The article aims to research the effects of the pandemic and subsequent quarantine measures on pupils’ performance and evaluate various solutions suggested to the performance and grading issues. Numerous assessments of the pandemic impact on performance and grading from different countries and different time periods were reviewed and analyzed. Generally, the perception of pandemic impacts was negative. Various opinions on the factors that influence students’ performance, such as satisfaction levels, infrastructure, teaching quality, and others, were reviewed. The relevant weight of these factors according to different scholars was measured, and the contrasts were underlined. The impacts of the pandemic were assessed quantitatively using the best-case-scenario example of Dutch schoolchildren.
The paper observed various solutions to the identified issues of students’ performance. The responses were divided into three categories: those that try to prevent the performance issues by changing teaching methods, those that respond to subsequent grading problems, and those that suggest macro-level broad-scale reforms. The prevention strategies suggested micro-level changes in the teaching practices, while strategies aimed at coping with grading suggested changes in the teachers’ assessment methods. The macro-level response introduced a three-staged reform plan to improve the status-quo through investments and use the situation as an opportunity to redesign the educational sector for the better. Such a wide specter of solutions was analyzed to get the full picture of the situation and possible reactions on different levels. Each strategy was shortly reviewed, and key takeaways were retrieved. Overall, the study synthesizes and complements the existing pandemic response strategies in the educational sphere.
The pandemic brought serious issues and dilemmas across many spheres of human life, with education being one of the most affected. The large-scale quarantine measures and subsequent remote learning have negative impacts on the educational system in general. It has become more challenging for students and teachers to fulfill their functions due to the rapid change in the academic format. Plenty of people have gone through illness, loss, stress, and other traumas since the beginning of the pandemic. All the mentioned factors have been reflected in the students’ overall performance, causing some to lag behind the material, subsequently lowering their grades.
Such a situation provoked various responses from the educational system; however, no universal answer has been found yet. Therefore, individual organizations and administrative units have been trying to develop their own solutions to the specter of educational problems caused by the pandemic. Options suggested often vary significantly in their radicalism and responsibility distribution. Some options place additional emphasis on infrastructure, while in other cases, the teachers are encouraged to change their methods drastically. The assessment of a wide range of educational responses from various sources and their combination is the key to successful strategy building in times of pandemic.
The Impacts of the Pandemic on Students
Ferguson argued that distance learning and subsequent school closures effectively prevent the spread of viruses, as “children can transmit them without knowing and showing no symptoms themselves” (as cited in Goulas & Megalokonomou, 2020, p.1). Therefore, the transfer to distant learning was global and happened in the majority of countries worldwide. Such a drastic and rapid change caused various issues regarding student performance. Al-Kumaim et al. (2021) name the following problems based on student surveys: information and work overload, technical and financial issues, unfamiliarity with the online format, and physical and mental health issues related to stress and illness. In the same survey, 69.5% of students felt overloaded, 67.1% felt stressed, and more than 50% admitted that it was difficult for them to pay enough attention to their education while studying from home. Ranking the reasons for stress, students put information and work overload in the first place, followed by Internet connection issues and the need to adapt to the new environment. The final factors are insufficient resources relevant to students’ subjects and the anxiety associated with the risk of COVID-19 infection (Al-Kumaim et al., 2021).
Another study by Gopal et al. (2021) highlighted different student performance factors and tied the performance closely to student satisfaction. Thus, the authors marked such factors as teacher’s quality, students’ expectations, feedback, and course design as crucial for students’ satisfaction and subsequent performance. Garris and Fleck (2020) also measured student satisfaction with the quality of the online-transitioned courses and found it to be primarily negative. The authors conducted a nationwide survey of United States (US) students and concluded that students believe that online transition made their courses worse in five categories and better in only one. More specifically, “courses became less enjoyable, less interesting, decreased in learning value, facilitated less attention and effort, and incorporated less cultural content after transitioning online” (Garris & Fleck, 2020, p.1). The only advantage of online courses, according to the survey, was the increased flexibility. The authors mention such factors as “online self-efficacy, emotional well-being, computer anxiety, online student engagement, and student perceptions of instructor confidence” (Garris & Fleck, 2020, p.1) as the main explanations of the students’ online transition perception.
