Two in five Australians have expressed a greater appreciation for teachers, lauding them for their efforts to provide continuous learning amid the challenges brought about by the pandemic, a new study has shown.
A recent survey from Monash University on Australians’ perceptions of schooling during the COVID-19 outbreak has found that about 42% of respondents have shown a marked improvement on how they viewed the teaching profession as a direct result of the pandemic.
Three-quarters of the 1,012 Australians surveyed expressed support to the transition to remote schooling, with about 57% agreeing that the shift to online classes was successfully conducted.
Meanwhile, an overwhelming 92% said it was important that students from low-income households be provided with subsidised or free access to laptops and other devices needed to complete their schoolwork at home.
Dr Fiona Longmuir, lecturer in educational leadership at Monash’s Faculty of Education, noted the importance of acknowledging the rise in positive perceptions of teachers’ work, especially at a time when evidence shows how the COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the levels of stress and burnout among teachers across the world.
“Teachers have reported working untenable hours to ensure students maintain access to learning remotely, and in many countries have put their own health and safety at risk by being required to continue teaching in classrooms that are not COVID-safe,” she said.
“Importantly, our findings show a correlation between respondents who had a school-aged child at home and more positive perceptions of teachers’ work during COVID-19. This suggests that people who experienced remote learning first-hand were more likely to have a more positive perception of teachers’ work as a result.”
Disconnect between teachers’ and public perception
The report follows a 2019 study by the university, which delved into the perceptions of teachers and the general public on the teaching profession in Australia.
The survey of 2,444 educators and community members highlighted a divide on how the two groups viewed teachers and their work.
More than 70% of teachers said the profession was unappreciated, despite 82% of the public saying they felt that teachers’ work was respected.
“Our previous research about the Australian public’s perceptions of teaching showed a disconnect between teachers’ perceptions of low public respect and trust of teachers, compared with the high levels of trust and respect reported by the public,” Dr Longmuir said.
“With COVID-19 lockdowns and remote learning ‘opening-up’ the classroom to families and making teachers’ work more visible to many parents, we wanted to see if these perceptions changed.”
Parents who participated in the recent survey reported several benefits from the shift to remote learning, including more family time, more flexibility in children’s schedules, better parental understanding of their children’s learning, a reduction in anxiety and stress, and an increase in children’s confidence in learning.
The respondents also noted that while online learning would not work for all students, it would help to have flexibility in meeting individual needs and circumstances.
“It's important to reflect, be innovative and be open-minded when it comes to schooling options. Last year showed that different learning options suit different students,” Dr Longmuir said.
“We know that some students thrived when learning from home and others really struggled. The opinions of participants surveyed and observations of the experiences of students in 2020 suggest that the typical model of learning in classrooms does not have to be the only option offered to students.”