01 SES 14 A, Lessons from Professional Learning in a Time of Pandemic
In an attempt to contain COVID-19 pandemic, schools were closed in Turkey as in many countries in the world. Nationwide school closures caused by the outbreak and interruption of face-to-face education impacted the education of 1.6 billion students worldwide, which corresponds to approximately half of the student population at all levels of education (UNESCO, 2020a; UNICEF, 2020). In Turkey, school closures impacted 25 million students and 1 million teachers (UNESCO, 2020b). During the Covid-19 outbreak, distance education was put into effect at all schools at all levels throughout the country to meet the urgent need for education. The Ministry developed a new form of distance education system by combining the use of online platforms and TV broadcasts. With the transition to distance education, teachers, students, and parents were introduced to a new education process. Teachers faced significant difficulties in adapting to online teaching and supporting their students’ development without communicating face-to-face with them (Çakın & Akyavuz, 2020).
Many countries in Europe faced similar challenges during the pandemic due to an unexpected transition to distance education (Alves, Lopes & Precioso ,2021; Bergdahl& Nouri, 2020; Di Pietro et. al, 2020; Evans et. al, 2020; Giovannella, Passarelli, & Persico, 2020; König, Jäger-Biela, & Glutsch, 2020). Results of different studies indicated that teachers’ perceptions of the value and the future of their profession changed during the Covid-19 outbreak, and their professional life has been affected by the crisis in many different ways (Alves, Lopes, and Precioso,2021; Asbury& Kim, 2020; Bakioğlu and Çevik, 2020; Giovannell, Kaden, 2020; Passarelli& Persico ,2020).
In Bakioğlu and Kaden’s study (2020), most of the teachers expressed their anxiety and concerns about distance education due to lack of knowledge, feeling inadequate, and failure to reach the students. In another study conducted by Ales, Lopes, and Precioso (2021), it was found out that teachers’ perception of well-being was negatively influenced, and they developed concerns about the future of their profession after Covid-19 outbreak. According to Kaden (2020), school closure was hard on both students and teachers as they both struggled to develop new skills to survive during the crisis and suffered from social isolation. Teachers had to learn new technologies to adapt their lesson plans and find new ways to communicate with their students. School closures widened the digital divide and the gap between students from different socio-economic background. Children from low income families could not get enough support from their working parents, which added to the difficulties stemming from their home conditions (Chabbott & Sinclair, 2020; Kaden, 2020).
Teachers’ perceptions of teaching profession may vary depending on specific conditions and requirements in different countries. Culture and development level of a country and politics as well as the working conditions and educational policies undertaken in a country shape teachers’ perceptions of teaching profession. The present paper examines teachers’ perceptions of challenges, difficulties, and opportunities brought by the distance education during Covid-19 outbreak. It is also aimed to find out how this particular global crisis and unprecedented times of education have affected teachers’ motivation and their perceptions of teaching profession. The study seeks answers for the following questions:
- What are the perceptions of teachers with respect to the challenges and changes in their professional lives during the outbreak?
- Have perceptions of teachers regarding teaching profession changed during the outbreak? If yes, how did their perceptions change?
- Has the teachers’ motivation to teach been affected by the difficulties and challenges they experienced during the outbreak?
- Have the perceptions of teachers regarding teaching profession changed in the time of Covid-19? If yes, how did Covid-19 outbreak change their perceptions of teaching profession?
METHOD A phenomenological study explores an in-depth understanding and description of participants’ experiences and feelings regarding a particular phenomenon (Şimşek &Yıldırım, 2018; Merriam, 2009). According to Patton (2002), phenomenological research focuses on people’s narratives, descriptions, and meaning making of their lived experiences. The present study utilized a phenomenological qualitative inquiry method to examine professional experiences of the teachers during Covid-19 outbreak. Participants Maximum variation sampling strategy was utilized to capture a wide range of perspectives on the research focus (Creswell, 2007). To this end, the researcher tried to reach teachers working at different levels of education and at different types of K-12 schools in different cities of Turkey. At the first stage, researchers interviewed the volunteer teachers they were able to reach via social media platforms. As they could not reach enough number of participants, they contacted a colleague working at the Ministry of Education for participant recruitment. So far, a total of 20 semi-structured online interviews have been conducted. In qualitative research, there are no strict rules for the sample size, and they may change based on the nature of the study and it is recommended to collect data until information reaches redundancy (Patton, 2002). More interviews will be conducted until reaching a point of data saturation (Merriam, 2009; Francis et al, 2010). Data Collection and Analysis The interview questions were developed by the researchers based on the literature review and their observations and insights as instructors teaching online during the outbreak. Apart from the background questions, the interview form included 8 questions about teaching during Covid-19 outbreak. Upon the development of the interview form, the interview questions were read by an expert in educational sciences and by one teacher, and necessary revisions were done based on their feedback. Researchers analyzed and interpreted the collected data by carrying out a content analysis. Audio data gathered through interviews were transcribed by the researchers. Before coding the whole data, two interviews were coded by both researchers. The intercoder consistency was calculated, and reliability was ensured with a consistency rate over 90%. Data were coded using the concepts from the related literature, and categories and themes were formed. An electronic chart was prepared in an office program and the main categories, themes, and sub themes were listed in that chart. Related quotations were transferred to that chart. Then, data were refined and reorganized in line with emerged themes and sub-themes.
