Best Practice

Lost learning? Why we must avoid a deficit teaching model post-lockdown – and how we can do it

The rhetoric around ‘lost learning’ is not helpful and should be avoided, says Matt Bromley. Drawing on the words of David Ausubel and Dylan Wiliam, he looks here about why we must avoid the deficit model when teaching this academic year

Now that all pupils are back in school, the national debate has turned to the issue of “lost learning”. However, I am very uncomfortable with the terminology many are using – “lost learning”, “catch-up” – and all the rhetoric surrounding these concepts.

Any talk of “loss” is to adopt a deficit model. I am not suggesting that Covid-19 has been a positive experience – of course, it has not. Many of us lost loved ones and many had difficult lockdown experiences – isolation, mental health challenges, domestic violence, anxiety and more.

But to adopt a deficit model is, in my opinion, to double-down on the problems. If we talk to pupils about their “lost learning”, about their “lack of progress”, and about “gaps” in their knowledge – as well as about the devastating consequences of the pandemic – we only serve to heighten anxieties and thus delay their return to “normality” and stunt their future progress.

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