By Caitlin Wilts, Marketing Intern

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, the Department of Leadership and Learning at MSUM saw how the levels of stress and expectations of school staff were elevated. Faculty members teaching in the doctoral educational leadership program—Julie Swaggert, Ximena Suarez-Sousa, Boyd Bradbury, Mike Coquyt, and Chris Mills—developed a survey to learn about teachers’ and administrators’ experiences transitioning to online learning. Their research provides insight into how teachers were adjusting professionally when teaching virtually and how they were doing personally during all of the changes to class delivery.

Within the first two weeks of April, 1,067 teachers from school districts in Minnesota submitted the Swaggert Instructional Practice Under Crisis (SIPUC) questionnaire to MSUM researchers. All grade levels of teaching were included in the data collected from the survey, with special education teachers making up 23 percent of the combined participants.  

Two questions served as a basis for the research: 1) How are teachers delivering virtual learning in a meaningful way,  and 2) How supported do teachers feel in the process?

Survey considerations included the demographics of participants, how much exposure teachers had with e-learning platforms, and the personal impact of adjusting to a new way of teaching.  

“Within a matter of hours, we had about 300 participants. It was obvious teachers were eager to share their experience,” said Dr. Ximena Suarez-Sousa.

Survey results revealed that participants felt supported by school leadership and were able to figure out an effective way of teaching online. Teachers felt resilient and knew they would be able to adjust to the unexpected changes.

The second survey the faculty distributed focused on students’ learning and equity, posing the question, ‘does an  individual’s conditions affect their ability to succeed academically while learning online?’

The results showed that 90 percent of respondents believed equity had been impacted since the shift to distance learning. Other findings included:

  • Developing personal relationships with students has been a challenge with distance learning.
  • Caring for the mental health of students was another concern of many teachers.
  • Coaching and guiding students looked different when students’ home life varies. 

The research findings are on the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) website. The MREA represents more than 225,000 students in about 230 greater Minnesota school districts.

Survey Impact on MSUM M.S. in Counseling Program

MSUM’s master of science in counseling program was also impacted by the survey research. Plans were already in place to transition the graduate counseling program online by Fall 2021. The information gleaned from the research guided the logistics for future changes to class delivery. The MSUM counseling faculty said that the research revealed students’ and schools’ experiences in our communities, which helped identify areas that could be improved within the counseling program and curriculum.

When reflecting on the research, Dr. Julie Swaggert said, “We had the opportunity to use our experience with online teaching and learning to do something that would help teachers, school districts, and our university.” The research team says this project has made them passionate about sharing the stories of teachers. 

Learn more about MSUM’s Ed.D in educational leadership.