On May 12th, a group of over 100 people gathered to listen to the students of Oregon tell us how they feel and what they experience during distance learning for all. This group included students from 30 different school districts, educators from 38 school districts, 22 representatives from ESDs throughout the state, five representatives from the Oregon Department of Education, and one representative from higher education. We gathered for just over two hours; adults put themselves on mute, and we gave our students the mic. Here is what we learned.
- Students need meaningful and timely connection and feedback from their teachers. Over and over we heard that the most motivating thing educators can do is respond quickly to questions or just check in and see how kids are doing. Students said:
- “I have teachers that I like as people, so I don’t want to disappoint them or let them down.”
- When asked “What has been the most supportive thing an educator has done for you during school closures?” Students noted:
- Making personal videos for classes (this was in a district that didn’t allow video conferencing)
- Replying quickly to questions“
- Just asking how I’m doing”
- Teachers checking in when I fall behind
- Students highly value organization and clarity in online learning, even above fun web platforms. Many students stated that they were more motivated to participate in classes where the teacher took extra care to outline where to look for assignments, what order to complete things, and how to turn assignments in. Conversely, students struggled to engage in classes where they didn’t have clear instructions or felt their teachers weren’t available enough to clarify for them.
- “Not much has been good about distance learning. I mean, I just don’t feel like I can get any help any more. My parents can’t help me, and I’m not going to email my teachers 5 times a day… it’s kinda hard to get any help.”
- “I feel that I’m not even learning, and doing work feels more like a chore. In most of my classes they give us the material with little to no real instructions.”
- “When a teacher has work in a good format, or shows that they’re trying to learn the technology, it makes me want to do the work.”
- Students are more motivated to engage in distance learning when they connect to the assignments. Many students expressed that they felt they were just doing “busy work,” even saying “I am worried about being behind, not on the schoolwork but actually learning and remembering it.” One student mentioned an ongoing essay that she had been working on since before closures and that the bigger project made her want to keep going.
This session had a secondary purpose to provide a model for regions to conduct their own student listening sessions. These sessions are not only essential right now, during school closures, but also could be utilized indefinitely to address many topics on school improvement. Possible next steps could be:
- Connecting with Oregon Student Voice to begin some Central Oregon representation in their organization.
- Organizing and facilitating our own Student Voice Event.
- Holding smaller scale empathy interviews within your school.
For help moving forward with these next steps, contact Kimberly Strong, Regional Capacity Builder, at firstname.lastname@example.org.