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Blog post Part of series: Covid-19, education and educational research

Maths at the kitchen table: Capturing teacher and family voices on online teaching and learning in Covid-19 times

Kelly Johnston, Macquarie University Garry Falloon, Macquarie University Emma Burns, Macquarie University Rebecca Bull, Macquarie University

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on everyday life across the world. In January 2020, we could not have imagined that in just a few months as many as 138 countries would have closed their schools and 80 per cent of children worldwide would not be attending conventional schooling (Van Lancker & Parolin, 2020). Limited experience with a pandemic of this scale has meant a paucity of research and policy to inform practice, which, in turn, created uncertain, inconsistent and sometimes challenging circumstances across schools and jurisdictions (Viner et al., 2020).

Internationally, teachers report feeling underacknowledged as the designers and implementers of new, complex online learning models (Mockler, 2020). The need to develop online and remote teaching content and knowledge of how to effectively interact and facilitate this with students arrived with little time to prepare and limited guidance. Parents and caregivers were launched into the role of teachers or facilitators of learning, and often faced the competing challenges of balancing work commitments, supporting their children’s learning, and attending to other responsibilities (Viner et al., 2020). Drastic changes and hurried timeframes have left little time for communication and collaboration between families and teachers.

Potential inequities are also a concern with school closures and teaching via remote delivery. Some children have limited access to required technology and/or lacked a suitable space to do their schoolwork. Many do not have a family member at home who can guide them through their remote-delivered schoolwork (Van Lancker & Parolin, 2020). Mathematics education presents a particular set of challenges. Factors such as gender, mathematical ability and intergenerational maths anxiety are recognised as having a potential negative impact on maths learning (Clerkin & Gilligan, 2018; Herts, Beilock, & Levine, 2019). These issues can be further intensified when students are required to work online or remotely, without the immediate support and feedback afforded by face-to-face teaching.

‘Factors such as gender, mathematical ability and intergenerational maths anxiety are recognised as having a potential negative impact on maths learning … and these issues can be further intensified when students are required to work online or remotely, without the immediate support and feedback afforded by face-to-face teaching.’

At the heart of quality teaching is a strong commitment to equity. However, we need to know more about how teachers and families adapt content and organise children’s learning to meet diverse needs, despite a lack of face-to-face interaction, (Huang, Chandra, DePablo, Cribbs, & Simmons, 2015). This includes working with individual students to identify errors and misconceptions in mathematical thinking, and to provide feedback.

Over the past few months, we have noticed many families and teachers sharing stories of success and frustration in moving to remote/online and blended learning. In the hope of providing a platform for people to share their experiences and to be able to utilise this information as robust data rather than anecdotal accounts, we have developed two surveys that investigate teacher and family perspectives of primary maths teaching and learning as well as technology use, during the recent/ongoing move to online delivery.

In this way authentic voices and experiences can contribute to decision-making moving forward. This information will be of great value to our teachers and families, and also for pre-service teachers who are working out how to teach most effectively in these uncertain times.

Understanding how teachers, students and families have experienced maths teaching and learning during recent and ongoing school closures will help to provide a foundation for the development of policy, procedures and strategies to improve the quality of students’ mathematics learning in the event of future crises, and through blended modes more generally.


If you would like to add your voice, opinion and perspective on teaching and/or learning maths online and remotely, the authors would love to hear from you via their:

This study has approval from the Macquarie University human research ethics committee.


References

Clerkin, A., & Gilligan, K. (2018). Preschool numeracy play as a predictor of children’s attitudes towards math at age 10. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 16(3), 319–334. 

Herts, J., Beilock , S., & Levine, S. (2019). The role of teachers’ and parents’ math anxiety in children’s math learning and attitudes. In Mamarella, I., Caviola, S., & Dowker, A. (Eds). Maths anxiety: What is known and what is still missing. New York: Routledge.

Huang, X., Chandra, A., DePablo, C., Cribbs. J., & Simmons, L. (2015). Measuring transactional distance in web-based learning environments: An initial instrument development. Open Learning, 30(2), 106–126.  

Kumar, S., Martin, F., Budhrani, K., & Ritzhaupt, A. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices. Online Learning Journal, 23(4), 160–180.  

Mockler, N. (2020, April 27). Teachers don’t deserve Morrison’s guild trip. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/teachers-don-t-deserve-morrison-s-guilt-trip-20200416-p54kec.html

Van Lancker, W., & Parolin, Z. (2020). COVID-19, school closure, and child poverty: A social crisis in the making. The Lancet, 5(5), 243–244.  

Viner, R., Russell, S., Crocker, H., Packer, J., Ward, J., Stansfield, C., Mytton, O. Bonell, C., & Booy, R. (2020). School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: A rapid systematic review.  The Lancet, 4(5), 397–404.