Summer Learning Loss: what we know now

Summer Learning Loss is a setback that some students experience after having a long summer break. Since long-term memory relies on revisiting information regularly, it’s no surprise that after a couple of months out of school, many students have partially or fully forgotten last year’s material.

We have previously looked at a review that investigated the effects of this and which students it affects the most, but more recent research provides an interesting insight into what Summer Learning Loss looks like in today’s educational context. So, let’s take a look at what it says, and how it suggests we overcome Summer Learning Loss…

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What does the research say?

Researchers looked at the results of more than 3.5 million students to explore whether these students suffered from a Summer Learning Loss and whether they could find any factors that predicted it.

And here’s what they found:

  • On average, students experienced a loss of 1-2 months in their reading skills and 1-3 months in their mathematical skills.
  • The strongest predictor of this loss was the size of gain students made the previous year – the more they gained, the more they lost.

What has changed?

Previous research has constantly shown that students from lower socio-economic status experience the greatest learning loss. However, this study suggests that socio-economic status is no longer a predictor.

Interestingly, the biggest factor was how much information the students learnt throughout the year. Those who learnt the most in the previous year were the most likely to experience a Summer Learning Loss.

The researchers highlighted some reasons for Summer Learning Loss, including:

  • A lack of access to summer programs
  • The length of the school year
  • Test disengagement, with students less motivated to do well on their first test after summer.

However, these explanations are still being explored – there are many, many more factors that play a role in predicting Summer Learning Loss.

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So, what can you do to help your students?

A great way to ensure that your students come back in September ready to learn is to help them return from the summer break having forgotten as little as possible from the previous year. But that doesn’t mean you should give them tons of homework to complete over the break, when they (and you) should be resting.

Instead, you can encourage them and their parents or guardians to try these strategies:

  1. Go on educational trips

A fun way to keep students learning throughout a school holiday is educational trips: going to the museum, the zoo, taking nature walks... Continuing to learn and show curiosity in a fun way while they’re away from school can help students develop their skills and knowledge.

Research has shown that going on educational trips can be highly beneficial. In this study, researchers found that going to the museum allows students to improve their knowledge, ability to problem solve and their creative skills. Therefore, taking time out to go on low-cost trips can help students continue their learning and improve their skills.

This is definitely a strategy you can use during the year as well, which could create an interest and appetite for students to continue doing this on their free time.

  1. Learn new skills

Summer is also a good time for students to develop new skills and hobbies. Let’s take an example: if students learn how to bake, they can improve their skills in reading and following instructions by reading the recipe, but also work on mathematical skills when measuring out ingredients – and at the end of the day, there’s even cake to look forward to.

Outside of learning, this is also a great strategy for families to use for their child’s well-being. Taking part in activities with their parents or guardians can help create a closer bond and help build lifelong memories. This is highly important as research suggests that summer holidays are one of the loneliest times of the year for students.

  1. Encourage physical exercise

Currently, the NHS recommends that children take part in 60 minutes of exercise a day. However, according to UKactive, students are losing 80% of the amount of exercise they gained during term time as they are inactive during summer holidays.

Despite the negative physical impact this has on students, it can also negatively affect their academic performance. Some negative outcomes of being inactive include:

Therefore, it is important that students take part in different sports activities they enjoy throughout the summer. They can also spend more time going to the park or playing outside.

Final Thoughts

The latest research on the Summer Learning Loss has shown that it is still prevalent, with students’ reading and mathematical skills declining after summer.

Although the key reason for this, if there is one, is still unknown, there are different ways to help reduce the impact of this loss. Going on educational trips, learning new skills and making sure to get physical exercise can help students ensure that they continue learning throughout the summer – and we can help them build these habits throughout the year.

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