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Reports Part of series: Education & Covid-19: BERA Small Grants Fund research reports

New teachers’ responses to Covid-19: Building on initial teacher education for professional learning

A great deal of international research has suggested that teachers struggled with the pivot towards online learning necessitated by the closure of schools in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the research presented in this report suggests that this was not universal – and specifically that newly qualified teachers in Scotland found themselves well prepared to reflexively adapt their teaching practices and lead pedagogical change in their schools in these difficult circumstances.

Drawing from focus groups and informed by the wider Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE) project, this report explores the following questions.

  • How did initial teacher education and induction prepare new teachers for teaching in uncertain times?
  • What do the responses of new teachers to Covid-19 indicate about the development of teacher reflexivity in initial teacher education and induction?
  • What professional learning needs for new teachers have been highlighted during the Covid-19 crisis?

The research reported on in this publication is one of a number of projects supported by BERA’s Small Grants Fund for investigations into how education was impacted by and responded to Covid-19. For other reports in the series and more about the Small Grants Fund, click here.  

Report summary

This study investigated new teachers’ responses to the demands of online teaching during national lockdowns in Scotland in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey of new teachers in Scotland (part of the Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education project; see Shanks, 2020 and found that they responded very positively to meeting the challenge of emergency remote teaching – a finding that contradicted emerging research from other countries which suggested that teachers were struggling with online learning in particular. We also held a series of focus groups in order to answer the following questions.

  • What, in their initial teacher education programmes and induction, prepared and enabled new teachers in Scotland to handle the unexpected changes in teaching and learning brought about by the pandemic?
  • What professional learning needs, if any, were highlighted during lockdown?

Our findings suggest that our understanding of new teachers’ responses to emergency remote teaching needs to move beyond an emphasis on their ability to teach online or use online tools, to draw on a broader concept of teacher reflexivity and how new teachers reflect on and gradually embed pedagogical change. We are able to make a theoretical and methodological contribution to how teacher efficacy is measured in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (OECD, 2018). Furthermore, we offer an adaptation of Puentadura’s (2010) substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model of technology change in pedagogy, adding our own interpretation of leadership roles for newly qualified teachers as part of their professional learning. Finally, we suggest that existing provision for initial teacher education in Scotland does not require substantial modification in order to meet new demands in uncertain times.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]. (2018). Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018: Teacher questionnaire.

Puentedura, R. (2010). SAMR and TPCK: Intro to advanced practice.

Shanks, R. (Ed.). (2020). Teacher preparation in Scotland. Emerald Group Publishing.


Profile picture of Rachel Shanks
Rachel Shanks, Dr

Senior Lecturer in Education at University of Aberdeen

Rachel Shanks is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Aberdeen. In the 1990s she was a law lecturer and then worked for the TUC on its Bargaining for Skills project. She has also been a community education tutor and worked in the...

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Mark Carver, Dr

Research Associate at University of Strathclyde

Mark Carver is a research associate in educational research at the University of Strathclyde, working on the Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education project (see to develop and pilot measures of quality that are sensitive to...