Under the distance learning arrangements during Covid-19, most primary school students looked forward to getting back to the classroom. Only 12 per cent would have wanted remote teaching to continue. The majority felt that the teacher knew how the student was doing. Interaction was via video connection, learning diaries or personal messages. Almost all students felt they received sufficient help, mainly from their parents but also from friends and siblings. They were less inclined to ask for help from their teacher, but many students thought their teacher was available if necessary.
These are among the results of a research project funded by the Academy of Finland and conducted at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland under the direction of Professor Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen. The research was grounded in a longitudinal follow-up of teachers’ and students’ stress and interaction in classroom, covering children from pre-primary education through to the fourth grade. Special Covid-19 funding from the Academy of Finland allowed the project to collect more frequent follow-up questionnaires and interviews and to study the effects of distance learning on wellbeing and school performance. The project’s work is the first published research on students’ self-reported experiences of remote teaching and distance learning.
Most of the students interviewed said they had set the rhythm of their school day themselves, with the help of their guardian. Video contacts were quite limited compared to the number of hours during a normal school week. Learning mainly consisted of independent work on school assignments. Three in four students thought there were the same number or less assignments than before, one in four thought there were more assignments. During distance learning students mainly missed their schoolmates, but also classroom teaching because they enjoyed school life, it was easier to learn in the classroom and because going to school created a rythm for the day.
During the period of remote teaching, the majority of teachers reported an increased sense of inadequacy and work-related stress. The biggest challenges were related to the quality of remote teaching, students’ needs for support, the use of digital tools and integrating contact and remote teaching. Principals reported a marked increase in their workload and a need for new skills and competencies. The level of workload was exacerbated by unclear or ambiguous instructions, new teaching arrangements and sudden changes as well as uncertainty about the future.
Parents thought the biggest challenge was presented by reconciling work and family time and by providing support to those children who needed support in certain areas of learning or in self-regulation.
Covid-19 special funding from the Academy of Finland has been invaluable to the work of the team in Jyväskylä, says Professor Lerkkanen: “It has allowed us to collect follow-up data on principals, teachers, students and parents from the same school so that we can examine interconnected effects of the pandemic on the wellbeing of the whole school community and on learning results. We’ve been able to respond to the acute need for well-researched information about the crisis era and school communities’ and individuals’ coping strategies. Funding for Covid-19 research is crucially important to the development of Finnish educational system, to developing more flexible teaching practices and to bridging the deficits in learning and wellbeing. These are questions that attract interest around the world.”
- Professor Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen, University of Jyväskylä,
firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 40 805 3347
- Associate Professor Eija Pakarinen, University of Jyväskylä, email@example.com
Academy of Finland Communications
Leena Vähäkylä, Communications Specialist
tel. +358 29 5335 139