Types of Learning Gaps

The topic of learning gaps is on the tip of millions of tongues of educators around the globe. The term is being conflated with several others, particularly in the field of education. In order to establish a common language among master educators here are the terms defined for our purposes:

Learning gap – Learning gaps occur when teaching and learning moves from one concept to the next before a student has mastered the prior skill. For example, a third grader will need to have mastery of place value in order to learn rounding numbers. If the class has 6 students who do not have conceptual understanding of place value, but the class moves on to the lesson on rounding numbers anyway, you now have a population of students with an authentic learning gap. See, What are Learning Gaps? Learning gaps are not the following.

Achievement gap – this references the quantifiable difference in the annual academic achievement between whole populations of learners. For example, 4th grade students of color in the United States have an achievement level 13% lower than their white counterparts. See generally, achievement gaps.

Skills gap – this applies to a scenario where the skills required for the current need are in short supply. For example, many factories are becoming more automated with AI and other new technologies. If the current workforce has been trained in manual implementations rather than technical, there now exists a skills gap.

Knowledge gaps – this refers to an acquired body of knowledge about how the world works and how to work the world to one’s benefit. This concept is typically used in reference to the Haves and the Have Nots within a society. The Haves typically gain faster access to new and greater amounts of information, further increasing and perpetuating the knowledge gap. An example of this is the accumulation and preservation of generational wealth.

For more about learning gaps see, Techniques for Identifying Learning Gaps, Closing the Learning Gaps in Reading, Closing the Learning Gaps In English Language Arts, and Closing Learning Gaps With Our Lowest Performing Students.

About Jackie Hardiesty

Jackie is a teaching and learning consultant and founder of Edify Consulting. She is a former Director of STEM Integration, Principal and former teacher.

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