RALEIGH, N.C. — The COVID-19 pandemic stopped face-to-face instruction in schools around the world, requiring schools and educators to teach online with little to no time for professional development to aid them in the transition. Educators transitioned quickly from traditional face-to-face learning to digital platforms for remote teaching, but many were ill-prepared for virtual learning.
“From a professional growth standpoint, it is the whole concept of virtual teaching, of understanding the skills needed for that, for the work, the technology, to make sure we’re covering the content,” said a K-12 administrator. “But, the other piece is just being able to understand the connection and showing the relevance and importance of the content to the students…Teaching virtually on a consistent basis, it takes a certain skill and a certain level of training. But, I don’t think [teachers] know exactly what they need to ask for because we are in a new world.”
Through funding from Oak Foundation, researchers from the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation conducted an exploratory qualitative study, “Insight into Contemporary Professional Growth Needs for North Carolina Educators,” to better understand the classroom-, school- and district-level challenges North Carolina educators were facing one year into the pandemic.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, educators have been called on to do more; however, little research has examined what educators need to be successful from their point of view and within their local contexts,” said Callie Edwards, acting director of the Program Evaluation and Education Research Group at the Friday Institute and principal investigator (PI) on the project. “We were excited to partner with educators across the state to learn how professional development could better meet their needs and be more impactful given our current realities. That is our goal—designing with the end in mind, designing, ultimately, for impact.”
Three research questions guided the Friday Institute’s work: 1) What are the current areas of growth for North Carolina educators? 2) In what ways does the political landscape impact current areas of growth for North Carolina educators? 3) What online professional development design features are most impactful for North Carolina educators?
Researchers found that study participants wanted more support for themselves and their colleagues concerning engaging with their students given their “new normal.” They shared their current areas of growth, ways in which they believe the current political landscape is impacting these areas of growth and which online professional development design features they felt were most impactful to their growth and development. The research report closes with several recommendations for instructional designers, instructional leaders and educational researchers.
“It is exciting to see the Friday Institute publish these insights and actionable strategies to enhance professional development from the lived experiences of educators in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Dr. Joyce Highhouse, program officer from Oak Foundation’s Learning Differences Programme. “Also, it is encouraging to think how this study can inform instructional designers, instructional leaders and educational researchers in meeting the needs of educators through an understanding of the classroom, school, district, as well as state-level influences.”
On Nov. 2, a webinar inspired by this paper and featuring its authors will focus on several actionable strategies key stakeholders can utilize to enhance online professional development offerings for educators across North Carolina. Learn more and RSVP here.
About the Friday Institute
The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation advances K-12 education through innovation in teaching, learning and leadership by bringing together students, teachers, researchers, policymakers and educational professionals to foster collaborations that improve education for all learners. The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is part of NC State’s College of Education, one of the leading land-grant colleges of education in the nation.