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Learning during lockdown

Roseanna Bourke, John O’Neill, Sue McDowall, Maria Dacre, Nicole Mincher, Vani Narayanan, Sinead Overbye, and Renee Tuifagalele

The national COVID-19 lockdown during school Term 1 and continuing in Term 2 2020,  provided a unique context to investigate children’s experiences of informal, everyday learning in their household bubble. In Terms 3 and 4, 178 children in Years 4–8 from 10 primary schools agreed to participate in a group art-making activity and an individual interview about their experiences.  

This report documents children’s accounts of the multiple ways in which they negotiated the novel experience of forced confinement over a period of several weeks with family and whānau.  

Findings from the research identified seven themes around children’s learning. Their accounts reveal children’s ability to adapt readily and pragmatically to the circumstances in which they find themselves and to find and create solution-focused approaches to their learning—in all its many dimensions—within a cognitively, affectively, and socially challenging setting. In short, the children we spoke with revealed to us their natural ability to survive and thrive. They reinforced our view that children can and do learn capably and with agency in their childhood worlds. Alone and with the support of family and whānau, children can and do create the necessary conditions for learning in challenging times.  

We hope children, parents, teachers, principals, researchers, and policy makers will enjoy and learn from these young people and their experiences while at home. 

Open the links below to watch short videos about each of the seven themes around children's learning:

1. Learning new structures and routines in the bubble -
2. Learning from and with whānau -
3. Learning about and through language, culture, and identity -
4. Learning through life events -
5. Emotional dimension of learning -
6. Learning about and through digital technologies -
7. Self-directed and self-regulated learning -

To view the profiles of our lead researchers you can open the links below.

Roseanna Bourke:
John O’Neill:
Sue McDowall: Sue McDowall | New Zealand Council for Educational Research (


Year published: 
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Research report
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