Learning Disrupted: Priorities for building teacher capacity at scale during COVID-19⁠—Worldreader

Covid-19 has significantly transformed teaching and learning practices globally. Parents have become co-teachers and students are often learning in isolation. In this time of transition and “building back better,” teachers will benefit from professional development and support in the following three areas:

1. Adapting pedagogical strategies

When teachers are faced with the new challenge of remote instruction, they should consider shifting to project-based and experiential learning techniques. Project-based learning is often multidisciplinary, revolving around an essential question or theme and encouraging the learner to link real-life experiences to math, language arts, or science through an at-home project. Project-based learning can shift the classroom from being teacher-focused while helping build a bridge between the school and home learning environments. 

Teachers must also receive support in continuous formative assessment and remedial education, particularly in the early grades, where losses in reading progress can  jeopardize future learning. Investments in formative reading assessment and reading programs will help teachers understand any critical gaps in reading development in young children and how to differentiate instruction to meet diverse learner needs. While reading is already a global priority, efforts will need to focus heavily on remediation and instructional techniques that support struggling readers remain at grade level. 

2. Social-emotional needs of teachers and students (SEL)

Education systems must address the SEL needs of both students and educators to ensure the quality and resilience of the system. Learning outcomes improve when teachers and school districts adopt a whole-child development approach to teaching and learning, integrating SEL programs into the school curriculum¹. If schools have not previously focused on SEL programs, teachers may need support whether in physical or virtual classrooms. Many organizations offer SEL packages (CASEL, World Bank STEP program, and national programs) but before a school-wide SEL program is installed, teachers will need support and guidance on how to create healthy, secure connections between themselves, their students, and families. Teachers will need to provide in-person or virtual environments that are welcoming. They will also need to balance the emotional and academic needs of children while providing tools that help families address stress. 

3. Embracing new technologies

Teachers around the globe have quickly embraced new forms of technology to facilitate continued learning during school closures. This rapid acceleration and experimentation with a variety of new technologies from video-conferencing to messaging apps should be supported and further developed. Teachers need continued professional development in digital literacy and how to help students evaluate the credibility of digital content. 

Beyond the three areas outlined above – education systems will need to consider cost, contextualization, and new technologies in scaling teacher development during the COVID-19 era. Fortunately, technical resources are available, including the following:

¹ Jones, S and Kahn, J. (2017) “The evidence base for how we learn: Supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic development,” Consensus Statements of Evidence from the Council of Distinguished Scientists, The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Cover thumbnail photo: Worldreader

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