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I will survive: Teachers reflect on motivations to remain in education amidst a global pandemic


As the pandemic began to disrupt school systems in March 2020, teachers were expected to quickly modify their instructional approaches. We recruited science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers who were recipients of National Science Foundation scholarships based on their high-quality academic record and commitment to working in high-needs school districts to participate in a longitudinal survey study. Participants (n = 153) graduated from universities or colleges in the Mountain West or western region of the Midwest. Through a series of three surveys administered throughout 2020 to all participants and follow-up focus group interviews with a subset (n = 42) in early 2021, we examined participants’ perceptions and beliefs about the educational system’s response to COVID-19. Participants perceived that the continuation of instructional delivery was the highest priority and that their professional needs were the lowest priority. Most participants believed the actions taken by school districts and schools to be negative or neutral. Participants were categorized by years of experience (preservice 0, novice 1–3, early career 4–5, and master 6+) to compare their perceptions of success and intentions to continue teaching. Participants perceived that their level of success increased with years of professional experience prior to the pandemic, but all participants reported feeling less successful during the pandemic. Despite participants’ negative beliefs about the school response and perceived low levels of success, they intended to remain in the classroom short-term but not necessarily long term. We recommend that teacher educators and administrators (1) help teachers develop their personal knowledge and skills for use in the classroom, especially considering the national shortage of science (and STEM, broadly) teachers in high-needs districts and (2) develop proactive plans for responding to unexpected crises on large scales, as well as those limited to a particular region.


Wright, D. S., Weinberg, A. E., Sample McMeeking, L. B., Lin Hunter, D. E., & Balgopal, M. M. (2023). I will survive: Teachers reflect on motivations to remain in education amidst a global pandemic. Journal of Research in Science Teaching60(6), 1266-1291.

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