Ed Eval TIG Week: Teacher Appreciation During a Pandemic: Understanding the Changed Resources and Demands of Teachers by David Osman

Teachers’ lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. As evaluators, how can we respond to these changes and use evaluation as a tool to support them? My name is Dr. David Osman and I am the Director of Research and Evaluation in Round Rock Independent School District, a large suburban public school district near Austin, TX. Below are some of the ways in which teachers’ lives in our district have been impacted by the pandemic and school closure, and how this is influencing our data collection efforts.

Lessons Learned: Teachers’ experiences during school closure are markedly different from typical experience, and this will result in changes to teaching quality as well as teacher stress and burnout. Chris McCarthy and his colleagues have conceptualized a model to understand teachers’ experiences of stress, and this model can help frame teachers’ current experiences during a pandemic. Under this model, teachers’ experiences of stress are a result of the interaction of teachers’ appraisals of demands and resources provided.

During school closure, new demands for our teachers include using online platforms to deliver instruction, differentiating instruction virtually, and creating curriculum which can be delivered without in-person support. These demands are very different from the demands previously most pressing on teachers, such as managing student behavior and differentiating instruction in-person. A survey of our teachers indicates that many teachers are struggling with many of the straightforward technical demands of online learning, such as creating videos and online assignments. Like many of us, teachers are simultaneously adjusting to working while trying to care for their own children and other family members.

During school closure, teachers’ resources have also been changed. Teachers no longer have access to their classroom supplies, including many professional development resources, and most importantly are physically disconnected from teachers and students. Disconnection robs teachers of many of the informal networks in which they learn, solve problems, and cope with daily school life. Instead, teachers are relying on new resources, at varying degrees of effectiveness, to tackle the demands of their new teaching environments.

In the context of these changes to resources and demands, we as evaluators must rethink the research questions we ask and how we collect data from and about teachers. Heather Krause has written a great piece, Dealing with a Data Disaster, related to conducting research during a disaster that is worth reading and reflecting on. For instance, many teachers in our schools have expressed reluctance to complete long surveys right now. Virtual focus groups and short “pulsesurveys may be reasonable options. In our district we recently deployed a one-question open-ended survey using the tool Thoughtexchange, which was useful.

I am so thankful for the work that teachers are conducting right now. In many ways, teachers are holding together our communities in ways no one thought was imaginable just a few months ago. I’m hopeful that our work as evaluators can provide meaningful insight which will support teachers now and when we return to school.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

5 thoughts on “Ed Eval TIG Week: Teacher Appreciation During a Pandemic: Understanding the Changed Resources and Demands of Teachers by David Osman”

  1. Melissa Morelli

    Hello Dr. Osman,

    I was pleasantly surprised when I came across your article and realized that evaluators were concerned with seeking ways to use evaluation as a tool to support teachers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. It was interesting to see in McCarthy’s model that our stress has less to do with the environment and more to do with teachers perceptions of the mismatch between the pressures/demands made on educators and our ability to cope with those demands (available resources).

    I am a kindergarten teacher from London, Ontario in Canada and I can confirm that this past year was rife with new demands and I often questioned my own ability to effectively meet them while teaching virtually. Being physically disconnected from our youngest learners and my division colleagues was the most difficult dilemma that I faced. Added to the mix was having to digitalize all of my classroom resources/tasks, having to learn new technologies on the fly, engaging 4-5 year olds from afar and having to teach in front of parents every day. I was exhausted by the end of the day.

    Your post resonated with me because I remember our board and union sending us massive surveys in order to collect information in regards to our concerns and I felt so overwhelmed because I was already exhausted from all of the changes we were living, yet I knew this was my opportunity to be heard. I would not be surprised if many fellow teachers did not have the extra energy to complete the survey. Our board also used Thought Exchange and I thought it was an effective way to communicate our most pressing issues to decision-makers.

