Learning from home expectations differ from real experience

Students and teachers were positive about learning from home under Covid Level 4 and Level 3, but practical challenges have made the experience more difficult, according to two studies undertaken by the Education Review Office (ERO). The complete report is available here: COVID-19 - Learning in Lockdown

For students, the concern was particularly felt by older students, most noticeably those in years 11-13 who are working through NCEA in 2020. Three quarters of these students felt they were not able to cope as well with the workload and expectations while learning from home, and that the support they required was not readily available.

Fewer obstacles existed at primary level, with far more primary students receiving good support at home to help them learn.

Both groups recognised access to technology and online learning as an obstacle, with some students having to share devices with others in their bubble. Sharing devices was more common among students within schools serving the most disadvantaged communities, but the survey also showed that more of this group tuned into Home Learning TV. For many older students there was also agreement that parents were less able to support them in their learning.

One group of senior students who were more positive about learning from home were Pacific students from lower decile schools. It is possible these students had someone in their household who was able to assist with their studies.

ERO found that teachers worked particularly hard to support their students through the lockdown. Around 80% of students reported that their teacher had checked on their wellbeing during the early period of Term 2.

For teachers, there were concerns that students were not positively engaging with their learning, and that this affected their ability to track learning and progress. Only a third of teachers felt they could effectively monitor student progress.

There were also concerns about the ability to tailor learning for each individual when teaching from a distance. This is reflected by the student survey, which found over half of students felt they had not received adequate feedback from teachers.

Both studies asked questions about overall wellbeing. There was general agreement from teachers and students that they felt well supported and connected to their school and that these concerns had been prioritised through the time in lock down. However younger teachers identified their own mental health as their primary concern over lockdown, with 22 percent of teachers under 35 saying it was a concern, compared with 10% overall.

ERO found many students also felt emotionally well supported at home. Having an adult they could talk to, and good ongoing connections with friends had kept spirits up, and students reported they felt safe from COVID-19 in their homes.

ERO Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole believes this work can help the education sector build resilience for the future.

“As a nation we should be very proud of the work that our principals and teachers did through the lockdown to keep their students engaged in learning.”

“We have never had our sector tested like this. In many ways it has stood up well to the challenge, but there is room to grow and students will need additional support to catch up over the coming months.”

ERO surveyed 10,000 year 4 to year 13 students, across 67 primary and secondary schools and 694 teachers from 67 schools, over the first few weeks of term 2, 2020.

ERO is undertaking a further programme of work to better understand the ongoing effects of learning from home and the return to school for both teachers and learners in order to capture innovation and learnings about the process of recovery.