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Did You Say Learning Loss?

Defining Learning Loss

We are all familiar with the classroom full of students that are engaged with their instructor as topic is discussed. However, the term learning loss when searched on Google instantly brings up 1,530,000,000 hits, yet does the public really know what it means?

Most pundits would define it as the loss of educational instruction that has occurred over the past year due to the pandemic. But what exactly does that mean? How is it measured? Can you measure it with standardized tests? The list of questions go on ad nauseam. Perhaps it might be more beneficial to look at what happened to our students at a social-emotional level.That in itself may not be measurable for a few years.


There were those intangible measures of success that are not measured by standardized tests or grades that were evident during the past year. As an educator of three decades I found myself connecting with my students at a much more personal level than pre-pandemic times even though all of my instruction is basically done without my students coming on screen. Weekly checkins for emotional health took place every Monday and Tuesday via Google Surveys and Pear Deck social emotional slides. I was able to get a pulse on where students were at and they in turn shared with me their struggles which would not have happened with the exception of rare cases during pre-pandemic instruction.

In a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times by Nader Issa entitled "Many worry about

‘learning loss,’ but has this really been a lost year for CPS students?" the issue of learning was addressed by various experts. Dr Kira Baker-Doyle looked at from the perspective that one year was not significant enough to impact academic achievement. Her point was there should be an emphasis on the social-emotional well being of the students.

From a teacher perspective, I believe that students who remained engaged throughout the year have picked up many skills which may not be easily measured. In my classes students have been creating and publishing content based on inquiry questions since the first month of school. Students have become masters in using Adobe Spark, Flipgrid, as well as utilizing the finer skills of historical literacy. I predict these students will have the ability to better express themselves both orally and through various media platforms than others. As they students were pressed in online learning they also became better problem solvers and communicators with their instructors as well. Without email communication, although somewhat informal at times, students realized their needs and questions could not be answered beyond the classroom.

Suffice to say there have been many pitfalls to online learning especially among students who dealt with connectivity issues on a daily basis or who were affected by trauma of family illness and unemployment. Some students were unmonitored for their entire school day and unfortunately did have the motivation to stay engaged. I am sure these students will struggle for the upcoming year. However, I believe with the proper channeling of resources targeting both social-emotional needs and academic needs there is hope for these students. In the meantime only time will tell if there has truly been a learning loss as the media touts it.

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