Only 34% of UK pupils felt motivated to learn remotely throughout lockdown, according to study

The teacher workload crisis has also been impacted, with working hours surging by 60-65% as a result of the pandemic

Only 34% of students across the UK say they felt motivated to learn remotely throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a study by Texthelp and ImpactEd.

Following the most disruptive term the global education sector has experienced so far – with school closures affecting 1.3bn students in 181 countries since the outbreak began – a brand-new academic year is already underway. But, as a second wave looms, 34 UK regions are already under local lockdown, and the likelihood of more school closures increases by the day.

In response to the pandemic, many institutions moved their offerings online, with a large number choosing to adopt a ‘hybrid’ or ‘blended’ mix of online and face-to-face teaching. As a result, Texthelp and ImpactEd produced the Lockdown and beyond: learning in a changing landscape report, examining the impact of remote and blended learning on pupil motivation, as well as how edtech can help address this issue moving forward.

The longitudinal research project surveyed results from more than 11,000 UK students throughout lockdown, also drawing on insights on how COVID-19 impacts student motivation in the UK, U.S. and Australia. Results show that while the pandemic has inevitably spurred new challenges for educators to navigate, it has also exacerbated existing long-term problems and inequalities – such as the digital divide. In particular, the study’s evidence shows that COVID-19 has caused acute challenges in three interconnected fields: student motivation, teacher workload and student wellbeing.

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As a factor that’s inherently linked to attainment, pupil motivation is an integral part of a successful education experience. Worryingly, the study found that only 34% of students surveyed had felt actively motivated to learn remotely, with the majority stating their feelings were neutral or that they were actively disinterested. Every two weeks since the beginning of May, students from disadvantaged backgrounds cited lower levels of persistence than their peers. Experts fear that the decline in motivation will continue as remote or blended learning contexts fast become the norm.

The report also highlights how schools can maximise edtech potential in a home or hybrid learning environment, claiming that research-informed tools which drive engagement through real-time feedback and gamification, while also supporting pupil autonomy, will likely have the most positive impact on student outcomes and teacher workloads.

While the effects of the pandemic are varied and ongoing, the paper shines a light on the ‘Zoom boom’ seen across the education sector, citing a 158% global surge in edtech tool downloads in March 2020.

On top of these core findings, the report shows that:

  • Teacher working hours have increased by 60-65% following the pandemic
  • Lockdown has had a more negative impact on girls compared to boys, with the wellbeing scores of girls surveyed landing a full 5% lower than boys
  • Teacher burnout is significantly associated with weakened pupil motivation

Martin McKay, Texthelp’s CEO, commented: “As educators increasingly look to technology to support their practices, this paper highlights the importance of prioritising evidence-based solutions that drive student motivation. Writing, for example, is one area where real-time feedback from a research-backed tool can have a significant impact, encouraging students to write more and for longer periods when they do not have the motivating benefit of a teacher in the room.

“At their most effective, edtech tools should complement in-person learning, reducing teacher workloads so they can focus on what really matters – teaching. The rapid digitisation in education brought about by necessity presents opportunities to embed solutions and practices that best support learning, both during this pandemic and beyond.”


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