Lessons To Learn From K-12 Remote Study

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Dan Hawthorne

By Dan Hawthorne, Ph.D., director of industrial-organizational psychology, PAIRIN.

We’re starting to emerge from our pandemic-induced hibernation, and as we do so it’s important to look back on the past year and learn from our experiences – good and bad. In different ways, every organization had to adapt to the pandemic, whether it was moving to remote-work, accelerating digital-first initiatives, or in the case of education, shutting down schools and creating virtual classrooms.

Without in-person teaching, students have been left to create their own education path. For some this may have been a blessing, allowing them to move ahead (or look backwards) to best suit their education needs, but for others, the lack of guidance and instruction has been a hindrance. In a virtual setting it’s all too easy to hide behind the mute button, remain off video, and even complete other tasks while the class moves on.

Although we’re beginning to see the return to normalcy, there are several key takeaways we can learn from the shortcomings of remote K-12 education.

Remote Learning Shortcomings

For the most part, experts agree that remote learning was not very successful, especially for

younger students and those from lower socioeconomic statuses. Learning losses for K-12 students were examined early in the summer of 2020, and predictions were made to determine the shortcomings caused by remote learning in place of in-person study. Three scenarios were examined, including return to in-person education in Fall 2020, Jan 2021 and Fall 2021. In all three scenarios learning losses were anticipated, ranging from a three to four month loss if students received average remote learning, to a seven to eleven month loss with low quality remote instruction.

Other studies unearthed similar results. In Fall 2020, NWEA conducted Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments for 4.4 million US students from ages 8-14 in the US. The study found that students had slid in progress compared to previous years, and using 2019 as a benchmark, discovered that while students performed similarly for reading-based assessments, they dropped 5-10 percentile points in math skills. These results led to the conclusion that more students were falling behind compared to previous years.

Although remote learning is better than no learning at all, young students are in a delicate stage of life where they need to grasp more than just math, science and reading skills, but also inter-personal skills to develop healthy relationships. Remote learning does not provide the same type of space and environment to speak with peers, navigate social relationships, and better understand non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. This lack of human exposure not only leads to under-developed social skills, but can also impact mental health.

Additional studies were undertaken during remote learning to determine the mental state and well-being of K-12 students. One report identified that 46% of teachers had seen an increase in students’ mental health issues, citing that they were expressing anxiety and depression far more often than before the pandemic. While this may be tied to external factors, the inability to escape home-life and independently create relationships and experiences certainly played a large role.

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Higher Education Must Support The ABC’s of A Reskilling Workforce

By Michael Simpson, chairman and CEO, PAIRIN.

Michael Simpson

After completing high school in the U.S., most students are encouraged to take the traditional path of attending a four-year university with the intention of earning a degree and preparing themselves for a successful career. In fact, 88 percent of students say their main goal of going to college is to “get a good job” – a goal that has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently more than 50 million people out of work in the U.S., making the fight for any job right now that much harder.

The population of people looking for new careers is larger than ever, and they need support from education institutions to ensure they are as prepared as possible for the workforce and specific career pursuits. The problem? These jobseekers do not all have the same needs and goals, and therefore, education institutions cannot treat them in a “one size fits all” manner as they have done historically.

There is a systemic shift that needs to take place within our education system so postsecondary institutions can address the needs of these groups of jobseekers more effectively. For example, there are three types of jobseekers, also known as the ABC’s of the workforce: people looking for “any job,” people looking for a “better job” and people looking for a “career job.” Right now, our education institutions are not in a place to meet the urgent needs of our diverse, reskilling workforce.

The ABC’s of the workforce

People looking for “any job” want to understand their skills and how they apply to other careers, not just the role they currently serve. Millions of Americans currently find themselves in this category, looking for any job that will pay the bills. However, many people struggle to identify how the innate skills and experience they possess could be transferred to another career, and they need specific support to do so.

To support the unique needs of this category, education institutions and employers need to work together to offer short, COVID-resilient, job-specific training. This training needs to address the particular needs of employers in an industry, and should focus on quickly helping career workers to identify their skills and areas of success that can be applied to other areas of work.

People looking for a “better job,” want to make significant advancements in their career or are looking to move to a better fitting job. In postsecondary education, the continuing education and career services departments typically take on a role to help these students and career-oriented workers, but are oftentimes severely underfunded and understaffed. In fact, as the recession deepens across the country, universities are cutting funding to career services, making it harder than ever to service those in the “better job” category.

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