Silicon Valley Sociological Review


In 2020, educators and students were faced with a global pandemic that created unprecedented challenges to classrooms across the nation. For many students, the shift to online learning in a necessary effort to maintain educational continuity lasted for an entire academic year. Students attended online synchronous and asynchronous class sessions, interacted with their peers in exclusively online settings, and were isolated to the social and economic constraints of their own households. This study examines the dramatic impact that these virtual learning experiences had on middle school students’ learning, engagement, and development during the COVID-19 pandemic. By interviewing middle school students, teachers, and parents of students who participated in remote learning, researchers identified the necessity of a nexus of interconnected support founded on the relationships between the students, parents, and teachers both inside and outside of educational contexts to foster student engagement. This nexus of support was even more imperative for the success of low-income students and students who were children from immigrant families. Even when all conditions of this nexus were met, however, it was still necessary for students to display a remarkable level of intrinsic motivation and self-help behavior in order to maintain consistent engagement. These findings suggest the a radical reimagination of the educational landscape for students and educators’ return to the physical classroom: (1) the prioritization of a dynamic, personalized, and evolving curriculum, (2) community-focused, inquiry-based pedagogy, and (3) an audit system that ensures students are consistently supported in all three conditions of the support nexus.



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