Brock researchers want to hear from teachers about pandemic and return-to-classroom experiences

All eyes are on September following the Ontario government’s recent unveiling of its back-to-school plan.

Brock Professor of Child and Youth Studies Dawn Zinga and Associate Professor Danielle Sirianni Molnar want to make sure teachers’ voices are being heard and understood as schools re-open.

“I think of teachers as being front-line workers of a different sort,” says Zinga. “They were there with the students face to face and they were there in students’ homes virtually during long periods of the pandemic, yet we didn’t hear a lot about that side of things,” she says.

To that end, the duo has launched a survey of teachers as part of their study “Teachers’ Perspectives on the Pandemic.”

“Teachers have faced an incredible number of challenges during the pandemic, such as having to adapt to completely different learning environments with no warning,” says Sirianni Molnar.

“We want to understand their experiences, including impacts to their health and well-being,” she says. “We are also very interested in what teaching is like during these difficult and ever-changing times.”

Brock Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Danielle Sirianni Molnar.

The research team, which also consists of master’s student Melissa Blackburn and other research assistants, is looking for 250 elementary or secondary school teachers who are certified with the Ontario College of Teachers and have at least two years of teaching experience in Ontario.

Those interested in participating are asked to e-mail to enrol in the study, which consists of three online surveys, each spaced two months apart. For each survey completed, participants will receive a $20 Amazon gift card.

The first survey asks teachers to describe their teaching experiences during the pandemic, including being mandated to teach virtually, the transition to online platforms, if there was a combination of online and in-person learning, and other processes.

“We’re also asking if they feel stressed or burned out, what resources they may have used, what helped them get through the tough times, how they balanced things at home and if there were any positive things that came out of the pandemic for them,” says Zinga.

Two months after the first round, the second survey will ask teachers about their experiences with returning to in-person teaching.

The third survey will ask similar questions about transitioning back to in-person learning.

“The surveys are spaced two months apart so that we can assess changes over key transitional periods, such as when everyone returns to school, and so that we can capture changes over relatively short periods of time, given how fast things have been changing across the pandemic,” says Sirianni Molnar.

The researchers will also be conducting extensive, one-on-one online interviews with teachers interested in going into more detail and sharing their assessments of what needs to be done to improve the situation. Those who complete an online interview will also receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

The current research follows a study the researchers launched last month. The Niagara Adolescent Personality and Social Connection Study involves adolescents completing a series of three online surveys including questions on how the pandemic affected their experiences at school.

Brock Professor of Child and Youth Studies Dawn Zinga.

Adolescents are still able to register in this study. Requests to participate and parental permission can be sent to

“These are twin studies,” says Zinga. “When you take the two studies together, it gives us those two perspectives.”

The researchers are hoping the surveys will capture information and perspectives that will help educators and policy-makers to move forward with their current re-opening plans, especially in the area of providing more teacher supports.

Lessons learned during the pandemic can also inform policies and procedures in the event of future pandemics or a fourth wave, say the researchers.

“It is my hope that this research puts a spotlight on teachers’ experiences during the pandemic so that all of us can better understand the challenges they have faced and continue to face and how to best support teachers during this difficult time,” says Sirianni Molnar.

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