Since fall 2020, researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education have studied hundreds of self-organized learning pods that launched during the pandemic. As our latest report shows, most families sought safe spaces for learning and socialization for children displaced by school closures — and more than half of families and three-quarters of instructors we surveyed created learning environments they preferred over school. Still, their efforts proved fleeting. Once schools reopened for in-person learning, most pods receded.

Yet, families who participated in these pandemic learning communities saw possibilities they can’t unsee. Schools, district leaders and state policymakers working to recover from COVID-19 can draw useful lessons from those pods and the factors that caused many of them to quickly vanish.

  • Pods made space for stronger relationships and instruction tailored to each student’s needs
  • Pods broadened the pool of educators and provided more flexible teaching environments
  • Pods suffered without supportive infrastructure

System leaders can invite continued partnerships with the families and community organizations that stepped up to support small group learning during the pandemic. These collaborations could draw on the strengths of each to build new, diversified teams of educators, form stronger connections with families, offer hands-on learning experiences or support wraparound services.

Read the full article about pandemic learning pods by Jennifer Poon and Travis Pillow and Ashley Jochim at The 74.