In a world where information is so easily accessible and communication is immediate, it isn’t long before a phrase begins to ‘trend’ on our news feeds. A storyline of a particular issue or topic is quick to dominate the narrative. This has most definitely been the case with the current trend to refer to our students’ learning experience over the past 12 months as being ‘Lost Learning’ due to the pandemic. This is an emotive, negative framing of what has occured over the past 12 months – the idea that our students have all ‘lost learning’, are ‘behind’, or are ‘disadvantaged’ creates a sense of unhealthy panic and urgency for parents, teachers and also our students.
I am not disputing that there is huge inequity in learning access over the past 12 months. A massive issue to be addressed. However, negative language only serves to disempower everyone and leave us in an even greater space of uncertainty – as if we weren’t already all dealing with enough of the unknown right now! It is also hugely discouraging to the many teachers and parents who have put forth so much effort during this time to support their students and children in continuing to grow and learn.
It has prompted my to to think once again about the power of the language we use, what this projects, and the impacts it has. I wrote previously about how small words can instigate big changes and also the power of our attitude and outlook to propel or hinder learning and growth.
I came across this quote on twitter that someone had taken from a workshop with Kath Murdoch.
It made me think about what the phrase ‘Lost Learning’ says to our children. Does it tell them we value them? For me, the phrase emits the following messages:
- You’re behind
- You’re on your own
- You won’t be able to find it (learning)
- You’re missing out
- You are disadvantaged
- You can’t
- It (the learning) is gone
Which language will help us to reframe the ‘lost learning’ narrative? How can we shift our focus to being on our students? After all they are the agents of their own learning. Learning is not something that is done to someone. We need to rethink our language to shift our thinking and give space for us to focus on what is important. I believe this to be empowering our students to believe they are capable of learning, that they can grow and achieve. Language that empowers and that instills a growth mindset can help us. Appreciative inquiry practices can help us to be builders upon the foundations we have. Most importantly, Listening to our students can help us help them.
The more important question is, how do we leverage this new and different learning? How do we reframe our own thinking? How do we make sure we look at the whole picture and not just the pieces of the puzzle to put things together with our students? This all requires us to step back, look from multiple perspectives and seek out opportunities to put things together in new and different ways.
- We must celebrate what has been learned during this time – and there is a lot to celebrate if we are willing to look, listen and ‘unlearn to relearn’. We must be open to learn about their experiences.
- We have to accept the specific type and nature of learning growth is not exactly what had been prescribed and intended. We need to harness opportunities here. Learn about where students are in their learning to leverage and build upon this.
- We must model being responsive, adaptable, agile and open-minded and that will empower our students for the future.
- We must believe in our students’ capacities. This is crucial to fostering a culture of learning and ensuring our students are never ‘lost’.
The Ridiculousness of Learning Loss by John Ewing
Students Respond to Adults’ Fixation on ‘Learning Loss’ by Larry Ferlazzo
Why there’s no such thing as lost learning by James Williams