Using the pandemic’s data to support deep learning in the classroom

  • 5 minute read
  • 1 May 2022

Over the past two years the global COVID-19 pandemic has put us through lockdown’s, remote learning and isolation from friends and family. While we have returned to the classroom and are charging into Term 2, we have just spent more time online than ever before.

For some schools, this time has opened up the idea of moving to online programs so they can capture data to improve learning. 

We already know so much about the barriers and worries of young people throughout remote learning. So many young people care deeply about their education, so when the pandemic prompted major changes to schooling, students were rightfully concerned. According to UNICEF’s “Living in Limbo” report  67% of young people had concerns about their education being ‘disrupted or held back’ due to the pandemic. headspace shared similar findings with two thirds of respondents (65%) stating concerns with education, study and/or university. 

Kids Helpline data also showed that the educational impacts of COVID-19 were the third most frequently raised concern at 20% of all callers. High School aged young people were more likely to raise education as an issue than children and young adults. Students with limited access to technology and those who moved between households frequently also raised issues related to home learning and socialising online. All of these elements impact a student’s ability to follow their coursework and perform with many teachers treating Term 1 as a way to support their students getting back on track to pre-pandemic levels.

Now that we know the lay of the land, we’re ready to do something about it…right?

We’re back in the classroom and Term 1 is down, but you wouldn’t be alone in wondering where to begin with the spread of ability across your class. In theory, those who used online programs to capture student progress throughout remote learning (something inconceivable even five years ago) should have a better understanding of learning levels now-  after all, if Google can get to know us through our search results, then digital and online learning platforms should tell us about how our students learn… right? 

Well, unfortunately this isn’t always the case – especially when, as we know, remote learning was mostly spent anticipating the next obstacle and trying to ensure students were supported to navigate all this change as well as feeling empowered to get through a fractured workload. 

After successfully navigating a term back of in-person learning, we have all been absorbing how our students are going and how we can support them to get their learning back on track for the rest of the year. As we now head into Term 2, it’s time to shift gears and use what we know from our class data to make sure we’re supporting students with the correct content and the correct time and technology is crucial in getting an accurate understanding here.

The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model gives us a lens to evaluate the extent to which a certain technology is impacting teaching and learning. 

Screen Shot 2022 05 02 at 2.58.11 pm

We can use the model to explore the example of an eBook. An eBook is essentially a traditional textbook that has been recreated digitally. In its new form, it can provide students with new benefits, like accessibility and affordability, but it still carries many of the downsides of the traditional textbook. EBooks provide a substitution (the best examples might stretch to an augmentation) of what textbooks do. For the most part, eBooks are still relatively static. There might be some updates and tweaks here and there, but for the most part the content in the eBook reflects that of the textbook. Additional questions can’t be added to give students more practice and wording isn’t changed for clarification. Solutions are not edited to provide students with additional support and feedback if they need it. They have not redefined teaching and learning or transformed the way content is delivered. 

We can see through the simple fact that eBooks don’t provide data on their impact with students. If there is data it’s often limited to things like the length of time the student had the eBook open, which tells very little about the efficacy or behaviours related to success in learning.

Without any information on how effective their eBooks are, the companies behind them can’t make edits to improve student learning. And the same goes for so many maths platforms that, although they present content to the students in an interactive way the lack of integrated continuous assessment prevents them from establishing a feedback loop for better content design. They can’t rethink questions or chapters to better support mastery because they don’t know if students are matersting them in the first place. And for the teachers who use them this can be particularly frustrating. They can see first hand the improvements that need to be made and often have to live with it, making workarounds for students.

What does using this technology look like in practice and how can we use it to support students post-remote learning?

Teachers have adapted their practice to incorporate data collecting tools that inform their teaching. In the same way, online learning programs should use their own data to continually improve their resources and in turn, support better student outcomes for your classroom. 

In practice, this involves collecting data from all students who use these programs and using it to reflect on things like:

  • Time spent on chapters/modules: how long is it taking students to move through a topic? Is this too long or too short and does this suggest the chapter/modules is too easy or hard?
  • Where students are getting stuck: Is there a particular question that isn’t clearly worded? Is the question too hard? Or does there need to be more scaffolding within the module/chapter?
  • How students went with the assessment: is the module/chapter too hard, too easy or just right?

This process is made even better when teachers can also have input by submitting their observations from the classroom – combining “wellbeing data” with academic.

The privilege and possibility of “now”

By continually improving and iterating content, students can progress faster with fewer misconceptions and a deeper understanding. That’s exactly why Maths Pathway has leveraged technology to collect the data of the 80,000 students using our model.

We now have the unique ability to use real-time data to update our content if and when issues arise or as a result of clear trends in our data. If thousands of students are tripping up on the same question our Learning Team knows about it and they can use their expertise to fix it. The insights from this data also enable the team to be more strategic and targeted allowing them to spend time where the learning impact will be greatest. But even better, they can see the efficacy of the change, ensuring the content they’re delivering is the best it can possibly be.

While young people are going to be feeling the ripple effects of the pandemic for some time, we are in the privileged position to support them through these adjustments. The pandemic has proven that being a teacher goes beyond the job hours, heck it even goes beyond an in-person classroom now, but we can use this time and the technology we have access to to make the future better, faster, for our students.

Author: Maths Pathway

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