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How Student Centered Learning Supports Learning Loss Recovery Efforts

How Student Centered Learning Supports Learning Loss Recovery Efforts

Personalized Learning  |  Teachers  |  Blended Learning  |  Education Elements  |  School Leadership

More than three years after the onset of the global COVID-19 health pandemic, researchers are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding how acute the long-term effects of the shuttering of schools and a shift to virtual and hybrid learning environments are having on students. Recent data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic halted more than two decades of momentum in math and reading achievements. Another nationwide survey indicates that K-12 reading skills across the country have dropped to a thirty-year low on average. Educational inequalities were also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among students with limited access to financial, social, health, and technology resources, many of whom were already struggling academically before the pandemic. One effective method for combating learning loss created by the COVID-19 pandemic is for teachers to implement Personalized Learning in their schools and classrooms.

Target Your Instruction to Meet Students Where They Are 

Teachers are working diligently to support students who lost as much as 35% of a school year’s worth of instruction when schools closed during the pandemic. Yet, due to the drastically varied hybrid and virtual learning experiences that students received, teachers are overwhelmed by the challenge of supporting students with an array of learning variabilities, social and emotional needs, and standards-aligned proficiency levels. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to instruction, and no two students learn exactly the same or have the same academic needs. This statement rings even more true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Personalized Learning, teachers can create learning experiences that meet the individual needs of their learners. Education Elements’ Personalized Learning methodology is based on research and crafted with four core elements, or the Core Four: Targeted Instruction, Flexible Path and Pace, Reflection and Goal Setting, and Collaboration and Creativity.

Targeted Instruction leverages real-time data to tailor the learning experience to ensure the instruction provided aligns with a student’s specific needs, learning goals, and interests. The data collected can also be used to form groupings within a class to foster collaboration. Successful Targeted Instruction also draws on students’ interests and preferences beyond the traditional classroom setting to increase engagement.  

Using Personalized Learning’s element of Targeted Instruction, teachers can tailor a learning experience that is responsive and meets the individual experience of their learners, and supports students where they are in their efforts to recover learning post-pandemic. Additionally, when successfully implemented, Targeted Instruction provides room for pivots, allowing teachers to adjust the instructional experience as students progress or their needs shift. 

Establish Structures for Flexible Path and Pace 

One particular challenge teachers are facing in post-pandemic instruction is maintaining student investment. In successful Flexible Path and Pace implementation, all students are provided with the same standards-aligned content with opportunities to demonstrate learning proficiency. This can be done through various modalities and at a pace that leverages their prior knowledge, skill set, and personal interests to cultivate higher investment in learning. 

In the wake of virtual and hybrid learning environments, students are using technology more than ever in both their academic and personal lives. Additionally, an array of adaptive and creative technologies have emerged to support teachers in providing voice and choice in their classrooms, allowing students to choose how they learn. These technologies can be leveraged to build on a learner’s interests and unique skill set in a way that leads to higher investment by allowing students to have a voice and choice in their learning experience. The recovery of pandemic learning loss is proving to be an arduous experience for teachers and students. By offering flexible paths and paces to access instruction and demonstrate learning, teachers are able to foster higher levels of investment and engagement from students that will support learning recovery in a more sustainable way. 

the core four of personalizing learning downloadable

Set and Reflect on Actionable, Attainable Goals

COVID learning loss recovery will not happen overnight for any student. Reflection and Goal Setting promotes student ownership of learning by having students set, track, and reflect on learning goals that they help set. Effective goal setting occurs when students are able to use formative and summative assessment data to inform their future goals and criteria for success with limited support from their teacher. Providing structures and systems for students to set and reflect on their learning goals will ensure that students are on track to master standards and provide data to continue customizing their learning experience. 

An illustrative case study is Lewiston-Porter Central School District in New York State, which partnered with Education Elements for more than five years through the creation and implementation of its district’s strategic plan. In the 22-23 school year, Education Elements supported Lewiston-Porter CSD in implementing Personalized Learning through the creation of an optional fellowship, including teachers from their primary, intermediate, middle, and high schools. In service to their strategic plan, Lewiston-Porter district administration highlighted Reflection and Goal setting in this year’s fellowship to great success.  

“Our ultimate intention in Personalized Learning implementation was to create a cycle of reflection and goal setting to help students reflect on their learning and create personal goals that increase proficiency in all academic areas. While Personalized Learning would always be beneficial for all students, it has been especially valuable for COVID mitigation in our schools since it allows students to set goals, access learning through differentiated opportunities, and deepen their engagement through voice and choice.”

- Dr. Heather Lyon, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology for Lewiston-Porter Central School District

The need to recover a historic amount of learning loss can feel overwhelming for both teachers and students. By using Reflection and Goal setting, teachers are able to provide structures that make learning loss recovery both attainable and less daunting and foster student ownership of their learning recovery efforts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created landmark challenges for school districts across the United States. By incorporating Personalized Learning, school districts can meet these challenges in a way that directly supports both teachers and students. By providing targeted instruction to meet learners where they are, flexible paths and paces for students to demonstrate learning in a way that leverages their skills and interests, and establishing a culture of reflection and goal setting, teachers will be successful in recovering the learning loss students experienced during the pandemic. Moreover, the incorporation of these core elements of Personalized Learning will foster healthy practices that will be beneficial for students throughout the remainder of their K-12 experience and beyond.


About Collin Thompson

Collin Thompson is Design Principal. Prior to joining Education Elements, Collin worked as a teacher, Dean, and Assistant Principal at schools in San Jose, California and New York City. Prior to his career in education, he worked in politics and non-profits, including co-founding an NGO in Tanzania, East Africa that supports women living with HIV/AIDS. At Education Elements, Collin has supported schools over a dozen school districts in numerous states, focused primarily on strategic planning, strategic implementation, and Personalized Learning. Collin holds a B.A. in History and Political Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and an Ed.M. in Digital Learning and Educational Technology from Johns Hopkins University. Collin is passionate about education equity. He is also serious about the New York Times, ice cream, Elton John, and his Labrador.

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