to play with or whether the teacher is going to cold-call them about something they do not know. They also know that, if all else fails, they have at least one adult who cares, ready to support them and (mostly) free of distractions. It’s a win-win. It’s almost like everything we work tirelessly to provide within the classroom, but occurring naturally.
Of course there were some detriments. Inattentive parents exist just as much as lazy teachers do and not all kids survived without the wonderful social interaction that school’s provide. There were also instances of students flat-out refusing to complete work and without an environment where a teacher could correct them, the student who tries to do less, continues to do so even more.
However, we are accustomed to looking at silver linings. Teachers at their very core are problem solvers and what I’m asking is this — don’t try and solve the problem before there is one. There is lots to learn from this period and one key lesson is that students have learned for thousands of years without schools and have survived on the knowledge shared by others — non teachers.
According to an article written in the Sydney Morning Herald, in 2018, Australian students attend school for an average 75% more than students in Finland, yet our results year after year in PISA are lower when compared to other OECD countries. Obviously, Finland is culturally different to Australia and therefore carries different attitudes to education, but perhaps this is a further lesson on how it is the QUALITY of the education that matters, not the time taken to teach it.
This is a time for intense self-reflection and perhaps a time to challenge the way we define education. But for now, you haven’t lost any time, relax, they’re doing fine!