Youth Development Research on Teaching Remotely During COVID-19

Like education across the country, and indeed, the world, Wisconsin schools have had to adapt to the ever-evolving challenges of providing learning amidst a global pandemic. School district administrators across the state have worked tirelessly with their local and state public health departments in order to make difficult decisions regarding the often conflicting needs to provide quality education and maintain the safety of their students, families, and communities.

A final paper will share the data provided directly by educators from Sheboygan and Manitowoc Counties in Wisconsin related to the abrupt transition from face-to-face learning environments to virtual options that took place in Spring 2020. In addition to the educational insight and effective teaching strategies utilized, respondents to the survey analyzed herein share poignant experiences regarding the impact of this transition on their job satisfaction, their families, and the context of their students’ lives.

Lessons learned from the pandemic of 2020, and the insight of these educators can inform new law, policy, educational practices, community, and human services. Educators, administrators, and community decision-makers will continue to prepare and evolve their services and skills to an ever-changing environment. It is the intent of this study to help schools, governments and communities become better prepared and informed regarding effective remote learning strategies for students and families.

Here are some preliminary highlights from the findings:

  • Almost all teachers reported working more than eight hours per day, and many teachers stated they worked late into the evening and some reported working weekend hours.  One teacher shared: “I was available to my students 24/7.  Preparation did not end, nor did my students’ needs.”  Another shared: “I worked all day and had my laptop on for notifications.  There was never a break.” Another shared: “Using my Chromebook for teaching purposes up to 16 hours a day.”
  • Respondents were asked to indicate how frequently they utilized various teaching strategies while teaching remotely during the initial COVID-19 changes in educational delivery. The most frequently used strategies according to these respondents included instructor/self-made videos, 78% said they sometimes, often, or always use these. Social media videos were the second most frequently used strategy, 76% indicated that they sometimes, often, or always use this strategy. Another frequently used strategy included 1:1 virtual meetings. 75% of respondents indicated that they sometimes, often, or always use 1:1 virtual meetings as an educational strategy during remote teaching. The least frequently used educational strategy during this time of remote teaching was partner or group work. 16% indicated that they sometimes, often, or always used this strategy and of this 16%- 4% indicates that they often or always use this.
  • Educators were asked to share their experience with the challenges youth and families faced which prevented their engagement in their education and learning during this time. Most comments regarding these challenges had to do with a lack of parental engagement for a number of reasons. Some parents were perceived to just not engage in their child’s education for no reason in particular. Educators shared that other parents had a hard time understanding lengthy school communications or the technology used to teach their students. Educators reported that working either out of or in the home proved to be challenging for parents to provide adequate support for the unique time in their child’s education. Respondents often commented on parental burnout or difficulty managing time. One comment indicated that “cheating was rampant and parents simply did the work for their child.”
  • The other most common challenge that educators cited was the lack of reliable internet access. Sometimes this was recognized as too little bandwidth for the needs of the household, other comments indicated that the cost of internet connectivity, especially in remote areas was too great. One educator reported that they had a student that needed to work a part-time job in order to pay for the internet themselves.
  • The top communication strategy for successful student engagement was e-mail (37%), followed by texting (17%), phone call (17%), and virtual classroom message board (15%).
  • Seventy-three percent of the respondents indicated that communication with parents increased and either was somewhat more or much more.