When schools closed down last spring, some parents and educators responded by forming “pandemic pods,” or small groups of students who came together outside of school to learn during the pandemic.

These experiments from last year provide some important examples of how families and educators can affirm students’ identities, instill a sense of belonging, and help them resolve conflicts and navigate social situations when they are freed from traditional assumptions and rules about how school is supposed to look.

Over the past year, we surveyed 253 pod parents and educators throughout the United States. Among the 101 teachers we surveyed, 57 percent previously taught in a public, charter, or private school. We also conducted detailed interviews with twenty-seven parents and thirty-five pod educators to gain a deeper understanding of how they supported students’ well-being.

Fifty-eight percent of surveyed teachers reported they were better able to support their students’ social and emotional well-being in pods than they had been in traditional classrooms.

In interviews, parents and teachers said the combination of small group sizes and flexibility to shape the learning experience enabled educators to form strong relationships with their students and ensure students felt seen, known, and heard, which, in turn, helped them support students’ learning and well-being.

Learning in pods “really shifted to focus on the social and emotional, and working together as a group,” said one teacher. “[Learning is] more focused and more based on their interests, and [with a] more reactive and smaller group, I can do more than a teacher who has thirty students.”

Pod teachers said they had more control over their schedule and lessons, which allowed them to address students’ needs on the fly. When teachers could be more responsive, they said their students trusted them more, which improved relationships throughout the pod, leading to a more positive learning environment.

Read the full article about lessons on learning pods by Lisa Chu at The 74.