    The pulse survey you recommended seems like a good option for schools to collect real-time information. However, I would definitely recommend that administration limit their survey to one question a day or even per week in order to not overwhelm respondents.

  2. Melissa Morelli

    Hello Dr. Osman,

    I was pleasantly surprised when I came across your article and realized that evaluators were concerned with seeking ways to use evaluation as a tool to support teachers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. It was interesting to see in McCarthy’s model that our stress has less to do with the environment and more to do with teachers perceptions of the mismatch between the pressures/demands made on educators and our ability to cope with those demands (available resources). 

    I am a kindergarten teacher from London, Ontario in Canada and I can confirm that this past year was rife with new demands and I often questioned my own ability to effectively meet them while teaching virtually. Being physically disconnected from our youngest learners and my division colleagues was the most difficult dilemma that I faced. Added to the mix was having to digitalize all of my classroom resources/tasks, having to learn new technologies on the fly, engaging 4-5 year olds from afar and having to teach in front of parents every day. I was exhausted by the end of the day. 

    Your post resonated with me because I remember our union sending us massive surveys in order to collect information in regards to our concerns and I felt so overwhelmed because I was already exhausted from all of the changes we were living, yet I knew this was my opportunity to be heard.  I would not be surprised if many fellow teachers did not have the extra energy to complete the survey.  Our board also used Thought Exchange and I thought it was an effective way to communicate our most pressing issues to decision-makers.

    The pulse survey you recommended seems like a good option for schools to collect real-time information. However, I would definitely recommend that administration limit their survey to one question a day or even per week in order to not overwhelm respondents.

    Melissa

  3. Alex Kamenski

    Hello David,

    It’s very interesting to hear your take on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on educators. All the new demands to keep up with are obviously a major source of frustration that is leaving many teachers overwhelmed. It’s going to be very interesting to see the research data that results from the past year of pandemic life. There’s nothing quite like this sort of trial by fire that puts teachers’ innovation to the test.

  4. Hi David,
    I am currently an elementary school teacher in Toronto, Ontario who recently graduated and became a certified teacher. Your post really resinates with me as your comments about the high demands and lack of resources is exactly what I am experiencing right now. My board has been constantly switching from teaching online to teaching in-person with many new strict and limiting restrictions. With not being able to work with students one-on-one as well as not having tools for students to use during the pandemic has been stressful as it feels nearly impossible to teach students who are at different learning levels and to implement differentiated instruction. 
    As evaluators have been collecting data over the past year, I am eager to see what findings will become available to help educators adapt to this new norm. As you indicated, there are many changes and new demands for teachers to meet, leaving many feeling burnout as well as hopeless. However, we are thankful for those such as yourself who are trying to relieve our burden and help find solutions for our new norms. Thank you for your support and for trying to bring light to the struggles educators face during these times. I hope we can all adjust to our new reality and find solutions, whether temporary or permanent, to many of the challenges in our current education system. 

  5. Hi David,
    I am currently working as an elementary school teacher in Toronto, Ontario and what you said about the demands and resources is exactly how I’m feeling. Our job like many others has completely changed and we are facing many new challenges with no preparation. Lack of access to resources has made my job more difficult, even more so because I teach a split class and have to prepare for two grades using only what I have access to online. One of the most frustrating parts of my day is finding resources and then ensuring they are suitable for online learning, my normal teaching perspective has completely changed. The stress teachers are facing is real and these changes are definitely going to affect evaluators and how you do your jobs as well. I look forward to the work evaluators will do coming out of this and the valuable information you will collect. It’s great you are finding new ways to collect data during this time because like the rest of us your job has changed and we all must adapt. I believe the hardest part for teachers during all of this is the constant feeling of failing your students since this teaching model is completely new. Like you mentioned there are so many more demands and we honestly don’t know what’s working and what’s not. It will be interesting to see the data evaluators collect on student performance after covid, so us teachers can reflect and learn from what worked and what didn’t in terms of how we delivered curriculum during this time. Thanks for your support!

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