Theses Doctoral

Learning to Teach Online: The Impact of COVID-19 on Teaching Secondary Mathematics in Underserved Communities

Chin, Paul

The purpose of this study was to understand how secondary mathematics teachers in underserved communities learned to teach online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study used three different methods of data collection: surveys, critical incident questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. The survey sample consisted of 51 participants, with 20 of those participants opting to complete the critical incident questionnaire in addition to the survey. 39 of the 51 survey participants volunteered to participate in semi-structured interviews. The researcher conducted approximately 18 hours of interviews with 20 of these volunteer participants. The findings were analyzed using inductive and deductive coding techniques, as well as within and cross case analysis to identify trends and themes across participant data.

Teachers learned to teach their respective secondary math content in an online setting during the pandemic through a mostly self-directed, trial-and-error process with some support from colleagues. Teachers were given limited guidance and direction as to how to approach facilitating their content online from school administrators and district leaders. Teachers and students in underserved communities faced many barriers in the transition from in-person to online instruction during the pandemic, including limited access to the necessary tools and technology to fully engage with online learning content, a lack of adult supervision in home learning environments, and a lack of experience with online learning for both teachers and students alike. In addition to these barriers, teachers and students endured extreme personal stress throughout the pandemic, stress that may have been exacerbated by the scarcity of resources available to schools in underserved communities.

Teachers were able to find some success in translating their specific math content areas and practices to an online setting. Through personal research and experimentation, teachers discovered online tools and learning platforms that empowered them to engage in the transition. The ability for teachers to teach effectively, however, was limited by low student attendance rates and low rates of student engagement and participation throughout the pandemic in underserved communities. In addition to these challenges, teachers were unable to translate specific secondary math content standards and units to the online setting, and in some cases, were forced to completely remove these topics from their curriculum during the unit. The combination of these challenges may have led to the gaps in student learning that emerged throughout the pandemic, particularly among underserved communities.

Recommendations included for current and prospective teachers to gain experience with specific online tools and platforms that may have applications to both in-person and online teaching, for school administrators and district leaders to develop more detailed emergency plans and support systems for teachers in the event of a future crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, and for teacher preparation programs to include at least one course in the curricula devoted to training candidates on how to teach and use online tools and learning platforms.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Bitterman, Jeanne E.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 12, 2024