learning loss
Sep 29 2021

How to Mitigate Learning Loss During COVID-19 Pandemic: 7 Effective Ways

Positive Action Staff
No one could’ve predicted that scenes from movies like Contagion would come to life as the world has witnessed with the spread of COVID-19.

Sadly pandemics and widespread crises are nothing new. Case in point are the yesteryear terrors of smallpox, plagues, and the Spanish flu.

As heart-wrenching as it is, the best bet to navigate these pandemics is to prepare and react swiftly.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in-person learning was suspended to save lives. As a result, academic progress for many learners was disrupted.

Schools and teachers shifted to remote learning, but individual family circumstances caused significant learning gaps for many students.

Today, we’ll talk about strategies for mitigating learning loss so students can get back some semblance of normalcy and make notable learning gains despite the pandemic.

What Is Learning Loss?

Before we uncover strategies for gaining back what students lost, let’s delve into an understanding of learning loss.

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, learning loss refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills or reversals in academic progress, most commonly due to extended gaps or discontinuities in a student’s education.

It’s a commonly recorded phenomenon in education that’s usually observed due to the long summer break.

Researchers have noted that a break in the school year causes young people to either “melt” or “slide.”

  • Melting is when learners don’t gain any new knowledge during the break. They don’t read or practice any of what they learned. The long break results in students being unable to apply knowledge when they return to the school year.
  • Sliding occurs when students regress and forget what they learned. When this happens, educators have to start over teaching the same concepts after the break.

Learning Melt

  • Remember concepts but cannot apply to answering questions
  • Remains stagnant
  • Scores are steady
  • Needs remediation

Learning Slide

  • Forget concepts
  • Falls behind/regresses
  • Test score gaps grow
  • Teachers have to re-teach learning areas

While the education system switched to virtual classes, there are still major learning losses because:

  • Some students’ backgrounds and living situations are unfavorable for learning.
  • Parents may crumble under the pressure of being both providers and educators while coping with pandemic-induced stress.
  • Parental education levels may be insufficient to understand and teach home learning sufficiently..

It may be difficult to quantify learning loss, but it’s plain to see that the pandemic did a number on student learning.

How to Deal With Learning Loss

Here’s how teachers and schools can overcome learning loss.

1. Identify and Bear Down on Prerequisite Skills

With schools opening or introducing hybrid learning models, it’s important to introduce changes in the schedule that give more weight to prerequisite skills.

This can include temporarily stopping or giving less time to some areas in favor of others. So, identify and table key prerequisite skills and double down on these abilities to cover the gap in learning quickly.

If you continue with the curriculum without developing these foundational skills, the learning gap becomes more pronounced.

Examples of prerequisite skills include:

  • Multiplication, a foundational skill for long division, algebra, and physics
  • Reasoning, a prerequisite for problem-solving, math, and other learning areas
  • Spelling and punctuation skills which build up to reading, comprehension, and writing

You can create a special pop-up course designed to teach prerequisite skills. This can help make up for the loss of learning time over extended periods, as has been the case in the pandemic.

2. Keep Students Engaged

Whether you’re doing virtual classes or in-person learning, one of the best ways to close the learning gap is to ensure that students get engaged.

Educational research has found that engaged learners are more motivated. Plus, they tend to grasp more and have a better sense of how to apply knowledge.

So, how can educators keep students engaged? Here are some practical ways to boost engagement.

In the classroom, it’s easy for teachers to detect the signs of disengaged students. However, with distance learning, students have been known to skip more lessons or pretend they’re present.

So use different methods to track engagement like:

  • Use software developed to track attendance. If you don’t have adequate tools, simply check in every so often. For instance, requiring students to confirm that they’re still with you at random intervals during the lesson.
  • Plan surprise entertainment activities. That way, students won’t want to miss out on a lesson just in case they lose out on the surprise fun.
  • Conduct home visits to check on student progress.
  • Follow up on learners, for instance, with phone calls after the lessons.

3. Implement Learning Through Projects

Projects are a student-centered way for learners to research, understand, and use knowledge to solve problems. Students can work on projects for a longer time at their own pace, which keeps them focused.

Plus, it exercises their higher-order thinking, improves critical skills, evolves problem-solving, and harnesses their creative abilities. All these skills will enhance their ability to assimilate and retain information.

In addition, children learn more by doing than by hearing. With projects, you can incorporate learning areas from all the main subjects allowing students to understand the connections between them. Once learners view learning holistically, they tend to remember more.

4. Personalize Learning Experiences

With the disruption in learning, standardized tests tend to favor those with unlimited access to digital tools and conducive home environments. However, disadvantaged learners have to deal with a range of challenging situations that bring down their test scores.

How do you reduce these huge gaps in how students perform on tests? Well, you can allocate additional resources to implementing a temporary personalization program in your school system.

Tailor your curriculum and how you teach to meet the needs of individual or smaller groups of learners.

Start by evaluating students and create profiles based on previous achievement gaps and current performance. Once you’ve pinned down the students’ learning needs, plan customized lessons to bring each learner up to speed individually.

By implementing an intensive personalization program, students benefit from the tailored intervention, which brings down the widening gap in test scores.

5. Involve Family Members and Community Organizations

If all adult stakeholders come together to act in the child’s best interests, there are higher chances of successful outcomes despite the unprecedented crisis.

That’s why schools should work closely with families and third parties in the community to reverse the effects of learning losses. Here are some great ways to involve stakeholders.

6. Improve Communication With Parents and Guardians

Make distance learning simpler for parents by providing detailed information. Send out weekly emails and free newsletters to show parents how they can help with classroom activities.

You can also provide them with detailed lesson planning tools and access to resources to help them teach and monitor progress at home.

7. Bring In Parents and the Community to Help

Playing catch-up can drain resources quickly. So ask for help from parents and community members. You could ask for volunteers to act as class parents to take over the compensation lessons or math tutoring.

Overcoming Challenges and Closing the Learning Gap

While in previous school years’ summer learning loss could easily be overcome, dealing with pandemic learning loss is a lot more complex.

The unprecedented challenges brought by the covid pandemic hindered children from learning for a long time—that’s like multiplying the summer-break learning loss a few times over.

On top of that, it’s no secret that the pandemic has disproportionately affected childrens’ mental health.

If children struggle to cope, many schools and their systems will grapple with disciplinary issues and poor performance.

The good news is, not all hope is lost. You can spare your school from this terrible fate by acting now.


Get on board with Positive Action.

Positive Action’s curriculum and programs can help improve your learners’ sense of self-concept and help them process what’s going on around them.

By introducing Positive Action at the start of each school day, you instill positive thoughts and actions into the school. This empowers learners to regain control and translates to improved outcomes in all academic and non-academic key performance indicators.

Students become willing and engaged learners who are eager to work with you, closing the learning gap faster, with less effort.

Introduce your learners’ parents to the power of Positive Action, too. With our parenting curriculum, families get all the tools they need to provide the necessary support to bridge the learning gap created by COVID-19.

Schedule a webinar with Positive Action today. We’ll share more about the program and get you on board with Positive Action to help your school navigate the challenges of COVID-19.

Note: Positive Action is endorsed by the US Department of Education.


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