With the shift in school practices during the pandemic and in the “new normal”, inequities within learning have been exacerbated. For example, lack of access to technology, internet and other school resources have been insufficient in support of all students.
Teachers and school administrators are planning and preparing to support students and their families who are trying to navigate this new school environment. Critical to doing so is making sure that students have access to materials and resources.
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Equity during Distance and Hybrid Learning
As school leaders make decisions to support their teachers and students during this time there are some considerations to be made to support student learning:
Equity affords all students the opportunity to learn with the resources and materials they need. Each school should define what equity looks like for their school community and plan accordingly. This includes creating opportunities for students to participate in different ways, being aware of the impact home environments have on learning spaces, accommodate accessibility to the assignments and more.
Use data to inform practice
During this time, collecting data on your students is important. This will provide some information as to what they may need and what systems are working for them. Consider a technology survey to assess student’s access to the technology resources and digital infrastructures for learning at home. Teachers can also collect data on behaviors and SEL impact to measure student engagement and success.
Teachers will continue to lead efforts in supporting student learning by adjusting and shifting their lessons. School administrators can support this by providing training and support that will advance their use of technology and software to aid in their teaching practice.
Having an equity plan for the school is key to setting up an environment (distance or hybrid) that is conducive to learning for students. Student equity pushes leadership to think about all students in different environments with different needs. If you are thinking about ideas that would support learning, consider the following ideas that would have a great impact on students:
Design Learning Instruction
When designing lessons, consider multiple learning modalities, tools in school and at home, and time. Be flexible in knowing that an entire school day will not be the same in the learning environment. Focus on key concepts and ways to reintroduce lessons by using synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Also an on-demand option will allow students to go back and review the lesson if they need more time with instruction.
Students will have a different level of engagement with their teachers and classmates. If possible, create flexible open hours for students to have one-on-one or small group time with teachers to connect about assignments or instruction. Focus on multiple formats for assignments and ways for students to get feedback to ensure that they are receiving learning support as needed. In some cases this also means creating connections with families. Ensure parents are aware of the learning resources and can access materials as needed to support their students.
Learning can happen in many places and maintaining equitable access for students may require some innovative thinking and partnerships. If you are a teacher or administrator in search of strategies to ensure all students are being served, get creative. Be open to working with local community groups who can help connect with students, follow up with assignments or perhaps provide additional instruction. Local tutoring services, key community establishments like churches or centers may have additional personnel who provide an extra layer of support to families. Consider them as a critical part of your equity plans and keep them looped in on your efforts.
During this time, basic needs cannot be neglected. There is likely a need for students to have access to food, safety and housing which all impact learning. If this is true, connect with local supports and provide information to families who are navigating other supports. If there are local groups providing meals on wheels or day time learning spaces for students, share that information. If there is a need for digital literacy and learning for the family, identify supports that could assist outside of the school so families and students can be connected.
Maintaining student equity requires collaboration between schools, families and the community. Designing plans that have multiple options for instruction and uses technologies and software platforms that families can navigate is key. Prioritizing learning for those who need various support and use data to inform enhancements to the instructional program. These components will help to maintain a positive school culture that encourages learning for students in the virtual environment. Lastly, encourage students and families to use networks of support that may provide different levels and include relationships with community groups.