As We Recover from Learning Loss, Let’s Not Get Stuck With Too Much Review

Photo by Olivia Brown.

Teachers spent more class time than usual last year on review, because students did not retain as much material during the pandemic. Many of my teachers would say that they would have to move through the original course content more quickly due to time we spent on additional review. 

Back in May, I read an Augur Bit article about learning gaps among GDS students due to the pandemic. Teachers said students had fallen behind academically, because teachers had to cut out material and students were not paying as much attention during online school. Some teachers said that the added review was to help relieve students of stress, but in my experience the added review at times did the complete opposite.

There may have been no way to avoid review last year, but it sometimes felt unnecessary and prevented us from diving as deeply into topics as I would have liked to. In some classes, it seemed that teachers assumed we did not have as much knowledge as we actually did. So we would end up doing excessive review, when we could have spent some of that time on the units for the class. The extra review resulted in us having more homework that was tedious.

In my chemistry class, we rushed through a portion of the combined gas laws lesson. My class needed review on unit conversions, which was needed to move on to solving equations. But by the time we got to equations, there was not much time left before the test to learn how to complete them. We needed some concise review to move on with the unit, but it was too much and took away from how deeply we were able to explore the topic.

Last year it may have been necessary coming out of the pandemic—online learning is less engaging than in-person, interactive school—but this school year, teachers should minimize review. Review takes time away from lessons, making them either more rushed or less rigorous. Teachers’ goal should be for the curriculum to return to the prepandemic normal, to ensure that students are receiving the best education GDS can offer.

“We need to take it easy on the students in terms of the number of assessments and amount of material,” science teacher Bill Wallace said in the article in the spring. While pandemic-related review is something we should be straying away from, if it is impossible to continue a lesson without review, then review should occur, to help students succeed in the class.

But our curriculum should not continue to be held down by unnecessary review. Recognizing that reaching this goal will take a couple years, every school year teachers should adjust their curricula to teach as much as they can with the knowledge the students have by then. 

A GDS education prepares students for college. It is important for the curriculum to return to prepandemic material, because the work students complete now helps prepare them for their post–high school endeavors.

Last school year, one of my classes had a group discussion about how much sleep we were getting every night. To no one’s surprise, most of us were getting under the recommended eight hours. We accounted for our lack of sleep as a result of the time we spent doing school work, which sometimes included review based on teachers’ overestimation of topics we had missed due to the pandemic.

In a prepandemic school year, students may have also complained about lack of sleep, but at least they were learning more advanced content rather than spending their time on redundant review that is not worth losing sleep over. Quality of sleep goes hand in hand with many other issues such as stress, mental health and academic performance.

If teachers make changes to their curriculum over the coming years, the learning gap should shrink, but it is possible students will still need assistance with topics they missed because of the pandemic. GDS provides students with resources, such as the learning resources office and meeting with teachers outside of classes, to review topics they either forgot or never learned.

Head of School Russell Shaw said during the State of the School address in January, “We have eleventh graders with ninth grade muscles trying to lift eleventh grade weights.” Students may be lacking skills to succeed in prepandemic classes, but continuing with the same review will not allow us to grow back to where we should be. Teachers should only keep review when it is truly necessary, so they can make a gradual return to their prepandemic lessons.