Theses Doctoral

Investigating the Experiences of High School Physical Science Teachers in the United States During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Weedon, Jessica

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented event in world history with a global impact. In the United States, emergency remote teaching (ERT) was utilized due to significant changes in the educational system, including temporary closures, shifts to remote and hybrid learning, and the addition of various infection control measures such as the wearing of masks, social distancing, and quarantine guidelines to reduce the community spread of COVID-19. These changes impacted those working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This qualitative multiple-case study sought to describe and compare the professional experiences of four high school physical science teachers in the United States during the pandemic. Data was collected using surveys, participant artifacts, interviews, and focus groups between the spring of 2020 and the spring of 2022. The data were analyzed inductively using holistic and descriptive coding as well as inductively through a cross-case analysis by utilizing social reproduction theory (SRT) and teacher self-efficacy (TSE) theoretical frameworks. Four individual participant case descriptions and a cross-case analysis are reported.

The findings indicate that teachers experienced significant changes to their schedules, technology use, instruction, and assessment. Teachers’ ability to communicate professionally was impacted, as was teacher professional development (PD) and evaluation. These changes resulted in learning gaps, which were more significant for struggling and marginalized students. The results demonstrate that the teachers and their students experienced the pandemic differently depending on various factors, such as resource access and school type. The findings indicate that the teachers’ students with more economic, social, and cultural capital were best positioned to access remote learning, which generated social reproduction and exacerbated inequalities. TSE decreased due to a lack of mastery and vicarious experiences, negative social and verbal persuasion, and the teachers’ adverse physiological and emotional states. TSE was also reduced due to ecological factors such as increased uncertainty and role demands, powerlessness, and isolation.

The pandemic displayed how inequities across our educational system must be addressed and how the educational system must better prepare and support teachers and students during educational disruptions. The teachers gained a greater appreciation for in-person instruction, became more confident in their use and implementation of classroom technology and remote teaching, and became more aware of inequities among students.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felicia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 28, 2024