Seniors have their say: Aussie year 11s and 12s share their thoughts about learning during the pandemic

In the lead up to their final exams, we set out to discover how year 11s and 12s are really feeling about learning in this new world of lockdowns, school closures and online schooling. The results were mixed but concerning.

Cluey Learning Monday, 30 August 2021

Over half of the Year 12’s surveyed admitted to studying less at home, 78% agree they are more distracted when learning online and a whopping 74% think that even with in-person school learning potentially returning (a far-off prospect for some areas), they still won’t be as prepared for the ATAR as they could have been.

Students were also given the opportunity to describe the negatives of online schooling.  When asked to express in their own words how Covid-19 has impacted their learning, many students identified it as a negative experience.

In their answers, common themes seemed to be based around too many distractions, hard to focus/concentrate, no motivation and difficulty communicating with teachers/getting help.

Tahlia W said, “lockdown has destroyed my ability to learn.” Madi W believes her “concentration has significantly decreased” and Phoebe T said, “my learning is heavily affected by the environment in which I study, so switching to online learning has been a challenge in terms of concentration and effectiveness.”

On the flip side, when asked to identify the positives of online schooling, students highlighted having more independence, freedom and flexibility, ability to work at their own pace and more time for family and self-care.

Harper MW is one of the students that has benefited from online learning. “There’s no distractions from other students and I have all the time in the world to work on homework and assignments. If anything I’m getting them done quicker,” she said. Jack I doesn’t think he’s been disadvantaged either.

He believes “COVID home learning has forced me to adapt and change the way I learn, personally, I feel I have done this well and have not been disadvantaged.”

Cluey Learning’s Chief Learning Officer Dr. Selina Samuels said the survey results reinforced what we’ve known all along; how the learning environments that suit some really do not suit others.

“For some, learning from home has enabled them to focus and work at their own pace, while for others it has been extremely challenging and isolating.Most of the students we spoke to, though, miss their connection with their peers and their teachers and getting the regular feedback and guidance they need.

We are finding many Year 12 students coming to Cluey for support in this last push towards their final exams.

They are not only aiming to consolidate their learning and refine their exam technique, but also to find a tutor who can act as a ‘learning partner’ – someone they can ask all the questions they haven’t been able to ask for the past couple of months and who can make learning feel less lonely.”

Mental health was also a large focus of Cluey’s research, where it was found that 79% of Year 12  students surveyed were experiencing some level of ATAR anxiety.

86% of NSW senior students miss “hanging out with friends”, 77% miss “getting out of the house” and 58% said “eating/dining out” was something they missed—all factors that are arguably highly motivating when study and exams become a large focus during those final years.

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, summarises this brilliantly:

“Although at the beginning participating in online school felt rather exciting, I didn’t realise how much it could impact on my mental health. I find myself feeling very unmotivated and stressed, leaving work to the last minute. Yes, I love the extra sleep-ins and participating in online classes from the comfort of my home.

However, I feel extremely underprepared for Year 12 and I’m worried for everyone currently in Year 11, because it feels like a huge disadvantage, given that we have been stressed since 2020.”

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