Leading Education Scholars: There's No Going Back

Leading Education Scholars: There's No Going Back

Photo of student on her stomachSchools should not return to the old “normal,” despite concerns about potential learning loss after a year of disruption, leading education scholars argue in a new report by the Spencer Foundation and the Learning Policy Institute.

Instead, “we should accelerate systems change toward equitable, rigorous, and transformative education,” according to the report Summer Learning and Beyond: Opportunities for Creating Equity, coauthored by three School of Education and Social Policy members, including Megan Bang, professor of learning sciences at Northwestern and senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation; Carol D. Lee, Professor Emeritus and president-elect of the National Academy of Education; and Shirin Vossoughi, associate professor of learning sciences.

Missed opportunities in the classroom have prompted calls for intensive remediation. But research on the science of learning and development suggests that approach an emphasis rote learning and skills that lack context falls short and could even deepen inequalities and exacerbate trauma, the scholars said.

Instead, schools can create supportive learning environments by using the six principles outlined in the report, which include strengthening relationships between children and teachers and providing students ways to learn that build on their experiences and backgrounds.

A few design ideas permeate all six principles and should be used together, the authors wrote. These include meeting students where they are and partnering with families to seek their advice and expertise. 

The authors also stress that social emotional aspects of learning, such as empathy and relationship building, shouldn’t be separated from learning math, language, science, or other disciplines.

“Our children deserve learning experiences that are rooted in evidence about how people learn best,” said report co-author Na’ilah Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation and president of the American Educational Research Association. This includes “experiences that are intellectually honest and authentic; that provide opportunities for joy, exploration, play, and self-direction; and experiences that offer them a chance to study and understand the world.”

The approaches outlined in the report “require a different conception of instructional time and a recognition that building community and connection takes time, but pays off in the dividends of greater learning,” the authors wrote.  “That means understanding that more and faster do not necessarily mean better or deeper or more learning.”

The report is loaded with resources and references for teachers and parents. Other co-authors include Linda Darling-Hammond, Leah Bricker, Adam K. Edgerton, Pam Grossman, Kris D. Gutiérrez; Ann Ishimaru, Sara Klevan, David Miyashiro, Pedro A. Noguera, Charles Payne, Bill Penuel, and Sara Plasencia.

Read the full report: Summer Learning and Beyond: Opportunities for Creating Equity.




By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 9/30/22