04 SES 13 A, It Was Just Too Much': Lessons From Online Learning During COVID
Development of self-empowerment and agency have increasingly been the goal of education policy (Samman and Santos, 2009), with more or less success. Enabling pupils to set up goals and make steps to reach them with self-motivation (empowering them to become agents of their lives) is an important objective of education to target inequality (Sadan, 2011). Learning and agency make up a reinforcing circle - if the learner has success in learning, that increases their sense of agency, which leads to higher motivation to study - a typical success goes to successful system dynamic archetype (Senge, 2000; Suhajda, 2013) Agency is there, when there is an active role of the learner in the decision about learning objectives, themes and methods.
During the COVID-19 epidemic in Hungary secondary schools have had to be closed up and to change to digital education to avoid the spreading of virus among teenagers and their families. This caused students to study in a more autonomous and self-directed way with different levels of online help from their teachers and their pupil peers.
However, digital education (as all e-learning) builds on a certain level of empowerment and motivation of pupils. It provides a certain level of opportunity to set up the learning environment. On one hand they have to be autonomous enough to set up the digital learning environment, to join the online platforms, to participate at a certain level without physically being present and coerced.
On the other hand, COVID-19 also leads to an isolation from peers, who usually also constitute a part of the learning environment, either as a positive or negative push (motivation) towards educational goals.
The question always is - do pupils have the necessary motivation and empowerment? On what does it depend on - the family background, self-motivation, previous results, or teaching methods? How much does it depend on the pupil's present and future personal goals (for example further education goals and preparation for entrance exams, or goals from other areas)? Will it have an impact on their personal goals? How much do they lack the peer environment, and how does this lack of physical meeting with peers impact their studies?
Therefore digital education during COVID-19 fights inequality or reinforces it within education?
This research is based on two levels: first there is a literature review of existing literature on empowerment and agency in education, which led us to develop the questions of a direct research with our target audience. During the literature review we assess the existing discussions on agency, empowerment in education, and learning theories, to reach to a conclusion on what are the factors of an empowering educational environment. We also look for the already existing essays about the impact of COVID-19 for this young generation. During the interview phase we interview 10 secondary education pupils to discover their own experiences and feelings about online education, in particular their sense of agency, control over their learning processes, motivation and objective and subjective effectiveness. We also explore the different teacher practices they face, and how much pupils can adapt to different practices, and which they find acceptable and effective. We targetedly ask about their personal-level goals (in relation to other areas of life as well as educational goals) and how digital education affects these. We also explore the impact of the partial lack of peer environment in learning. Pupils selected have diverse backgrounds in terms of their residence, gender, school type, age, economic and living conditions. The data is analysed with narrative analysis during which we focus on the students experiences and reflections. We also assess the learning results of the pupils before and during the digital education (end of term and mid-term results between 2018/2019, 2019/2020, 2020/2021 school years).
Digital education is strongly connected to learner agency and empowerment as it requires greater autonomy from the learners. This difference has not always been taken into account in digital education. Depending on pupils’ personality, backgrounds, school type and life conditions, they might have variant experiences about digital learning environments. We expect that some pupils are more empowered in online learning environments but most of them feel themselves abandoned and mostly their learning efficiency decreases. We assume that their positive learning efficiency and motivation much depends upon existing family support, existing higher educational goals (and how close the final and entrance exams are), as well as existing peer support and cross-motivation among peers. At the same time our assumption is that non-supportive (even neutral, or neglective) family environment, negative peer pressure, and non-educational personal goals tend to decrease educational results in digital settings (as related to normal settings), therefore reinforcing the existing inequalities between pupils. We also suppose that alternative teacher techniques in digital education, especially those which empower pupils more, do have a counterbalancing effect to non-positive environmental circumstances.
Alsop, R., Bertelsen, M. & Holland, J. (2006): Empowerment in Practice From Analysis to Implementation (Washington, D.C., World Bank) Moon, Jennifer A. (2004): A Handbook of Reflective and Experiental Learning – Theory and Practice, RoutledgeFalmer, London Sadan, E. (2011): Közösségi tervezés és empowerment. ELTE TáTK, Budapest Samman, E. & Santos, M. E. (2009): Agency and Empowerment: A review of concepts, indicators and empirical evidence. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford Sen, A. K. (1985). Well-being, Agency and Freedom. The Journal of Philosophy LXXXII, 169-221. Senge, Peter M. (ed) (2000): Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, Currency Books, Doubleday, New York Sokol, B. et al. (2015): The Development of Agency, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118963418.childpsy108 Suhajda, V. (2012): A tanulás rendszerelméleti megközelítése. Pécsi Tudományegyetem, Bölcsészettudományi Kar Staples, L. H. (1990): Powerful Ideas About Empowerment. In: Administration in Social Work Volume 14, 1990 - Issue 2, 29-42.
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