COVID-19 and education: What can be done to ensure that the health and educational crises do not turn into social selectivity in the classroom?

Project Lead: Mario Steiner
Team: Maria Köpping, Andrea Leitner, Gabriele Pessl
Duration: April 2020–July 2021
Funding: Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF), BMBWF, University of Innsbruck

The relationship between cultural and material resources of the family background and learning and school achievements of children is well-known. The social selectivity of educational output increases to the extent that it depends on private support.

When schools remained closed for several weeks due to the rise of the COVID pandemic in spring 2020, learning achievements were “privatised” to an unprecedented extent, posing exceptional challenges for school principals, teachers, students and parents alike. In a situation where learning achievements depend more than ever on students’ resources and the support they receive at home, there is a high risk of rising inequalities in educational performances.

Our research project investigates the teaching and learning achievements as well as the support from the home environment in this particular situation. Looking at the challenges of the COVID-induced school closures as a learning opportunity, our goal is to discover potentials and strategies for resilience: What are the didactic-pedagogical approaches and the support necessary to counteract disadvantages despite adverse conditions?

With a special focus on Vienna and the lower-secondary level of education, our research design relies on a quantitative survey among Austrian teachers (n>4000) as well as qualitative interviews with teachers, students and their families. This allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the distance learning situation from multiple perspectives.

Preliminary results of the study show that teachers’ concerns about potential learning losses are particularly high regarding disadvantaged students. At the same time, however, there are also students who exceeded their teachers’ expectations in this difficult situation. During the phase of distance learning, teachers developed a variety of strategies to adapt educational contents and methods to disadvantaged students’ needs and provide individual support.

Find out more (in German)