Majority of P.E.I. parents, teachers worry home-based learning created gaps in education: survey

A new survey of how Island parents, teachers and students felt about online education at home during the COVID-19 lockdown this spring shows a majority of them worry it created gaps in students' learning. 

Respondents said hardest thing about home learning was motivating students

Survey respondents including teachers, students and parents say it was difficult to motivate students to do their work at home last spring during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

A new survey of how Island parents, teachers and students felt about online education at home during the COVID-19 lockdown this spring shows a majority of them worry it created gaps in students' learning. 

P.E.I. students never returned to their classrooms after their week-long March break. During that week, P.E.I. had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 and public services including schools, daycares and government offices began closing. 

Prince Edward Island's Department of Education released the survey results in an email to CBC News Thursday. 

"The information will inform the work of the department and education authorities if at-home learning has to be implemented again," said a department spokesperson.

Two groups took the survey, in the English and French systems. The English survey heard from 5,677 respondents including 4,882 parents, 983 teachers (462 cross-listed as parents), 99 administrators (57 cross-listed as parents) and 207 students (13 cross-listed as parents) plus 48 education assistants and others (36 cross-listed as parents).

The French survey heard from 140 respondents including 104 parents, 39 teachers (17 cross-listed as parents), three administrators (all cross-listed as parents), one education assistant or other (one cross-listed as parent) and 14 students. 

To come up with the following results, people who answered "not applicable" to any individual question were dropped from the calculation for that question.

Some highlights

  • 53 per cent were extremely or very concerned about gaps in learning from missing classes for three months.
  • 84 per cent said students had the necessary technology to complete home-based assignments always or most of the time.
  • 85 per cent said students had access to internet always or most of the time.
  • 66 per cent said students had resources they needed always or most of the time.
  • 54 per cent said students had learning materials they needed always or most of the time.

The survey also showed older students were more comfortable using technology to do their home-based assignments, and also better understood what was expected of them and were more confident about completing their assignments. 

Respondents also said it was challenging to motivate students at all levels, from kindergarten to Grade 12, to do their assignments at home.

This coming fall

A majority of respondents — 53 per cent — said they would be extremely or very concerned about child care if home-based learning were to continue or resume in the fall. Many parents have returned to their workplaces, as employers have modified workspaces and other protocols, and so would not be at home to supervise their children.

There may be times where students and staff have to wear masks in P.E.I. schools this fall, such as in hallways, says Education Minister Brad Trivers. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

The survey showed a minority of respondents were concerned about kids having to share devices such as a laptop at home in order to complete their schoolwork if home-based learning were to continue this fall, and 29 per cent were concerned about internet service.

Twenty-seven per cent were extremely or very concerned about students' ability to use the Google platform to complete assignments, and 29 per cent  were extremely or very concerned about parents' ability to help kids use the Google platform.

Most parents (87 per cent) also said their children would be able to access the devices they need for home-based learning. 

However 45 per cent of parents and guardians said they thought they would benefit from training in technology to support their children's home-based learning. 

Students needed more support

At the end of the survey, respondents could add comments about their home-based learning experience. 

Forty-five per cent of Island parents and guardians said they thought they would benefit from training in technology to support their childrens' home-based learning. (Submitted by John Ippolito )

The most common comment from students (coming from 33 of them) was that they did not want home learning to continue. 

Thirty-one students mentioned they needed more support from their teachers to explain assignments and answer questions; that was also by far the top comment from parents (103 of them). Both groups also mentioned a need for better motivation and clearer expectations, since completion of work was often not mandatory and there were no deadlines or marks. 

Some teachers (20 of 100 comments) and administrators (16 of 39 comments) thought teachers should all use videoconferencing software such as Google Meet or Zoom for regular check-ins, live lessons, and answering students' questions.

Both groups also said internet and IT equipment such as laptops should be made available for families.

The Education Department said the survey would be made public shortly on its publication page.

The province released some details in early July on how it plans to return to in-school learning on Sept. 8, including asking parents to drive children to school to cut down on the numbers on buses needed in an age of physical distancing.

However, Education Minister Brad Trivers has been warning that a resurgence of COVID-19 would mean students would have to go back to learning online at home. 

The province has said it will have more details on back-to-school plans next week. 

More from CBC P.E.I.


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