Back to The Staffroom

Valuing teachers in periods of disruption

By Isabella Wood on 13 May 2020NSWstaffroomUKstaffroomCOVID-19Wellbeing

In the midst of the transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, we turned to teachers to better understand the impact this rapid shift has had on educators, students, and families. This process has allowed us to identify areas educational institutions, from schools to online platforms like our own, can better support the continuity of effective teaching and learning during times of disruption.

We surveyed over a hundred high school teachers on their experiences and challenges in responding to COVID-19. The following report outlines our key findings and recommendations for optimising effective remote education during the current climate, and potential future disruptions.

Key findings

  1. Teachers need more support and training to deliver effective remote learning.
  2. Increasing workloads have presented the biggest challenge to teachers during COVID-19.
  3. 45% of teachers indicated a lack of confidence in the sustainability of their current approach to remote education.
  4. Monitoring students’ understanding and providing one-on-one feedback has proven to be a key concern of teachers.
  5. 47% of teachers indicated a lack of confidence that they, or their students, have access to adequate resources and technology.
  6. Teachers are concerned about keeping their students engaged and motivated while remote.

Key finding 1

Teachers need more support and training

Just 20% of teachers surveyed felt they had adequate training and support to deliver effective remote learning.


Do you feel that you need more training and support to deliver effective online or remote learning?

Pie chart demonstrating teachers' perceived need for more support and training to deliver effective online or remote learning, from yes to no to maybe.

This comes as no surprise as teachers were forced to radically reimagine their teaching practices at scale and under immense time pressure. However this same rapid and enforced upskilling came with a significant and transformative silver lining — the implementation of digital technology in their teaching process. The skills demanded of teachers to deliver effective remote learning are incredibly similar to those required to implement an effective blended or flipped learning program. In our post-pandemic world, this creates the rare opportunity for schools to take advantage of these skills and experience to implement new future-focused pedagogies. As restrictions ease and schools strive to get 2020 back on track, continuing to provide teachers with opportunities to upskill in their use of digital technologies will demonstrate long term educational benefits on the other side of this crisis.


Key findings 2 and 3

Increasing workloads have presented the biggest challenge to teachers during COVID-19. 45% of teachers indicated a lack of confidence in the sustainability of their current approach to remote education.

When asked what they believed would be their biggest challenge during the COVID-19 crisis, the majority of teachers cited their increasing workload. As one teacher commented:

It is definitely a significant difficulty juggling delivery of online teaching, meeting the daily needs of students (who are often less technologically literate than we are), and meeting the curriculum compliance requirements of both our school and district head office.

Add in the latest requirements — having to cater for a split between students learning from school and from home — and the sustainability of teachers workloads demands to be addressed. With ongoing disruptions and clustered outbreaks still on the table, schools should look for ways to build more sustainable methods into their remote learning strategies. Strategies like encouraging students to self-assess and peer review work where relevant. Relying on existing educational content rather than each teacher creating their own resources. Or, if they do need to create their own resources, sharing these within their department to decrease their colleagues’ workloads.


Key finding 4

Monitoring students’ understanding and providing one-on-one feedback has proven to be a key concern of teachers.

Nestled within the stressors of teachers’ workloads is the capacity to identify and address gaps in students’ learning while remote. Without regular feedback, students who are struggling can silently slip behind, and whether inside or outside the classroom, the further they fall the harder it is to get back on track. A number of teachers surveyed indicated this as a key concern. Among their concerns were not being able to gauge students’ understanding from classroom cues like body language and the impracticality of providing one-on-one support virtually.


Key findings 5 and 6

47% of teachers indicated a lack of confidence that they, or their students, have access to adequate resources and technology. Teachers are concerned about keeping their students engaged and motivated while remote.

Many teachers have battled to keep each student engaged and progressing through the curriculum whilst they have been learning at home. So it came as no surprise that engagement was a key concern of surveyed teachers, both for reasons of motivation and accessibility. Motivation relates to a student choosing to engage while remote, fostering a sense of accountability. The more pressing issue when it comes to effective engagement stems from a lack of access to adequate resources and technology. Almost 48% of teachers surveyed indicated a lack of confidence in such access during the COVID-19 crisis.


Do you feel that you and your students have access to adequate resources and technology to support effective online learning?

Pie chart demonstrating teachers' perceived access to adequate resources and technology to support effective learning, from yes to no to somewhat to I'm not sure.

Teachers marked this lack of access as anything from intermittent to no wifi, devices, or even tech support to interact with available content. The resulting inequity due to lack of access has been a point of contempt throughout the debate on remote education during COVID-19.

When asked how they could be better supported, one teacher responded by saying:

Besides internet access being improved in our general area, the Department of Education could support with more suitable devices. If all students had adequate access to technology I would be highly confident of delivering and sustaining quality remote learning. My school in general is doing as much as possible within the significant constraints of student access to the internet, data and technology.

Many teachers noted that without a universal commitment to ensure every student has access to the technology and infrastructure to learn at home, many students will be left behind. With the ongoing advancement of 21st-century learning, a lack of access to the internet at home will only be an increasingly divisive obstacle to a student's ability to access the same resources and learning support as their connected peers.


In summary

As students reenter the classroom, it would be remiss to not come together to assess the successes and failures of our remote educational experiences. This will facilitate educational institutions safeguarding effective teaching and learning during future times of disruption, in whatever form they may take. Sharing insights on what went well and what could be improved will undoubtedly inspire actionable improvements in educational processes. These improvements should look to future proof education by equalising students’ access to adequate resources and technology, helping teachers to maintain sustainable workloads and leveraging asynchronous methods to amplify the invaluable face-to-face time in our classrooms. When online learning is properly implemented, teachers and students alike can unlock benefits that will far outlive the COVID-19 disruptions.


Liked what you read? Check out more awesome articles:

Engaging with students online during COVID-19

An Atomi partner story: Masada College

Atomi Brainwaves Podcast: Anne Knock on Future-focused Teaching


Try Atomi for free and receive regular updates from the Staffroom.

Learn More