3 small things one can do to handle learning loss due to Covid19

Many countries are developing major rescue plans for dealing with the consequences of Covid19, announcing or already spending huge sums of money. This can be a good thing if the money is being well spent – e.g. on tutoring – but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t small things schools can do that can make a difference. Remember, in education, there are seldom silver bullets, so none of what follows will have a huge impact. But they won’t cost you that much effort, and they can have an impact.

  1. Use teaching assistants and help in class wisely
    Yes, tutoring can be a very effective way to deal with this situation, but sometimes quite costly. But Dietrichson et al also showed that more time with their own teacher can help to close learning gaps. But what do schools often do: they let the teaching assistant help those children, while their own teacher knows them much better. So, why don’t you make a switch? Let the teaching assistant – or the support teacher, a helping parent,… – help the children in class while e.g. they are working on their own, freeing up time for the class teacher to work with the children who need extra help.
  2. Better safe than sorry: preteaching
    With the current situation, it’s logical to think we should remediate. But in medicine, the thinking is often that prevention is better than the cure. In education remedial teaching can be regarded as the cure, preteaching can be the prevention. Instead of looking behind, let’s look forward. Check which prior knowledge your pupils or students need for the next classes, and help those children who are missing elements by teaching those beforehand. You could even teach them already a bit of the new stuff, making sure that they will be able to follow the new lessons together with the rest of the class. This heads-up can also give them a positive feeling because they are able to understand what’s being explained in the regular teaching segments.
  3. Let the school be a school
    I learned from prof. Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons that the original, etymological meaning for school is time off, free time. No, not leisure time as such, but time without economic pressure. The work of these two researchers inspired me to give this third piece of advice. It’s important that children can talk about their feelings and get support. But it can be as important that they can also get the opportunity to leave all misery behind for a while by being a pupil amongst the pupils. This will probably also benefit the learning.

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