22 SES 10 B, Paper Session
Global pandemic at the beginning of 2020 brought a great disruption at all levels of education. Teaching that often relies on the interaction between teacher and student (Andersen, 1979; Walker & Gleaves, 2016; Wubbels & Brekelmans, 2005) in the specific setting of a classroom was dismantled as schools and universities worldwide closed their doors to mitigate the spread of viral infections. For most higher education institutions, the lockdown meant moving courses and practical sessions online. While there is evidence that online and distance education can lead to effective student learning (Bourne, Harris, & Mayadas, 2005), our study on teachers’ change from physical classroom lectures and practice sessions to online teaching points to teachers’ tightened concerns related to their interactions with students and their professional teaching roles.
We observe our data from the perspective of social theory of learning (Wenger, 2009) and examine how teachers’ experiences of broken physical connections with students shape their emotions towards the lockdown experience. We classified our findings into three categories with an attempt to understand what the change meant for teachers at the early stage of lockdown and how it impacted their routines. The first category referred to handling the technological aspects of online educations which for most of the interviewed teachers was a novel experience. The second category examined establishing a new routine in how teaching is conducted. Here we notice strong element of peer collaboration and community support which were deemed important regardless of teachers’ years of service or subject they teach. Finally, the last category connected to teachers’ reflections over their role and meaning of teaching. The teachers offered their viewpoints on dilemmas connected to their relationship with students, their pedagogical approaches and value of teaching on-site as compared to the “broadcast” model they did online. Across these three district categories of teachers’ reflections, we have also noticed an important common thread: interaction with students. Concerns over losing the connection with students dominated through the conversations with the interviewees, whether it was a discussion of their experiences with technology, peer relations, finding balance between home time and work from home, or their thoughts on their role. The loss of visual physical cues (Andersen, 1979), of immediate feedback and of the sense of “feeling the rhythm” of the class caused teachers to feel unsure of the impact of their teaching on student learning. The lack of contact with students was further aggravated with the fact that in most cases students would not keep their cameras on for synchronous online classes and feedback from asynchronous classes was rather limited. Hence, teachers’ emotions related to online teaching connected to both the unfulfilled expectation of student engagement and to the fact that their professional practice can be only partly controlled (Hagenauer & Volet, 2014). Learning from the analysed data, we were able to confirm the notion that technical and pedagogical fluency play a significant role in teaching, but relationships and emotions are equally important (Quinlan, 2016) and should be taken into account in both research and practice.
The research has been conducted using qualitative research approach which supports an open-ended, inductive and exploratory epistemological framework (Bakker & Montessori, 2016; Cresswell & Poth, 2018). The qualitative approach was also the adequate methodology in terms of answering our research questions, exploring the lived experiences of teachers, along with the connections between the setting, community and context. Furthermore, as the situation of a forced change of teaching practice was rather unprecedented, qualitative framework offered an answer to the demand for evidence-based conclusions that cannot be achieved by other methods alone, a demand which in the recent years has been also on the rise in engineering education (Baillie & Douglas, 2014; Koro-Ljungberg & Douglas, 2008). Within our design, we have used semi-structured online interviews to collect teachers’ perspectives, opinions and feelings (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). The guides were developed using literature on factors influencing teachers and teaching profession, such as understanding student learning, understanding pedagogical concepts and innovations, positions related to professional development, and communities of practice. Data was collected in the period between April and mid-May 2020, and 10 teachers from an engineering university in Europe voluntarily participated in the study. Data analysis procedures included transcription and pseudonymisation of data, which was qualitatively coded using NVivo. There were two phases of coding; the first open-ended inductive phase supported creating a comprehensive codebook, and the second, deductive phased helped in testing the comprehensive codebook and creating the final codebook. In aim to achieve trustworthiness of data analysis, initial inductive coding and testing of the comprehensive codebook was done by three researchers independently on 30% of data. Further validation of results was done by engaging in internal validity meetings with the research group, peer group validation session focused on the procedures of data analysis, and participant validation (interviewee check) at the end (Cresswell & Poth, 2018; Walther, Sochacka, & Kellam, 2013).
The outcomes of this research provide an insight into teaching under unprecedented times of complete lockdown. Given the opportunity for research within such a natural setting for pedagogical change, the insights bring lessons beyond emergency distance education. Unpacking the results and understanding teachers’ narratives brings forward elements that are important for understanding a comprehensive professional teaching practice. Some of the elements have been well-researched and known for a while, such as pedagogical competence, technological capacity and absorption and institutional support, but the research points to the importance of immediacy, quality of interaction, and emotions in higher education.
Andersen, J. F. (1979). Teacher Immediacy as a Predictor of Teaching Effectiveness. Annals of the International Communication Association, 3(1), 543–559. https://doi.org/10.1080/23808985.1979.11923782 Baillie, C., & Douglas, E. P. (2014). Confusions and conventions: Qualitative research in engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 103(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20031 Bakker, C., & Montessori, N. M. (2016). Complexity in Education: From Horror to Passion. Rotterdam/Boston/Taipei: Sense Publishers. Bourne, J., Harris, D., & Mayadas, F. (2005). Online Engineering Education: Learning Anywhere, Anytime. Journal of Engineering Education, (January), 131–146. Cresswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches (Fourth). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Hagenauer, G., & Volet, S. (2014). “I don’t think I could, you know, just teach without any emotion”: Exploring the nature and origin of university teachers’ emotions. Research Papers in Education, 29(2), 240–262. https://doi.org/10.1080/02671522.2012.754929 Koro-Ljungberg, M., & Douglas, E. P. (2008). State of qualitative research in engineering education: Meta-analysis of JEE articles, 2005-2006. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(2), 163–175. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2008.tb00965.x Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation (Fourth). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Quinlan, K. M. (2016). How Emotion Matters in Four Key Relationships in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. College Teaching, 64(3), 101–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/87567555.2015.1088818 Walker, C., & Gleaves, A. (2016). Constructing the caring higher education teacher: A theoretical framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 54, 65–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.013 Walther, J., Sochacka, N. W., & Kellam, N. N. (2013). Quality in interpretive engineering education research: Reflections on an example study. Journal of Engineering Education, 102(4), 626–659. https://doi.org/10.1002/jee.20029 Wenger, E. (2009). A social theory of learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theoriests - In Their Own Words (pp. 209–218). London and New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Wubbels, T., & Brekelmans, M. (2005). Two decades of research on teacher-student relationships in class. International Journal of Educational Research, 43(1–2), 6–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2006.03.003
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