Some two months into the 2021–2022 academic year, our educators and students (and their families) are happy to be back in school, though we recognize there are some who still struggle. From transportation shortfalls to unprepared quarantined learning to one-size schooling, many students remain challenged with learning access, engagement, and success.
I remain hopeful that the pandemic will provide a reflection and pivot point to reimagine education and further mature the flexible and personalized models that were introduced out of necessity. I understand the fatigue, pull to return to “normal,” and immediate day-to-day challenges. But that pre-pandemic status quo was not working for too many students, in part demonstrated by continued struggles today.
We do have a pathway forward. It requires risk to reimagine and change, but it could also provide even greater reward. Pandemic learning demonstrated the importance of relationships and well-being, of student agency and choice, of system flexibility and resilience, and of teachers and their continued learning.
Taking a Growth Approach to School and Student Success
What do all of these have in common? Growth. They are enablers and metrics of the growth of students and the growth of systems.
A growth model can help us accelerate student learning now and build a more student-centered, resilient instructional system moving forward.
- A student growth model authentically builds on each student’s strengths, interests, and needs in order to address unfinished learning and accelerate continued development and enrichment.
- A school growth model provides the flexibility needed to support multiple student pathways and mitigate ongoing, foreseeable disruptions, thus delivering continuity of quality instruction for all students.
In combination, these approaches can enable our K–12 systems to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever for both the short and long term to support student success.
At D2L, we are continuing to partner with school systems to understand and inform their educator’s learning journeys to better support their students’ learning journeys. Short-term approaches of extended school hours and remediation may be important to address unfinished learning now, but they alone aren’t enough to help us reach, engage, and instruct all students, especially those who face the greatest disparities.
Understanding the Pieces That Make Up a Growth Approach
- Student Well-Being and Social-Emotional Support: Given pandemic disruptions, a go-slow empathetic environment will help enable student readiness for learning.
- Flexible Pathways: Providing a variety of options for the time, place, and modality of schooling can support student agency, equity, and engagement.
- Mastery-Based, Personalized Learning: By basing student progress on demonstrated mastery of a learning goal independent of the instructional time spent on task, we can build student-centered pathways that make the best use of teacher/student time and set students up for success.
- Deeper, Authentic Curriculum and Instruction: Providing more relevant, inclusive, and engaging content and instruction aligned to academic standards can support richer, more meaningful learning.
- Single Door to the Classroom: Students, families, and educators increasingly expect a one-stop digital learning hub to access learning content and community for their success.
In implementing these elements, we also need to simultaneously consider and address three overarching issues: resilience, equity, and professional learning.
K-12 Guide to Educational Growth: From Student Recovery to Reimagining Schools
We capture this actionable vision in our new K-12 Guide to Educational Growth: From Student Recovery to Reimagining Schools.
A growth mindset can help us meet the moment and embrace changes and challenges as they come. For students, it’s about building on experiences and abilities to support learning recovery, acceleration, and success. For schools and educators, it’s about adapting, evolving, and extending to support multiple student pathways and providing continuity of quality learning for all learners, even in the face of disruptions.
We hope this guide provides you with a framework for moving forward that can help address unfinished student learning now and reimagine your schools to support ongoing student success in the future.
Mark Schneiderman is Senior Director for the Future of Teaching and Learning at D2L. Mark curates research and strategic partnerships to support the K-12 education sector in identifying and implementing best practices. He previously held senior roles in the technology and nonprofit sectors where he built public-private partnerships to help imagine and advocate for public and school policies that enhance student success through the use of technology and digital learning.
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