Education in the U.S., as across the globe, has seen a drastic disruption as schools have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As educators shift to emergency distance learning, questions of access, equity, and student wellbeing have been brought to the fore as technology becomes the dominant medium for student learning and personal connection.

And yet, in this moment of rapid response and significant change in how students experience school and learning, there is little data available about how the pandemic is affecting the lived experiences of students. Individual schools and systems are reaching out to their students and communities, but early efforts have, understandably, tended to focus on access and logistics. Meanwhile, national feedback efforts have tended to focus on asking parents and guardians or teachers and school staff about their experiences and perspectives.

There is no doubt that those perspectives matter. Families and educators alike are navigating uncharted waters. At the same time, of course, their perspectives are not the same as — nor are they a stand-in for — the perspectives of students themselves.

There are so many vital questions right now that the student perspective can help answer, which in turn can help educators best serve students in this challenging time. What is uniquely challenging about learning in the age of COVID-19? How are the ways in which students are connecting with their teachers and peers working, and where are they falling short? What are students’ days like in the absence of the traditional structures of the school day? How are different students affected differently? In what ways are students unexpectedly thriving?

It is all too easy to guess how students might be experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways it might be transforming their education and lives. To find meaningful answers to these questions, we need to ask students themselves. After all, students are the experts on their own experience.

Read the full article about student input on learning changes by Jen Vorse Wilka at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.