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Arkansas State University

The Effects of COVID-19 on Educational Theory and Practice

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools across the country to rethink their educational goals, systems and strategies. It has revealed existing educational inequities, outdated approaches to education, and the widespread absence of true innovation and flexibility in educational theory and practice. Within a short span of time, schools have had to reimagine academic success and refocus their priorities.

Innovation in Modalities and Teaching Approaches

From early in 2020, social distancing protocols forced schools across the country to turn to online and blended learning modalities. In the past, educational technologies focused almost entirely on improving the educational experience for students and instructors. However, very few prioritized the continuation of a consistent and high-quality educational experience for each student in the event of disaster or personal choice. While educators may lament the loss of traditional approaches to education, it would be shortsighted to simply hope for a return to the way things were.

Even before the pandemic, a diverse body of students often went without access to a fair and equal education. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that 9% of 15-year-old students across OECD countries, including the United States, do not have a quiet place to study in their home. In addition, many students experience ongoing personal and family crises and have diverse learning styles. In each case, students would have benefited from the new, more flexible modalities. Future initiatives will require increasing equitable and uninterrupted access to educational resources far beyond the pandemic.

Innovation in Evaluation and Assessment

During the pandemic, educators have been challenged to find alternative ways of tracking student understanding and progress as many of the traditional assessments no longer work for the “new normal.” Schools are facing unprecedented challenges in determining how to meet the individual needs of students. Each student has had a different experience during this time, and each will need a different approach to assessment and intervention.

New theories of what needs to be evaluated and how to best conduct assessments and interventions in multiple modes are crucial to reshaping instructional evaluation. A 2020 report from Emerge Education suggests that future evaluation models will need to be relevant, adaptable and trustworthy in order to address the needs of growing and diverse student populations. A blend of innovative theory and practice are crucial to the generation of such evaluation models.

Innovation in Content

As educators continue to adapt to the rapidly shifting educational landscape, new approaches to content delivery will emerge. To rethink modes of delivery and assessment, educators will need innovative ideas on how to address curriculum expectations while optimizing the number of hours spent on individual subjects. Research shows students have lost a significant amount of instructional time during the pandemic, leaving both teachers and students with the daunting task of catching up academically to meet state and national standards.

While some schools have simply opted to reduce content by removing what they consider non-essential, content integration is more likely to produce the desired results. Integrating complementary subjects by focusing on what connects them, such as historical periods or theoretical purposes, can not only reduce the number of hours students have to spend on individual subjects, but it can also enable educators to reshape curricula.

Innovation in Technological Support and Training

Technology, once considered an inconvenience or a distraction from the real purpose of education, is now being employed at higher rates than ever before. However, many educators struggle to adapt to these new technologies. Teacher training programs and professional development opportunities of the future must emphasize technological innovation as it continues to expand and adapt to the needs of modern education.

An Education Week survey found that administrators hold a significantly more positive opinion of educational technology than they did before the pandemic. For the successful adoption of ed tech in the classroom, teachers must be comfortable working with it and confident that it can be effective and productive. As new programs, uses and functions emerge, teachers will soon find themselves at the forefront of putting them into practice.

Learn more about A-State’s Master of Science in Education in Educational Theory and Practice online program.

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