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Recovery curriculum

Education researcher leads global study examining pandemic experiences

By Jeff Green

A team of international partners wants to know how children and young people experienced education and teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group secured nearly $500,000 in funding from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) for the project, titled Resilient Experiences and Agency of Youth and Children During the Pandemic: Re-visioning Education Through Storytelling.

Dr. Anne Burke (BA’90, B.Ed.’92, M.Ed.’02), professor of literacy education and digital early learning, Faculty of Education, is the principal investigator for the study funded through NFRF’s special call on research for post-pandemic recovery.

‘Learning experiences’

Dr. Burke says the project is a partnership on all levels.

Through artistic creations, group discussions and interviews, students and teachers will reflect on their pandemic experiences, and researchers will help them to pull out narrative threads and learning experiences to reconsider how they can re-think present-day education and learning, she says.

“We hope to learn how children and young people have experienced education and teaching during the pandemic, both offline and online, moving well beyond conventional wisdom and anecdotal observations,” she said.

From Memorial, the project includes Dr. Sylvia Moore, associate professor, jointly appointed to the School of Arctic and Subarctic Studies and the Faculty of Education, as co-principal investigator, and Dr. Tony Fang, Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Cultural and Economic Transformation, Department of Economics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

They’re collaborating with Drs. Mhairi Beaton, Steven Burton and Nicole Gridley from the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University in the U.K.; and Drs. Tuija Turunen, Pigga Keskitalo and Satu-Maarit Korte from the University of Lapland.

“We feel that this project will lead the way for understandings about how children and teachers showed resilience in the face of a global emergency.” — Dr. Anne Burke

The researchers work in areas such as inclusion, digital and immersive technologies, literacy, early childhood, teacher education, Indigenous cultural practices and arts-based research.

A wide network of arts, education, not-for-profit, government and Indigenous partners are also contributing to the project.

The team will use different media techniques and teaching approaches, such visual arts-based activities, digital storytelling and immersive reality film to help students reflect on their pandemic experiences.

‘Schooling and resilience’

Dr. Burke says the researchers want to create a re-envisioned curriculum for schools by incorporating the experiences of youth and children during the pandemic, promote well-being during times of crisis and address the United Nation’s Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery.

“We feel that this project will lead the way for understandings about how children and teachers showed resilience in the face of a global emergency. Sharing films shot by youth brings voice to children and youth about schooling and resilience.”

Dr. Burke also says children and youth were impacted greatly by the pandemic, more so than anyone really knows.

She notes that lockdowns and sudden moves to online education were organized quickly and were often subject to a lot of improvisation.

The general memory of the pandemic response is that the process was insufficient and poorly received by parents, teachers and students.

“This research is designed to separate facts from collective fictions and produce a more nuanced and thoughtful view of the pandemic years.” — Dr. Anne Burke

However, Dr. Burke says this impression was not universal and that some students and teachers thrived in the online environment.

“This research is designed to separate facts from collective fictions and produce a more nuanced and thoughtful view of the pandemic years,” she said.

As an educator, Dr. Burke says the research matters to her because she wants to help make classrooms better for teachers and children.

“This project is innovative and creative and hits all the points for me. It holds my central tenet that social justice begins in schools.”


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