Although the 2022-2023 school year is well under way in approximately ‘normal’ conditions with respect to the pandemic, learning loss presents a formidable challenge. According to the National Assessment for National Progress, 9-year-olds fell behind in math and reading scores, backtracking two decades worth of improvement.1 Affected children include the approximately 60 million students who transitioned to online learning.2 ADHD is a neurobehavioral diagnosis, which can be described as poor performance due to poor concentration.3 Children with ADHD were disproportionately impacted by the shift in daily routines in remote learning.4
Digital health can provide a lens of framing the issue at hand as a matter of equity. Students living in homes experiencing poverty were more likely to experience learning losses.5 Families also incurred financial burdens as parents supported students’ education often by purchasing better internet plans. For individuals with special needs, differing learning styles, or ADHD, learning loss was worse. Becker and colleagues (2020) found that 31 – 45% of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disorder.2 Parents of teens with ADHD experienced challenges with providing structure, and organization. At large, students with ADHD experienced more difficulties with remote learning compared to those without ADHD (19% versus 13%).
Pandemic learning loss remains a central issue not only from an educational standpoint, but administrative as well, as schools decide how to best address the issue. Tutoring may be an attractive way to ameliorate the impacts of socially distanced learning, as the American Rescue Plan provided $220 million for enrichment programs including tutoring.6 Engaging families to alleviate the challenges of remote learning, and address the digital divide in access to reliable internet may improve remote instruction for all learners. A 2021 study by Lupas and colleagues compared the achievement scores of two cohorts of students with ADHD across the time periods of 2018 – 2019 and 2019 – 2020.7 This study found no negative differences with the second cohort, highlighting the potential of high-quality digital instruction. While no differences were found in achievement scores across the groups, there may be differences across individuals with varying access to the internet. The full impacts of the pandemic on learning are not yet fully understood. Further research into the impact of learning loss on academic achievement and disparities across learning abilities is necessary.
It is also imperative that this research is translated into practice to provide benefit to students. Supporting parents, teachers, and school administrators through digital health can also help to curb the worst impacts of the pandemic on learning. The American Institute for Research found that only one fifth of teachers were provided with professional development training prior to transitioning to online classrooms.8 While video conferencing tools like Zoom are commonplace, there is a lack of tools for teachers to use during math instruction.9 Digital technology tools hold potential for engaging learners of all ages and abilities. Engaging teachers, families, and students is crucial to better characterize the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s school system and some of its most vulnerable learners.
- Abrams, Z. (2022, March 1). Helping adults and children with ADHD in a pandemic world. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/03/feature-adhd
- Becker et al., (2020). Remote Learning During COVID-19: Examining School Practices, Service Continuation, and Difficulties for Adolescents With and Without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 67(6), 769–777. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.09.002
- Khusheim (2022). Challenges Faced by Classroom Teachers in Distance Learning for Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity During COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Education and Learning,11(5).10.5539/jel.v11n5p113
- Caglayan, K., Garet, M., Rickles, J., & Hodgman, S. (2021, February). Barriers and Supports: Teacher Familiarity with Digital Learning Tools. American Institute for Research. Retrieved February 10, 2023, from https://www.air.org/sites/default/files/Barriers-and-Supports-Teacher-Familiarity-With-Digital-Learning-Tools-Feb-2021.pdf
- Herold, B. (2022, March 9). Pandemic tech tools that are here to stay. Education Week. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.edweek.org/technology/pandemic-tech-tools-that-are-here-to-stay/2022/03
- Lupas, et al., (2021). The short-term impact of remote instruction on achievement in children with ADHD during the COVID-19 pandemic.School Psychology, 36(5), 313–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000474
- Mervosh, S. (2022, November 28). Pandemic learning loss. The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/28/briefing/pandemic-learning-loss.html
- Nordberg, A. (2022, October 6). Could tutoring be the best tool for Fighting Learning Loss? The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/06/education/learning/tutoring-learning-loss.html
- Toness, B. V., & Lurye, S. (2022, October 28). Covid-19 pandemic massively set back learning, especially for high-poverty areas. PBS. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/covid-19-pandemic-massively-set-back-learning-especially-for-high-poverty-areas