Research School Network: Some ​‘Bright Spots’ of the Impacts of Coronavirus on Learning and School Life. Amongst the doom, gloom and challenges of Covid-19 for schools, we asked school leaders to reflect on and identify the positives


Some ​‘Bright Spots’ of the Impacts of Coronavirus on Learning and School Life.

Amongst the doom, gloom and challenges of Covid-19 for schools, we asked school leaders to reflect on and identify the positives

It seems like it is a weekly occurrence where the findings of a new piece of research outlines the depth of the impact that school closures have had on learning and the mental health of children in all phases of education. The impacts and challenges are very real – no one in schools across the country would dispute that and you only have to read the following reports to see the extent of the impact on most children and 9 of the 12 pieces of research concluding that the impact on pupils from disadvantaged families is greater: 

In our Putting Evidence to Work Professional Learning course at the Staffordshire Research School, we draw upon the work of Chip and Dan Heath and their book Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard. One aspect of their 9 stage model of change is to focus on the bright spots’. Find the bright spots, amplify them, share them and use them as a foundation to build upon. The impacts and challenges of school closures are very real – no one in schools across the country would dispute that, but there are bright spots too. We asked a number of senior leaders, at the end of a long and tiring term, to tell us their bright spots and this is what they said: 

Approaches to learningStudents have been able to take ownership of their learning away from the norms of the traditional classroom. Whilst there is no substitute to the back and forth of a vibrant, engaging classroom, this period of remote learning has given the pupils and the teachers time to really reflect on how best they learn and focus on the material being delivered in a way like no other. The clarity and precision of instruction and how pupils take on board the new knowledge has had to be refined. For some this has meant they can complete more than they would in a traditional classroom, a far cry from lost-learning.

Relationships with TeachersBrilliant! Provided an opportunity for students to realise teachers are human and not robots who live at school. Sharing lockdown experiences, seeing the odd pet in the background! Not us and them but just us, working together to make the best of a challenging situation.

Student Confidence – This time has allowed some of the quieter students to shine. Communication channels such as emailing for support during a lesson has meant some students, shy in class, are willing to open up more and it is hoped that this new found confidence will be able to be capitalised in the classroom.

Student Confidence - The idea of students, finding their voice” or being given a different platform” to speak from, ironically behind their desk at home and perhaps typing into a chat box.

Use of new technology – Students have been exceptional at adapting to the changes of technologies and particularly have benefitted from the amount of all class feedback via platforms like Mentimeter. The ability to continuously see every student’s ideas, has allowed them to learn from each other consistently

Use of new technologyIt is clear that both staff and students have learned a number of key skills over remote learning and are a lot more familiar in using technology that had not been engaged with previously. Students are now competent in using Teams and functions such as Teams assignments to submit and receive feedback on work – I think that this is something that we will continue to utilise even now we are back in the classroom. Teams lessons are still continuing for students who are having to self isolate (particularly at KS4/5) and so this enables them to access what is occurring live in the classroom whilst at home. Students and staff have shown a real resilience in developing their skills and using online resources such as Mentimeter, Spiral, Online whiteboards, Microsoft Forms for example, and these platforms will continue to form a part of T&L in the future I’m sure.

Approaches to learning- Many of our students with SEND have had to become more independent. They have developed new ways of working – i.e. use of computers. Despite the length of time they have been away from the classroom; most of my students have remembered metacognition mantras and are definitely developing a deeper understanding of them and seeing their importance to how they work and learn.

Relationships with keyworkersMany of our students have developed a deeper relationship with their keyworkers – as have their families. This has continued in class and so many are now feeling more able to ask for help in class or come up to students support to see their keyworker.

Development of Skills- A number of students have really thrived with online/​remote learning and have shown a huge amount of independence, time management, resilience and an improvement in their metacognitive skills as they are able to reflect on their learning and what topics they have understood more than others – where their strengths are, how they’ve completed the work and what they need to do to improve next time. This is really evident now we’re back in the classroom and through regular low stakes quizzing/​retrieval practice we can identify student misconceptions and work with them to ensure these are corrected before moving forward with new content.

Engagement and confidence- Definitely confidence for some, lost voices were found through chat and also because they were in their home environment, happier to speak up with ideas and thoughts where before they would leave it stronger characters from their class peers.

Approaches to learning – Students appear to be able to start tasks quicker. I think they have also benefited massively from being able to discuss with their peers whilst in the classroom. The quality of discussion I have heard over the last two weeks has been brilliant across all year groups.

Approaches to learning - Students seem to appreciate the personalised feedback they’re getting. Perhaps because they have some independent time to process this at home or due to the recorded method in which they were receiving it and the ability to play it back, the engagement has been really positive. I have noticed that students seem to be engaging more personally with teachers and peers. Perhaps the fact that they can email a question without highlighting they need any clarification in front of a class, has allowed them to feel more comfortable and ask for that support.

Teaching - Having to refine the quality of my instructions and scaffolding, been able to review my practice, stripping back my instructions to really make it clear to students what is expected, reduce cognitive load etc.

So, whilst we could dwell on lost learning’ and regressive impacts, perhaps a greater focus on the bright spots and explicitly communicating these to the students will provide greater motivation and encouragement that with hard work and supporting one another we can gradually erode away the negative impacts, emerging stronger as a school community and as individuals, whenever the end of Coronavirus may arrive. 

Nathan Morland

Director of the Staffordshire Research School. 

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