Starfsumhverfi framhaldsskólakennara á fyrsta ári COVID-19 heimsfaraldurs

Translated title of the contribution: The working environment of upper secondary school teachers during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract

The working environment in upper secondary schools changed drastically with the onset
of the COVID-19 pandemic. A ban on social gatherings was established in Iceland in
March 2020 and all schoolwork shifted to on-line learning almost overnight; this lasted
throughout the spring semester and continued with various restrictions in the fall of
2020. Upper secondary school teachers answered a questionnaire in May 2020, aimed
at mapping the changes to working conditions during the spring semester and the shift
into emergency remote teaching (Barbour et al., 2020). At the end of the fall semester, a
follow-up questionnaire was sent. The data used in the current paper derive from these
questionnaires. The aim is to investigate how teachers at the upper secondary level performed their duties under the new circumstances in 2020, especially during the first
COVID lockdown in spring but also as the pandemic continued. Special emphasis is
laid on how they experienced their working conditions, e.g., in terms of their definition
of duties, stress, collaboration and administrative obligations, as well as their interaction
with students and their parents. The support provided to teachers during the first stages
of the pandemic, both technological, pedagogical and social is analyzed. The aim is to
add to the gradually emerging knowledge base by shedding light on the work of upper
secondary teachers during the first waves of the pandemic. The first results show that the
teaching profession underwent radical changes during the first period of the pandemic
(Súsanna Margrét Gestsdóttir et al., 2020). Upper secondary teachers felt an increased
pressure and stress at work and perceived their work as more complicated than before.
The experience of stress increased during the fall semester, even though the teachers
reported they had a better handle on the work. The data show an important gender
difference, as female teachers seem to have been primary caregivers in the homes and
consequently found it more strenuous to attend to their teaching duties as well. More
collaboration with colleagues during the pandemic was reported and administrative
meetings were more frequent. The collaboration with colleagues proved a crucial factor when coping with the recurring changes of working conditions. This was generally
viewed as beneficial to their work by a large majority of teachers. Communication with
students and parents increased overall and over time, especially according to female
teachers, which may have added to the increased pressure at work. Moreover, most
participants believed students experienced more psychological stress during the pandemic, a perception that only heightened over time. However, they also believed that schools
had adjusted their work practices to accommodate students during these challenging
times. The results evoke important questions concerning teachers’ working conditions.
The rapid professional development undertaken by teachers led to the majority of them
adopting more varied teaching approaches than before the pandemic. Nevertheless,
this was accompanied by a higher level of stress and insecurity. This may carry several
implications. Teacher education needs to take these changed circumstances into account
and prepare future teachers for the possibilities of hybrid teaching and increased flexibility and differentiation. Both experienced and newly qualified teachers need to have
access to professional development that supports them. The time and opportunities that
teachers need for collaboration and peer support must be included in their work. Reflecting on the situation in Iceland during the first stages of the pandemic can serve as a basis
for comparison with teachers’ working conditions in other countries.
Translated title of the contributionThe working environment of upper secondary school teachers during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic
Original languageIcelandic
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalNetla
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

Other keywords

  • Stress at work
  • Working environment
  • Working duties
  • Communication
  • Support
  • Upper secondary education

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