MEDIA RELEASE – 29 April 2020

Survey reveals struggles with remote teaching, fears for primary students

A major survey of Australian teachers has revealed widespread frustration, stress and anxiety about the welfare of students after the shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey of more than 3500 teachers across Australia and New Zealand reveals a profession under extreme pressure – dealing with unfamiliar technologies and methods, struggling with additional demands on their time, and fearing for their students – particularly those in early primary school.

The survey, conducted between 9 and 13 April, captured insights from teachers and other educators across all Australian school sectors – primary and secondary, government and independent – about the new realities and unprecedented challenges of distance teaching and learning.

Conducted by leading Australian education insights company Pivot Professional Learning in partnership with online platform Education Perfect (EP), the survey asked educators a series of questions about their experiences with online teaching during the schools shutdown, and sought their views about the impacts on school children and educational outcomes.

A total of 2373 educators in Australia and 1183 in New Zealand responded to survey questions on issues related directly to current COVID-era experience and practice, including:

  • The challenges of meeting student needs from a distance
  • Teacher well-being
  • Professional learning and support
  • Using remote teaching technology.

Amanda Bickerstaff, CEO of Pivot, said: “The rapid shift to distance teaching has required great effort by educators across Australia and New Zealand. 

Our finding is that teachers have gone into this with enormous energy and professionalism. But the sudden shift has brought extraordinary pressure. With different approaches to school re-openings across Australia and New Zealand there will be no easy switch back to ‘normal’. But we need to start thinking about enhancing recovery and minimising impacts. Ongoing communication with students and teachers is going to be critical in coming months.”

Alex Burke, CEO of Education Perfect, added: “It has been hard to find data on the real impact the shift to distance learning is having on teachers and educational leaders. We felt it is really important to listen to and address the concerns of teachers quickly. Our online learning platform is developed with teachers to enhance their teaching. We will continue to ensure our platform does its best to minimise teacher workload and create a positive educational experience for both teacher and student.”

Among the key findings:

  • Almost half the respondents reported being less than confident in their ability to meet student learning needs online. One teacher wrote:  “It is like being a beginner teacher all over again, as you don’t know what works or doesn’t work well.”
  • Teachers reported significant increases in demands on their time, with 70% saying planning time had increased either “slightly” or “significantly.” Responses included references to an “exponential” workload increase. “We are exhausted,” wrote one.
  • Many felt socially isolated. “Not only do we teachers miss the social connection with our students, we miss being with our colleagues and friends… teaching is successful when connection is strong,” wrote one teacher.
  • About 80 per cent believed students would need extra instructional support when they got back to school. The highest numbers of this response came from primary teachers.
  • The difficulty of engaging younger children online was a recurring theme. “I think online learning is a good tool for the self-motivated students… but far more difficult for those who need more motivation and someone who is present in reality,’’ wrote one teacher.
  • When asked to pick their top three concerns about students during the pandemic, the most common responses were (i) students’ social isolation, (ii) a decrease in student well-being, and (iii) potential learning loss.
  • Many teachers expressed anxiety about losing social connection with students and a decrease in their effectiveness. “Distance teaching… cannot compensate for the loss of subtleties of social human interaction in the classroom,” one wrote.
  • A large minority of respondents – 39% in Australia and 42% in New Zealand – reported being only “somewhat confident” or “not at all confident” in their school’s ability to meet students’ learning needs online. Primary educators were significantly less likely to report feeling confident than secondary.
  • Respondents in remote, rural and lower socio-economic areas expressed concerns about students’ lack of access to technology and reliable internet. Primary teachers also expressed worries that they were less able to meet the needs of their students online.
  • Teachers reported widely differing levels of confidence in various remote teaching technologies. Those using collaboration based platforms were twice as likely to be ‘not at all confident’, which may in part be due to these technologies not being purpose-created for teaching and learning.

We are launching a series of webinars connecting the research to next steps for teachers, school leaders and the greater education community:

  1. For School Leaders – 29 April @ 6.30pm AEST
    Your teachers have been through a lot. Our panel will consider what good leadership looks like over the coming weeks and months, and share concrete suggestions to support your team.
  2. For Teachers – 30 April @ 6.30pm AEST
    After the rapid upheaval of the previous few months we will take a pause and reflect. We may not know exactly what is coming next or when, but we know what our students need. Join us with a panel of experts to discuss strategies for what comes next.
  3. What Comes Next: The Future of Education – Friday 1 May @ 2pm AEST
    We have learnt a lot in this rapid shift to distance education, but it has also had an impact on both teachers and students. So what kind of additional support might schools need? We will also discuss the indispensable role of teachers alongside technology and ask how we can use recent experience to build better classrooms. Featuring educational leaders:
  • Julie Sonnemann from the Grattan Institute
  • Susannah Schoeffel from Evidence 4 Learning 
  • Andrew Pierpoint the President of the Australian Secondary Principals Association. 

Full details of the survey are available online at https://insightsfor.education/

For comments and information, contact:

Aisha Hillary-Morgan
EP
aisha.hillarymorgan@educationperfect.com
+61 415 166 673

Amanda Bickerstaff
Pivot Professional Learning
abickerstaff@pivotpl.com
+61 420 406 150