WoLeG - Well-being and digital learning of primary school children
In Germany, as in many other countries worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has led to school closures and contact blocks since March 2020. Even though the pandemic has been spreading since January 2020, for Germany these measures came suddenly – within a few days, one federal state after another implemented them. The aim of these measures was to flatten the exponential curve of contagion, in particular to ensure the stability and functioning of the health system.
Such a situation was new for the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states, marked by extreme uncertainty for everybody in various respects (fear of contagion, concern for relatives, employment and financial security, etc.). Many people experienced a new and challenging situation having to work at home and to take over the care and education of their children at the same time. With regard to the latter, the situation was uncertain since the idea of a 'good childhood‘ (Betz) including an education in a public school, which had been established for decades, was overridden and the significance of this crisis with regard to society, economy, health, social issues and families remained open.
For educational research, this raised in particular the question as to what consequences the measures in the crisis would have for the education system, the individual schools and its actors (management, teachers, pupils and parents) – both in the short and in the longer term. Basically, it can be stated that – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – there was no research on how education, education and socialisation take place under the conditions of social crises. In the meantime, mainly results of quantitative online surveys are available throughout Germany and Europe. However, the available studies all have a middle-class bias.
Case study at a primary school
In our case study – carried out during the school closure – we were particularly interested in the perspectives of children (and adolescents) as well as their parents on their situation at the time. What did the sudden isolation and simultaneous distance learning mean to them and how did they deal with this uncertain situation, the end of which was not yet foreseeable? What did it mean for them to be separated over several weeks, even months, from important caregivers such as teachers, educators, social education workers and independent areas of life (playgrounds, sports clubs, etc.)?
For children and adolescents, the limited freedom of contact and lack of movement can be a particular burden, especially if the living conditions are characterised by constraints, family support options are limited and access to the support and counselling systems is restricted at the same time. In addition, the situation of domestic learning will have been new for most and will have led to a variety of experiences.
This raised the question of the well-being of children and adolescents in times of uncertainty. Child well-being is a multidimensional phenomenon that takes a child's living conditions as well as the child’s perspectives and experiences into account. It includes, for example, material resources, health conditions, social relationships, participation in families and institutions, the child’s own perception of belonging and participation as well as the feeling of protection and security. The concept of well-being focuses not only on risks and negative factors, but also on protective factors and favourable conditions for individual well-being. Overall, the impact of school closures on children and adolescents has not been well studied, but UNESCO assumes that there are potential risks to well-being.
Objective and methods
Against this background, a case study was carried out at a primary school in cooperation with the University of Flensburg (Prof. Dr. Jürgen Budde). The aim of the case study was to gain the most detailed and comprehensive picture possible of the current situation from the perspective of students and parents.
An online questionnaire for parents was distributed for this purpose. In addition, guideline-based parent and student interviews were conducted. The surveys took place between May and June 2020. The data from the online survey are being statistically evaluated, the evaluation of the interview data is carried out according to the grounded theory. The data are finally triangulated in order to be able to interrelate the individual findings.
Publications in English
Schroedler, T., Lengyel, D., Budde, J., Claus, C., Weuster, N., & Doden, K. (2022): Remote learning and its effects on the well-being of primary school learners in Germany. In: Education 3-13, DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2022.2029525
Hamburg project team
- Prof. Dr. Drorit Lengyel (project coordination)
- Dr. Tobias Schroedler (research associate)
- Hauke Schlichting (student assistant)
- Johanna Grassinger (student assistant)
Flensburg project team
- Prof. Dr. Jürgen Budde (project coordination)
- Nora Weuster (research associate)
- Carolina Claus (research associate)
- Oscar Yendell (student assistant)
15.4.2020 - 31.12.2021