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College of Education Research Team Explores Nation’s K-12 Teacher Needs

(From left:) Molly Fisher, Ph.D., professor of STEM education in the College of Education and principal investigator; and REU student fellows Jacquelyn Armstrong and Alexandra Boardman.

A new study designed at the University of Kentucky College of Education is gauging the types of supports teachers across the nation need in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on schools. It is supported by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We are seeking K-12 teachers from anywhere in the U.S. who taught during the pandemic, or who were student teaching during the pandemic, to respond to a survey that will collect information on access to resources and the types of demands being faced as our schools return to normal,” said Molly Fisher, Ph.D., principal investigator and professor of STEM education in the College of Education.

Teachers willing to participate in the study can take the survey now. Responses will help researchers share information that will lead to equipping teachers to meet the demands of the current educational system, Fisher said.

Undergraduate college students are assisting Fisher with the study and gaining an early look at how to conduct research through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. As student fellows in the program, Jacquelyn Armstrong and Alexandra Boardman are paired with Fisher this academic year to plan, conduct, analyze, write and disseminate findings of the COVID-19 impact study.

“When I first heard about the program, I thought it would be a great opportunity to really learn how research works. I’ve done research for classes, but not to the extent of writing literature reviews, doing interviews and collecting data, like we are with this project,” said Armstrong, a UK senior majoring in English with plans to become a special education teacher.

In Armstrong’s early review of feedback, she has noticed many teachers expressing difficulty with administrative support, student behavior and opportunities for rest and rejuvenation.

Boardman predicts mental health of both students and teachers will be a central point of discussion in the survey results.

“I expect to hear there has been a change within teachers’ needs through the COVID-19 pandemic and that many schools have not quite adjusted to meeting these new needs,” said Boardman, a Centre College senior majoring in Spanish with a mathematics minor.

Teachers taking the survey will also be asked their interest in volunteering for an interview with the research team. The team plans to conduct 15- to 20-minute interviews via Zoom with at least eight teacher volunteers who provide contact information.

Following the team’s data collection and analysis, Fisher will work with the students to share results of the survey.

“Jacquelyn and Alexandra are doing research at a level beyond what most undergraduates experience,” Fisher said. “They both have an interest in educational research and becoming teachers and will have a strong foundation going into their graduate training and careers. That we get to collaborate on a study that will potentially have an impact on K-12 education makes this project even more meaningful for all involved. We are thankful to the teachers who are taking time to share their thoughts with our team.”

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