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We know that disadvantaged pupils have fallen further behind in maths due to the pandemic.
We also know the attainment gap didn’t widen (or shrink) during the autumn 2020 term, which suggests that the learning gaps caused by COVID-19 are unlikely to close without strategic intervention.
Unless all teachers are supported in delivering provision that caters to all students, we risk failing a whole generation of children – and those from disadvantaged backgrounds the most.
As a teacher, you’ll have seen how every student will have faced their own set of unique challenges presented by the pandemic, and how some have been in a better position to cope with these challenges than others.
Obvious though it sounds, it bears repeating that students with more resources at their disposal will have had a greater chance of succeeding in their education in spite of the pandemic, compared to those without.
These inequalities can be especially pronounced when it comes to maths and other STEM subjects, not least due to the challenges some parents have encountered in providing additional educational support at home, thus widening the gap between students yet further.
The most helpful way of bolstering the education of all students is to provide various learning opportunities that are suitably tailored to their learning preferences and personal circumstances. Now is the ideal time to reimagine what STEM education can look and feel like, and edtech is the ideal delivery vehicle.
Videos, games and other interactive learning opportunities can be used to support lesson plans and help consolidate learning objectives, while taking the burden off already overstretched teachers.
When deployed appropriately, edtech can also be a highly useful source of pupil data and insights into how successfully they’re reconnecting with their learning. This information can then be used to inform future lessons and learning priorities, and help with identifying those students who may need more dedicated support.
The right edtech solution will enable teachers to set a single class activity, game or quiz on any particular topic, be it maths or otherwise. Teachers can then track the students’ subsequent progress, using the data to check how many students completed the task, where they may have stumbled, which questions worked well and where the starkest knowledge gaps within the class might be – all of which can be used to tailor one’s classroom instruction, so that it addresses needs of every child in the class.
The interactive nature of some online study tools, whether accessed from a fixed or mobile device, can give students a chance to escape, while still being engaged in learning. Many recent learning games and videos are now designed in such a way as to get progressively more challenging and enable students will build their skills at their own pace, while still enjoying themselves.
That said, some classes will still require access to physical resources that students can take home and work with, in the absence of a reliable internet connection. Students can benefit from numerous offline activities – particularly in maths, which offers plenty of scope for imaginative practical activities.
The pandemic might have disrupted education for all students, but some will have had more opportunities to jump-start their education than others.
The largest educational catch-up gaps are likely to be found in maths and other STEM subjects, making these the areas where disadvantaged children are likely need the most support. Reimagining the way in which we teach these subjects can provide students with valuable support at a time of truly unprecedented challenge.
Paul Carter is a former teacher and head of learning content at Mangahigh.
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