The COVID-19 home learning period had a greater impact on student wellbeing than academic progress, with some students and staff experiencing a “COVID hangover” from 2020 that is continuing to affect motivation, anxiety and engagement levels, according to new research commissioned by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ).
These are among the insights from the sector-first research paper, Reflections on teaching and learning during COVID-19 in Queensland independent schools, released today at the ISQ State Forum Celebrating Change.
ISQ commissioned Dr Natasha Ziebell and Dr Lucy Robertson from the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education to survey independent schools to gather and analyse the perspectives of independent school leaders and teachers on the COVID-19 home learning period.
The paper captures point-in-time school reflections on the immediate opportunities and challenges of the home learning period as well as areas of continuing concern that warrant further attention.
According to report authors Dr Ziebell and Dr Robertson: “In education, the pandemic provided a catalyst for exploring more novel ways of teaching and learning and has exposed some of those enduring practices that now need to be modified and updated.”
They also noted that “the remote learning period highlighted the importance of investing in positive relationships, belonging and connectedness to school and the school community.”
According to the paper, the majority of the 74 independent school leaders and teachers who took part in a COVID-19 survey between March and April 2021, “felt that the remote learning period had a neutral or negative impact on students” with student wellbeing and social development more negatively impacted than academic progress.
One teacher quoted in the paper summarised the impact of the home learning period on students: “For those who are self-disciplined and tech-savvy, it works well but for some, it gives the opportunity to disengage.”
The survey also revealed that the majority of teachers believed they received adequate support during remote learning (76%) and on their return to classroom teaching (72%).
According to the research, key opportunities that emerged from the move to home learning were the chance to:
In contrast, challenges identified by survey respondents included:
ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said the research paper added to an evolving literature and knowledge base on the emergency transformation of schooling in response to COVID-19.
“The paper highlights the agility of independent schools, by virtue of their autonomy and local-decision making powers, to respond to the unique needs of their individual students and the changing circumstances of their families,” he said.
“It also presents candid reflections from our frontline education workers from this period and pinpoints areas for further attention such as student-teacher wellbeing, gaps in student content knowledge, student-teacher relationships, student academic resilience, and the integration of technology into education programs.”
In addition to the survey findings, the paper presents a range of informative case studies exploring the perspectives of an independent school principal, primary teacher, secondary teacher and international students.
It also draws together findings from a range of published studies and surveys undertaken by government departments and education groups to document the experiences and education take-outs from the COVID-home learning period in Australia.
The research paper is the latest publication under ISQ’s Our Schools – Our Future program – a research-based initiative that promotes informed public policy debate about schooling.
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