Teaching through Crisis: The Remote Education Experiences of PK-12 Teachers During Covid-19 Campus Closures

Helen Caldwell

Helen Caldwell

This qualitative research study from the US explores the experiences of teachers in the spring semester of 2020 as they remotely instructed their students owing to COVID-19 campus closures. Analysis revealed teachers’ concerns for their students and their learning, the barriers presented owing to the disconnect between them and their students, and how their competencies changed as their time with remote instruction increased.

In the spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began and school campuses around the globe closed to in-person class meetings, teachers were asked to continue to engage with their students in remote settings facilitated using virtual communication programs. Despite virtual schooling being in existence for decades, this instructional arrangement was a novel experience for most PK-12 teachers and their students. Coupled with the rapid transition necessitated by the on-set and spread of COVID-19, the shift to remote education was potentially fraught with challenges.

This qualitative study examines the experiences of 14 PK-12 teachers in the spring of 2020 as they pivoted to remotely instructing their students. All of the participating teachers were actively instructing their students remotely in the same southern U.S. state but in a variety of school contexts including various grade levels, subject areas, and geographical settings. Through individual interviews and a focus group meeting, researchers investigated the challenges faced by teachers as well as their concerns for their students through this difficult time period.

Coding of transcripts from interviews and the focus group meeting revealed that teachers faced many challenges in engaging with their students using newly adopted and hastily distributed technology. Student access was uneven and teachers experienced difficulties assessing student learning. Teachers worried for their students’ academic progress but also for their social and emotional health as many services typically administered by schools were also interrupted by COVID-19-related campus closures. Teachers quickly developed technological competencies as they worked with their students and served as resources for their colleagues, but also struggled with anxiety and high levels of stress.

Jeffrey Keese, PhD, is an assistant professor of teacher leadership in the Department of Teacher Education at Mercer University. A former K-12 classroom educator, he is keenly interested in how teachers can affect change in their schools through exercising leadership as well as how preservice teacher training and in-service teacher supports and how those two structures interact and impact teacher effectiveness and retention.

Karen McIntush, PhD, is a research specialist in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University.

Hersh Waxman, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture, Director of the Texas A&M University Education Research Center, and Co-Director of the Center of Mathematics and Science Education at Texas A&M University. His areas of interest include teacher education, urban education, effective schools and teaching, classroom learning environments, and students at risk of failure.

Keese, J., McIntush, K., & Waxman, H. C. (2022). Teaching through crisis: The remote education experiences of teachers during COVID-19 campus closures. Technology, Pedagogy, and Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2022.2067589

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/-2vD8lIhdnw