State of K-12 report reveals 6 key themes for future of learning

Instructure’s annual study highlights the importance of teaching, engagement, equity and technology.
By: | June 21, 2021
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Six key themes emerged from a new State of K-12 report released today by Instructure, the maker of Canvas, including two that are likely to shape the future of education—the increased value of hybrid learning and the need to more closely look at how students are being assessed.

The State of Teaching & Learning in K-12 Education study conducted of more than 460 parents and 200 teachers and administrators this March—a year removed from the start of the impactful COVID-19 pandemic—showed both the adversities K-12s faced and the solutions forged when schools were thrust into the crisis. How they come out of it will be determined by their ability to provide paths that ensure students are achieving academically, socially and emotionally.

During this past year, researchers say, they showed incredible resilience.

“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, Vice President of K-12 Strategy at Instructure.

The most important driver of success, according to respondents, was high-quality teaching and the learning relationship students have with instructors, according to the survey responses from educators (99%) and parents (91%).

Both student engagement (92%) and attendance ranked near the top, both of which were impacted by the pandemic-interrupted year. Student academic achievement came in third, although both administrators and parents rated it a bit lower as a focus for the upcoming year.

Shifts, in class and online

The lowest ranked of all priorities was standardized tests, which came in at just 29%. Above that was non-cognitive assessment scores. They both highlight what researchers noted as a Top 3 theme: “It’s time for a fundamental shift in assessment.”

More than 75% of educators gave formative assessments to students and yet the stresses they caused, particularly during a pandemic, were apparent. Researchers suggest that for students to remain on grade level and not fall behind—as happened this year—they say the system needs to shift from end-of-term or end-of-year assessments to a more personalized, structured format where interventions can happen frequently to build learning.

”There is a lot of hard work ahead,” Goble said. “About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

No. 4: Hybrid learning is not going away. More than 95% of educators say they’ve moved to some form of remote learning, and 80% say it will be more important in the future. While the survey showed more of a reluctance from educators to abandon some of their in-person instruction, parents overwhelmingly want it (74%) and believe online learning has been good (65%). Either way, authors say, the technology that schools purchased should continue to be leveraged and advanced.

One key priority that educators and parents have on the radar is equity, especially graduation and drop-out rates, particularly for low-income and minority students. Aside from other barriers facing those students, low-income households, for example, are twice as likely to not have the same access to technology equipment and internet as high-income families. Teachers also report struggles with broadband and internet access.

Technology continues to be a high priority. One the big success stories—when students could connect—was the ability to bring the classroom into the home for parents. Videoconferencing also gave educators a unique window into students in their own spaces. While not perfect, it did offer the potential for learning connections and personalization to occur beyond the school.

“What started as a fast pivot to online learning can now be seen as a valuable investment in the future of K-12 education—allowing teachers, students, and parents to stay connected even when they have to be apart,” study authors wrote in the report. “As we support our dedicated community of leaders and our educators return to the classroom, we hope schools and districts will keep these leading trends in mind as they continue to engage students.”

Instructure leaders offered several ways leaders can drive student engagement and success in the 2021-22 school year and beyond:

  1. Invest in highly immersive professional development for teachers
  2. Build on the technology you have to “personalize learning plans, measure student engagement, and recreate core classroom experiences when students are absent”
  3. Research potential models that allow for teachers to use “shorter, standards-based assessments throughout the year”
  4. Consider one learning platform that students can use exclusively rather than a cumbersome variety of apps


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