The relationship between learning and simply completing assignments has been a complex one in the education system for many years. The pandemic has not changed that; however, our current reality has certainly amplified it. I have personally experienced this as a college student. As a tutor during the pandemic, I have seen the shift in kids. The information is far less appealing in this form of education, and it is difficult to see beyond the next assignment to complete. Which, to be fair, is something I think every American is feeling at this moment. We are all just trying to get through our next assignment, through this day or week. Everyone is searching for some semblance of normal that may never return.
Within this search for normalcy appears a desire to get things over with. For many children, this is how they have always viewed school and will continue to do so. Yet, in a classroom, with teachers and classmates, they can learn in ways beyond assignment completion. Nowadays, many students are learning over Zoom or in some sort of hybrid form of school, and the whole idea of learning has changed. Within this mode, there is so much room for students to lose the process of learning. It is far more than just acquiring certain pieces of knowledge through their course. They are losing a chance to acquire life skills that come just from being in a school setting. There are countless examples of this. One simple one is the ability to ask questions when in need. This is encouraged and allows students to go beyond their own set of knowledge in soaking up teachers and classmate’s ideas as well. There are a million other small life skills that students are able to achieve in a typical classroom setting that cannot be done through a computer screen.
My own experience with students that I have been working with has demonstrated a list-oriented learning style. The teachers convey what needs to be completed, and the students can check it off the list when they are done. This is very much a completion oriented learning style. This is to no fault of the teachers, nor the students. Lists are a great way to keep track of accomplishments and what is left to be done. However, in doing these completion oriented tasks outside the classroom, sometimes by themselves, it is incredibly difficult to retain the information that they should be acquiring. This is an adaptation to remote or hybrid that allows for success in this specific school type, a success that may not translate to standard school settings. On the other hand, increased responsibility and task assignment skills can also be an essential life skill when able to be utilized correctly. Some students may thrive in this setting and improve their organizational skills, which is a powerful tool in academic success.
Another contributing factor to the shifting process of learning is the lack of or different support systems they may have. Since they do not have the necessary support that they might from school, teachers, tutors, classmate support, etc. they are simply unable to focus on the educational big picture. The support system that exists in the school allows for exploration and new thinking patterns guided by people who are there to help students. Right now, everything else in student’s lives is looming quite large, and school has taken a back seat in many forms. As the school’s role has changed, the perception of school has shifted with it, and it has become a task rather than an experience. Many students do not have the necessary support system at home to succeed in the way they are able to at school with people who can lead them through the learning process rather than completing assignments. Even if they are in person, the social aspect of school is extremely minimized, and the group work that many students thrive on is nonexistent. Education, and school in general, are far more than the tests and books it comes with acquiring the skills to succeed in our world; in our current educational environment, that can be extremely difficult for many students who are still developing these skills.
Throughout my time in my semester off, I have worked with middle schoolers and high schoolers in a hybrid learning environment. While they are all capable and hard-working, this shift is not always easy, especially for middle schoolers. They are still laying the groundwork in becoming a student, and that groundwork is challenging to lay when students have such a disjointed form of learning. Because of this, all of their efforts go into completion rather than retention. It would be naïve to believe that this does not occur in every level of school, pandemic or not, but being at home or working through a computer makes this into a much larger issue.
The consequences of the education system at this moment have yet to be uncovered; however, I am extremely curious to see the implications it has on our students, especially those in primary school. I am also interested in witnessing how this evaluation will be achieved because of what the testing could convey. Perhaps students could do just as well or better on testing because standardized tests do seem to evaluate this type of learning. They can see this limited perspective of students that may have improved in this type of school setting. Standardized tests are based on the idea of completion over learning, the priorities being in time constraints, and finding one correct answer, seemingly mimicking the current learning styles. Perhaps these tests will relay positive results in our modified education system. In this sense, it is important to consider their specific perspective and how it may convey the implications of pandemic education. Regardless of the aftermath, it is clear to me that student’s perception of learning itself and allowing it to be a process rather than a task is shifting within pandemic education, and it is important to acknowledge this as we take on our future that may never return to normal.
Thank you for reading, and please leave any thoughts below!