Socio-Emotional Characteristics of Emergency Distance Teaching: A Mixed-Method Investigation in Greece

Katerina Tzafilkou, Maria Perifanou, Anastasios A Economides
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 21  •  2022  •  pp. 053-073

The study examines the teachers’ perceptions towards a set of socio-emotional characteristics of distance education (DE) in primary and secondary schools during the Covid-19 pandemic. The examined characteristics include perceived joy, stress, effort/fatigue, isolation, inclusiveness, and collaboration/interaction.

The transition to emergency distance education had a large socio-emotional impact on teachers. Recent evidence certifies an increase in mental health issues like stress and load. Studies also recognized online teaching barriers including difficulties in communication and interaction with students. This study focuses on the examination of the socio-emotional characteristics of distance education as perceived by primary and secondary education teachers in Greece. The study also investigates differences between primary and secondary education, teaching disciplines, and the role of individual factors like gender, age, and experience.

The study used a mixed-method research design with closed-ended and open-ended questions on a sample of 845 teachers of primary and secondary education in Greece. The closed-ended questionnaire consisted of 19 items of socio-emotional DE characteristics, measured in a 5-point bipolar format.

Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA)was conducted on 16 items, indicating three components: (a) effort/fatigue, (b) inclusiveness, and (c) collaboration/interactivity. A single-item scale was considered for joy, fatigue, stress, and isolation. The finalized measurement model was evaluated in terms of item loadings, reliability of measures, convergent, and discriminant validity, with the help of the SmartPLS software. Descriptive statistics and percentages were calculated with the help of SPSS software. Because of the non-normal distribution of the data, non-parametric methods of Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis were performed to examine significant differences in teacher groups.

The qualitative part of the analysis was conducted on text data received from two open-ended questions, on a sample of 602 cases. The identified qualitative constructs were investigated through content thematic analysis focusing on the identification of the socio-emotional codes and references, excluding non-relevant themes and cases.

The findings of the study contribute towards the deeper understanding of the teachers’ psychological or emotional state during the early stage of the Covid-19 emergency DE, as well as on the role of individual and other factors like gender, age, teaching stage, and teaching subject. The results can be leveraged during or after the pandemic, to design pedagogical or psychological practices and strategies to encourage and facilitate the teachers’ transition to DE.

A measurement model of the teachers’ perceived socio-emotional characteristics towards emergency distance education was developed and validated. The model includes the components of: (a) effort/fatigue, (b) inclusiveness, (c) collaboration/interactivity, (d) isolation, (e) joy, and (f) stress.
The quantitative results indicated that teachers experienced increased levels of fatigue, and perceived DE as difficult and time-consuming. Teachers of primary education reported significantly lower levels of perceived collaboration/interaction than secondary teachers. Female teachers reported significantly higher scores of both joy and stress, while the youngest age groups expressed the highest scores of joy. The teaching subject also revealed differences in fatigue. Through qualitative analysis, this study also identified several socio-emotional thematic codes revealing the teachers’ difficulties in interaction and communication with students as well as a set of emotional attributes like fatigue, joy, and stress.

Teachers should modify their face-to-face teaching material and adjust it to online teaching principles, avoiding future load and frustration. Different approaches should be implemented in primary and secondary education and indifferent teaching disciplines. Also, teachers should be trained on DE-oriented digital skills, ICT competencies, and socio-emotional skills, e.g., by receiving psychological and socio-emotional support from experts. Strategies to decrease fatigue and stress, especially in synchronous teaching should be traced by schools and educators.

The findings provide theoretical evidence on the teachers’ socio-emotional attitude towards DE and their experiences in the first stages of the emergency remote education due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This research highlights the perceived DE characteristics and the barriers to online teaching during Covid-19. Schools, educators, and society should collaborate to provide awareness and opportunities for successful distance education practices.

The survey is based on individual self-reported measures, and this restricts the deeper understanding of the findings. Hence, future research should extend this work by using different methods of data collection like for instance observations, course recordings, interviews, or focus groups.

emergency distance education, socio-emotional characteristics of distance education, teachers’ emotions towards distance teaching, teachers’ attitude towards distance education
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