As millions of students across the nation return to in-person instruction, educators face a host of challenges stemming from COVID-19 disruptions over the past year and a half. Due to the impact of "learning loss" or the absence of average learning gains for students, educators have their work cut out.
What Is "Learning Loss"?
Learning loss is not technically a "loss" at all, but rather an absence. As Rachael Gabriel points out in The Washington Post, the phrase refers to the absence of expected learning gains. While students may have imbibed unexpected lessons during the shift to remote learning, many of them did not quite achieve the same types of learning gains they would have in a normal year.
Matthew Reames, a fifth-grade math teacher in Virginia, explains how these "losses" primarily affect
subjects that offer foundational skill sets, such as mathematics. In an interview with The 74 Million, he explains: "Math is a whole lot of skills and concepts that build on themselves from year to year. There is not really anything you can leave out. And that's true whether you are in a pandemic or not. Each year, we look for these gaps."
Today's math teachers need in-depth knowledge of how students learn and the theories that undergird mathematical education in order to best close achievement gaps that have widened over the past year. The University of Texas at Arlington offers a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction – Mathematics Education online program that prepares educators to understand the theories of teaching and learning that will shape the future of math education.
Acceleration Over Remediation
While many educators are preparing to reteach everything from the previous year, some experts believe it may be best to accelerate learning. Vox points to an example from Highline Public Schools. Instead of relying on large-scale remediation, this district has been moving forward with typical grade-level work along with targeted help when students don't understand something.
The results give hope, as evidenced by significant learning gains in a short period of time. However, the findings also align with expert advice about achievement gaps being reinforced through remediation and overcome through acceleration.
Emphasize Individual Mastery
Ohio public schools are turning to the "mastery" approach to help close learning gaps from the previous year. Sometimes known as the competency approach, it allows students to learn at their own pace. Several Ohio schools have already tried this method for the last few years and have seen success. The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged state officials to adopt this approach across its schools. By homing in on the competencies, students can focus on learning the next skill rather than catching up to their peers.
UTA's online program provides educators with in-depth knowledge of how students learn, allowing them to differentiate instruction accordingly. Graduates of the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program are prepared to assess student needs and develop individualized, culturally responsive teaching practices to meet those needs.
Reignite Enthusiasm for Learning
The pandemic has taken a toll on students' mental health, an enriching education is crucial to help them cope with the changes still affecting them. Blending education with substantive activities is a great way to help students relax and remember how fun learning can be. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development strongly advocates making math a joy for students, especially when facing achievement gaps. Sharing your own passion for the subject with students and utilizing a wide variety of popular media and technology can engage students, helping them connect skills and concepts to real-world problems.
UTA's degree program provides graduates with training in the latest technological developments in mathematics education and the theories of learning that inform this approach. This equips educators to teach mathematical skills and concepts while engaging students with enjoyable learning.
While the pandemic may have eroded learning gains, students can still catch up and strive to excel. Armed with the tools and knowledge provided by UTA's online M.Ed. program, math teachers can use a variety of approaches to help students succeed academically and personally.
The 74 Million:
A Problem for Math Teachers: Solving the Dilemma of Learning Lost to a Year of Zoom
Helping Students Learn at Their Own Pace: Why Some Ohio Schools Are Adopting a 'Mastery' Approach in Hopes of Closing COVID Learning Gaps
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