The Australian Education Survey found that two-thirds of primary and secondary teachers reported working more hours than usual during every week of isolation, with nearly half saying they logged in almost an entire extra day teaching from home.
Some reported working in excess of 20 hours each week.
“The pressure on us right now is enormous,” said one teacher. “It is difficult to manage healthy breaks away from work because parents and children and our leaders all require so much from us right now.”
“My life consists of remote learning – recording lessons, responding to work, providing feedback, attending meetings, and everything else in between,” another teacher said.
Students’ wellbeing also a concern
Almost three-quarters of respondents also voiced concerns about the negative effects of remote learning to students’ emotional wellbeing.
Some feared the prolonged isolation can lead to anxiety, feelings of disconnection, withdrawal, and missing friends.
Dr Natasha Ziebell who led the study, said that adolescents are often “not designed to work and learn in isolation from their friends and peers.”
“I am not concerned at all about academic progress. Good teaching will soon fill any gaps created by online teaching, and teachers that I work with have done incredibly well at adapting to the online environment,” she said.
“It is the social-emotional wellbeing of our young people, particularly those at risk in their homes, that is my biggest concern.”
Regarding school attendance, 15% of teachers said their students always attended online classes, while 16% reported their students were attending classes only half the time.
More than half or 56% agreed that students were producing the same standard of work before remote learning, but 37% disagreed.
But the results weren’t all negative, with some teachers saying students who were easily distracted or disruptive in the classroom, engaged with their work better when working independently at home.
Teachers were also able to devise creative ways to deliver online classes, including online learning platforms, making pre-recorded videos, using interactive games and tasks and activities that made use of students’ home environment, such as gardening and cooking.
Dr Ziebell said the results highlighted teachers’ ability to quickly adapt to remote learning platforms with many significantly improving their digital proficiency and collaboration with fellow staff members. The study also showed what worked and what didn’t.
“We saw many teachers get creative in delivering highly specialised lessons, to boosting their digital literacy, and increasing communication with parents and guardians about the needs of students,” Dr Ziebell said.
“The switch to remote learning was rapid and the response from teachers and parents was remarkable, but what the teachers have identified are important considerations as the COVID-19 situation evolves and in the event that there is return to remote learning”.