Students of ATC Fellows Report Higher Engagement

A recent survey of students taught by Arkansas Teacher Corps fellows found that students’ self-reported class engagement has increased since September 2019, the last time the survey was administered. However, students also indicated a decrease in grit, or the ability to persevere in order to achieve a goal. These results suggest that students may be excited by the return to in-person learning but may struggle to stay on task.

Educators have worried about the impact of COVID-19 on student learning and long-term development since the novel coronavirus forced schools to shift to online learning in the spring of 2020. Many schools maintained a combination of in-person teaching and online learning in 2020-21 to accommodate student needs and ever-evolving recommendations from health officials and policymakers, but standardized testing in spring 2021 found that Arkansas students scored lower in every subject of the ACT Aspire at every grade level.

In response, Arkansas Teacher Corps has focused on formative assessments and social-emotional learning for the 2021-22 school year. The student survey is one tool ATC uses to measure and track students’ social-emotional readiness each year. Every fellow who administered the survey received an individualized report of their students’ average responses to identify priority areas and set student-specific goals.

Teachers were asked to administer surveys during class either electronically or on paper. Overall, 31 fellows administered surveys to 1906 students at 20 schools in 14 districts. The survey measure students perceptions of  instruction, classroom environment, class engagement, grit, growth mindset, emotional regulation, self-efficacy, self-management, social awareness, and self-awareness.

Students of ATC Fellows were generally confident in their social-emotional skills with a majority of students giving high ratings on each item. Students rated self-management and instruction most positively. Grit and self-efficacy were rated the lowest overall and reflect a decline from the students who responded in 2019. Class engagement reflected the largest increase from the students who responded in 2019.

Compared to 2019, students this fall are much more likely to report enjoying class, finding the content interesting, and wanting to learn more about class content. Conversely, students this year are much less likely to put forth their best effort, finish what they begin, and pursue their goals. Students also report being less likely to keep working when other stop to take a break or when the material is difficult.

ATC fellows discussed their students’ results with their coaches during their formal fall TESS evaluation and developed skills during the October regional workshop to hold social-emotional learning check-ins with their students. An identical post-survey will be administered in May to assess the extent to which their students have grown in social-emotional skills during the 2021-22 school year. Alongside statewide ACT Aspire scores, this post-survey will provide a more holistic measure of how well students have grown and developed during their first year fully in-person after the emergence of COVID-19.