Expected Findings Preliminary analysis indicated that rapid changes in the education system brought about both new challenges and opportunities into teachers’ professional lives. All the teachers mentioned worries, anxieties, and professional difficulties they experienced during the adaptation process. Planning and carrying out online lessons was a big challenge for most of them as they did not have prior training or experience. For some teachers, high expectations of parents and administrators created pressure and a feeling of inadequacy. Teachers mentioned technical problems such as poor internet connection, students’ problems with cameras and microphones, which decreased the effectiveness of online lessons. There were students who did not have access to digital devices and the internet to attend online lessons. According to the teachers, socioeconomic hardships and lower level parental support added to the inequities, and distance education widened the gap between students from high and low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. The pandemic process has made the consequences of privatization of education visible. During the pandemic, teachers working at private schools encountered job security and insurance problems. Even if they worked for longer hours during distance education, school did not pay their full salaries. These negative experiences decreased teachers’ motivation and made the pandemic process more stressful. On the other hand, teachers working at public schools thought having a government job was a privilege as it provided regular income and job security. Uncertainties and rapid changes shaped teachers’ motivation and perceptions of teaching profession. Obligatory transition to distance education created new opportunities and most of the teachers developed new skills to better integrate educational technologies into their teaching. In addition to their professional duties, teachers felt responsible to help their communities during difficult times. Most of the teachers thought teachers gained more respect and gratitude during school closures.
References Alves, R., Lopes, T & Precioso, J. (2021). Teachers' well-being in times of Covid-19 pandemic: factors that explain professional well-being. International Journal of Educational Research and Innovation (IJERI), 15,203-217. Bakioğlu, B., Çevik, M. (2020). Science teachers' views on distance education in the COVID-19 pandemic process. Turkish Studies, 15(4), 109-129. Bergdahl, N., & Nouri, J. (2020). Covid-19 and crisis-prompted distance education in Sweden. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 1-17. Chabbott, C., & Sinclair, M. (2020). SDG 4 and the COVID-19 emergency: Textbooks, tutoring, and teachers. Prospects, 49(1), 51-57. Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Çakın, M., Külekçi Akyavuz, E. (2020). The Covid-19 process and its reflection on education: An analysis on teachers’ opinions. International Journal of Social Sciences and Education Research, 6(2), 165-186 Di Pietro, G., Biagi, F., Costa, P., Karpiński, Z., & Mazza, J. (2020). The likely impact of COVID-19 on education: Reflections based on the existing literature and recent international datasets (Vol. 30275). Publications Office of the European Union. Francis, J., Johnston, M., Robertson, C., Glidewell, L., Entwistle, V., Eccles, M., & Grimshaw, J. (2010). What is an adequate sample size? Operationalising data saturation for theory-based interview studies. Psychology & Health 25(10), 1229-1245. Giovannella, C., Passarelli, M., & Persico, D. (2020). Measuring the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Italian Learning Ecosystems at the steady state: a school teachers’ perspective. Interaction Design and Architecture(s) Journal (45), 264 - 286 Kaden, U. (2020). COVID-19 school closure-related changes to the professional life of a K–12 teacher. Education Sciences, 10(6), 165. König, J., Jäger-Biela, D. J., & Glutsch, N. (2020). Adapting to online teaching during COVID-19 school closure: teacher education and teacher competence effects among early career teachers in Germany. European Journal of Teacher Education, 43(4), 608-622. Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Patton. M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. UNESCO. (2020a). School closures caused by Coronavirus (Covid-19). UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse UNESCO. (2020b). Startling digital divides in distance learning emerge. UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/news/startling-digital-divides-distance-learning-emerge UNICEF. (2020). UNICEF and Microsoft launch global learning platform to help address COVID-19 education crisis.https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicefand-microsoft-launch-global-learning-platform-help-address-covid-19-education
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