UF Lastinger Center for Learning: Communication is key during pandemic

A Florida-based national education innovation hub’s analysis of approaches taken by public and private education programs throughout the state during COVID-19 reveals that open communication has played a critical role in the success and well-being of students, families and educators.

Several key themes emerged from the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning’s survey of more than 4,000 parents, teachers and school leaders in a project made possible with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Among the findings:

Most educators expressed an understanding of the significance of communication throughout the pandemic. Sixty percent of respondents said they communicated with their students and families once a day or more throughout distance learning, using multiple channels including online videos, apps, phone calls, emails and text messages. Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, helped them cultivate more family involvement and increased teachers’ understanding of unique student needs.

Educators reported that regular check-ins with each other provided their schools as well as district-level staff with valuable, real-time information to inform higher-level decision-making. More frequent communication among educators also facilitated idea exchange, collaboration, and sharing of best practices to overcome challenges and better support students and families.

Additionally, educators reported that connecting with certain student populations during distance learning, including those with exceptionalities, younger students, and English Language Learners, prompted many schools and districts to innovate. (See here and here.) A private school participating in a state scholarship program administered by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, hired Spanish translators to ensure it was effectively communicating with its large English Language Learner population.

And finally, the survey showed a streamlined, multi-level communication approach is effective and efficient for the entire school community to foster a successful teaching and learning environment. Use of a central hub that offers access to teachers, administrators and district staff as well as a student information system or centralized platform for all teachers proved beneficial strategies for educators as well as families, particularly those whose students had multiple teachers.

In addition to its study on communication practices, which can be seen in its entirety here, the Lastinger Center released two additional briefs related to education and COVID-19. Trauma-Informed Care: A Critical Component in Successfully Resuming School can be viewed here; and Best Practices in Preparing Educators and Families for Distance Learning can be viewed here.