What Is Missing In Our Teacher Education Practices: A Collaborative Self-Study Of Teacher Educators With Children During The Covid-19 Pandemic

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Published: 
April, 2021

Source: Studying Teacher Education, 17:1, 22-37

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The aim of this study is to seek potential answers for the emergent challenges of remote learning and future directions for teacher education to support pre-service and in-service teachers in the post-pandemic era.
The following questions have guided this collaborative self-study:
(1) What were the authors’ children’s experiences in remote learning during the pandemic?
(2) What were the authors’ experiences as teacher educators in supporting their children’s remote learning during the pandemic?

Methodology

Data Collection and Analysis
Adopting collaborative self-study (Clift et al., 2005; Coia & Taylor, 2009) as their method, the authors collected the lived stories that they have experienced as teacher educators and mothers of children in remote learning due to the pandemic.
Their data were collected from March 2020, when the quarantine first started in three states of the U.S., to September 2020, when their children began remote learning in a new academic year.
Their data were collected through participant observations, field notes, and artifacts that their children had created, as well as from learning materials received from their teachers and schools.
In addition, they recorded virtual conferences and kept reflective journals among the researchers.
To collect data, each researcher observed several sessions of her own children’s remote learning at home.
They took field notes of their observations of remote learning on average 10 hours per week.
When remote learning started in March 2020, their children (Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade) needed parental support in order to master the technology as well as perform online tasks given by their teachers.
The authors as mothers needed to be physically next to their children and observe their remote learning.
As researchers, they had several virtual conferences with each other on a bi-weekly basis, which they recorded.
During the conferences, they used Suda, a cultural form of dialogue in Korea (see in Meacham et al., in press).
Suda in simple English is ‘chatting extensively.’
It is different from small talk or chitchat, though, as it can take a large amount of time, covering several stories in depth.
The open-endedness and dialogic potential of suda elicit the participants’ thoughts and promote a deep strand of dialogue.
After each biweekly virtual suda, the authors reflected individually on the recordings and wrote reflective journals.
They discussed their journal entries in other sudas, which became their analysis method.
In this study, the authors discussed their reflective journals in every suda session.
This was a collaborative analysis process, because the themes (e.g. socio-emotional learning, play-based pedagogy, and teacher education practices) emerged during their suda.
Data were discussed in terms of these themes in multiple suda sessions.
In addition, caring, thoughtful, and respectful criticisms expressed during sudas were useful in the analytic process.
In addition, suda was utilized as a triangulation tool to analyze the data.
Over the several suda sessions, the authors shared their positionalities of teacher educators and mothers with concerns and challenges emergent from the pandemic.
In particular, while they reflected their intersectional roles before and during the pandemic period, their collaborative self-study accelerated to put all the pieces of their lived experiences of teacher educators and mothers.
This helped them view who they are and how they experience remote learning and teaching in school and teacher education programs.

Findings
The authors found that the schools provided various materials and resources for remote learning focused on academics, including reading and math.
However, they also noticed there was not enough provision for children’s social and emotional well-being, such as social interactions with peers or their psychological well-being during the pandemic.
They also realized that their children had not seemed to have enough SEL before the pandemic.
Reflecting upon several parent-teacher conferences that they have had for their children, they could rarely recall conversations on social emotional development and learning.
While they are aware that conferences are usually limited to 15–20 minutes per child, the main topics were about academic success.
Unfortunately, there is little space for teachers and parents to discuss SEL at parent-teacher conferences. While they acknowledge the importance of academics, they have observed that the children usually talk more about what made them happy or sad at school than about what they learned.
Fortunately, during the children’s second semester of remote learning, one author found that her child was asked to share his feelings in every morning meeting.
Although schools have provided virtual meetings to support the children’s learning, and these were partly aimed to be alternative social interactions, the authors found that their children still had a hard time concentrating and connecting with their peers and teachers over the screen.
In the fall, their children had over two and a half hours of activities daily, doing math, reading, writing, and science.
What they found missing in their remote learning was the development of a sense of community and shared culture.
Their children were provided individual tasks that required them to follow the teachers’ directions, but not time and space to collaborate and negotiate with peers or engage in a group project.
Considering the numerous benefits that accrue to children from interactions with peers, alternative opportunities to develop children’s social and emotional development and learning should be pursued.

