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Study finds children’s wellbeing badly affected by online learning

15 December 2021

Child studying

A study co-authored by School of Psychology Professor, Bob Snowden, found that secondary school children struggled to concentrate and engage with schoolwork in the move to online learning during lockdown, negatively affecting their confidence and wellbeing.

Researchers from Cardiff University and Swansea University surveyed a total of 407 pupils (17 male, 390 female) aged between 11 and 18 years old during November 2020 when schools had reopened. The pupils answered questions on their ability to concentrate, how motivated and engaged they felt, and if they felt confident in their ability to learn.

Analysis of their responses showed pupils’ learning experiences (concentration, engagement, ability to learn, and self-worth from learning) were significantly lower for online learning compared to classroom learning. These differences were also more marked in students with specific learning difficulties.

“Mental health problems generally start early in life, and schools can play a central role in identifying these problems and sign-posting the child to help and treatment. We have demonstrated that the COVID crisis has affected the mental health of many people, with younger people suffering the most. The present results show that the move to online learning has not only impacted on the learning experience of children, but also has knock-on effects for their mental health – and even more so for those with special learning needs.”

Professor Robert Snowden Professor

Tom Walters, member of the research team and senior leader at Howells School Llandaff (Girls Day School Trust) added: “During online learning staff were aware that many were struggling to adapt to the new mode of learning, particularly those with specific learning difficulties.”

“With the likelihood of this mode of learning being more prevalent in future, we were keen to better understand the demands of learning remotely and tried to do so in an evidence-based manner.”

You can view the paper ‘Secondary school students’ perception of the online teaching experience during Covid-19: the impact on mental wellbeing and additional learning needs’ in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.

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