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Conversing with teachers: Leveraging what we’ve learned from the pandemic


New settings, new challenges

In the world of education, the last 18 months required a combination of remote and hybrid learning that created unprecedented challenges for teachers. At Understood, we want to understand how to best support educators to make sure they have the resources to support all kids — particularly the 1 in 5 students with learning and thinking differences, such as ADHD and dyslexia. 

As a start, we launched new conversation guides to encourage and help teachers have real conversations with parents. But to more meaningfully understand and support teachers across the country, we also partnered with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) to engage directly with educators and learn about their experiences teaching students with learning and thinking differences during the pandemic. While our Forward Together survey confirmed that teachers teach because they absolutely love it, 58% of teachers reported they are facing severe burnout.

Disproportionate impact 

The term interrupted learning references all of the disruptions to the education process caused by the pandemic. For students with learning and thinking differences, the impact of interrupted learning was and is acutely overwhelming. Educators were also left looking for new ways to reach and teach students who were suddenly experiencing isolation and, consequently, the loss of individualized attention.

According to Understood and UnidosUS’ Back to School Study from August 2021, nearly 40% of teachers feel as though they don’t have the resources and readily available guidance from superiors when it comes to addressing learning and thinking differences. Plus, previous research from Understood and NCLD during the pandemic found that the issues identified by teachers as areas where they need the most support include:

  • Social and emotional support for teachers (57%)

  • Strategies to keep students engaged and motivated (56%)

  • Strategies to catch students up to grade level (60%)

  • Strategies to support the unique learning needs of students with learning and attention issues (54%)

These findings provide critical insight as we move through the beginning of the school year, and serve as the basis for actionable resources to support teachers moving forward.

Forward together

Forward Together: Pandemic Lessons for Effective Teaching Practices is the result of this latest collaboration with NCLD. Stemming from the report findings, it features resources developed to provide evidence-based, actionable support for educators to support students with learning and thinking differences, no matter their educational setting. The free, downloadable resources include strategies and solutions, including a step-by-step implementation process. 

  • Collaboration: Strategies to partner with colleagues, families, and caregivers to promote student success. Collaboration is particularly important to sustain inclusive settings, since no single educator should be responsible for holding the expertise of all learner variability.

  • Flexible grouping: A highly effective strategy for creating an inclusive classroom culture that honors learner variability. Flexible grouping supports accelerated learning, addresses foundational skill needs, and supports students with disabilities and thinking differences. It also increases students’ engagement and supports their social-emotional needs.

  • Positive behavior supports: Evidence-based approaches for promoting behavior that is conducive to learning. Teaching positive behavior, intervening early, and creating an encouraging classroom climate provide students with a safe and supportive learning environment.

All three approaches support effective and engaging instruction for teachers and help students — especially those with learning and thinking differences — learn and grow.

The takeaways

There’s no doubt that challenges, changes, and transitions will continue throughout this school year. But in keeping with Understood’s focus on parent-teacher collaboration in recognition of October as Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, and with the proper resources and support, teachers and students alike can thrive together in the classroom.

For more resources around distance learning and collaboration, check out: 

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