Pedagogical Support for Parents
The authors realize that the parents’ role in supporting their children’s learning has become more crucial than ever, in that the parents need to know how to use learning materials (e.g. online information given by schools, and assignment resources).
However, they found that there is a gap between their having learning materials/information and being able to utilize them effectively at home.
Indeed, there are lots of supporting materials on the Internet, which are easily accessible to many parents, although the authors acknowledge that not all parents have such accessibility. Even for those with computer access, though, they found that not enough guidance was provided about how to support the children’s learning with the materials.
Without their own pedagogical training or strong support for how to do developmentally appropriate teaching, parents are not likely to utilize even abundant materials and resources effectively.
In addition, the learning materials provided online do not necessarily emphasize the importance of adequate pedagogical approaches such as play-based pedagogies.
In their data, the children themselves raised the issue of the lack of play during remote learning.
While the authors understood the challenging situations for the teachers as well as the parents, they wished that more play-based activities would have been included.
Play serves as a critical vehicle for children’s social and emotional development, not merely for cognitive and physical development.

Implications for Teacher Education
The author’s reflections upon their experiences in supporting their children’s remote learning suggested important implications for their teacher education practice, regarding implementation of the whole-child approach, support for teacher candidates’ mental health, and teaching them how to support parents.
There were some occasions when the authors were aware that their teacher candidates lacked a solid understanding of the whole child approach.
Looking back, connections between child development courses and the content area courses were vague, particularly at the elementary education level.
The authors do know that child development courses are foundational for any teacher education courses in the U.S.
They teach how all aspects of children’s development are interrelated.
However, socioemotional learning is rarely mentioned in content area and methods courses in the areas of literacy, science, mathematics, and social studies.
As the authors have learned from the observations of their children’s remote learning situations, they have begun to notice that they as teacher educators need to pay more attention to their teacher candidates’ SEL in our courses.
Ironically, they as teacher educators also realized that they have tended to deliver academic knowledge with lack of support of their students’ SEL in content and method courses.
Over the semester during the pandemic, one of the authors made efforts to provide more spaces for peer interactions through different activities such as online breakout sessions for group discussions and group projects.
When she planned the group work, she was worried about students’ complaints that were often shown in group work regarding degree of participation and contributions in group projects.
However, surprisingly, teacher candidates appreciated having those opportunities during the remote learning than any other times.
Throughout this collaborative self-study, she realized that the needs and strategies of teacher candidates’ SEL have been overlooked rather than delivering academic knowledge.
As Conley (2015) argued that higher education must recognize ‘the value of the role of social and emotional, as well as academic, learning.’ (p. 208), we have realized SEL for teacher candidates should be considered more significantly.
Another point of reflection during the pandemic relates to teachers giving support to parents.
Applying this to their teaching practices, the authors ask themselves how well their candidates will understand their future students’ parents’ situation.
Will they be able to provide the parents with adequate support regarding how to help their children learn in remote learning contexts as well as normal schooling contexts?
If parents are unaware of the pedagogical significance of play in young children’s learning, its inclusion in remote learning settings cannot be assumed.
While piles of learning resources can be sent to families, parents without pedagogical knowledge can be at a loss regarding how to use them with their children.
Do they educate their preservice teachers to be able to adequately support parents, particularly in how the parents can use pedagogical strategies with their children?
How much have they taught it in their courses so far?
At present, the are only asking themselves these critical questions, not hurrying to answer them, but they could share one lesson that they have learned regarding support for parents: they have begun to learn that sharing lived parents’ experiences were powerful for teacher candidates to understand how they effectively work with parents.

References
Clift, R. T., Brady, P., Mora, R., Choi, S., & Stegemoller, J. (2005). From self-study to collaborative selfstudy to collaborative self- study of collaboration. In C. Kosnik, C. Beck, A. R. Freese, & A. P. Samaras (Eds.), Making a difference in teacher education through self-study (pp. 85–100). Springer.
Coia, L., & Taylor, M. (2009). Co/autoethnography: Exploring our teaching selves collaboratively. In D. L. Tidwell, M. L. Heston, & L. M. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Research methods for the self-study of practice (pp. 3–16). Springer.
Conley, C. S. (2015). SEL in higher education. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook of social and emotional learning: Research and practice (pp. 197–212). The Guilford Press.
Meacham, S., Kim, J., Wee, S., & Kim, K. (in press). ReZoomⓒing our academic home using Suda (수다). Qualitative Inquiry.

Updated: Oct. 07, 2021
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