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Talk Data to Me: Professional Growth During COVID-19
If you tuned in for the last two installments of Talk Data to Me, you know that data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute shows that the ripples of COVID-19 coursed throughout the K-12 realm. It had a dramatic initial effect on hiring and teacher absences. Today, the question is,
“Did COVID-19 influence the professional growth opportunities that teachers selected?”
In response to the mid-March National Emergency Declaration, school districts around the country began to close their facilities. Regulations intended to flatten the curve prohibited large group gatherings and necessitated remote learning. This not-so-familiar way of teaching and learning into which schools were plunged required teachers and students to navigate new technologies and online platforms virtually overnight.
For many teachers, it felt like they were asked to perform a brand new job with less than 24 hours’ notice.
Teachers met these new demands by digitizing their classrooms and providing students with access to curricular content online. For many, this meant learning how to create class websites and screen capture presentations, host video conferences, provide online feedback, manage submitted assignments, modify lessons for a socially-distanced learning community, and communicate with parents and colleagues in radically different ways.
How did this learning happen? With so many students depending on them, teachers had to act quickly — and they did. Data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute suggest that teachers actively sought out learning opportunities and taught themselves.
In the charts below, you can see the number of professional learning activities in Frontline Professional Growth that teachers completed. Specifically, these charts show completed activities that have certain keywords in their titles (“Google Classroom,” “Zoom,” “Remote,” “Virtual,” or “Distance”) — in other words, learning activities that are related to remote teaching and learning.
As a reference point, you can see that in 2019, the numbers were relatively low throughout the year. At the highest, in week 22 of 2019, 719 learning activities that had the keyword “virtual” were completed.
Contrast that with 2020. Shortly after week 11 (the week of the National Emergency Declaration, and around the time many schools around the nation sent teachers and students home), you can see a spike in professional development activities that include those remote learning-related keywords.
It’s difficult to know exactly what the coming school year will look like, but it’s a fairly safe bet that teachers — and administrators, bus drivers, nurses, cafeteria and custodial staff, and all other school employees — will face new and challenging situations. They’ll continue to need professional development to foster safe environments that are conducive to learning.
Research shows that when organizations support their employees in professional development, those employees are far more likely to pursue such learning. In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed lower secondary education teachers around the world. In the U.S., over 95% of respondents said they took some type of professional development over the prior 12 months. But when asked if they had done so without any institutional support, that number dropped to just 1.7%.
Of course, as you offer that support, don’t forget to thank them for their adaptability, perseverance, and professionalism through these ever-changing times. Just like you, they stepped up to the plate in a big way this spring. They took action, did what was needed, learned new skills and optimized current ones, to be as effective as possible — as the data above shows.