Hello! My name is Marisa Crowder, I am a researcher at McREL International. My colleague is Samantha Holquist, a research scientist at the Search Institute. We are excited to share some of the findings from our recent study, which was conducted in collaboration with youth researchers. The focus on this blog is on findings that discuss student engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 has drastically altered the delivery of education. Numerous resources have been disseminated to support educators in their transition from in-person learning to distance learning. Many of these resources are aimed at promoting student engagement in their learning in this new context. Our recent white paper (see below) summarizes a study in which we asked students (n = 19) if and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their engagement during spring 2020. Their focus group responses were sobering:
- The Shift to Virtual Learning. Most students noted that the shift to virtual learning negatively impacted their ability to engage in their learning.
- Mental Health Concerns: Many students noted that their mental health suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, this meant prioritizing their mental health over their academic engagement.
- Access to Resources: Some students shared that their educators assumed that all students had access to the resources that had been available at school (e.g., stable internet to attend a virtual class, an environment conducive to learning).
- Limited Communication with Teachers: Students noted that some of their teachers were not accessible or available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Busywork: Teachers tended to fill students time with “busywork” rather than educational experiences.
The silver lining? Students noted that teachers who were engaging before the pandemic continued to be so. It seemed that the pandemic exacerbated the lack of engagement among those instructors who did not prioritize student engagement in the first place. Students offered their insights into how educators could support their learning during a pandemic.
- Partner with Students to Understand Their Experiences: Students are experts in their experiences. When evaluations are conducted in partnership with students, evaluators are better able to center students’ lived experiences and needs in their data collection, analysis, and findings. When conducting evaluations of learning settings, partner with at least two student researchers to bring additional expertise and nuance into the findings.
- Meet Students Where They Are: Help educators to understand who their students are and what they bring to the table; encourage them to provide access to resources and offer multiple modes of communication and ways to demonstrate their learning (e.g., social media platforms).
- Prioritize Teacher-Student Relationships: Students are more likely to engage when they believe their teacher cares about them. Help teachers show they care about students’ lives inside and outside of the learning environment.
- Offer “Meal Prep” Assignments: Rather than assign busywork, encourage educators to offer assignments at the start of the week that build on each other throughout the week. For example, a student can fill out an assignment as they continue to learn lessons on the topic.
Students also acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for teachers. Their insights were offered to support educators in understanding the student perspective and to demonstrate their own awareness that engagement is a “collective performance” in which everyone plays a role.
You can access the white paper here: https://www.mcrel.org/the-silent-epidemic-finds-its-voice/
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