When you haven’t done something in several months, do you still remember how to quickly do it the first time around? You understand how to ride your bike after a snowy winter. You’ll likely remember how to tie your shoelaces after a summer of wearing sandals, but could you still solve complex math equations or recall scientific processes after a break from school? While it is widely acknowledged that students learn in different ways and at varying paces, learning loss has been shown to be a major challenge for students that is often overlooked.
As students start a new semester or return from a prolonged break, instructors are primed and ready to present new material in order to keep their students moving forward. But without a review of the material covered during the previous semester or academic year, it may be unfair to expect all students—fresh from a break—to immediately pick up where they left off several weeks or months earlier. While some students may have previously mastered the concepts, others may have simply crammed in order to pass their exams, but failed to retain the material.
One of the ways to tackle this issue is by implementing data-driven learning environments within classes. By using course-specific technology or learning tools in the classroom, teachers can assess each student separately to see where they stand with the material. We see many examples of interactive learning that promotes student engagement as with Learning Curve, an adaptive quizzing engine or i>clicker, a student response system that allows instructors to measure student’s progress in class.
This level of engagement and active learning enables students who have achieved mastery to move forward, while giving extra help and time to those who need a refresher. However, not all schools and classrooms have the time or money to implement this technology—so how can educators face this issue head-on without these tools? Assigning reading during the break to ensure that students are maintaining skills is one widely accepted method, as is building refreshers into the curriculum at the start of each semester.
Regardless of how schools choose to handle the matter, it’s important that learning loss be acknowledged as a problem in the education system and dealt with head-on in order to help the next generation of students succeed. What methods have you used? Which methods will you employ as your students prepare for winter break?