Overcoming Learning Loss: Studies Weekly Summit Recap
Studies Weekly partners came from across the country to Silicon Slopes, Utah, to attend the 2022 Studies Weekly Summit and receive professional development training on overcoming learning loss in their school districts. They networked, shared ideas, and gained valuable strategies to take back to their districts.
Charlie Perryman, Studies Weekly’s professional development director, kicked off the Summit by suggesting that educators need to change the common term learning loss to unfinished instruction. Perryman explained that using learning loss when talking about post-pandemic learning gaps is too heavy a phrase, and puts a lot of pressure on students and teachers. When educators address the situation more accurately as unfinished instruction, then the focus is less on what we’ve lost, and more on the gaps we need to fill.
With that focus, the Studies Weekly team addressed different areas where educators can improve instruction.
Teaching Social Studies Supports ELA
Studies Weekly’s Chief Curriculum Architect Noelle Carter and Curriculum Director Kelly Jeffrey shared with attendees Adam Tyner and Sarah Kabourek’s research on the impact of social studies on ELA skills.
Tyner and Kabourek found that students who received an extra 30 minutes of social studies instruction a day actually improved their reading outcomes more than students who received an extra 30 minutes of ELA instruction. With extra social studies instruction, non-native English speakers grew as readers by 25%, while native English speakers grew by 12%. On the contrary, when those same students received only extra ELA instruction, the English learners only improved by 7%, and native English speakers only grew by 3%.
After showing this research, Carter and Jeffrey demonstrated how educators can use Studies Weekly Social Studies to achieve ELA gains. They modeled best practices for breaking down informational text so students can understand it better and achieve language and literacy objectives.
Jeffrey said, “We don’t want the text to just wash over them and hope they get something. We want to give them activities that help them to engage with the text and connect with it.”
The informational text found in social studies and science is the secret to improving English Language Arts and math skills, Perryman added.
“When students are struggling with ELA and math, it seems intuitive to pull them out of social studies and science and throw them into ELA and math,” Perryman said. “But why are they doing poorly in ELA and math? Because we’re pulling them out of social studies and science.”
Ensure Academics are Non-Threatening and Culturally Responsive
Tiffany Besse, deputy superintendent at Parkway Schools in Missouri, reiterated the need to redefine learning loss as unfinished instruction because that shift empowers educators to create a positive path forward.
As part of that path, educators should create a safe space for learning. One of the important ways to do that is to always look for ways to honor the lived experiences of students. We all draw on our own lived experiences to make sense of the world, and students aren’t any different.
“Give them space to use their lived experience, their personal information, to build sense and knowledge. Don’t ask them to check their culture at the door,” she said.
She encouraged educators to create the circumstances to help kids create a locus of control. Culture is a part of that, she explained, quoting educational researcher Lisa Delpit:
“We all interpret behaviors, information, and situations through our own cultural lenses; these lenses operate involuntarily, below the level of conscious awareness, making it seem that our own view is ‘simply the way it is’ …. We must consciously and voluntarily make our cultural lenses apparent.”
Besse also reminded educators that “we all chose to go into education, but kids didn’t,” so we need to consciously allow children the space to feel and learn, without feeling academically threatened. Before we create opinions about our students, she said, we need to purposefully unpack our biases and let students write their own narratives.
“If we don’t acknowledge our own biases and overcome them, then we write the narrative for the child, and that is unfair,” Besse said.
Developing a Growth Mindset
Creating a school culture based on positivity and growth can eliminate learning loss because students need to believe that they can catch up on unfinished learning.
“The right culture will develop the correct mindset to provide more efficient and effective learning,” explained Juli Erekson, keynote speaker at the Summit.
Erekson spoke about cultivating a growth mindset in student athletes as the head coach for the Utah Valley Women’s golf team.
“With a growth mindset, there is no failure. There’s just learning,” she said.
Teachers can help students make accelerated progress in instruction by focusing on efficient strategies.
“Accelerated growth does not mean speeding through content to cover more ground. Instead, it means intentionally supporting students with knowledge, skills, and the personalized, targeted supports they need to continue grade-level work,” she said.
Focusing on Health and Wellness
Studies Weekly’s well-being curriculum specialist, Larissa Chase, explained that unfinished learning and instruction are magnified when students and teachers are struggling with depression.
Mental Health America reports:
- 15.08% of youth (12-17) reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year. That is 36,000 more students than in 2021.
- 4.58% of adults reported serious thoughts of suicide this past year. That’s 664,000 more adults from 2021.
These mental health challenges cause students to act out and teachers to burn out, making it hard for both to do well in school.
“Supporting student and teacher well-being is crucial to overcoming learning loss,” Chase told attendees, and shared how educators can support them with Studies Weekly’s PK-6 Well-Being or the upcoming Health and Wellness curriculum.
What Attendees Got from the Summit
One attendee said in a post-event survey that the Studies Weekly Summit helped them realize that “My state is not alone with its struggles with learning loss.”
Another said that the Summit convinced them to stay in education:
“After the most difficult eight months I have had in education in my 26 years, it was a breath of fresh air and a reminder why I am in this business! This helped this individual, who was on the brink of burnout, reframe my thinking and focus! It was probably a career saver!”
Multiple educators said the Summit taught them the value of social studies and science in overcoming learning loss.
“Now my challenge is to work with teachers to show them how to integrate and to think of Science and Social Studies as an extension of reading and writing,” one attendee said.
Studies Weekly Offers Learning Loss Supports
Studies Weekly Social Studies and Science contain ELA integration designed to hone reading, writing, and speaking skills while engaging students in hands-on learning experiences that push them to think deeply about the world around them.
Educators can also integrate Studies Weekly’s Extended Learning Curriculum, which provides additional ELA support in the same periodical format students love.
To give students a jumpstart, schools can use Studies Weekly’s new Early Learning Curriculum, which is filled with fun activities geared toward developing foundational reading and fine motor skills.
Studies Weekly Well-Being also gives educators the tools to teach PK-6 students how to recognize and regulate their emotions to improve behavior and mental health.
Studies Weekly resources can help you close the gap in your current learning loss plan. Get a quote today!