Reigniting Learning: What Works to Help Learners Catch-up During Crises
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause 24 million learners to drop out of school and cause significant learning loss for those who missed three to 12 months of learning. But what if we could accelerate learning to help learners catch-up after an education disruption, mitigating significant learning loss and wide-scale dropout?
Accelerating learning is the process of helping students develop knowledge and skills more quickly, more deeply, and more effectively. USAID’s new evidence review, Reigniting Learning: Strategies for Accelerating Learning Post-Crisis, identifies evidence-based strategies to adapt the curriculum, modify instructional time, and refine pedagogy to accelerate learning in order to help all learners catch-up after an education disruption.
Strategies for Accelerating Learning Post-CrisisRead the Research Brief and Full Report
To help all learners catch up:
- Ministries of Education can promote all learners to the next grade to ensure they stay in the appropriate grade for their age, while also ensuring the required grade-appropriate skills that were missed during school closures are taught or reinforced.
- Ministries of Education can also condense the curriculum by prioritizing essential competencies in literacy, numeracy, and social and emotional learning, while reducing repetition, integrating across content areas, and reinforcing skills that were already taught. This is being done in Liberia, the Philippines, and many other countries to help learners catch-up during COVID-19.
- School Leaders and Administrators can adapt instructional time by extending school hours, using classroom pull-out groups to provide tailored teaching to students, implementing intensive “learning camps,” and developing tutoring and remedial education interventions.
- Educators can use learner-centered pedagogy that is active and problem-focused, connects new content to learners’ prior knowledge, and ensures relevance of education activities.
- Educators can organize learners into pairs and small groups, especially grouped by competency levels, and frequently rearrange groupings to motivate students.
- Educators can guide students to self-assess and reflect upon their learning, identifying their own progress, strengths, and areas for improvement.
- Educators can also build a supportive learning environment with positive relationships, high expectations, and adequate support.
Through policy engagement and programs, USAID and its implementing partners support Ministries of Education, school administrators, and educators who are making decisions on how to help learners catch-up during COVID-19 and other education disruptions.
What can USAID education sector staff and programs do to support such adaptations?
- Encourage, co-fund, and/or participate in locally-led coordinated efforts to plan, lead, and monitor school reopening with a focus on improving learning outcomes for all learners. Using USAID’s Return to Learning Toolkit, encourage scenario-based planning and decision-making led by local actors in health, education, and child protection. Return to Learning plans should ensure that all learners can gain essential skills in reading, math, and social-emotional learning. By focusing on learning outcomes, local education planners can make evidence-based decisions about the most relevant education response to the disruption, how to adapt instructional time, how to leverage distance learning, and how to prioritize the curriculum in a way that allows all learners to gain competencies for success in the next grade level and in life.
- Emphasize equity and inclusion. All adaptations to curriculum, instructional time, and pedagogy must be equitable and inclusive of all learners. USAID education programs can help Ministries of Education and implementing partners assess learners’ academic, safety, and social and emotional needs, disaggregating by gender, disability, and displacement status at a minimum. USAID can provide technical support to the development and implementation of context-specific curricular adaptations and pedagogical strategies using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, and ensuring gender sensitivity. USAID can also support ministries and partners to monitor implementation and learning outcomes, especially for the most marginalized, encouraging programmatic adaptations that redress educational inequities.
- Build local capacity and provide technical assistance using evidence-based practices for helping all learners catch-up, get back on track, and stay in school. USAID and implementing partners are regularly engaged with Ministries of Education and partners to support improving learning outcomes. Building on these relationships, USAID can help local education leaders, especially local curriculum departments and teacher professional development and training units, by participating in task teams, developing or linking to guidance or tools for adapting curriculum and transforming pedagogy to accelerate the acquisition of skills, and providing or connecting with curriculum, instruction, and policy experts.
- Make strategic investments that build the resilience of education systems by transforming curriculum and instruction. Crises are also opportunities to build the resilience capacities of education systems. Invest in and support enhancements to curricula, instructional time, and pedagogy (e.g., curriculum review and prioritization, teacher training, scale up of distance learning, etc.) that not only adapt to the crisis but that transform education systems. For example, distance learning approaches and remedial education strategies developed to help learners acquire essential skills during the COVID-19 pandemic, if well integrated and institutionalized through policy and staffing, will increase access to high-quality education for all learners in the long term.
- Contribute to building the evidence base on reforms to curricula, instructional time, and pedagogical strategies in situations where learners have experienced learning loss due to an education disruption. Evidence on curricular and pedagogical strategies to accelerate learning is emerging, but that evidence needs to be contextualized. USAID and partners must ensure implementation strategies include robust monitoring, evaluation, and rapid feedback mechanisms. In addition to supporting adaptations that can accelerate the acquisition of skills during the current crisis, a stronger evidence base will ensure that we can identify effective strategies for the next educational disruption. Evidence building efforts must include disaggregated data based on gender, geographic location, disability status, displacement status, minority status, and other identities, so we know what strategies are working for different groups of learners—a current gap in the existing evidence base.