Regarding the impacts of the mentioned remote education issues, Engzell et al. (2021) identified the quantifiable results of distant learning and proved they were highly negative, especially for less-educated households. The researchers conducted their study in the Netherlands, where the conditions were almost perfect, with a relatively short lockdown period and the high overall preparedness of the system. Nevertheless, the research revealed that according to the results of the tests, in terms of knowledge, Dutch pupils lost an equivalent of the same period their schools were closed. Therefore, distance learning was insignificant for schoolchildren, who gained almost no knowledge during the online learning period, and this negative effect was even worse for less-educated homes. The researchers conclude that the impact may be even more devastating in the less developed countries, which have the worse technical infrastructure and longer lockdowns.
Responds to the Performance Issue
Preventive Strategies. Regarding the solutions to lower satisfaction and lower performance problems, there are several approaches. For instance, Orlov et al. (2021) suggest more peer interactions, such as small group activities or think-pair-share teaching strategies. Such interactive exercises increased the scores and performances of students and were “significantly associated with improved learning” (Orlov et al., 2021, p.5). The study by Yao et al. (2020) also provides several recommendations on the online education format. The study’s results suggest that the greater autonomy of students granted by online educational methods can damage their academic performance and lead to lower grades. Therefore, Yao et al. (2020) recommend closer cooperation between teachers and students. Closer cooperation can be achieved through broadcasting instead of recorded lectures, the increase in the time devoted to explanation and online feedback, and teachers playing the roles of mentors and companions. The wider usage of such methods that boost the effectiveness of the learning process may be a decent measure to minimize the falling grades issues.
Grades Assessment Strategies. According to the article by Wall and Newark (2021), there is a trend in US schools to ease the pressure on schoolchildren by offering a set of extra tools to increase students’ grades. These include changing assignment weights, makeups, retakes, additional tutoring, etc. In some cases, these practices even include noFs policies, which is alarming to some specialists in the field, as they believe such actions could have negative consequences in the long run (Wall & Newark, 2021). Therefore, such methods, perceived as artificial or even radical by some, are debated across the country, and no universal answer to the efficiency and justifiability of such an approach is provided.
Wide-Scale Reforms. In their report, Garcia and Weiss (2020) gave an overview of the situation in the educational sector of the US during the pandemic. The authors suggested a macro-level plan of coping with pandemic results on the national level, providing one more perspective to the problem. According to Garcia and Weiss (2020), a three-staged plan can be implemented to reduce the pandemic costs for the educational sector and prepare it for such disasters in the future. Within the first part of the plan, the schools are to be given additional resources to increase the effectiveness of their online studies; for instance, they should possess all the necessary technical equipment and infrastructure. Secondly, extra investment should be provided to ensure educational recovery from the pandemic losses, so there could be additional and more personalized learning mechanisms. Finally, the system is to be redesigned to achieve more equal opportunities for students and better treatment of teachers. Garcia and Weiss (2020) believe that these measures can help rebuild the educational system, compensate for the pandemic period losses, and further advance the system.
The research paper aimed to identify different perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the educational sphere, and more specifically, on students’ learning performance and grades. Moreover, the study aimed to analyze and synthesize different responses to the identified issues. Based on the extracted information, several points of view on the student performance problem were established. Some articles gave more weight to the role of teachers, while others highlight such factors as work overload, Internet connection issues, and overall satisfaction of students. Despite the differences, the general opinion is that distance learning negatively affects all of these factors, therefore reducing the students’ performance and grades. The Dutch schoolchildren-based study analyzed how dramatic the problem was, and it concluded that most pupils received almost no knowledge during the lockdown period. Such effects could be even more problematic for developing countries with less prepared educational systems and much longer school closures. Therefore, the study established the scope of the problem and identified different factors of influence.
The study aimed at building the complete picture of possible responses to the established problem; therefore, papers that propose and analyze solutions were evaluated. Three categories of solutions were identified: preventive strategies, grade assessment strategies, and comprehensive reforms. Several studies that declare and prove the efficiency of various teaching methods were observed in the first category. The usage of such methods is the primary way of boosting student performance and grades in some countries, and their broad adoption may be enough to maintain the relatively high average grades of students. Grade assessment strategies were used widely in the countries that witnessed a significant drop in students’ academic performance, creating an ambiguous situation for schoolchildren and the educational system in general. Finally, some ideas for wide-scale reforms for the redesign of the whole educational system were observed. Overall, the paper achieved its aim of building a comprehensive picture of both the educational system’s problem and some possible solutions that may improve the situation altogether.
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